Ebenezer Oromo Evengelical Church History
March 1987: Immigrant Oromo Christians who live in Twin Cities and the surrounding suburbs started home-based prayer groups in March 1987. As their numbers continued to increase with time, the need for a place of worship became evident and Augsburg College was contacted. They welcomed the request and as a result, immigrant Oromo Christians in Twin cities area, for the first time, started to worship as a Fellowship in Augsburg College Chapel.
September 7, 1993: The fellowship grew into a church and was incorporated with Minnesota Secretary of State under the name; Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church (OELC).
May 1994: Bethany Lutheran Church agreed to co-use their church building located at 2511 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis, MN 55406 with us (OELC) and we officially moved in. Worship time was on Sundays 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
June 01, 1995: OELC joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
October 1995: Pastor Melkamu Negeri started serving as a pastor of the OELC on a part-time basis.
January 01, 1997 Pastor Melkamu Negeri was called and started to serve as a full time pastor with additional financial assistance from Minneapolis Area Synod. Partner churches in mission that include: Carlvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley, Nativity Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, Grace University, Hope Lutheran Church of Jordan, and Lutheran Church of Good Shepherd have also provides some funds. The support from these churches continued until 2002 on a declining basis.
2000: Bethany Lutheran church demonstrated stark signs of shifting positions away from biblical teachings on human sexuality. They hanged the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) pride flag on the church building under the banner, “All are welcome here”, then painted the church building with the LGBT flag and after a while placed the flags in church premises including the sanctuary, regardless of our repeated expression of deep concern and unwavering opposition to this unbiblical move, both in writing and verbally to the church and the Minneapolis Area Synod.
January 22, 2001: OELC decided to move out of Bethany Lutheran Church building because of their stance on homosexuality and to that effect, set up a church building committee that raises funds to buy a church building, while concurrently working on alternative ways of obtaining a place of worship as soon as possible.
April 03, 2004: OELC wrote a strong statement of protest to Bethany Lutheran Church and Minneapolis Area Synod, stating the commitment of OELC to uphold the biblical interpretation of human sexuality and its disagreements to the position Bethany Lutheran church took regarding homosexuality.
September 02, 2004: The first meeting between OELC and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church was held to discuss on the way we can use their church building. In this meeting, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church officially affirmed their decision to transfer the ownership of their church building located at 4000 28th Ave South to OELC.
May 29, 2005: OELC moved to the church building located at 4000 28th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406. Later on, the name, OELC was changed to Our Redeemer Oromo Evangelical Church (OROEC), to maintain the legacy of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in the name.
June 05 2005: A special event was held in the presence of invited guests, partners and church leaders to witness the official handover of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church building to OELC and also appreciate the generosity of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.
March 26, 2009: Pastor Melkamu Negeri and Evangelist Challa Baro attended Lutheran Core conference, held in Roseville, MN to assert the unwavering stance of OROEC on biblical interpretation of human sexuality and our desire to collaborate with Lutheran Churches that hold same position.
August 17- 23, 2009: The ELCA General Assembly was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota and adopted a resolution to ordain and call actively homosexuals to serve as pastor in ELCA member churches, in diversion from biblical teachings.
September 27, 2009: The ELCA General Assembly resolution was presented to the Congregation by the president, who also asked what course of action the OROEC should take. The Congregation then gave the Council, the mandate to work on the process of terminating our church’s affiliation with the ELCA.
December 06, 2009: The official position of the United Oromo Evangelical Churches (UOEC) on the ELCA General Assembly resolution, in which they declared their opposition, was communicated to the congregation.
February 27, 2010: The Council decided to turndown the invitation extended to our church to attend the April 04, 2010 meeting of ELCA Minneapolis Area synod.
May 1, 2010: Church Council declined to accept any financial support from the ELCA.
August 26 -27, 2010: The Vice president of the Council and the Evangelist attended the Lutheran Core meeting held in Columbus, OH.
October 09, 2010: The OROEC exit strategy from the ELCA was presented by the Pastor to the council.
November 6, 2010: The council held a meeting with Bishop Craig Johnson (Bishop of ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod) at our church and expressed to him the intention of OROEC to exit the ELCA because of the August 2009 resolution. On his part the Bishop told the council to come forward with plans, while stating his wishes of continued spiritual relationship between the ELCA and OROEC.
August 20, 2011: The council held a meeting with ministry leaders, ex-council members, and preachers to discuss the August 2009 ELCA resolution. After thorough deliberations, the attendees unanimously asked the church council to diligently and expeditiously work on our church exit strategy from the ELCA.
September 3, 2011: In an attempt to seek a wider range of input, the council met with all ministers who serve in various ministries of the church to discuss the ELCA resolution. All attendees unanimously recommended to the council to continue working on our exit strategy from the ELCA without further delay.
September 08-09, 2011: In defiance to the decision of our church council and the African National Leaders resolution of August 11-09, 2011 not to participate in any conference/meetings of the ELCA, our pastor attended the September 08-09, 2011 ELCA conference held in Chicago, IL.
September 23, 2011: The council decided to call a congregation-wide meeting to report progresses made so far on the ELCA resolutions, as per their recommendations of September 27, 2009 and also obtain timely inputs from the congregation. But the Pastor strongly opposed to this idea, in the council meeting.
October 16, 2011: OROEC Congregation meeting was held. The president and the secretary updated the congregation on the measures taken by the council since it received the mandate from the congregation to work on exit strategies from the ELCA. As discussions went on, this time, the congregation appeared to be divided on this issue as opposed to the September 27, 2009 meeting between; those who support the idea of exiting the ELCA as soon as possible (pro-exit) and the ones who choose to stay with the ELCA (pro-ELCA). The Pro-exit group basically argued that the resolution was a direct denial of the authority of the scripture, contrary to Oromo traditions, detrimental to our ability to lead our kids with good examples and counterproductive to our responsibility of setting a godly precedence to our fellow Oromo churches in Diaspora. On the other hand the pro-ELCA group stated that the August 2009 ELCA resolution alone should not be a good reason to exit the ELCA with immediate effect, considering the support they provide to us especially, worship place. A motion moved by a pro-ELCA group member to establish a task-force that re-examines the issue and report to the congregation was defeated as it was perceived to be a delay tactic by the pro-exit side. A motion made by the pro-exit group to have educational presentations by speakers from both sides of the issue, followed by congregation-wide discussions and finally moving towards voting in accordance with the ELCA exit procedure and our constitution was accepted. The planned presentations were not materialized because of the pro-ELCA’s group opposition to the pro-exit’s group choice of speaker and it was rather substituted with presentations by the Pastor and the Evangelist.
October 21, 2011: The Pro-ELCA group met with the council. The group blamed and verbally attacked pro-exit proponent council members for bringing this divisive and controversial issue to the congregation meeting. They branded them as a group deliberately working to undermine the unity of the congregation and eventually dissolving the church, under a disguise of the August 2009 ELCA resolution. The pro-exit council members on their part responded by saying that they are simply discharging their duties as council members as per the mandate they were given by the congregation with regard to this particular issue and also their responsibility of leading the church in strict adherence to the word of God.
October 26, 2011: A meeting organized by a pro-ELCA group was held in the church fellowship room in which the invited speaker was an ELCA, Minneapolis Area Synod employee.
November 06, 2011: Presentation by the Pastor. The pastor’s presentation was framed on the following points of justification to stay with the ELCA:
- homosexuality is a sinful act as stated in scripture (Gen. 1:27 ;Levt. 18: 22, 20: 13; Rom 1:26; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Tim 1:10) but this is not different from all other sins such as telling lies, gossiping, murder, adultery, pride. Therefore, the sinfulness of homosexuality does not warrant an immediate exit from the ELCA;
- we should not run away from sin or separate ourselves from sinners because Jesus Himself came to the Earth to be with sinners
- our relationship with the ELCA is so loose, if we decide to exit, the ELCA will keep the church building and we would not have a place of worship and recommended the establishment of a committee that raises funds for church building purchase in seven to ten years.
November 13 2011: Presentation by the Evangelist. The main points of argument on the part of the Evangelist to immediately exit the ELCA were as follows:
- both Old and New Testaments describe homosexuality as abomination in the sight of God, diversion from the will of God, illicit lust, degrading passion which excludes people from God’s kingdom and an offense against the Law of God (Cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26f; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Tim 1:10). The Bible also teaches that all sins ARE NOT the same: great sin (Exodus 32:21, 30, 31 and 2 Kings 17:210), eternal sin (Mark 3:29).
- Jesus came to the Earth to be with sinners, but not to become one of them or bless sins. Jesus did not need to become a member of Sadducees or Pharisee to testify the truth to them. Paul did not continue to be a member of Pharisee after his conversion.
- The August 2009 ELCA resolution removes Homosexuality from the category of sins. The OROEC does not have any capacity to reverse the resolution and maintaining affiliation with an institution with which we do not share the same faith and belief is tantamount to approving their resolution and collaborating in its implementation.
- we can’t exchange our faith with a church building. If 2/3 majority or more of a congregation vote to exit the ELCA and affiliate with any other Lutheran congregation, we can secure the building itself.
December 20 2011: The second congregation-wide meeting was called to decide the way forward, including whether we need further discussions on the issue. A pro-ELCA member moved a motion that no further discussions are required and we need to proceed to vote in accordance with our constitution and the ELCA exit procedure. The motion was adopted by overwhelming majority of congregation members.
December 03, 2011: Pro-exit ministers met with council members mainly to make the last attempt to persuade the pastor. The main points they raised on the meeting were:
- they have made their minds to vote to exit the ELCA because they believe affiliating with an institution that does not uphold the authority of the scripture is against their faith;
- we can’t tell the ELCA to reverse the resolution adopted by the majority of affiliating churches since our influence is extremely minimal and they adopted the resolution while we were opposing it on the first place;
- the idea of teaching ELCA-member churches from within does not sit very well with them, because we do not have the moral authority to do so while comfortably affiliating with them, and nothing was done over the past years in this regard. These are seminary graduates who deliberately deny the Authority of the Scripture;
- Therefore, the key to the unity of the church lies in the hands of the pastor and let us all decide to exit the ELCA and maintain our unity while also securing the church building.
The pastor finally concluded by saying that he deeply thought over this issue and finally decided to stay with the ELCA and asked the participants not to bother him any further by repeatedly asking same questions.
January 21, 2012: Council members came to acknowledge their irreconcilable differences on voting procedures after holding series of deliberations and finally decided to drop their effort of bringing the issue to congregation members vote. This was because the pro-ELCA council members and the pastor insisted that non-voting members of the congregation including those who occasionally visit the church should be allowed to vote, contrary to OROEC constitution. This idea was out-rightly rejected by pro-exit council members. As a result, a committee set up by the council to help sort out eligible voting members was dissolved.
January 22, 2012: The church was officially split into two. A congregation-wide meeting was called mainly to hear the decision of the council on voting procedures and also to approve church budget for the next three months. The president told the congregation that the council could not reach agreement regarding voting procedures because the pro-ELCA council members and the pastor were not willing to hold voting in accordance with OROEC constitution and the pro-exit council members were not willing to support unconstitutional voting. Therefore voting would not be held by the congregation to decide whether we have to exit or stay with the ELCA. Rather it rests with individual congregation members to decide what course of action they would like to take. Further debate on this issue either at the council or the congregation level is not only unproductive but may rather lead to unnecessary altercations that could damage our social relationship. On the other hand the benefit of deciding exit with vote is mainly to secure property/church building. But since there are certain congregation members led by the pastor who already decided to stay with the ELCA, the vote would not have mattered very much to pro-exit members because the ELCA will definitely keep the building for those who choose to stay regardless of the outcome of the vote. Therefore this would be the last day for OROEC as we used to know it over the past years. Following this message the president proceeded to the second agenda item which was approval of the budget. Immediately after the budget was approved the treasurer handed over a microphone to a member who announced to the congregation to gather in the fellowship room to attend a meeting organized by a pro-ELCA group. Following that another pro-ELCA member asked the congregation to immediately exit the sanctuary and proceed to the meeting. These last two speakers were not recognized by the president. The meeting ended with this chaotic situation. A pro-ELCA women-group gave the situation a celebratory flavor by singing on their way out of the sanctuary and in the hall-ways.
The pro-exit group constituted about 80 % of tithing members, almost all ministers and the majority of past and present church council members. When exited they did not claim any of their resource. Apart from thousands of dollars spent on building upgrade and maintenance, office equipment, furniture etc, the following cash balance was left in the church bank account:
|Fund from Good Shepherd:||$10,125.82|
|Bible Revolving fund||$14,184.69|
|Oromo Christian Action Ministry||$15,992.61|
|Building revolving fund||$2,176.58|
|ELCA Hunger grant||$3,000.00|
|Synod Ministry start-up||$3,037.00|
|Parish Nurse Expansion||$276.06|
The Evangelist and the Administrative Assistant, who joined the pro-exit group were terminated with immediate effect without compensation for their work.
January 29, 2012: Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church (EOEC) was founded.
As the prospect of holding a vote to exit the ELCA as per the OROEC constitution and the ELCA exit procedure and maintaining the unity of the congregation became bleak, some pro-exit group members came together, to plan the way forward. Their main task was searching for a place of worship. With the guidance of our Lord Jesus Christ, they finally settled with St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 1901 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404. St. Paul’s church graciously opened their door and arms to us and we felt at home. On Sunday, January 29, 2012 about 250 founding congregation members were gathered, a new church was born and they named it EOEC. The church started its regular worship program without wasting a day. The pro-exit council members joined the self-initiated pro-exit group and formed the EOEC transition team that led the church through drafting and ratification of church constitution, and election and installation of new church council members.
April 29, 2012: EOEC constitution was ratified. It was a very comprehensive document that addresses almost all important church-related matters.
July 29, 2012: Church council members were elected. The election was conducted as per the new constitution thereof election bylaw. The election committee undertook a marvelous job with an extraordinary enthusiasm and unprecedented congregation-wide participation.
September 30, 2012: Evangelists Challa Baro, Fikru Iticha and Kefyalew Amente were ordained at a colorful ordination service held at EOEC and Challa Baro became the first pastor of the EOEC. The ordination service was attended by our congregation, evangelists’ family members and friends, and invited guests. It was led by clergies from North American Lutheran Church (NALC), Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and invited Oromo pastors in the USA. Rite of ordination was carried out by Bishop John Bradosky of NALC for Challa Baro and Fikru Iticha and, by Rev. Paul Spaulding of LCMC for Kefyalew Amente. The service was followed by a dinner reception.
July 16-20, 2014: EOEC hosted the 2014 UOEC conference for the first time. [download hardcopy]
The Conference was held at EOEC, Portland Ave S., Minneapolis, MN, from July 16-20, 2014. It has two components: Business meeting and Spiritual conference.
The Business Meeting was conducted on July 16 and 17, 2014 and was attended by a maximum of two delegates from each member church. It was open to observers. Member churches attended by country were as follows:
USA by State: Arizona, California (two), Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota (two), Nevada, Ohio (two), Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Washington DC (two),
Canada: Toronto, Winnipeg
Oromia: Finfine Mekaneyesus
Church affiliates: Fellowship Of Christian University Students (FOCUS), Divine harvest international
Among agenda items that drew a lot of attention and debate was the case of ELCA membership. In response to the August 2009 ELCA’s General Assembly resolution; to ordain and call actively homosexuals to serve as pastor in ELCA-member churches, in diversion from biblical teachings, the UOEC has adapted three resolutions over the past years: Portland July 2010, Minneapolis March 2011 and Las Vegas July 2012, recommending to all UOEC-member churches to exit the ELCA as soon as possible. Unfortunately, some churches defied the resolutions and maintained their membership with the ELCA. This time, a stronger resolution supported by the overwhelming majority of members, that asks all UOEC-member churches to exit the ELCA within a year was adapted. A time line was added to this resolution, to underscore the importance of the issue to the UOEC and to further urge ELCA-member churches to take action and be done with the matter that has been a source of division and contentious debate among UOEC-member churches during yearly business meetings since 2009 and embark in unison towards advancing the missions of churches on Earth. It is hoped that all UOEC-member churches would have exited the ELCA before the next conference, to be held in Winnipeg, Canada.
The Spiritual Conference started on July 17, 2014 evening with formal opening ceremony that included welcome and good wish remarks by presidents of EOEC and UOEC. It continued with three sessions: Morning, Day and Evening hours from Friday July 18, 2014 to Sunday July 20, 2014. Morning sessions were mainly prayers and attended by fewer people, while the day and evening hour sessions featured worship, choir/solo singers, sermons, and prayers and each session was attended by as many as 500 to 600 people. It was a remarkable conference in which the presence of our lord Jesus Christ was felt and people were healed from bed-bounding, long-standing illnesses. Many attendees witnessed that, this was the first UOEC conference in recent history in which they really experienced the presence our Lord Jesus Christ and worshipped Him with reverence and true sense of freedom. Many were impressed by the number of attendees, friendly and lovely nature of interaction between people, and hospitality of EOEC members both at church and their homes.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner with coffee/tea and water were served to all attendees for free throughout the conference.
September 04, 2016: EOEC decided to terminate membership with the UOEC. The ELCA membership has been a contentious and divisive issue among UOEC-member churches during annual meetings, since the August 2009 of ELCA resolution that allows openly homosexuals to serve as ordained ministers. From the very beginning, the EOEC has been trying its best in encouraging all UOEC-member churches to exit the ELCA to be able to create a Christ-centered partnership and concentrate on our main mission than engaging in unnecessary ELCA-membership related debates during annual meetings. This effort seemed to have bore fruits when, in the 20th UOEC annual council meeting held in Winnipeg, Canada, July 22-26, 2015, it was decided that all ELCA-member churches should exit the ELCA in a time of a year; submit statuses of their progress report to the UOEC board of directors in six months and non-compliance to this decision would result in an automatic dismissal from UOEC membership. During the 21st annual meeting of the UOEC council, held in Washington DC, July 20-25, 2016, it was reported that only one church, the Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio, has complied with the Winnipeg resolution. To our surprise, unbelievable twist and turn has happened during the Washington DC meeting. The UOEC board came up with a proposal that, no ELCA-membership related matters be discussed on this meeting and for the next two years, and that proposal was agreed up on by the majority of members that attended the meeting. Subsequent to this decision, EOEC has held a congregational meeting on September 04, 2016, and discussed the matter thoroughly from the very history of the establishment of the church, mission and constitution, and finally decided that our membership with the UOEC be terminated effective immediately.