The pioneer Mission Organization which launched Evangelistic and social work in Southern Ethiopia was the Norwegian Lutheran Mission in 1948. The Mission established the first district centers in several towns in the areas where the present South Ethiopia Synod is operating. Finnish Lutheran Overseas Mission commenced evangelistic and some social work like education and medical work in Kibre Mengist, Shakiso and Wadera Parihes.
South Ethiopia Synod was established in 1997 when the former South Ethiopia Synod, with its head office at Awassa Town, was divided first into two Synods and one area work. During the division one of the established Synods was South Ethiopia Synod with its main office in Hageremarim/Bule Hora town which is 470 Km from the Capital City of the country, Addis Ababa. Several other synods emerged in the south subsequent to the division.
The present SES is a young synod established only 18 years ago with its territorial coverage from around small towns called Gedeb/Gerba and Bore in Oromiya Region to the border of Somalia in the East and Kenya border in the South. The Evangelistic ministry, social and development/diaconal work of Synod covers broad geographical areas and large populations. Geographically the synod is serving three regions; in Oromia Regional State; two Zones Borena and Guji Zones, in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State, Burji and Konso Districts and in Somali Regional State it works around Elkerre, Filtu and Dolo towns.
Regarding religious background of the people who live in the catchment areas of SES are mostly followers of Christianity and others are adherents to traditional beliefs. Currently while Orthodox Christianity dominates some parts of urban areas, the Protestant Christianity is dominants mainly in the rural areas.
The statistics of SES can be estimated as follows: the following statistical data show that, according to the EECMY statistics of 2014, SES comprises 32 parishes, 930 congregations, 450 preaching places or outreach sites, over 562,725 total members, 221,713 communicant members, about 5,000 volunteers/lay ministers, 193, evangelists and 90 pastors. These statistical figures give us ratio of ministers to the population of the synod to be 1 minister to 2000 members, which indicates critical shortage of trained and ordained ministers.
The Synod Headquarters comprises the departments that carry out the basic ministries of the Church. These Departments are Administration, Department of Administration and Finance, Department of Mission and Theology, Women Ministry Department, Youth and Children Ministry and Evangelistic Outreach Coordination Office.
Currently the Synod is running 3 Bible Schools at different parish centers - Bule Hora, Adola and Mega Bible Schools. The Synod also running 2 youth hostels.
The is running one home-based child care program. There is also child welfare program supported by Compassion International. SES is running WASH Program – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program and Malaria prevention program serving the communities in its catchment areas.
Recently the synod has got new and young leaders trained in theological and biblical studies in Masters and bachelor degrees and ordained. After election, which took place five months ago (2015), SES new leadership has conducted the first historical conference which called all previous leaders, friends, mission partners and so on for repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation for enhancement of Holistic Development & Restoration of the synod.
The synod has recently reformed its leadership for improvement and better performance. Currently there are 17 workers at the Synod Office and leaders are engaged in their responsibilities and tasks of the synod.
Other Activities and Future plan
Currently, the new leadership of the synod is working on reformation and restoration the ministry of the synod. In order to meet this objective the synod is implementing the following activities.
a. Developing transparency and good governance in all levels and grass root congregations and encourage them to support the synod economically and all the effort of expanding the kingdom of God,
b. Building strong and smooth communication between the congregations, parishes and the synod office and with partner mission organizations.
c. Mobilize all parishes, congregations and outreach areas towards accomplishment of the holistic service within the Synod;
d. Motivating and conducting the accomplishment of the 5 years strategic plan of the EECMY in the congregations,
e. Revising the constitution and bylaw of SES in the way that it would be relevant document to accomplish the ministry of the church,
f. Establishing strong evangelism/mission and discipleship ministry in all congregations
g. Working on upgrade all three bible schools (Adola, Bule Hora and Mega) to second year and then to diploma level,
h. Increasing the number of trained and ordained ministers (strong workforce) for the huge work ahead of the synod
i. Working on positive split the synod in to two synods due to broad catchment area and which has been hindering the ministry of the synod.
Islam is present as a minority religion within some parts of the synod catchment areas. But currently there is an alarming Islamic expansion in the SES. About 10 years ago the current government mass migrated many from Hararge, Arsi and its surrounding regions for favorable living conditions and settled them in Adola, Wadera and Shakiso districts in Guji Zone. Then the original traditional Muslim people, the current huge Muslim settlement and the Somali Muslim migrant for mining business altogether have created very large Muslim population community in the SES areas. Although the situation is a potential challenge, on the other hand it creates good missionary opportunity for SES to reach these people with wit the Gospel.
Finally, we would like to ask for constructive comments, suggestions and support from all interested parties in order to address a wholistic transformation of the SES. Also we would like to invite all interested parties, the church units as well as mission organizations to join us to work together with SES in expansion of the kingdom of God within the catchment areas of the SES.
SES current President is Rev. Yishak Yohannes