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Last updated November 24.

Nov. 13, 2006 issue

MKC makes decisions on polygamy, women in leadership

By Holly Blosser Yoder For EMM and MCC

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Meserete Kristos Church General Assembly decided Oct. 6-7 that polygamous converts need not divorce multiple wives and that women can serve in church leadership roles.

Members of the Meserete Kristos Church executive committee address the assembly. Mulugeta Zewdie, general secretary, with microphone, speaks to the group of about 400 church leaders during a business session.

Members of the Meserete Kristos Church executive committee address the assembly. Mulugeta Zewdie, general secretary, with microphone, speaks to the group of about 400 church leaders during a business session. — Photo by Holly Blosser Yoder/EMM

The MKC is the world’s largest Anabaptist conference, with 144,600 members.

The assembly approved a recommendation to allow baptism of polygamous converts but to restrict them from leadership positions.

Polygamy, a form of marriage in which a man has more than one wife, is common in Africa.

Previous MKC policy denied baptism to polygamous converts. Advocates of the change in policy quoted from I Tim. 3:2 — which says that “a bishop must be … the husband of one wife” — as evidence that the early church had polygamous members but that they were restricted from leadership.

Regional church leaders said the church’s witness had been handicapped by denying baptism to polygamous converts.

“This decision shows concern for the community, and especially for the wives and the children who are affected,” said general secretary Mulugeta Zewdie.

Requiring polygamists to divorce multiple wives often caused extensive suffering for the women and children affected.

“The impact of this decision is that the church will be united in evangelizing and in showing concern for the community in polygamous areas,” Zewdie said.

The task force that prepared the recommendation spent a year in preparation, including Bible study and consultation with other Ethiopian evangelical churches.

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