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Ethiopia Symposium


On September 14, 2018 Fieldstead and Company welcomed a number of scholars and theologians for a series of presentations pertaining to the various challenges currently facing the Ethiopian church, the ecology of the country, and contemporaneous socio-economic and socio-religious topics. Participants included:

Fr. Mebratu K. Gebru currently serves at St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church (EOTC), Toronto both as a priest and youth educator. Having completed basic theological studies at the Holy Trinity Theological College of the EOTC’s patriarchate in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia he earned his first degree from the college. Upon completion of his undergraduate studies, he served at the college as a graduate assistant instructor for about two years.  In 2003 Fr. Gebru came to Canada to pursue theological studies at master’s level. His master’s thesis on the Christology of his own ecclesial tradition was revised and published by Gorgias Press in 2010, entitled Miaphysite Christology: An Ethiopian Perspective. While working towards his Ph.D. in theology, he was ordained a priest in 2008 at the same church where he is currently serving. As he had developed a particular interest in the Ethiopian liturgy since he was pursuing his undergraduate studies, such interest was ultimately demonstrated in his doctoral thesis which he wrote on the theological and sacramental dimensions of creation in the Ethiopian liturgical rite. His Ph.D. thesis was defended and submitted to the Toronto School of Theology and to the University of St. Michael’s College in June 2012. In 2013 Fr. Gebru taught an online introductory course on the Ethiopian liturgy at St. Mary Theological College and Ethio-American Cultural Institute. Fr. Gebru lives in Toronto with his wife Helen and their two children, Yohanna and Samuel.

Michael Glerup (Ph.D., Drew University) serves as the research and acquisitions director for the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and as the operations manager for the Ancient Christian Texts series. He continues his research in the history of exegesis as the director of the Early African Christianity Projects and as the executive director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University.

Dr. Joel Elowsky is a professor of Historical Theology and coordinator of the International Seminary Exchange Programs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Elowsky has been a faculty member since 2014. He is the director of the Seminary’s Center for the Study of Early Christian Texts and also is a researcher for the Center for Early African Christianity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. His interests and areas of expertise include early church studies, history of exegesis, mission work and African Christianity. He earned a Master of Philosophy (2008) and Ph.D. (2009) from Drew University in Madison, N.J. After studying at Westfield House in Cambridge, England, and Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, he transferred to Concordia Seminary, where he received a Master of Divinity (1990) and Master of Sacred Theology (1992). He received a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (1985). He served as associate professor of theology at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon (2010-14), as an adjunct professor of religion at Drew University (2000-04); and later as research director of The Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania (2009-14).

Scott Sabin has advocated for and served the rural poor around the world through sustainable community development for over two decades. He has served as the Executive Director of Plant With Purpose since 1995. During his tenure, Plant With Purpose has grown from a single program in one country to include more than 330 communities across seven countries. Scott oversees and advances the vision of Plant With Purpose, ensuring the international programs are professionally designed, adequately resourced, and achieving the desired results.

Scott is a leader in addressing the intersection of faith, justice, and the environment. His book, Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People, was a finalist for Christianity Today’s Book of the Year Awards. Prior to working for Plant With Purpose, Scott served for seven years in the United States Navy. He holds a degree in Political Science from Oregon State University and a Master of International Relations from the University of San Diego. Scott and his wife Nancy have two children, Amanda and Danny. On any given Saturday, Scott can be found competing in sailing races in San Diego.

Dr. Alemayehu Wassie. Dr. Alemayehu Wassie Eshete was born in South Gondar, Ethiopia. He attended Alemaya University of Agriculture, Ethiopia (now Haromaya University) where he received a forestry degree in 1992. He then joined the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environmental Protection as forestry expert, soon becoming head of the district (Woreda) office. In 1995 he moved to the Ministry of Agriculture before working from 1996-2000 for the NGO Food for The Hungry International, where he served as Afforestation Head in Ethiopia. He also worked for Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), another NGO, as forest development project coordinator. He received an MSc in Forestry from Swedish University of Agricultural Science for his research on the roles of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido churches in the conservation of forest biodiversity. He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the Forest Ecology and Forest Management group (FEM) of the center for Ecosystem studies of Wageningen University.

Dr. Wassie serves as a lecturer at the University of Bahir Dar and Board Member at Debre Tabor University, and has mentored dozens of Ethiopian graduate and undergraduate students in addition to his far-reaching administrative responsibilities. As a prominent and respected member of the Ethiopian academic community and employee of the Ethiopian government, Dr. Wassie represents an indispensable component of the research team. He and Dr. Lowman have been working together to study and raise international awareness of church forests since 2008.

Dr. Margaret “Canopy Meg” Lowman: As Chief of Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences, Dr. Lowman (“Canopy Meg”) has inspired countless students to pursue careers in ecology and other conservation fields. Outside the classroom, she has led conservation efforts through elected positions including Vice President of the Ecological Society of America, Treasurer of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, and member of the Board of Directors for the Explorers Club and Earthwatch. She is also founder and Executive Director of the TREE Foundation (Tree Research, Exploration, and Education), an extraordinary nonprofit dedicated to advancing tropical ecosystem research and conservation (

Dr. Lowman has published over 20 peer-reviewed papers with undergraduates, and has an unparalleled record of service and achievement supporting undergraduate research and inspiring young (especially women) researchers to become researchers.Dr. Lowman has collaborated with Dr. Alemayehu Wassie for the past 5 years to study church forest ecosystem services, and has earned the trust of Ethiopian Orthodox church leaders culminating in a long-standing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for partnership. She was funded from 2009-12 by National Geographic and the TREE Foundation to survey insect biodiversity in church forests, and led teams of entomologists and undergraduate students to survey key groups such as pollinators.

Mary Anne Fitzgerald is a British journalist, development aid worker and author, best known for her international war reporting in Africa, and two successful books.

France Pepper is an Asianist, with a focus on China. Her perspective spans 30 years, with expertise in traditional and contemporary art and culture. She understands China’s position within Asia and its impact on the world. France’s clients are private collectors, institutions, business and cultural thought leaders. From the start, she recognized that a multi-faceted approach to understanding China required rigorous language training with simultaneous studies in Asian political and cultural history, art history, anthropology, literature, and geography. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, English, and French.

France obtained an undergraduate degree from McGill University (Montreal) in East Asian Studies. Shortly after graduating, she led a 3-month expedition from Beijing to Pakistan, along the Silk Road. This trip inspired her to travel extensively in Asia and to continue her Graduate Studies, which began at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for American and Chinese Studies. All courses were taught in Chinese to future Sino-U.S. leaders. Her Master’s Degree was completed at McGill University, with a thesis on Silk Road Buddhist art and culture.  She expanded her qualifications at New York University with a certificate in Art Appraisal Studies and is USPAP compliant. France is a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America, with a specialization in Asian art.

Watch the speaker talks below:


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