His Eminence Archbishop Melketsedek was born in the locality of MegentaKusquam, in the district of Debre Tabor, province of Gondar, Ethiopia, to his father Priest Workneh Teku and his mother Mrs. AnguachAtale on July 24, 1924. In 1935, at the tender age of eleven, His Eminence was ordained a deacon by Bishop Abune Abraham. Four years later, absolving himself of the secular life he never had much care for, he committed himself to the services of the Lord and became a monk at the age of 15 at the convent of KristosSemra, near Lake Tana. He was ordained a priest in 1946 by His Eminence AbuneYishak.
In 1948, with the natural inclination to supplement his ecclesiastical training, His Eminence enrolled in Kidist Selassie Theological College. He won a scholarship during his fourth year, under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate. He then attended the Holy Theological School of Halki, the Patriarchate’s main School of Theology in Turkey, and returned to his country in 1958 as the first Ethiopian theologian cleric.
His Eminence joined the Theological College of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as an instructor. He was later appointed Director of Sewasew Berhan St. Paul School of Theology in 1958. In 1960, His Eminence was chosen to serve on Emperor Haile Selassie’s Crown Council as Director of Religious Affairs, overseeing the vetting of all religious matters that come before the Emperor. Immediately following his appointment, he was also appointed Arch-hierarch of MenbereTsebaotKidist Selassie Cathedral. He simultaneously filled both positions and worked hard with great results until 1974.
His Eminence is a prolific writer and a scholar who’s made significant contributions to the EthiopianTewahedo Orthodox church by publishing canonical books that are fundamental to the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. He has authored 32 books, 21 of which were published, and 11 remain in manuscript form. In 1983, with His Holiness Patriarch AbuneMerkoriosofficiating, His EmminenceAbuneMelketsedek was enthroned as Archbishop. His Eminence has received many awards and vestments from his country as well as foreign countries in recognition of his tireless services and achievements over his life time. The following are selections of the awards:
- The Order of the Star of Ethiopia (1st grade/Grand Cross)
- The Order of Emperor Menelik II (1st grade/Knight Grand Cross)
- The Order of the Holy Trinity (Commander Grade)
Honorary Awards from:
- The Greek government
- Church of Greece
- Church of Alexandria in Greece
- Lazarus Medal from Austria
- Gold-embroidered black velvet cloak
- Gold-embroidered red velvet cloak and cassock
- Gold blessing cross
His Eminence was exiled from his beloved country in 1992 after bearing witness to the upheaval that was brought on to the church by the government; its interference with church governance, the enthronement of a new patriarchate while the incumbent patriarch was still alive against the cannon law, its replacement of clergy with unqualified persons and its egregious violation of the cardinal tenets of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. He openly criticized the government and produced writings of opposition along with other church leaders, which resulted in the government’s pursuit of him. Consequently, he fled the country on October 20th, 1992 taking refuge in the United States.
Along with a group of other exiled leaders, Archbishops, includingAbuna Zenamarkos, Abuna Elias and Abuna Gorgoriyos, with the partnership of Abuna Yishak, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches in North America and Europe, and the leadership of the exiled Patriarch who was living in Kenya at the time. His Eminence was instrumental in ensuring the continuation and expansion of the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod despite its displacement from its home. Under the leadership of His Eminence as General Secretary, the Synod sought to console the distraught Christians in Ethiopia while seizing the opportunity to gather the multitude of Ethiopians who had migrated to North America, Europe, Australia, Middle East, and Southern Africa since the 1970s.
As General Secretary of The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church-In-Exile, His Eminence established his secretariat in Berkeley, CA, but traveled far, in the manner of the missionary journeys of the Apostle St. Paul, to Canada, Australia, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South Africa to organize and nurture the ardent Ethiopian Christians, tirelessly soliciting for funds to build them church buildings for the services of the Lord.
In addition to his native Amharic, His Eminence speaks Geez (the ancient classical and liturgical language of Ethiopia), Tigrigna, English, Greek, Turkish, and Arabic, which has enabled him to read, interact with visitors and easily communicate whenever he is invited for a visit to places where these languages are spoken.
For his exceptional stewardship over his jurisdiction in California, the tremendous religious and social strides he made in providing spiritual guidance to the faithful Ethiopian immigrants at large and his invaluable services to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as Ethiopians in general, His Eminence is a recipient of certificates of recognition from United States Congressman Michael M Honda, United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 13th congressional district, United States Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 12th congressional district, United States senator from California, Kamala Harris, United States Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, Assemblyman Rob Bonta and The California Legislature Assembly. In addition, His Eminence has also received certificates of declaration, proclaiming July 19th, his date of birth, Archbishop Melketsedek Workneh day, from Mayor Edwin Lee for City and County of San Francisco, Mayor Libby Schaaf for the City of Oakland, Sam Liccardo for the City of San Jose, Tom Bates for the City of Berkeley and Lisa M Gillmor for the City of Santa Clara.
His Eminence AbuneMelketsedek devoted his life to Christ, advocated equal rights for all and tirelessly taught the paramount importance of Christians respecting and loving one another and modeling themselves after the gospel. Concerning the social and political challenges of his country, he preached intensely and tirelessly against religious and racial divide and urged all Ethiopians to live in peace and harmony with the understanding of their lineage to the holy land that is Ethiopia. He supplicated for the brutally murdered, the unjustly imprisoned, the impoverished and the sick, while persistently speaking out against perpetrators of evil.
Ethiopia appointed a new Prime Minster Dr. Abiy Ahmad in April 2018. Dr. Abiy Ahmed facilitated the reunification of the two synods (Ethiopian Orthodox Synod in Exile and Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod in Ethiopia). Accordingly, the exiled Patriarch His Holiness AbuneMerkorioshas returned home after 26 years. His Eminence AbuneMelketsedek’s paramount struggle for reinstating the legitimate Patriarch has bore fruit.