General Information and History
When the South West Synod was established and its first General Assembly met on 21 March, 1990, the synod had 39,395 members, among these 19,004 communicants, 230 congregations, 62 preaching places, 5 districts with 10 pastors and 25 evangelists. By that time there was already a Bible school in Gidole, where the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) first initiated missionary work. Teaching and instruction of children and new believers played a key role in the missionary strategy in the NLM station from the start. Since 1952 major part of teaching was conducted by Ethiopian teachers. Under the supervision of missionaries. Gidole Bible School did its best to meet the lack of ministers by training as many evangelists and pastors as possible to keep up with the rapid growth of the synod.
From 1962 onwards a permanent one-year course program was started in Gidole. It became a center for the training of deacons and voluntary leaders from Gidole, Konso and Yavello.
When a mission station was established in Geressie in 1973 by Danish Lutheran Mission (DLM), it had attained great attention by having built a Bible school center. Similarly a local Bible school was introduced when a station was established in Arba Minch in 1970 and in Galta in 1976. Gamo Gofa District Bible School was inaugurated in Gidole in 1975 though the intended two year course suffered from leadership setback and being swallowed by the pressure of revolutionary political ideology.
In 1990 South Ethiopian Synod was divided into two and South West Synod was formally proclaimed as an independent EECMY unit on 15th of January. Some of the major reasons to establish the SWS were geographical dismantle, to have fresh administrative facilities, a persistent need for follow up with Christian teaching, and the challenge to expand the Gospel among the different ethnic peoples towards the South Omo.
Since 1991 SWS Bible School kept growing very fast. From 1994 national seminary graduates shared the responsibility of teaching with missionaries and pioneers. In 1996 the five-year plan was made to be implemented from 1997 to 2001. As a result, the District Bible schools took over the responsibility of the one-year Bible school with four blocks.
There are two main reasons why the synod decided to have a Seminary. First, due to the increasing number of applicants in the synod, to reduce costs and to serve actively other evangelical denominations in the south west area.
Second, according to the statistics report of 2007/2015, the Synod has 17 parishes, 684 congregations and 318 preaching places, 589,168 members, 179,802 of whom are communicants. There are 199 pastors, 844 evangelists and 71,827 voluntary ministers. The synod needs more trained ministers to carry out its holistic ministry. In order to serve her congregations and outreach areas the South West Synod has made a strong resolution to start the Arba Minch Seminary. As a result, the Arba Minch Seminary (AMS) was upgraded to diploma level education program in 2014. This means that AMS is the only higher theological institution in the whole South West area. (Below is a picture of one of the synod buildings.)