The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church was officially established in the 4th Century when the Emperor Ezana converted to the Christian faith. However Christianity existed in Ethiopia long before this event. The Holy Bible in the Book of Acts tells of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunoch who was an official of the Ethiopian Queen, by St. Phillip. Tradition states that the Apostle Matthew is also said to have evangelized Ethiopia, and also the Apostle Bartholemew.
The man who converted Emperor Ezana, the Syrian born St. Fermentius, was sent by the Emperor to Alexandria to obtain a bishop for the country from the Patriarch there, St. Athenatius. The Patriarch appointed Fermentius himself, and he returned to Ethiopia as it's first Bishop, Abune Selama, known in Ethiopia with the honorific title of "Kesate Berhan" (Begining of Light). Thus the Coptic Patriarchate appointed all of Ethiopia's bishops from that time on into the last century. The bishops of Ethiopia were always Egyptian Copts. The Ethiopian Church joined the other Oriental Orthodox Churches in refusing to accept the Council of Chalcedon and became one of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches.
In 1923, the Coptic Church agreed to appoint 5 native Ethiopian born bishops to serve under a Coptic Metropolitan Archbishop of Ethiopia after lengthy negotiations. Then in 1948 Copitc Pope Yusab II appointed the first native Ethiopian born Archbishop, Abune Basilios to head the Ethiopian Church. Then after more negotiations, Archbishop Abune Basilios was elevated to the rank of Patriarch Catholicos by Pope Kirillos VI and St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo in the presence of Emperor Haile Selassie. The church has been self governing ever since.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Chruch was the state religion of the Empire of Ethiopia until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974. In numbers it is the largest of all the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches except for the Orthodox Church of Russia.
There have been five Patriarchs of Ethiopia since the first patriarch was entrhoned in 1959.
Abune Basilios from 1959 to 1971
Abune Tewophilos from 1971 to 1977 (removed and imprissoned by Marxist regime in 1976 and executed 1977)
Abune Tekle Haimanot 1977 to 1988
Abune Merkorios 1988 to 1991 (abdicated)
Abune Paulos , enthronedn 1991 to present.
This is a greatly shortened history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church.