As the pandemic closed church activities among others, three friends in three different countries started discussing and dreaming of ways to bring Anabaptists together while physically apart. Víctor Rey (from Chile, living in Ecuador), María Elena Arango Libreros (Colombia) and Luis María Almán Bornes (Argentina) chatted on WhatsApp and began to make plans.
“The only thing that was clear to us when we began talking was our organizing objective: to promote Anabaptist theology. That’s why we called our meetings Diálogos Anabautistas (Anabaptist Dialogues). What we wanted to do most was converse, discuss, share opinions, listen to, and encourage, one another,” says María Elena Arango Libreros from MWC member church Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia.
The first Zoom meeting took place on 13 May 2020, an open call on the theme of “What does Anabaptist theology have to contribute to this global crisis that we are living through?” Thirty people attended the 1.5-hour meeting.
Since then they have been meeting every week in 2020, and twice a month in 2021. The organizing team has grown and now consists of five people.
Every Zoom call, a moderator introduces the topic, usually followed by a presentation by one or several speakers. This has included local church leaders, specialists and guest speakers from MWC. After the presentation, the floor is open for questions and sharing, for dialogue.
From teens to seniors, people from Canada to Chile have joined Diálogos Anabautistas, averaging 40 people each meeting. They discuss a broad variety of themes that affect Anabaptists: the role of youth and women, mental health, sexual abuse, power, new masculinities, peacebuilding, interreligious dialogue, and more.
“All the topics have come from the participants. They have proposed them and sometimes even looked for the presenters,” says Luis María Almán Bornes.
The organizers have learned much through these meetings that has given them hope. “We aspire to have a post-pandemic church that is more present, has more impact and a greater commitment to the theological and pastoral work of following Jesus. In other words, contributing to the Kingdom in all areas of life in today’s world through Anabaptist theology,” says Víctor Rey.
At the celebration for the one year anniversary of Diálogos Anabautistas in May 2021, Jonathan Minchala from Ecuador shared, “It has been a privilege for me to be part of this since its beautiful inception… to be dialoguing about these topics that are a bit complicated, difficult and uncomfortable, but of great importance to our churches on our continent. I hope that we will continue to be motivated to listen to the other person and celebrate our commonalities, but also our differences.”
Begun organically to respond to the needs of the moment, the Diálogos Anabautistas are expected to end organically too. “We know that they will continue for the time that God determines and that in one way or another we are contributing to the reflection, contextualization and renewal of Anabaptist theology,” says María Elena Arango Libreros.
Recordings of previous meetings and announcements of the next meetings of Diálogos Anabautistas can be found on the Facebook page “Comunidad de Aprendizajes para la Paz CAP.”