From division to unification


A brief description of the journey of the Bharatiya General Conference Mennonite Church from the darkness of the 7-year period of division to the light of unification.

The division and reunification of the Bharatiya General Conference Mennonite Church were marked by a series of events and challenges. The initial division was caused by a dispute over the rights of the chair and the secretary of the church. 

In 1994, a seemingly minor issue of choosing the date and venue for the annual convention became the catalyst for division. Some members wanted the convention to be held in Jagdishpur (in the church’s northern zone) instead of Janjgir (in the southern zone), leading to differences among the office bearers.  

This led to two separate meetings, one in Janjgir and one in Jagdishpur, resulting in a divided church with two chairpersons. 

Elections were a significant concern during this time. To resolve the issue, the decision was made to hold elections separately in Janjgir and Jagdishpur, creating two executive committees. This division escalated when the chairperson tried to impose restrictions on bank operations, leading to legal disputes and FIRs (police reports). 

Efforts for reconciliation were made, including interventions by pastors, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), and the Evangelical Fellowship of India conference. However, these attempts did not yield positive results, and animosity continued to grow between the two factions. 

The situation took a legal turn with hearings in the High Court, with both parties and registrar firms and institutions involved. The High Court ruled, but the dispute continued. 

In 1997 and 1998, elections were held again, further solidifying the division. It seemed that reconciliation was becoming increasingly unlikely. Neither side was willing to cooperate. 

However, a turning point came when a chance meeting occurred between me and the late Mr. N.S. Badhai in Gass Memorial, Raipur, in 1999. This unexpected encounter led to a conversation about reconciliation.  

Both of us recognized our roles in leadership and the responsibility to bring about unity in the church. We decided to seek mediation from Rev. C.S.R. Geer (a former Mennonite from Jaghdishpur) with the goal of convening a joint conference (AGM). 

With the support of a leader from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), a joint conference was organized in Jagdishpur in November 2002. Despite initial competition, I called back my name for the position and Mr. N. S. Badhai was elected as chair. A powerful message from the EFI leader on the prodigal son story (Luke 15:11-32) touched hearts.  

Members of both factions forgave each other and resolved to reunite and live together in the future. 

Since then, the Bharatiya General Conference Mennonite Church has maintained its unity under the leadership of the conference’s president. The grace of God has continued to guide the church toward a harmonious path in spite of many challenges. 

—Mr. Prem Kishor Bagh is church secretary at the head office of Bhartiya General Conference Mennonite Church in Jagdishpur, India.  

Courier 38.4

You may also be interested in:

A jar of clay in God’s hands

Brazil Sometimes, it’s not an option to discuss difficult topics. Conflicts arise, but we can build something new instead of shattering the old. In... Read More