Workshops strengthen Anabaptist identity in India

India – A jointly sponsored series of workshops have helped to strengthen Anabaptist identity across India.

In a collaborative effort, the Mennonite Christian Service Fellowship of India (MCSFI), Mennonite World Conference (MWC) and Mennonite Central Committee India (MCCI) hosted a series of four workshops across India from 20 October to 3 November 2014. As a follow-up to similar initiatives in the last three years, these workshops included four primary objectives: (1) to stimulate a better understanding of Anabaptist identity; (2) to prepare a core of leaders for ministry within the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches of India and Nepal; (3) to move to a greater sense of unity among these churches; and (4) to encourage vibrant congregational life through a focus on the Bible.

Event organizers report that “all of these objectives were met to a great extent.”

Forty to 60 people attended each workshop. The workshop team was led by Jack Suderman of Canada, secretary of the MWC Peace Commission, and included speakers Shant Kunjam, bishop of Mennonite Church India; Sandra Baez, pastor of the Iglesia Menonita Torre Fuerte (Torre Fuerte Mennonite Brethren Church) in Bogotá, Colombia; and Christina Asheervadam, professor of theology at the Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College in Hyderabad, India. The music coordinator was Irene Suderman of Canada, and translation was conducted by Sushant Rajat Nand of Mennonite Church India.

According to a report from conference organizers, the workshops were well received and had a significant impact on participants’ sense of Anabaptist identity. They credited the speakers with provoking participants “to think with open minds about some controversial topics like modes of baptism, the role of women in the church and leadership roles in the churches using gifts of the Spirit and shalom in all areas of life.” Moreover, they added that the team “communicated well across language, cultural and experience barriers with good interaction, group discussions and clarifications.”

At three of the workshops, the sessions were augmented by a presentation from César García, MWC general secretary. García’s presentations were much appreciated by participants, and event organizers add that the “face-to-face experience [with García] brought participants to a better understanding that MWC is ‘all of us.’”

Based on a report by Cynthia Peacock, Carol Zook, Gordon Zook, and Rev. M. K. Masih