Asians strengthen Anabaptist identity
18 national churches send representatives to IndiaBy Ron Rempel Mennonite World Conference
KOLKATA, India — Strengthening Anabaptist identity, learning more about Mennonite World Conference and proposing priorities for the future were the main issues for Asian members of the MWC General Council at a training session for the Asia Caucus.
Thirty-two people — 29 men and three women from 18 national churches in Asia and the Pacific — attended the event Nov. 15-19 in Kolkata. Vietnam and Australia were the only countries not represented.
A representative from the Mennonite Brethren Conference in Japan, which is not a member of MWC, also attended. Cynthia Peacock of India and Bert Lobe of Canada were the conveners, with assistance from Shant Kunjam and Manjula Roul, both from India.
In anticipation of the next gathering of the MWC General Council in May in Switzerland, the Asian Caucus members proposed priorities for the three years leading up to the 2015 Global Assembly in Harrisburg, Pa.
The proposals include strong encouragement to include interfaith dialogue as an MWC priority, since interfaith relations are a reality for many of the congregations. Currently MWC engages in dialogue only with other Christian groups.
Other proposals included: work camps for youth, focusing on Anabaptist identity, perhaps in a “mini-assembly” format; workshops on peace as foundational to the gospel, and leadership training; focus on women and their role in the church and its ministries, perhaps the formation of a network of Asian women theologians; and increased regional exchanges of pastors.
The participants also finalized a proposal for the merger of Asia Mennonite Conference, started in 1971, with the MWC Asia Caucus.
Each of the participants shared what God is doing in their churches and conferences.
A desire to learn more about their Anabaptist identity ranked high on the list of interests named by participants. They expressed appreciation for the sessions on Anabaptist perspectives led by Robert J. Suderman and Bert Lobe of Canada, who had been invited for similar teaching sessions a year earlier in India and Indonesia.
In discussions on the meaning of the MWC vision of being “a communion of Anabaptist-related churches,” many expressed a desire to strengthen their identity as peacemakers in order to contribute to the wider church and society.
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