Mary E. Klassen
The seventh Consultation of Anabaptists in Latin America helped to build connections among people in that region of the world; it also provided opportunities to create and deepen important relationships for two Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary professors who attended, Daniel Schipani and Jamie Pitts.
The consultation, held February 10-14 near Guatemala City, Guatemala, helped to foster a shared identity among Anabaptist-Mennonite groups from Latin America. Church leaders and pastors attended from the region stretching from Argentina and Chile to Mexico and including even representatives of Hispanic congregations in Texas. For the first time, the consultation included representatives of German-speaking Mennonite congregations in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The event was an opportunity for people to reflect on major challenges facing the churches, Schipani, AMBS professor of pastoral care and counseling, said. The theme—Hacia una Pastoral de la Esperanza (Toward church ministry that is hope-centered)—reflected this, as did Schipani’s presentations. Speaking to the 130 participants representing 17 countries, Schipani shared two presentations: “A Theology of Discipleship for our Time: Bases for our Hope-centered Ministry” and, at the closing session, “Towards Church Ministry that Affirms Faith, Love, and Hope.”
Speakers also addressed issues of community, peace and nonviolence; and different streams and expressions of Anabaptism throughout the region. Participants had opportunities to share about their contributions in their contexts in situations such as violence, domestic violence and poverty.
Pitts, AMBS assistant professor of Anabaptist studies, attended the consultation to meet with Latin American theologians, pastors and church leaders. One goal was to identify people who might contribute to the journal that was previously called Mission Focus, which will be relaunched this fall with the goal of sharing Anabaptist-Mennonite experience, history, research and resources for the church in mission.
Pitts also wanted to identify people with whom he could do future research and help build links between AMBS and people in Latin America, so we “have a deeper sense of what the church looks like around the world,” he said.
Hearing what church leaders and pastors in the region are doing in their churches and how they relate Anabaptist history to their present struggles was helpful, Pitts said. “It was eye-opening to see how certain aspects, especially historical experiences of struggle and persecution, inform their current faith.”
He also valued the opportunity to visit SEMILLA, the Latin American Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala City, and to meet with Willi Hugo Pérez, the rector, and Vicky Montenegro, the director of CASAS, the Spanish-language study and service program of SEMILLA. Next January Pitts hopes to take a group of AMBS students to SEMILLA for a class, so this initial visit was helpful.
“I’m feeling excited about the ways the people I met will challenge me in my research and teaching, as well as the ways they may be part of how AMBS could develop in the future.” Pitts added.
Following the consultation Schipani taught a course at SEMILLA, giving students the advantage of earning academic credit while they were in the area. Twenty-two students took the class on Christian formation and theological education, counting their participation in the consultation as part of their course work. “For several it was an opportunity to begin another level of seminary training,” Schipani explained. “We made it practical, including biblical study and preparing sermons, and it was really energizing to work with the students.”
For additional information about the Latin American Anabaptist Consultation, visit the Mennonite World Review website: http://www.mennoworld.org/2014/3/3/latin-american-leaders-seek-hope-common-identity/
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