Examples of collaboration and partnership between mission and church groups around the world provide a veritable patchwork quilt of varieties and styles both inter-Mennonite and inter-denominational in nature. Diverse as they are, however, some basic underlying dynamics are often to be found which contribute appreciably to ecumenical cooperation. Among the most common are: the need for a united voice and concerted action in the presence of powerful political and religious adversaries; the sheer size of an area and population which Christian missions hope to reach, a size which often far exceeds the capability and resources of any one mission alone; the possibility of maintaining joint programs which profit all groups but which would otherwise be impossible; a concern for the portrayal of the unity of the body of Christ; a hunger for fellowship and opportunity to take counsel together with people of like mind and faith.
Unique circumstances and mixes of common objectives often give rise to ecumenical groupings and initiatives which would seem strange in Europe and North America. Removed from the Western setting of sharply drawn lines of policy, tradition and bias, however, Christians of many persuasions have often found sufficient ground and reason for cooperation in Christian mission.
Ecumenism, however, has on occasion been less helpful overseas when it has generated different groups within a country which adopted an adversarial stance with regard to each other and competed for a following among the Christians and churches within the country. The tendency to export and impose western theological perspectives and divisions upon the overseas churches, even if with the sincerest of motivations, has often been confusing to and little appreciated by national leaders.
In many areas where Mennonite missions are at work, missionaries find themselves in the presence of competing Christian councils or associations which reflect the theological preoccupations which are familiar to Western Christians. Mennonite response to such situations has not been uniform. Some Mennonite mission boards have felt that if they must relate to one or the other, they will affiliate with the group of evangelical persuasion as opposed to those of conciliar orientation (World Council of Churches; various national and local councils of churches etc.). Other Mennonite boards, however, have hesitated to identify exclusively with any single cluster but have preferred to seek ways of relating to all groups within a given context with the hope of sharing Anabaptist perspectives and convictions with all.
As for the relationship between mission work and the rise of ecumenism overseas, it can certainly be said that mission work has favored a spirit of ecumenism in many areas. However such ecumenism has rarely been born directly of idealism. Christian councils and associations have tended first to take shape because of urgent need and the pressures of common problems and aspirations. Once in place, such groups then became the framework within which the benefits of ecumenical relations and fellowship were experienced and increasingly appreciated.
Ecumenical activity will certainly remain a feature of the world of the younger churches in the future. As nationals increasingly assert leadership, their own agendas and perspectives will heavily influence the nature and scope of the interchurch affiliations to come.
A sample listing of programs featuring (1) inter-Mennonite and Brethren in Christ collaboration on the part of mission boards or conferences and (2) Mennonite and Brethren in Christ collaboration with interdenominational agencies follows (AIMM = Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission; EMBMC = Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities [MC]; MBM = Mennonite Board of Missions [MC]; COM = Commission on Overseas Mission [GCM]); the list is subject to continual change and is offered solely as an illustration of the variety of such involvements at one point in time:
- Inter-Mennonite and Brethren in Christ programs: Africa Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Fellowship; Mennonite Ministries, a joint program of AIMM and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Botswana; SEDA, a rural development program based at Nyanga, Zaire, jointly sponsored by Communaute Mennonite au Congo (CMZA; Mennonite Church of Congo) and MCC; Asia Mennonite Conference; Hong Mennonite Ministries (GCM and MC mission boards); Mennonite Christian Service Fellowship of India; Japan Mennonite Fellowship, Anabaptist Center in Tokyo, and Tokyo Chiku Menonaito Kyokai Rengo (Tokyo Area Fellowship of Mennonite Churches); Hwalien Mennonite Christian Hospital in Taiwan; SEMILLA, an Anabaptist-Mennonite program of theological education by extension based in Guatemala City (Consulta Anabautista Menonita Centroamericana); joint ministry by EMBMC and MBM in Israel; Iglesia Menonita de Bolivia (Mennonite Church of Bolivia), related to COM, MBM, and MCC; Associaçao Evangélica Menonita and Associaçäo Menonita de Assistêcia Social in Brazil; the Comité Nacional Anabautista, which coordinates Mennonite mission agencies in Colombia; MENCOLDES (Fundacion Menonita Colombiana para el Desarollo), an inter-Mennonite relief and development agency in Colombia; Seminario Anabautista Andino, a training program serving Anabaptist churches in Colombia and Venezuela; Centro Evangélico Menonita de Teología Asunción (CEMTA, Mennonite Evangelical Center for Theology) and Comité Menonita de Acción Evangélica y Social en el Paraguay, both in Paraguay.
- Interdenominational programs (the cooperating Mennonite or Brethren in Christ agency is given in parenthesis): Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (BIC); Inter-Confessional Protestant Council, Benin (MBM); Federation of Evangelical Missions and Churchs, Burkina Faso (AIMM); United Evangelical Mission, Chad (Europäische Mennonitische Evangelisations-Komitee); Evangelical Seminary of Bangui, Central African Republic (Mennonite Brethren); The Christian Council, Ghana (MBM); Centre d'Editions et de Distribution, an inter-Protestant press and publishing house in Zaire (CMZA and Communaute des Freres Mennonites au Congo [CFMZA, Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo]); Eglise du Christ au Congo, in which most Protestant groups in Congo have become members by government ruling (CMZA, CFMZA, and Communauté Evangélique Mennonite [CEM, Mennonite Evangelical Church]); Christian Medical Institute of Kasai, a reference hospital and training center sponsored jointly by the Presbyterian church and the CMZA; Institute Supérieur de Theologie de Kinshasa, an inter-Protestant training program for pastors (CMZA and CFMZA); the Protestant Book Store of the Kasai (Presbyterian, CMZA, CFMZA, CEM); Programme Agricole Protestant, based in Kikwit, sponsored by the Eglise du Christ au Zaire, MCC, the local government, and the CFMZA; International Assistance Mission, Afghanistan (MBM); Christian Council of Hong Kong (COM): Evangelical Fellowship of India (COM, Manitoba, Canada); National Council of Churches in India (COM); Union Biblical Seminary at Pune, India (COM, MBM, Manitoba, Canada); Woodstock School for missionary children (most Protestant missions in India have had ties with this school); Japan Evangelical Mission Association (COM, Manitoba, Canada); Taiwan Missionary Fellowship (COM); Taiwan Mission Center in Taipei (COM); United Mission to Nepal (MBM); San Jose Biblical Seminary, Costa Rica (COM); The Evangelical Committee for Development of Nicaragua [CEPAD] (Conservative Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities); Evangelical Alliance of England (BIC); Consortium of European Missions [EKUMINDO] (related to Mennonite work in Indonesia); Persekutan Geraja Indonesia [Community of Churches in Indonesia], to which the Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa (Evangelical Church of Java [GITJ]) and the Persatuan Gereja-Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (United Muria Synod [GKMI]) belong; Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society Hospital at Nazareth, Israel (MBM); Immanuel House Fellowship and Student Center at Tel Aviv, Israel (MBM); United Christian Council in Israel (MBM); Asociación Nacional de Evangélicos Bolivianos [National Assocation of Bolivian Evangelicals] (Evangel ical Mennonite Missions Conference); Confederación Evangelical de Colombia (Iglesia Evangélica Menonita [IEM] and Asociación de Iglesias Hermanos Menonitas); Futuro Juvenal, an interdenominational program for children and orphans (IEM Colombia); Seminario Teologica Presbiteriano de Bogota (IEM Colombia); Venezuela Evangelical Fellowship of Churches (BIC).
See also Comity.
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MLA style: Bertsche, James E. "Inter-Mission Cooperation." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/I5841.html.
APA style: Bertsche, James E. (1987). Inter-Mission Cooperation. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/I5841.html.