Missionary Education and Training
When Pieter Jansz was sent to Java by the Mennonite Society for the Spread of the Gospel in The Netherlands Overseas Possession in 1851 as the first modern Mennonite missionary, he received biblical and theological training at the Mennonite seminary in Amsterdam and training in the language, geography, and ethnology of Java at the Royal Academy in Delft.
Later in North America in the 1860s, Mennonites opened the Wadsworth Institute with training for missions as a primary goal. This was also part of the motivation for the opening of later educational institutions. By the 1980s all four graduate-level Mennonite seminaries in North America had specialized centers for training in evangelism and mission.
Since Pieter Jansz went to Java in 1851, Mennonites have used a wide variety of Bible schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries and have also studied at specialized institutes set up to train for mission service. Most of these institutions have been in Europe or North America. Mission candidates have usually studied language in institutions in their country of service and a very few have also done formal study in Bible and theology in those countries.
Mennonites have never been of one mind on the need for specialized training for mission. Many have gone into service with no training at all, others with many years of specialized graduate-level preparation. However Mennonites have probably emphasized specialized mission preparation more than most conservative groups of similar size. Mennonite missionaries have been particularly known for their work with the languages of the people among whom they serve.
A new chapter in preparation for mission was opened in 1971 when the Commission on Overseas Mission (General Conference Mennonite), the Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church), Goshen Biblical Seminary (MC), and Mennonite Biblical Seminary (GCM) jointly set up the [Overseas] Mission Training Center in Elkhart, Indiana. This marked the first time that Mennonite sending agencies and schools together established an institution for the training of workers and the first time that both schools and agencies participated directly in such training. The Mission Training Center was self-consciously a place which brought together agency and school perspectives on the missionary task.
The Mennonite Missionary Study Fellowship, sponsored by the Mission Training Center in Elkhart, was open to all Mennonites and others interested in missiological study and research from a believers church perspective. The fellowship sponsored lectures by noted missiologists and its sessions resulted in a series of books, the Missionary Study series, published by Herald Press.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 596-597. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Ramseyer, Robert L. "Missionary Education and Training." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M5786.html.
APA style: Ramseyer, Robert L. (1987). Missionary Education and Training. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M5786.html.