The Bund Europäischer Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden (Federation of European Mennonite Brethren Churches) is an association of 13 autonomous congregations in Austria (4) and West Germany (9). Most of the purposes and tasks of these churches are carried out on the local and national level. Six of the German Mennonite Brethren (MB) churches are united as a "working association" called Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden in Deutschland (AMBD). The three MB churches in Bavaria (south Germany) are working together with the churches in Austria (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden in Osterreich und Bayern, AMBOB).
The first Mennonite Brethren congregation in western Europe was organized in 1950. About 30 Mennonite Brethren refugees from Russia and Poland—who could not or who did not want to migrate to South America or Canada—united as a congregation in Neuwied. Ten years later a second Mennonite Brethren congregation was formed in Neustadt a d. Weinstrasse with native believers. In 1966 some 30 Mennonite Brethren returning from South America organized themselves as an autonomous church in Lage (Müssen). Through evangelistic efforts of the Lage congregation, and through division of the membership, three more congregations had been formed in Bielefeld by 1985. In Austria all congregations originated through long term efforts of evangelism and by baptism upon confession of faith in Christ Jesus—beginning in Linz in 1951, followed by Steyr in 1959, Weis in 1960, and Salzburg in 1969. Finally, Mennonite Brethren missionary extension reached Bavaria. Work began in Traunreut, 1969; in Traunstein, 1982; and in Burghausen, 1983.
In addition, in Germany are five Umsiedler Mennoniten Brüdergemeinden. These congregations were formed by "resettlers" coming from the Soviet Union, 1972-79. For various reasons these Mennonite Brethren believers chose not to become part of the existing Mennonite Brethren churches. In Vienna, a growing Evangelical Free Church came into being by the grace of God and the testimony of Abe and Irene Neufeld during the 1970s. This "TUGA" (Tulpengasse) church has divided and developed into four indigenous congregations. They all have a good relationship to the Austrian MB churches, but are not part of the AMBOB.
Since Mennonite Brethren missionary endeavors and church work were initiated and supported by North American personnel and, to some extent, financed by the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services, there was from the beginning a feeling of belonging together among workers and congregations. However, there was and is no organizational structure that ties the European churches to the larger North American or any other conference of Mennonite Brethren churches. Some of the pioneer missionaries and church planters were H. H. Janzen, J. N. C. Hiebert, C. C. Wall, J. W. Vogt, G. H. Jantzen, and B. J. Braun. In 1987 there was one couple from Canada working with the German Mennonite Brethren churches and there were seven couples in Bavaria and Austria.
Beginning in 1960 and continuing for 20 years, members and delegates of all congregations from Austria and Germany met annually (except 1974) for a faith conference, with a minimum of business on the agenda, alternating between German and Austrian churches as a place of meeting. Since 1982 this Pentecost-Faith-Conference convenes every second year.
In Germany other Mennonite church bodies outnumber the Mennonite Brethren membership by about ten to one. In several communities they work and worship side-by-side. In Austria there are no other Anabaptist-Mennonite churches represented. The International Mennonite Organization, a counterpart to the North American MCC for social and relief work, is a forum where all Mennonite groups in Western Europe are working together. By and large, Mennonite Brethren have a good relationship with other evangelical churches. On the local level, they work with the Evangelische Allianz in united prayer meetings, Bible studies and evangelistic outreach. In several places, Mennonite Brethren have given leadership to such united Christian ministries.
Mennonite Brethren young people and leaders have had their training in various Bible schools and seminaries, e.g. in Basel, Bienenberg, Brake, Giessen, Seeheim, Walzenhausen, and lately in Ampfelwang. So far the churches have not identified with only one of these learning institutions nor have they found it necessary to create their own training center.
A weekly radio program Quelle des Lebens was first broadcast by H. H. Janzen in 1957. A followup letter by the same title was sent to those listeners who asked for help. Quelle des Lebens can still be heard from Luxembourg and Quito, produced by the European all-Mennonite Radiomission at the European Mennonite Bible School at Bienenberg in Switzerland. The Quelle des Lebens newsletter has become the bimonthly publication of the European Mennonite Brethren Churches. The AMBD has translated and published the confession of faith of the North American Mennonite Brethren Churches and the brochure "The Ministry of Reconciliation in a Broken World" by J. A. Toews. Die Mennonitische Brüdergemeinde - eine kurze Selbstdarstellung, originally written by H. H. Janzen, was being revised and enlarged in 1987.
Even though the European Mennonite Brethren are not known for being outstanding in bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to unreached people, they always have professed to be a missionary-minded church. Dorli Schnitzler, a graduate of the Brake Bible School, was commissioned to work among the Tambira Indians in Brazil in 1968. Church growth by evangelism was slow during the first decades. In Germany the congregations in Lage and Neuwied grew primarily through returnees from South America and by the arrival of the Umsiedler from the Soviet Union . However, during the 1980s new members have increasingly come from the unreached German population. At the end of 1986, church planting in areas with no evangelical free church seems to have become part of the vision of many Mennonite Brethren in Austria and Germany. At the end of 1986, the Federation of European Mennonite Brethren churches counted 1,200 members, with 22 full-time and 4 part-time ministers, missionaries, and teachers, 8 of whom are financially supported by the North American Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services. In 2003 the Bund consisted of 13 congregations with a total of 5,620 members.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 282-284.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 112.
Mennonite World Conference website.
Quelle des Lebens, 1966 (no. 1), 1974 (no. 6), 1976 (no. 6), 1977 (no. 3), 1978 (no. 3).
Toews, John A. History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, ed. A. J. Klassen. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Board of Literature and Education, 1975: 433-436.
|Author(s)||John N Klassen|
Cite This Article
Klassen, John N. "Bund Europäischer Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 28 Jul 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bund_Europ%C3%A4ischer_Mennonitischer_Br%C3%BCdergemeinden&oldid=55247.
Klassen, John N. (1987). Bund Europäischer Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bund_Europ%C3%A4ischer_Mennonitischer_Br%C3%BCdergemeinden&oldid=55247.
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