By Eric Miller
For the first time since 2019, leaders of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion met in person, hosted by the Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic (DR). Leaders representing Brazil, the DR, Haiti, Honduras, India, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Spain, and the United States met for five days, including days of meetings and visits to agricultural projects.
Please pray… For the member denominations of the Global Church of the Brethren Communion in 12 countries around the world.
Leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Venezuela were unable to attend for visa reasons.
Participants included Vildor Archange, Arley Cantor, Mario Cantor, Joel Billi, Jeff Boshart, Marcos Inhauser, Anthony Ndamsai, Ariel Rosario, Darryl Sankey, Romy Telfort, Santos Terrero, Athanasus Ungang, and the executive committee of the National Board of the Church of the Brethren in the DR: Richard Mendieta, Faseli Nolasco, Cristian Encarnacion, Pedro Sanchez, and Carlos “Sandy” Garcia. Anastasia Bueno was in attendance as an observer.
Participants in the group had nine different native languages. The meetings were conducted mostly in Spanish and English, with translation to and from Haitian Creole at some points.
The main purpose of the meeting was to review bylaws for the organization, which is a meeting of equal Church of the Brethren bodies around the world. The group has been conceived as a meeting of equal partners whose purpose is to continue the work of Jesus around the world. Marcos Inhauser represented the committee presenting the bylaws, the culmination of several years of hard work. There was much good discussion and many amendments, but on the whole the group was very much in agreement. The bylaws will be revised and distributed to the group to be adopted.
According to the draft bylaws, the purpose of the group is to “share the Gospel and plant new churches around the world,” “promote strong leadership ethics, accountability and financial responsibility,” “promote fundamental elements of the Church of the Brethren, such as: non-confessionalism, non-creedalism, pacifism, love feast and feet washing, [and] ministry of service for people in need.” The group will also work to address “structures and systems which impoverish and marginalize people” and “promote care for nature.”
In order to accomplish the work, the group met for several long days. After the meetings, Inhauser expressed appreciation for the process, with the US church as an equal partner, everyone being free to speak and make suggestions, and a lack of political power fights. While some met old friends at the meeting, many met for the first time.
Participants took turns leading worship and had time to share about the happenings within the churches in their own countries, including challenges, heartbreaks, and triumphs.
In Nigeria, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) faces news of kidnappings and murders of church members on an almost weekly basis. EYN president Joel Billi and vice president Anthony Ndamsai shared that they were blessed by a quiet week while in the DR, without reports of violence against members of EYN. Ndamsai shared that the decision by EYN to remain peaceful has prevented Nigeria from turning into “another Afghanistan.” Their peacefulness in the face of violence, and the evident care of the US church for the Nigerian Brethren, have led to continued growth in the church.
In Rwanda, government inspectors continue to demand new upgrades to the headquarters church building and deny approval. The government also considers building churches for the minority Batwa people pointless, but the Rwandan Church of the Brethren is proud to worship alongside this minority group and have provided scholarships for the first three Batwa men known to have attended college. Batwa Angel Choirs also share the gospel through song.
In Spain, the church has registered officially, which has opened up doors for them to legally hold outdoor revivals. The church has identified and plans to buy a new church building, and is growing in several cities throughout the country, with both immigrant and Spanish members.
In Honduras, the Church of the Brethren relates to a church that has persevered for years in a poor community, being threatened and insulted, with graffiti painted and cleaned and repainted on the church door repeatedly. Their humble service in the name of Jesus has been noticed. The church has endured and grown.
There was a visit to the historic district in the host city, and several participants preached in local churches. On the final day, the group headed out of the city for a chance to visit a farm and to see a demonstration thresher project. Many of the church leaders are farmers themselves and could not resist picking up a hoe and doing a little work. The thresher was designed by international church members and is built and maintained with local materials. The group was very interested in this for use in their own communities.
The agriculture outing included visits to the fields of two Dominican pastors. In the DR, and in most countries represented at the gathering, pastors are bi-vocational. Church leaders discussed and compared crop varieties and yields, land tenure issues, farming with animal traction versus tractors, and marketing. There were many words of encouragement shared for both the agricultural and ministerial work of the local pastors.
— Eric Miller is executive director of Global Mission for the Church of the Brethren. Also contributing to this article is Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative.
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