Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches in India
Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches in India is the largest Mennonite denomination of India. Its membership exceeds 100,000 persons. It has 103,000 members in 840 congregations. The Presiding officer for the conference is Dr P B Arnold. The headquarters at Jadcherla, Andhra Pradesh.
The Conference also runs a Medical Center at Jadcharala by name M B Medical Center many patients are treated here. It was established in 19th century from its inception it has been doing a great service to the people. There is a proposal for a Medical College.
The Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of India began like many other global church communities: with mission. Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia sent their first missionaries, Abraham J. and Maria Friesen, to India in 1889. Abraham and Maria started the first mission station in Nalgonda, India. The Americans took control of the Mennonite Brethren Mission work from the Russians. The Conference of the Mennonite Brethren, India became an independent church from foreign missionaries in 1957, but did not have full independence until 1973.
|1889||First Mennonite Brethren Missionaries come to India. Their names were Abraham and Maria Friesen, and they were from Russia. Abraham and Maria were the first Mennonite Brethren Missionaries. They started the mission station in Nalgonda, India.|
|January 4, 1891||The First Mennonite Brethren Church is organized by Abraham and Maria Friesen.|
|October, 1899||First American Mennonite Brethren arrive. They were Rev. and Mrs. N. N. Hiebert and Elizabeth S. Newfield. Abraham and Maria Friesen assisted the American missionaries. Miss Anna Suderman, also an American, joined them later that year. The American Mennonite Brethren’s first mission station in India was started in Hughestown the same year. Russian and American Mennonite Brethren mutually ran mission work until 1914 when the American Missionaries gained complete control of foreign Mennonite Brethren Mission work in India.|
|March 27, 1904||Two more American MB missionaries arrive in India. The two new missionaries, Rev. and Mrs. John H. Pankratz, along with Elizabeth S. Newfield and Anna Suderman and First American founded Mennonite Brethren Congregation in India.|
1914-American Mennonite Brethren Church takes complete control of Foreign Mennonite Brethren Missions. This was partly due to the fact that Russian Missionaries lost funding during World War I. Russian Mennonite Brethren saw this as a temporary takeover, but Russian revolution, extreme famine, and mass Mennonite emigration out of Russia. 1918-The first MB convention for churches in India is organized by AMBM. It was called the Telugu Conference, and it met annually. 1952-Jadcharla Medical Centre was started by Dr. And Mrs. Jake Friesen, AMBM missionaries. 1954-Governing Council is created for Indian Mennonite Brethren to gain more leadership. It replaced the governing model that was originally placed by foreign missionaries. 1957-Yarrow Statement was presented this year. It was a document that laid the ground work for the Indian Mennonite Brethren Church to become a separate entity from American MB. 1973-Although the Yarrow Statement was completed in 1957 it is not until 1973 that the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of India becomes an independent body from American Mennnonite Brethren Missions. January 17, 2010- This was AMB 150 anniversary. India has a special ceremony to commemorate being the first missions place.
Brief Summary of the Church Today
As of 2010, Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches of India included 840 congregations and 103,488 members. The majority of the churches and the Conferences main offices are in the Andhra Pradesh.
What does it mean to be Anabaptist?
Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of India is connected to the original Anabaptists through the Mennonite Brethren missionaries. Although, “…they are not well rooted in [Anabaptist] teachings.” I.P. Asheervadam, Mennonite Brethren Indian historian and professor, believes that Gandhi would have respected the Mennonite Brethren church in India for embodying the teachings of Jesus.
How Does the Church Nurture a Sense of Continuity with the Anabaptist Tradition?
The conference has historical archives located in Shamshabad, India. The India Conference is a member of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren. In 2006, they made a mission partnership between themselves and American Mennonite Brethren. They called the partnership the Delhi Project, and it focuses on ministry of the middle class in India.
The India church struggles with leadership. When the church was first independent from foreign missions the leadership had conflicts rooted in “regional, family, and other social considerations…,” which led to lawsuits over church power. India has a lack of qualified pastors. Rev. Dr. R.S. Lemuel, Chairman of Mennonite Brethren Board of Theological Education, says that in 1999 there were “837 M.B. Congregations and only about 197 trained pastors.” India has a caste system, which primarily oppresses the Harijans group (all known as the lower class). Historically, the Mennonite Brethren church in India has also had issues with relating to Muslims; one mission station had to be relocated because of several Muslims converting to Christianity.
Future of the Group
No predictions could be found about the future of the conference. Recently, mission work has focused on northern India and the middle class. There are 2,500 groups of people in northern India who have never been exposed to Christianity. One could tentatively predict the Indian church will receive the newest growth amongst these groups.
P. B. Arnold- Dr. Arnold took over the Jadcharla Medical Center when the American Missionaries left. He is currently the president of the conference. Rev.Dr. R.S.Lemuel,President, Board of Evangelism&Church Ministries, Board of Theological Education and Vice President Mennonite Brethren Conference of India Rev.Dr. I. P. Asheervadam- Historian and Professor is the principal of Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College, Shamshabad, India. Mr.P. Abraham Prakash, Principal of MBC Junior college, Mahabubnagar Rev.Dr. Jakkula L. David, Executive Director, Mennonite Brethren Development Organisation (MBDO) (Wholistic Ministries of MB Conference India)
- Mennonite World Conference: Asia & Pacific
- Penner, Peter. The Mennonite Brethren Mission in India, 1885-1975: Russians, North Americans, and Telugus. Hillsboro: Kindred Productions, 1997.
- Enns-Rempel, Kevin. e-mail interview, April 14, 2011.
- Janzen, A.E., ed.. Foreign Missions: India: The American Mennonite Brethren Mission in India, 1898-1948. Hillsboro: Board of Foreign Missions of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1948.
- India at Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online