Are Mennonites allergic to evangelism?

Tshimanga calls for action in mission and evangelism

By Virginia A. Hostetler

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA – Energy was still high in the penultimate plenary session of PA 2015, featuring the work of the MWC Mission Commission. Speakers issued sharp challenges to Anabaptists, calling for a more active and evangelistic discipleship.

There is an uneasiness regarding mission, especially in the churches of the Western world, said keynote speaker Hippolyto Tshimanga. He is director of the Africa, Europe and Latin America Ministry for Mennonite Church Canada.

Rejecting the imperialist attitudes of past mission work and seeking to be sensitive to people living in non-Western contexts, many in the church have shied away from overt evangelism and mission work in recent decades.

Tshimanga quoted André Gingerich Stoner: “Mennonites love service, flirt with peace, and are allergic to evangelism.”

“What makes these questions excruciating for me,” lamented Tshimanga, “is that we are questioning the most fundamental ministry of the church, the raison d’être of the church!”

Tshimanga pointed to Jesus’ example of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the people of his time. He reminded listeners that Christ’s followers today are commissioned to do the same – through words as well as actions.

“There is no such thing as a church without mission; mission is the DNA of the church.” Tshimanga affirmed.


Rodrigo García (left) and Marc Pasques

Young Anabaptists Marc Pasques (from Spain and Australia) and Rodrigo Pedroza (from Mexico) spoke in tandem, challenging listeners to match beliefs with concrete actions.

Pedroza turned to Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God in Mark 1:15. The kingdom of God has arrived, but it is not yet fulfilled.

“Our role as co-constructors of the kingdom of God is in the here and now,” he said.

Pedroza pointed to the example of Jesus, who moved on the periphery of society, ministering where suffering abounds. “The good news needs to be proclaimed and understood in each context of human need,” he said.

“Who are the men and women that our society considers lepers?” Pasques asked. Do we see them?

He emphasized that, because of our roots as Anabaptists and disciples of Jesus, we cannot condone or justify discrimination or violence against anyone on the basis of nationality, ethnic group, gender, marital status or sexual orientation.

North American music predominated in this service on the theme of walking in giving and receiving. The musical leaders hailed from Angola, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain and the USA. Hostetler also mentioned the two musicians from Colombia and Democratic Republic of Congo, who were denied visas.

Virginia A. Hostetler is web editor for The Canadian Mennonite. She is part of the Meetinghouse team of editors reporting on the plenary sessions at Assembly 16.