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Transferring power to Africa no struggle for Mennonite agencies


Pastors Mapamboro and Komuesa of the Mennonite Church of Congo assist Mennonite Mission Network's Steve Wiebe-Johnson in cutting the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of new offices at the Christian University of Kinshasa. The university is jointly supported by Baptists and Mennonites.

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June 14, 2005
-by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen

Winnipeg, Man. — Mennonite church leaders from Africa and mission workers from three North American agencies have put new administrative structures to the test in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Burkina Faso.

Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM), Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network have engaged in a restructuring process that attempts to more adequately reflect current reality in the global Mennonite church by transferring decision-making power to African church leaders through Partnership Councils.

“It is right that African church leaders engage with a stronger voice in the decision-making about mission vision, personnel and priorities that impact the churches they have been called to lead,” said Rod Hollinger-Janzen, executive coordinator for Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission. “I believe that the new Partnership Council model is enabling African voices to provide leadership for mission. The hope is that this open structure will collaborate with the Holy Spirit, empowering the African church to pursue a mission vision that corresponds to its unique identity, strengths and gifts. As it does so, North American partners can celebrate and support that vision."

National Partnership Councils meet twice each year in addition to the annual International Central Council that brings together the Partnership Councils of Botswana, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. These four nations represent the countries in which AIMM personnel have served for all or part of the 91 years of this agency's existence and where AIMM programs continue today.

The Congolese Partnership Council met in Kinshasa, Congo, from March 31-April 1 where three national Mennonite denominations are working together to present a united witness in a country devastated by armed conflict and personal greed of foreign and national leaders.

Adolphe Komuesa, president of the Communauté Mennonite au Congo (Mennonite Church of Congo), emphasized the gifts that each denomination brings to their collaborative efforts to send missionaries to other areas of this vast country and to provide education, leadership training and health care in the areas where one-fourth of the world’s Mennonites live.

“Each gift is for the building up of the church,” Komuesa said. “We have different competencies. As Mennonite churches, we shouldn’t live separately, and our Partnership Council will help us use our gifts together for the growth of our Anabaptist family.”

Hollinger-Janzen, Peter Rempel, Mennonite Church Canada Witness’ facilitator of mission partnerships for Africa and Europe, and Steve Wiebe-Johnson, Mennonite Mission Network’s director for Africa, represented their agencies at the Kinshasa meeting and at the Partnership Council in Orodara, Burkina Faso from April 18-19.

Siaka Traore, president of both the Burkinabé Partnership Council and of the Mennonite church in Burkina Faso, echoed the priorities stated by Komuesa. Traore also shared a vision for a peace education center. '

“I’ve seen the evils of war in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Let’s work so that this does not happen in Burkina Faso,” Traore said.

The International Central Council is scheduled for Nov. 14-15.