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Looking to a future of peace


Robert J. Suderman delivers teaching on Anabaptism in Chile.

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March 14, 2007
-Deborah Froese

TEMUCO, Chile — While most anniversary celebrations tend to commemorate the past, the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile (UBACH) marked its 100th Anniversary by looking to the future with change in mind.  UBACH is in a journey of ‘rediscovering’ its Anabaptist roots and intentionally working to create an Anabaptist identity, with the facilatory efforts of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Mission Network (MMN).

Robert J. Suderman, General Secretary of MC Canada and Janet Plenert, Executive Secretary of MC Canada Witness travelled to Temuco in early January to lead workshops on Anabaptism, meet the leadership and join in UBACH’s festivities. They expected to find a few passionate leaders working to spread the new vision, but Suderman noted, “It was surprising to us that [the vision] was more profoundly rooted than we were anticipating.”  They learned that some pastors were rebuilding their congregations based upon Anabaptism by rewriting constitutions, restructuring physical spaces and redefining their approaches to preaching and teaching.   

In a society where family violence is prevalent, Anabaptist peace theology offers hope for change.  To faciliate that change, UBACH is encouraging the development of Sanctuaries of Peace, church-based refuges for victims of violence.  Sanctuaries of Peace offer more than shelter from violence; they also address the causes of violence.  Becoming a Santuary of Peace involves a one-year process of learning how to respond to violence and networking with appropriate existing agencies for support.

Plenert was struck with the ecumenical and collaborative aspects of Sanctuaries of Peace.  She described what she encountered as “not just meetings and words, but examining a vision of mandate – what God wants for this community.”  To implement this program, UBACH collaborates with other Protestant and Catholic churches, government and non-governmental organizations.  This is particularly remarkable, Plenert said, because “Chile is a stratified society which makes it difficult and unusual for churches to work together.” 

Other aspects of Anabaptist theology, such as horizontal leadership, acceptance of women in ministry, and the potential for world-wide associations also hold appeal for UBACH as it embraces a new identity for its second century.