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Chinese Anabaptist Network seeks regional fellowship

   
 


Church leaders met in Hong Kong to form the unofficially named “Chinese Anabaptist Network.”  Front: Sheldon Sawatzky (Taiwan), Susan Poon (Macau), Crystal Lee (Hong Kong), Treasure Chow (Macau), Bailey Chow (Macau), Ying Hongtao (China), Yao Xiyi (Hong Kong), Jeremiah Choi (Hong Kong), Alde Wong (Hong Kong), C.K. Fu (Hong Kong). Back:  Marietta Sawatzky (Taiwan), Tobia Veith (Macau), George Veith (Macau), Gordon Janzen (Canada), John Lapp (USA), Jeanette Hanson (China).

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January 21, 2010
-Gordon Janzen

Hong Kong, CHINA. — Another Anabaptist network is taking shape – this time in East Asia. The unofficially named “Chinese Anabaptist Network” joins similar Anabaptist and Mennonite networks and centres in United Kingdom, France, South Africa, and Korea, among others.

Sixteen representatives from Mennonite churches and organizations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and China, and representatives of North American Mennonite mission bodies, met at Grace Mennonite Church in Hong Kong on Nov. 23, 2010 to explore how to develop stronger relationships. They affirmed Mennonite Church Canada workers George and Tobia Veith as facilitators for the new network. 

For several decades Mennonite churches have taken root in Taiwan and Hong Kong and more recently in Macau, but connections among these churches have been limited.  The Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan (FOMCIT) is the largest Mennonite body in the region with 21 congregations, followed by the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Hong Kong (CMCHK) with a three churches.  The Mennonite Church in Macau is the only Mennonite congregation in that city.

While no identifiable Mennonite church exists in mainland China, Mennonites have had a presence there since the 1980s, building relationships with existing churches and believers through Mennonite Partners in China (MPC, formerly China Educational Exchange). 

Jeanette Hanson, a Mennonite Church Canada worker in Chengdu, and Hongtao Yin, MPC’s church relations coordinator in Beijing, shared stories about Mennonite connections to one group of pastors who are part of the officially recognized national church, the Three-Self Church.  Hanson reported that these pastors expressed a desire for ongoing and growing connections with Mennonites.

“They are not affiliated with any Western denomination, but you could say that much of their theology and way of doing church is very Anabaptist,” Hanson pointed out. Their congregations maintain a strong emphasis on servant leadership, outreach and service.

Chinese language Anabaptist resources topped a list identifying needs among Mennonite churches in the new network.  Participants agreed that a list of available resources, from books and Sunday School items to audio visual materials, would be shared through a future website.  The group expressed a desire for regular interaction and agreed the new network should meet annually.

Alde Wong, pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Hong Kong appreciated the opportunity together with her peers. “I learned from the process about how Mennonites from different countries can cooperate.  This was a very good opportunity for fellowship and for future cooperation.”

 “I believe an exciting web of possibilities and connections will emerge,” Tobia Veith said. “We are privileged to live in the region and serve to facilitate these rich connections.”

A similar inter-Mennonite consultation was held in 2006 in Macau. Sheldon Sawatzky, current FOMCIT General Secretary and former Asia Director for Mennonite Mission Network noted, “This time we have the advantage of having someone [George and Tobia Veith] available to help coordinate things for our network.” 

The next meeting of the Chinese Anabaptist Network is planned for November 2011.