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Filipino Mennonites Study Vocation of the Church


Jack Suderman addresses the vocation of the church in society Sept. 10-12, 2012 at Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija Province, Philippines. The event was sponsored by Mennonite Church Canada.

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September 28, 2012
- Christina Bartel Barkman

Winnipeg, MAN.— Nothing is outside the agenda of Christ.

That was just one nugget of wisdom that went home with thirty-five members from Integrated Mennonite Churches (IMC) of the Philippines who attended a three-day study session on the Vocation of the Church in Society led by Robert J. Suderman, Sept. 10-12, 2012. The event took place at Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija Province and was sponsored by Mennonite Church Canada.

Mennonite Church Canada workers Darnell and Christina Barkman, who are developing a new church in Manila in partnership with the IMC, were also in attendance.

Attendees studied the politics of Jesus and his rejection of the existing political system. They studied the alternative way of life he offered; the “Kingdom of God” approach to living as a community.  

Suderman described the church as a sign of the Kingdom and God’s instrument of reconciliation.  He said that as the church, we must engage the world the way Jesus did.

On the final session day, Suderman provided a comprehensive history of Mennonites, including Early Anabaptists. The group was attentive and many said that they were deeply encouraged by the Radical Reformers who held fast to their faith, even in face of martyrdom.

In an email message to Christina Barkman following the event, participant Matda Castillo del Rosario wrote that it was a blessing as well as a privilege to take part in the seminar.  “It made me realize as he (Suderman) shared the Ephesians 1: 8-10 that nothing is outside the agenda of Christ,” she wrote, and “the issues that  were tackled are very timely, relative and have the power to touch the Pastor's and church worker’s perspective in handling their different local churches.”  She also noted that the ideas Suderman taught showed her that the church can impact all aspects of society—the economic system, culture and family systems.

Suderman’s wife, Irene Suderman, led worship music in response to a spur of the moment invitation. She taught the group songs from around the world, including music written by son Bryan Moyer Suderman.

Robert J. Suderman is a travelling Ambassador for Mennonite Church Canada, where he formerly served as Executive Director. Suderman holds a PhD in Biblical Studies and is the Founding Director of the Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Bogotá, Colombia. The Sudermans have visited the Philippines on teaching tours twice before.

During their stay, the Sudermans were interviewed for one hour on a Filipino television program show called Perspectives, a program broadcast across the country.