1955 ArticleThe Puerto Rico Mennonite Church (MC), the result of mission work by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, was the outgrowth of the work of the Civilian Public Service unit at La Plata near the center of the island, which was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee during World War II. The first Mennonite meetinghouse on the island was built at La Plata by MCC and was dedicated on 18 March 1945. The congregation was organized in 1947. A second center was opened and a congregation organized at Pulguillas, 20 km (12 mi.) from La Plata, in 1947. In 1948 the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities purchased from the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration the entire La Plata Unit, consisting of the hospital, community center, store, dwelling houses, and other buildings, and operated the work jointly with MCC, for the benefit of the community, until 1953. In 1957 the hospital at La Plata was discontinued and was then operated as a clinic. In the same year a new 32-bed hospital of fire- and hurricane-proof construction (Mennonite General Hospital) was opened at Aibonito, where a new nurses' home was erected. In addition to the hospital in 1958 there were four medical clinics and one dental clinic, staffed by three doctors and one dentist. There was also on the field a language school, a Bible school, an elementary and junior high school, and a broadcasting station, Luz y Verdad, which reached 21 stations scattered throughout the Latin countries of the world. There were eight organized congregations, three mission stations with a membership of 339 in charge of 7 ordained and 3 licensed ministers. In 1955 the churches of Puerto Rico were organized into a conference which was admitted to membership of the Mennonite General Conference in that same year. In addition there was also maintained under private management a farm project, store, and related interests for the benefit of the people of the community. -- SCY
1990 UpdateThe Convención de las Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Mennonite Conference) organized in 1988 as an autonomous Latin American conference, a member of the Mennonite World Conference in the Central and South American region. By 1988 there were 15 congregations affiliated with the conference, with a total membership of about 900, led by 9 ordained ministers and one licensed minister, plus other local leaders. In 2003 there were 11 congregations with a membership of 404.
The conference has become a fully indigenous church with Puerto Rican leadership, pastoral and otherwise. The last missionary couple from the Mennonite Board of Missions (MC) left in 1986, thus ending a period of closer affiliation with that agency. In 1988 the Mennonite Board of Missions contributed financial support designated primarily for leadership training, communications, and specific outreach and mission programs. While maintaining its fraternal relationship with the North American Mennonite church, the Puerto Rican conference has increased its contacts with and participation in regional Latin American events, such as annual conferences and leadership training programs, during the last decades. Further, it had an active participation in special projects in areas such as communications and curriculum design for Christian education.
Significant changes during the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s correlated with the wider sociocultural changes in the island and political and economic developments in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico). What was in the beginning a rural Mennonite program in the La Plata valley, expanded through the years into urban communities. What was started as a church-based endeavor to serve largely the lower-income families, focused in 1988 on serving primarily lower-middle-class and middle-class people. Relatively unstructured service and mission programs operating side-by-side gave way to a more structured and institutionalized program administered under a rather centralized conference. The overall church program operated under the conference with an executive secretary and a conference executive committee. However, each congregation was allowed to develop somewhat autonomously, and no one established model or pattern described all the congregations.
Institutions and programs in the conference in 1988 included the following: Academa Betania, the conference-sponsored school in Pullguillas (Coamo), with grades kindergarten through senior high school and an enrollment of about 300 students. Another school, Academia Menonita (instruction mainly in English), was started in 1961 and is run by the Summit Hill congregation in the metropolitan area; it had grades pre kindergarten through senior high school and about 650 students. A Bible institute offered workshops and courses for congregational leaders and provided assistance for more advanced biblical and theological training in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. The conference also operated a bookstore, an audio-visual center, and a credit and savings cooperative. It published a monthly bulletin. Further, it appointed three representatives to the community-church board of directors of the Mennonite General Hospital in Aibonito.
Major challenges and goals identified by the conference include the following areas: reassessment of conference structure and organization; pastoral leadership discernment and training; affirmation of an Anabaptist-Mennonite identity and stance in the midst of the Puerto Rican situation; and nurturing and implementing of a wholistic view of mission for the next decades. -- DS
Holsinger, Justus G. "Puerto Rico Mennonite Church," Mennonite Life 26 (July 1971): 106-113.
Holsinger, Justus G. La obra menonita en Puerto Rico / Mennonite Work in Puerto Rico, 1943-1981. Puerto Rico Mennonite Church/Mennonite Board of Missions, 1982.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 261-263.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 102.
|Author(s)||S. C. Yoder|
|Daniel S. Schipani|
 Cite This Article
Yoder, S. C. and Daniel S. Schipani. "Convención de las Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas de Puerto Rico." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1988. Web. 16 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Convenci%C3%B3n_de_las_Iglesias_Evang%C3%A9licas_Menonitas_de_Puerto_Rico&oldid=86930.
Yoder, S. C. and Daniel S. Schipani. (1988). Convención de las Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas de Puerto Rico. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Convenci%C3%B3n_de_las_Iglesias_Evang%C3%A9licas_Menonitas_de_Puerto_Rico&oldid=86930.
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