Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Honduras (Evangelical Mennonite Church, Honduras) had its beginnings in Trujillo in 1950 with the arrival of the first Mennonite missionaries, George and Grace Miller, from Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (Mennonite Church), Lancaster, PA. Trujillo was a small isolated coastal town where the United Fruit Company had been active, but left when disease struck the banana trees.
From the start missionaries proclaimed a gospel that responded to people's physical needs, including work in the areas of agriculture, health, education, and community development. By 1951 a clinic was established, operated by a missionary nurse, Dora Taylor, and a new believer, Tilda Imbott, who also accompanied the Millers on Sunday morning visits to give Bible lessons in Spanish.
By late 1952 the first church building was completed in Trujillo, services were being held, and there were six members. The work was already spreading inland, through the fertile Aguan Valley to Olancho, then following the major traffic routes through the three largest cities and their outlying areas. A voluntary service program began in 1959. North American volunteers, and later, Honduran youth, worked in community programs alongside the church planters.
The 1960s marked the transition from missionary to national leadership. Growth was gradual, from 65 members in 1960 to 292 in 1970. In 1961 local councils were formed, and in 1962 the general church council was organized, with four missionaries and four national elders. By 1964 the general council elected an executive committee. A leadership training program was begun at Trujillo in 1965. By 1969 a church constitution and statement of faith was drawn up, accepted by the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions, and adopted in Trujillo.
Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Honduras thus became an autonomous conference. Its first president was Manuel Medina (1973-1975), followed by Damian Rodriguez (1975-1983), Bladimiro Cano (1983-1985), and Isaias Flores (1985-). Church administration was facilitated by division into six regional areas: Colon, Olancho, Atlántida, San Pedro Sula, Ocotepeque and Tegucigalpa, all of which were coordinated by local councils and overseers. National church offices were in La Ceiba.
Growth in membership and program was rapid during the 1970s and into the 1980s. Membership in 1987 included 55 congregations and nearly 2,600 members in 9 provinces. In 2003 there over 100 congregations, with 9,000 members. The church in San Pedro Sula, an industrial city, was started in 1970, grew quickly among middle class professional people, and soon had numerous churches in surrounding areas, a discipleship program, several youth teams that worked in service projects, and a choir that traveled to the United States.
In La Ceiba the Mennonite Vocational Institute was begun in 1975 to provide vocational and biblical training. In 1979 the Bible institute was separated and the vocational institute turned over to the Honduran government's Ministry of Education.
In 1980 the church, primarily rural, typically conservative, and heavily influenced by charismatic renewal, entered a new phase of awareness when it began work with Salvadoran war refugees in camps in the border areas. Leaders saw this involvement as a natural Christian response to human suffering, something they had seen demonstrated since the church's beginning. Praying was important, but was not the only solution; they had to take of what they had, and help. It was not a pondered political move, but it has had serious implication for the church coming to grips with its Anabaptist heritage and struggling to be faithful to the gospel in a country touched by war on all sides, and itself an obvious puppet of the United States. Mennonite Central Committee supported the Honduran Mennonites in this work, where they worked together with other agencies under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In 1982 when military service was made obligatory, the church was one of several Mennonite and Friends groups who united to send a statement to the Honduran Congress making known their historic nonresistant position and asking for alternative service opportunities. In 1986 the Mennonite church formally denounced the Nicaraguan Contra presence in the country, noting particularly that it had displaced the Moriah Mennonite congregation and taken over the church building. They asked for the government's protection of its people. Frank letters to the newspapers about current situations, and interactions with officials were quite common; several church workers were detained for questioning.
Other priorities included work in community development and leadership training, which led to the creation of two new church commissions in 1984. The Commission on Social Action, along with the support of Mennonite Central Committee, attempted to develop vision and theology, and the practice of social activism among Honduran communities. It coordinated the work with the refugees and rural development. The Commission on Theological Education coordinated the efforts of various leadership training programs, including the Bible Institute residence program which trains new pastors; the extension program, which serves active pastors and lay leaders; and SEMILLA, seminary-level program of practical theological education by extension, which was based in Guatemala and involved 10 Anabaptist conventions in Central America, including the Honduran Mennonite Church (Consulta Anabautista Menonita Centroamericana). An additional particular focus was that of forming a broader base for peace and justice concerns. Mennonite Central Committee was also supporting this program.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 81.
Wenger, A. Grace. Unpublished manuscript on EMBMC work, ch. 2: "Overseas Missions—Latin America." Salunga, PA: EMBMC, Aug. 1983: 1-57.
Flores, Ovidio. "Brief Historical Summary of the Mennonite Church in Honduras." Goshen College, 1982. Unpublished paper available through Honduras Mennonite Church, La Ceiba, Honduras.
Shelly, Linda and Grace Weber. "The Development of 'Word and Deed Ministry' in the History of the Honduran Mennonite Church." San Marcos, Honduras, 1985. Unpublished paper available through Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, PA.
Eastern Mennonite Board, executive committee minutes, 1948 ff.
Mennonite Central Committee, monthly and annual reports.
Flores, Luis Cesar. "Una Historia Breve de la Proyección de la Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña en la Programa Social." San Marcos, Honduras, 2 July 1983. Unpublished available through MCC, Akron, PA.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 221-224.
Rodriguez, Damian and others. Petition to National Congress concerning obligatory military service. 17 March 1982. Available through Honduras Mennonite Church, La Ceiba, Honduras.
Honduras Mennonite Church, statement to Honduras President and Congress concerning Contra activity. 15 May 1986. Translation available through Eastern Mennonite Board, Salunga, PA.
Gospel Herald (3 June 1986): 390.
Mennonite World Conference. "MWC - 2003 Caribbean, Central & South America Mennonite & Brethren in Christ Churches." Accessed 20 February 2006. <http://www.mwc-cmm.org/Directory/carcsam.html>.
|Author(s)||Janet M Breneman|
Cite This Article
Breneman, Janet M. "Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 30 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Iglesia_Evang%C3%A9lica_Menonita_Hondure%C3%B1a&oldid=88170.
Breneman, Janet M. (1987). Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Hondureña. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Iglesia_Evang%C3%A9lica_Menonita_Hondure%C3%B1a&oldid=88170.
Herald Press website.
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