Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden (South American Conference of Mennonite Brethren Congregations)
This conference includes the Mennonite Brethren congregations, mostly of Russian immigrant background in Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The first meeting of this conference was in Friesland Colony in 1962. The purpose of the conference was to promote unity among the congregations and increase faithfulness in doctrine and practice. Ideological and doctrinal differences had become apparent among the congregations since World War II. Nonresistance had been neglected. A sense of failure prevailed among the leaders and members, with a desire to change things but uncertainty about how to do this. Relationships with the German congregations, which had been so helpful before the war, had been broken. It was not surprising, therefore, that contact with North American Mennonite Brethren developed into very fruitful interdependence.
From the beginning strong emphasis was placed upon the need for Bible schools, mission work, Sunday school, youth work, and singing. A Bible study course to promote this was begun in 1956. In 1961 this course was located in Brazil with the founding of a Bible institute (Instituto e Seminário Bíblico Irmãos Menonitas, Curitiba). Questions raised at early conferences included the definition of love relationships, marriage with unbelievers, reception of members who had not been baptized by immersion, and remarriage of persons whose spouse had been lost in the war but who might still be alive somewhere.
National conferences were founded in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in 1961 but by 1979 most members of the Mennonite Brethren church had left Uruguay, leaving only Brazil and Paraguay in the South American Conference. In its meetings this conference gradually evolved from a work-oriented conference to one centering on issues of faith and life, meeting triennially. In 1984 there were 16 congregations in Brazil with 1,834 members, and 8 congregations in Paraguay with 1,243 members, for a total of 3,077 members.
The leaders of the conference up to 1988 had been: Gerhard Balzer (1948-1953), Fernheim; Kornelius Voth (1953-1957), Friesland; Gerhard Balzer (1958-1962), Fernheim; Hans Wiens (1962-1967), Asunción; Heinrich Lowen (1967-1969), Curitiba; Erich Giesbrecht (1969-1973), Fernheim; Willy Janz (1973-1979), Curitiba; Gerhard Ratzlaff (1979-1985), Asunción; Peter Penner (1985-), Witmarsum.
Janz, Willy and Gerhard Ratzlaff. Gemeinde unter dem Kreuz des Südens: Die Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden in Brasilien, Paraguay, and Uruguay 1930-1980. Curitiba, 1980.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 109.
Minutes of the conference, 1948-1985.
Cite This Article
Ratzlaff, Gerhard. "Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden (South American Conference of Mennonite Brethren Congregations)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 24 Apr 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=S%C3%BCdamerikanische_Konferenz_der_Mennonitischen_Br%C3%BCdergemeinden_(South_American_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Congregations)&oldid=114166.
Ratzlaff, Gerhard. (1989). Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden (South American Conference of Mennonite Brethren Congregations). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=S%C3%BCdamerikanische_Konferenz_der_Mennonitischen_Br%C3%BCdergemeinden_(South_American_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Congregations)&oldid=114166.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 861-862. All rights reserved.
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