Nigeria Mennonite Church

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1959 Article

The Nigeria Mennonite Church was established in March 1959, when nine congregations of independent Christians in Calabar Province in eastern Nigeria were received into the Mennonite Church by Bishop S. J. Hostetler of the Ghana Mennonite Mission, upon adoption by each church of a confession of faith of twenty articles. Seventy additional congregations asked for affiliation. Calabar was one of the most thickly populated areas of West Africa and was full of churches and schools of various denominations. -- Harold S. Bender

1987 Update

In 1958 S. Jay and Ida Hostetler, who were serving in Ghana under Mennonite Board of Missions (MC), received a letter from Paul Peachey, a Mennonite working in Japan, stating that a Nigerian church of about 3,000 members wanted to become Mennonite. After consulting with Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM) the Hostetlers made their first of ten visits to these congregations located in Calabar Province of southeastern Nigeria. It was decided, eventually, that Edwin and Irene Weaver would go to assist these churches. They arrived in November 1959.

The Weavers faced opposition from the leaders of the many missions and churches already operating there. After a time they gained favor of the Presbyterian Church who took the responsibility of sponsoring the Mennonites to the government.

After working some time with these 50 or 60 congregations of independent churches who originally wanted to be Mennonite, there were 10 who finally decided they would like to form a New Testament church under the name Mennonite. The Weavers worked hard to bring about better relationships between all these many churches. They formed a United Independent Church Fellowship of more than 200 congregations, including those calling themselves Mennonite. The initial project of UICF was a Bible school for the purpose of training leaders. Named the United Church Bible School, it opened in February 1964 with Stanley Friesen of MBM as principal. By 1964 the Mennonite Church had grown to 25 congregations with 1,000 members. It ordained its first Nigerian minister, O. E. Essiet, on Easter Sunday, 1967.

Cooperation grew with the Presbyterian Church in education, medical service and in the Presbyterian Church itself. A new hospital was built in Abiriba by the community and the government. It replaced a smaller one, formerly operated by the Presbyterians, which closed for lack of personnel. The Mennonites were asked to operate the new one. In addition to staffing the hospital, teachers were sent to secondary schools, universities, and vocational training schools. In the period from 1959 to 1967, 47 people served in the MBM program in Nigeria.

The Biafra War (1967-1970), made it necessary for most of the MBM persons to leave the country in 1967. As the Weavers could not return to Nigeria they began working with similar churches in Ghana. The Mennonite church in Nigeria operated mostly on its own from then on. In August of 1979 Darrel and Sherill Hostetler came to the church to help in what they understood was the Nigeria Mennonite Seminary. Upon arrival they were asked by the church leaders to teach in a church-run secondary school instead. The difficulty of this assignment made it necessary for MBM to recall them.

The 1986 Mennonite Yearbook gave the membership of the Nigeria Mennonite Church as 2,000 in 20 congregations in four districts with two ministers, three evangelists, 17 elders, 14 deacons and 12 deaconesses. Mennonite World Conference figures were 5,000 members in 37 congregations, located in Cross River State. In 2003 there were 11,000 members in 68 congregations -- Erma Grove


Hostetler, S. J. "Nigeria Churches Join Mennonites." Gospel Herald (5 May 1959): 422 f.

Hostetler, S. Jay. The Mennonite Church in Ghana 1957-1964: Memoirs by S. Jay Hostetler. Elkhart: MBM, ca. 1979.

Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 91-92.

Mennonite Board of Missions, Elkhart, IN: Annual Reports.

Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 14.

Mennonite World Conference. "MWC - 2003 Africa Mennonite & Brethren in Christ Churches." Accessed 7 May 2006. <>.

Weaver, Edwin and Irene Weaver. The Uyo Story. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Board of Missions, 1970.

Author(s) Harold S. Bender
Erma Grove
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. and Erma Grove. "Nigeria Mennonite Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 15 Aug 2022.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. and Erma Grove. (1987). Nigeria Mennonite Church. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 1112; vol. 5, p. 632. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.