Myanmar church embraces AnabaptismMennonite Mission Network staff - 04/06/12
Mennonite Mission Network
The amazing growth and commitment to Anabaptism by churches in Myanmar was witnessed recently by leaders of Mennonite Mission Network attending the annual Kale district conference of the Bible Missionary Church.
In March, Stanley W. Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network, and Kuaying Teng, the agency’s denominational minister of Asian ministries, enjoyed the company of several fellow Anabaptists, the result of God’s calling of Amos Thang Chin, leader of the Bible Missionary Church in Myanmar, and Chin’s linkages with Mission Network.
Standing from left: Kauying Teng, MC USA's denominational minister of Asian ministries; Stanley W. Green, Mission Network CEO; and Amos Thang Chin, leader of the Bible Missionary Church in Myanmar; pray during the licensing and ordination of Van Lal Lian (bottom left) and Kio Lian Thio.
Ten churches were represented among the 200 in attendance, including some who walked two days to attend the three-day event at the Sanpya Church in Kalaymyo.
Green said that he and Teng were greeted warmly at the opening evening worship, and that it was clear that the church had embraced an Anabaptist identity.
About a decade ago, Chin was advised by the Asia Mennonite Conference to contact Mission Network. Chin’s story of how he came to accept Jesus Christ and embrace Anabaptism moved them deeply.
“As his story unfolded, Mission Network staff were astounded by the extent to which Amos’s story seemed so resonate with the early Anabaptists’ experience,” Green said.
Chin grew up in an animist family in the Chin State of Myanmar. His conversion to Christ later in life incensed his father, who, as a result, rejected him. Chin fled to India, where he attended a Bible school in Delhi. His eagerness to witness to his faith in Jesus led to preaching on street corners. This enraged some people and he was stoned and left hurting on the street.
As many people passed him by, Raj Kumar, a Mennonite, came to Chin’s aide. Kumar had attended Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. He put Chin in touch with the Asia Mennonite Conference. Kumar’s expression of compassion and love stirred Chin’s interest in Anabaptism.
Chin moved back to Myanmar to reconcile with his father and witness to his compatriots. Moved by his gesture, Chin’s father gave his son a rice field, which Chin sold, using the money he received for evangelistic outreaches and church planting.
As the number of churches grew, Chin became concerned about the identity of this new movement. He requested Mission Network to have Mennonites come to Myanmar specifically to teach the emerging leaders Anabaptist theology and conflict resolution.
After an initial visit, Mission Network representatives, encouraged by the alignment of the Bible Missionary Church’s faith expressions, counseled that the BMC to seek affiliation with Mennonite World Conference. The church became a full member during Mennonite World Conference in Paraguay in 2009.
Mission Network also sent Loren Johns, professor of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, on a teaching tour with the BMC churches in 2006 in response to their specific request for formation in Anabaptism.
Prior to the conference, BMC leaders had told Teng and Green that the BMC had embraced an Anabaptist identity. In introducing the vision for the BMC, Chin noted that “the name Mennonite is very strange and quite unknown in Myanmar,” but the BMC anticipates changing its name to “Myanmar Mennonite Church.” Chin said the BMC wants to educate people about Anabaptism and hopes to publish Mennonite books to help people “understand about our convictions.”
In addition to planting churches and developing social ministries, the church also hopes to work with the government to achieve recognition for its stand on nonmilitary participation.
“I would like to commend the Mennonite faith in Myanmar,” Chin said in declaring his commitment to the way of reconciliation in Burmese society, which is riven by many ethnic divisions and scarred by violence and conflict in the past.
“By the grace of God, you are here,” said the Rev. Khua Rung, the conference secretary. “Today we can testify that though we are of different cultures and colors, we are one in Christ; we are God’s people chosen by the blood of Christ.”
“Here was a visible, public confirmation of the changing identity of the BMC in the direction of explicit Anabaptist affiliation and conviction,” Green said. “Anabaptist brothers and sisters who had gathered to worship God and to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ, encouraged each other by their joy in the richness of the family of which they are a part.”