29 Apr - Vietnam Mennonite Church ordains 26, and launches pastoral training institute

News Service: International distribution of Eastern Mennonite Mission release
April 29, 2010

Vietnam Mennonite Church ordains 26, and launches pastoral training institute

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – After what felt like a long, cold winter of hard work and preparation, the Vietnam Mennonite Church (VMC) is enjoying a lush springtime of growth and development that parallels the rapid economic and social development of the country.

Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung, chairman of the VMC, officiated at a joyful March 20 ceremony, graduating 30 students from an in-service pastoral training class and ordaining 26 Mennonite pastors who had come from provinces and cities all over Vietnam. The 30 graduates had been meeting one week per quarter for the past four years.

Trung had led a small group of faithful Mennonites during three decades when the church was not officially recognized by the government. This public celebration, in which government officials sent congratulations and colorful bouquets to the newly-credentialed leaders, moved him deeply.

More than 100 Mennonite leaders and lay believers joined the festivities, held in a large banquet hall near the church’s headquarters. Pastor Nguyen Minh Sang, general secretary of the denomination, led in an opening prayer of thanks to God for blessing the church. Vice-chair Nguyen Hong An led a period of worship.

In the ordination service, Trung charged the 26 pastors, all of whom had completed the certificate program and were serving in pastoral positions in Mennonite churches, to commit themselves fully to the work of the Lord. He urged them to share the gospel with Godly passion.

One by one the pastors knelt to receive the blessing and charge as Pastor Trung, Pastor Tuyen Nguyen, Pastor Jae Sun Lim, Pastor Lee, Gerry Keener, a non-resident missionary with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM), and visiting Mennonite theologian Palmer Becker from Canada, commissioned them with the laying on of hands and prayer.

In his comments to the local press following the service, Trung said, “This event is very meaningful for the Mennonite church; it is really a springboard for the church to push forward and develop the Lord’s work in all parts of Vietnam.”

A third celebration came a week later with the official opening of the Vietnam Mennonite Institute in Theology and Renewal. The new school, which offers a bachelor’s degree program in theology, had just enrolled 14 students and finished its first week of classes. Becker, under special assignment by Mennonite Church Canada, and Keener collaborated to teach “The Biblical Story” as the first course in the new bachelor’s level program.

Pastor Sang reported that the VMC now has 90 local churches and about 8,500 members with 140 pastors and evangelists across the country. He said, “We are relying on God to lead in new and stronger steps to develop his work in the days ahead. My prayer is that the Mennonite Church will develop even faster than the country of Vietnam!”

“This has truly been a kairos time for the Vietnam Mennonite Church,” said Ray Brubacher, former Mennonite World Conference staff person who saw the Vietnamese churches become part of MWC last summer.

Qualified persons who are interested in teaching appropriate one- or two-week-long college-level courses (through translation) in the fledgling Vietnam Mennonite Institute may contact Gerry Keener ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). The school, which adheres to international standards, plans to follow a pattern of four week-long courses a month, followed by two months of study, research, and work back in home congregations over a four- to five-year period.

SIDEBAR:

Mennonite Central Committee first entered Vietnam in 1954, followed by workers with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in 1957. A local Mennonite church grew to around 150 baptized members before being closed in 1978. The missionaries all left in 1975.

For the next 15 years, without contact with North America, Nguyen Quang Trung kept the vision of a Mennonite church alive, and he repeatedly attempted to register the church with the government.

In 1997 EMM workers Gerry and Donna Keener went to Vietnam and began to connect with Mennonite leaders and churches for fellowship and leadership training while they worked in administration and teaching at the Saigon South International School.

Then in 2007 when the Vietnamese government officially recognized the Vietnam Mennonite Church, the doors opened for the church to legally organize its own leadership training schools.


- Adapted from an EMM release by Jewel Showalter

Photos available (contact Amanda Perry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). Photos supplied by Gerry Keener.

1) Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung, chairman of the VMC, at podium, gives the ordination charge to the 26 leaders who were credentialed in a special service March 20.
2) The 26 newly credentialed pastors and their wives sing a song of consecration after the ordination.
3) Gerry Keener, Palmer Becker, Pastor Trung, Pastor Lee, and Pastor Jun Sae Lim pray for Pastor Nguyen Minh Sang, general secretary of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, who was credentialed in the special ceremony.

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Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.