The International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) is made up of 21 national churches in 19 countries with approximately 450,000 members. ICOMB exists to facilitate relationships and ministries to enhance the witness and discipleship of its member national churches – connecting, strengthening and expanding.
The church in India: more than 100 years of ministry
The Mennonite Brethren Church in India (MBCI) is one of the oldest MB conferences, with over 100 years of history. It is also one of the largest conferences with more than 200 000 members in approximately 1 000 churches.
It is a mission-focused group of churches. Churches sponsor mission outreach, church planting efforts and are concerned with reaching nearby villages and even people in other areas and from other language groups.
It is exciting to see a heart for evangelism in the India MB churches. The churches also support education – seminary, college and other schools.
We praise God for the faithfulness of the saints in India, carrying out his work.
MBCI: Conflicts and Challenges
However, significant conflict and challenges have affected the potential of the conference for a number of years. A number of leaders have not been good shepherds of the flock in India. When Rudi Plett (ICOMB director) and Emerson Cardoso (ICOMB chair) visited in February 2020, the churches pleaded with ICOMB leadership to help them resolve conflicts with key leaders and find a way to rebuild trust and good stewardship of the conference. The issues are complex, the wounds are deep and ICOMB leadership has been discerning how best to support MBCI through these critical times.
In August 2020, the ICOMB Executive, with full ICOMB delegate support, sent a letter to the governing council and the president of MBCI, urging them to step aside from leadership and allow a new leadership selection to take place, in accordance with the MBCI constitution. After allowing time for a response, ICOMB released the letter to all MBCI churches and leaders. ICOMB then put a call out for 15 Days of Prayer for India, concluding in a Global Prayer Service 2 October 2020 via Zoom.
Prayer and the road ahead
During the 15 Days of Prayer we thanked God for his faithfulness in India, for the church planting, mission work, the schools and the medical work over MBCI’s long history. We cried out to God for healing, for humility, for wisdom. We prayed for God to resolve the deep conflicts, the court cases and for the withdrawal of all personal lawsuits.
During our Global Prayer Service, Rudi Plett spoke on Colossians 1:16-17 and 2 Chronicles 7:14. We heard a testimony from Angola. ICOMB and global leaders (including César García from Mennonite World Conference) prayed for India. We listened to a worship song in English and in Telegu, and we had two group prayer times where every person prayed at the same time in their heart language.
We had more than 100 people participating on the call, and we trust that prayer together is a good foundation as we go forward.
Please continue to lift up MBCI in prayer during this transition time which poses serious challenges and great opportunities. Pray for important leadership and structural changes, for wounds to be healed, for relationships to be restored, for trust to be regained and new hope awakened. Pray for a healthy and whole India conference.
May God continue to lead and guide our brothers and sisters in India.