The Mennonite family can now add Hmong to the growing number of ethnic groups embracing Anabaptism in Asia.
A group of Hmong churches in Thailand and Mennonite Church USA have agreed to make official a relationship that has been nurtured for 10 years.
Leaders signed the agreement March 14 in Bangkok, Thailand, during the semiannual governing council meeting of the Church of Christ in Thailand.
Mennonite Mission Network partners with a specific group of Hmong churches that are part of a CCT district conference. MMN Asia and Middle East director John F. Lapp said that as the relationship of mutual exchange with Mennonites grew, Hmong church leaders began to recognize that Anabaptist theology and principles aligned strongly with their own.
MMN is committed to prayer and mutual support, as stated in the memo of understanding. The goal is to jointly model and preach the good news of Jesus Christ so that all people may see and know God’s love, justice, peace and salvation.
The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Hmong believers in MC USA have been relating to several regional groups in Southeast Asia.
This partnership has helped with the construction of church buildings, as well as training and exchanges of pastors. MMN connections with the churches have included providing scholarships for young leaders to gain biblical and theological education in Thai educational institutions.
MMN executive director Stanley W. Green said it is a gift when relationships evolve into mutually committed partnerships that are solidified by agreements.
“We are grateful for Church of Christ Thailand and its ecumenical spirit that invites such partnerships, which in our case will strengthen and enrich the witness of our Hmong sisters and brothers in northwest Thailand,” Green said.
CCT, Thailand’s largest Protestant denomination, traces its origins to a century of primarily Presbyterian, Baptist and Disciples of Christ missions. It has been an independent and self-supporting church since 1934. CCT has about 160,000 members, a small portion of Thailand’s mainly Buddhist population of 67 million.
Asian Anabaptists have grown from less than 45,000 in the 1950s to more than 431,000 by 2015, according to Mennonite World Conference.
In formalizing the relationship with MMN, the Thai church recognizes the interest that its Hmong district holds in connecting with global Anabaptists, including MWC, a process that is under way.
“It’s exciting to see how a part of a different denomination can see itself relating simultaneously to Anabaptists and making its own connections in another part of the world,” Lapp said. “And the Hmong are grateful that CCT is blessing those relationships.”
At the same ceremony, the Thai church also formalized covenant relationships with three other Christian organizations: Myanmar Baptist Convention, New Anglican Missionary Society and Newton Thilay Community of Cambodia.