Mennonite Brethren in Brazil represent two distinct cultures and approaches to theology and worship. Still, the Convention of Evangelical MB Churches in Brazil has learned how to walk together as one.
Conference leader Paul Duck told the Mennonite World Conference General Council during a resourcing session in late 2022 about how the conference ultimately determined its unity was more important than each position.
“We agreed to create a path or a highway, not too narrow but also not too wide, where both groups could live peacefully,” he said.
MB immigrants from what is now Ukraine settled in 1930 in Brazil and formed a church conference in 1948. This German-speaking conference began planting churches among Portuguese-speaking Brazilians in 1960, ultimately forming a second association. Over time, some differences in language and culture diminished, and the two groups merged in 1995.
The conference counts about 11,000 members in more than 80 congregations today, providing services to neighbors locally and sending mission workers to Angola and other countries in Africa where Portuguese is spoken.
Some congregations were historically Anabaptist and predominantly Germanic. Others were Brazilian with strong influences from Pentecostalism. Because of their differences, the groups seemed headed toward a split, which would have reversed the 1995 merger.
However, representatives from both groups agreed to talk together. Over meetings that spanned six months, they agreed to “recognize Christ in one another.”
“We started with the definitions of what the Bible teaches about the topic,” Duck said. “Each group had the opportunity to share about their understanding and the practical living of the explained topics.”
They used a process to learn from each other, staying in conversation.
As a result of the discourse, “those in the traditional group agreed to be more open to the moving of the Spirit, while those in the charismatic group agreed that they could be more focused on the Word,” Duck said.
Unity within the church was maintained peacefully, based on coming together around God’s Word, with openness to continually revising understandings.