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Chile: World Factbook, 2010[1]


756,102 sq km[1]


16,601,707 (July 2009 est.)[1]


Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English[1]


Roman Catholic 70%, Evangelical 15.1%, Jehovah's Witness 1.1%, other Christian 1%, other 4.6%, none 8.3% (2002 census)[1]


white and white-Amerindian 95.4%, Mapuche 4%, other indigenous groups 0.6% (2002 census)[1]

Groups Associated with MWC

1 (2009)[2]

Membership in MWC Affiliated Churches

900 (2009)[2]

Chile is a country in South America with a population of 16,601,707 (July 2009 est.)[1]. It is bordered by Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. In 2009 there was one organized Anabaptist-related group officially associated with Mennonite World Conference (MWC) with 900 total members.[2]

Click the following link to learn more about other Anabaptist-related groups in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Brief History of Anabaptist-Related Groups in Chile

The various Anabaptist-Mennonite groups in Chile emerged at different times and different places, almost independently from each other. This polygenesis makes it difficult to establish a historical narrative of the Anabaptist-Mennonites in Chile because it seems that the only possible connection between these groups is their common Anabaptist-Mennonite identity. This makes an already complex task even harder due to the ambiguity of this Anabaptist-Mennonites identity. Some of the congregations in Chile started in connection with foreign Anabaptist-Mennonite churches and agencies, hence their identification as Anabaptist-Mennonites; others started as independent groups that later acquired an Anabaptist-Mennonite identity by embracing an Anabaptist-Mennonite ethos and theology; while others embraced some of the Anabaptist-Mennonite ethos and theology but without abandoning their specific evangelical or Pentecostal identity. Considering these factors, and the limited historical sources currently available, this will be an initial and brief description of the origin of some of the Anabaptist-Mennonite groups in Chile that have emerged over the last couple of decades.

The history of the first Anabaptist-Mennonites in Chile begins in Canada when the Chilean Jorge Vallejos joined Holyrood Mennonite Church in Edmonton––Northwest Conference, later also part of MC Canada––and started the Iglesia Hispana (Hispanic Church) to serve the needs of the Chileans who lived in exile in Edmonton, Alberta. Jorge came to Canada as refugee after the military coup in the early 1970s, but before that he started several congregations in Chile that initially formed the Iglesia Evangélica Misionera (Evangelical Missionary Church). In Canada, Vallejos continued to plant churches, and in addition to his ministry with the Hispanic congregation in Edmonton, he became the pastor of a new congregation in Calgary. Here the idea of taking this Anabaptist identity back to Chile was born. He then reconnected with friends and family that were part of some of the evangelical churches that he helped to form before moving to Canada. Because of this, he began to visit several congregations in Chile periodically, to counsel and accompany them, and after a while, the Iglesia Evangélica Misionera became interested to embrace a Mennonite identity. The Iglesia Evangélica Misionera was recognized by the Canadian Northwest Mennonite Conference as a partner church in 1981, and, as a consequence of that, it took the name Iglesia Evangélica Menonita (Evangelical Mennonite Church).[3][4]

One of the key persons that facilitated this connection between the Mennonite Church in Canada and the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita was the Mennonite representative Nancy Hostetler, who traveled with Jorge Vallejos to Chile in February of 1981. As a result of this trip, the newly formed Iglesia Evangélica Menonita requested in 1983 that Nancy and Keith Hostetler be sent to Chile by the Mennonite Board of Missions to train their leaders and teach Bible courses. The Hostetlers went to Chile in 1983 and were joined in 1984 by Donald and Marilyn Brenneman. When new people took the leadership of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita in 1984, it became obvious for the Canadian Mennonites that the theological perspectives and practices of this Chilean Mennonite church were not very compatible with the Canadian Mennonite Church and the goals of the Mennonite Board of Missions, which is why, after extended deliberation, the official relationship between the two churches was terminated in 1985.[3]

In 1989, the Canadian Mennonite Board of Missions sent Titus and Karen Loewen Guenther to Chile, for Titus to work as professor at the Comunidad Teológica Evangélica (Evangelical Theological Community), an inter-Protestant seminary based in Santiago with an affiliated institution in Concepción. Titus’s assignment was to teach church history courses and to connect with the leaders of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita in Chile. Although that church was not interested in connecting and learning from Guenther at that time, there were other Chileans who became very interested in the Anabaptist-Mennonite identity and theology. Among them were Carlos Gallardo and Mónica Parada from Concepción, after taking a course from Guenther on the Radical Reformation at the Comunidad Teológica Evangélica in 1995. Carlos and Mónica learned about Anabaptist ecclesiology from Titus and felt a strong kinship between their own understanding of the church’s life and the historic vision of the Anabaptists. At that time, they were working as pastors in two churches, La Puerta del Rebaño (The Door of the Sheepfold) in Concepción, founded by Carlos Salazar in 1986, and a Baptist congregation in Chiguayante, near Concepción. Eventually, by Carlos and Monica’s influence, La Puerta del Rebaño developed an Anabaptist-Mennonite identity, which was nourished by visiting Mennonite teachers such as John Driver, César Moya, Delbert and Frieda Erb, and Titus and Karen Loewen Guenther. La Puerta was later supported by the Witness program of Mennonite Church Canada and its U.S. counterpart, Mennonite Mission Network, primarily offering Anabaptist theology courses. Another connecting point with North American Mennonites for La Puerta church was its relationship with Mountain Community Church in Palmer Lake, Colorado.[3]

Although the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita discontinued its relationship with other Mennonites and eventually was dissolved, it became the forerunner for the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Chile). This church, which emerged from the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, obtained official government recognition in 1990 and became the 100th member of the Mennonite World Conference in 2011. The Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile is a conference formed by 15 congregations and 1000 members located mostly in Santiago. However, two congregations are located in La Araucanía and Mañiuco. Ministerial involvements of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile includes work with youth in spiritual development, together with formation in areas of worship music and dance. These churches work with children with special needs, drug addicts, homeless people, and incarcerated people, due to the contexts of poverty and unemployment where the congregations are located. Although the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile holds a Mennonite identity, it also holds beliefs and practices associated with Chilean Pentecostal churches. For example, it exhibits a charismatic worship style within its worship services.[3][5][6][7]

Although the Unión de Iglesias Evangélicas Bautistas de Chile (Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile) is an Evangelical Baptist conference, it could be also considered as one of these Anabaptist-Mennonites related groups due to its sporadic “Anabaptist impulses”. Around 2008, this Baptist denomination––formed by 500 congregations and 35.000 baptized members––decided to dissociate from the Southern Baptist Convention, its U.S. parent church, and started a search to recover their Anabaptist heritage. The influence of Omar Cortes Gaibur, a Chilean Baptist pastor and professor, and a former worker of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, was crucial in this process. Omar returned to Chile in 1997, after a study time in Canada that connected him to several Mennonites there. From 1997 to 2009, he helped to articulate an Anabaptist-Baptist vision and identity for the Unión de Iglesias Evangélicas Bautistas de Chile from his teaching role at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Santiago de Chile, shaping leaders and Pastor with a vision for churches as communities for peace. In 2008, Unión de Iglesias Evangélicas Bautistas de Chile and Mennonite Church Canada created the Centro de Recursos Cristianos-Anabautistas por la Paz (Christian-Anabaptist Resource Center for Peace), to help Baptist congregations to consciously embrace the peace church model. This Resource Center was discontinued after two years after Omar left the Baptist denomination.[3]

Finally, it is important to mention other Anabaptist-related groups in Chile. The mission program of the Patagonian Mennonite Church of Argentina planted a new church under the leadership of Wanda Sieber, Marlene Dorigoni, and Waleska Villa in the Chilean province of Valdivia in the 1990s. The church was called Nuevos Comienzos (New Beginnings).[3] In 2010, Cristián Bustos, a formerly national youth leader with the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile, together with his wife Alejandra Torreblanca and other family members, started a community church and ministry to drug addicts in an impoverished outlying area or población of Santiago. The church is called Iglesia Cristiana Príncipe de Paz (Prince of Peace Christian Church) and remains as an independent ministry with about 25 participants.[3]

Anabaptist-Related Groups Links


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Annotated Bibliography

Guenther, Titus, and Karen Loewen Guenther. “Churches in the Margins: Anabaptist Polygenesis in Chile.” Mennonite Church Canada, 2018. (accessed 30 July 2021).

This investigation introduces readers to the various Anabaptist-Related groups that have emerged in Chile over the last couple of decades. While does not claim an exhaustive treatment, it is a representative picture of the history and ministries of the Chilean Anabaptist-Related groups and of the way they relate to one another within their social and ecclesial surroundings. It also mentions the challenges that the young Anabaptist-Related groups face.

Prieto, Jaime. Mission and Migration: Global Mennonite History Series, Latin America. Edited by C. Arnold Snyder. Intercourse, Penn.: Good Books, 2010.

This book is the first comprehensive history to be written by Latin American Mennonite historians about Mennonite church life in Central and South Americas from its beginnings. It is the only published source where it is possible to find information about the Anabaptist-Related groups in Chile.

External Links

Chile on Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (accessed 28 July 2021).

Comunidad Teológica Evangélica de Chile, (accessed 28 July 2021).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Chile," CIA World Factbook. (accessed 23 April 2010).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Mennonite, Brethren in Christ & Related Churches World Membership 2009," Mennonite World Conference. (accessed 23 April 2010).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Titus Guenther and Karen Loewen Guenther, Churches in the Margins: Anabaptist Polygenesis in Chile (Mennonite Church Canada, 2018), 9, (accessed 28 July 2021).
  4. Jaime Prieto, Mission and Migration: Global Mennonite History Series, Latin America, ed. C. Arnold Snyder (Intercourse, Penn.: Good Books, 2010), 316–17.
  5. Chile, on GAMEO, (accessed 30 July 2021).
  6. Brenneman, Donald and Sam Steiner. "Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Chile.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 21 May 2019.,_Chile&oldid=88163 (accessed 30 July 2021)
  7. Steiner, Sam. “Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Chile.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2012. Web. 21 May 2019. (accessed 30 July 2021)