Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
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|Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo|
India: World Factbook, 2011
Number of Congregations
Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC), or the Mennonite Brethren Churches in the Congo, is a Mennonite Brethren Church located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo is strongly affiliated with the broader Mennonite Brethren Church, Mennonite World Conference, and Mennonite Central Committee. The last world directory conducted by Mennonite World Conference in 2006 estimated EFMC’s membership at 95,208 in 582 congregations. 
- 1 History
- 2 Identification within the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition
- 3 Present challenges
- 4 Future of Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo
- 5 Key Individuals in the Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo
- 6 Electronic Resources
- 7 Citations
- 8 Acknowledgments
Early Congolese mission attempt
An emphasis on African missions began January 24, 1912 when two American Mennonite groups-the Central Conference of Mennonites and the Defenseless Mennonite church-decided to create a common mission field for Belgian Congo. The new committee went by the official name Congo Inland Mission (CIM).  The first Mennonite missionaries, Lawrence and Rose Haigh, came to the Congo when still under Belgian rule in 1911. Aided by American Presbyterians and a Congolese evangelist, Mutombo, they established two mission posts, Kalamba Mukenge and Djoko Punda. Successful missions were marked by the training of their first Congolese teacher, Isaac Luabu, in 1915 and then the baptisms of seventeen people at Djoko in 1918. 
Founding of the Mennonite Church of the Congo
In 1912 Aaron A. Janzen and his wife Ernesta left for the Kasai district of Belgian Congo with the support of foreign missions within the Mennonite Brethren Conference. They too served on the Congo Inland Mission field starting in 1913 but soon Aaron A. Janzen left CIM in 1920 to start a strictly Mennonite Brethren mission post in Kikandji.  After a realizing the poor location of Kikandji on a hill, they relocated the mission station ten kilometers to Kufumba which promised for more productive land (Lapp and Snyder 54). By 1926, they baptized their first convert, Luka Sengele, which led to thirty-seven others who were baptized. This laid the foundation for the Mennonite Church of the Congo (Toews and Hiebert 50).
|1912||Defenseless Mennonite Church and Central Conference Mennonites agree on a new joint mission program in Belgian Congo, Congo Inland Mission (CIM) (Juhnke 67). This was also the year when the first Mennonite missionaries, Lawrence and Rose Haigh, arrived in the Belgian Congo. Although not associated with formation of the Mennonite Brethren church of the Congo, they pioneered broad Mennonite missions in the country. |
|1913||The first Mennonite Brethren missionaries Aaron Janzen and his wife Ernestina arrive in Belgian Congo. They are originally station at Djoko Punda, a mission post in the Kasai district (Toews and Hiebert 43).|
|1922||Aaron Janzen traveled more than four hundred kilometers on foot to find a new mission post near Kikwit (“Background” 5). He is interested in starting a separate mission for the Mennonite Brethren Church. After some time in Kikandji, they decide to relocate ten kilometers to a nearby valley, Kufumba. They hope to settle in Kufumba because of its more productive land. It is here that the first Mennonite Brethren mission post is built. |
|1926||The first convert, Luka Sengele, of Kufumba was baptized. It is then with the help of his witnessing that thirty-seven more people are baptized. This is the foundation for the African Mennonite Brethren Church (“Background” 5).|
|1930||With the help of Congolese consultants books of the Bible such as the Gospel of Mathew and Luke along with the Book of Acts were translated into Kikongo (Kituba). Also, a team consisting of Dijimbo Kubala, the first Congolese Mennonite Brethren teacher, Njanja Diyoyo and Ernestina Janzen continued to translate the New Testament up until Ernestina’s death in 1937. After her death, Martha Hiebert joined in translating and the New Testament was completed in 1943. |
|1933||In 1933 a second independent Mennonite Brethren missions begins in Belgian Congo. Reverend H. B. Bartsch from Canada alongside his wife began a mission in the region of Dengese and Bololo. He was a product of the Bible School Movement that pushed people towards missions. They also formed the African Mission Society to support their missions involving friends back in Canada until the broader Mennonite Brethren Missions would take over (Toews and Hiebert 57-60).|
|1943||It was in this year that the two independent Mennonite Brethren mission efforts combined. Now the American Mennonite Brethren Mission (AMBM) assumed full responsibility for the two mission efforts. This meant that the missionaries no longer were dependent on local resources but rather were supplied by North America. This reinforced the mentality that the church was dependent on the missionaries. Although missionaries now had money to support their various projects, the Congolese lost the mindset of having to work for their own. At this time, missionaries were in charge of most positions in the church. These tasks ranged from pastoral duties to the training of Congolese to take over such responsibilities. Also since male missionaries played this larger role, most decisions in the church were made by males. Even though female missionaries greatly contributed to the foundation of the church, men were seen as in charge. |
|1947||The government declares that it will now subsidize all Protestant Mission Schools. As a result of new subsidies, it is now financially possible for the multiplying of mission stations. Along with new possibilities of growth, CIM and AMBM start to work together on various joint projects. This lead to the foundation of a higher-level teacher school in Nyanga called Ecole de Moniteurs, and a school for missionary children in Kajiji, Ecole Belle Vue. |
|1960||After seventy years of colonization, Congo gains its independence (“Background” 5). During this time, the missionaries began to move their headquarters from rural countryside to urban cities in order to be able to evacuate if they need to. Along with this shift in headquarters was the passing of power to the Congolese people. In May AMBM adopted the Points of Understanding in the Future Relation of the American Brethren Church and the Association Des Eglises Des Freres Mennonite au Congo. In this document, AMBM acknowledged its joy and privilege to work alongside the Association des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (AEFMC). They agreed to financially support the AEFMC and help out in many other church missions. This was with the acknowledgement that as soon as the AEFMC could manage on its own they would dissolve all responsibilities to the AEFMC (Toews and Hiebert 211-215).|
|1963||A joint AEFMC/AMBM-EMC/CIM theological school is started in Kajiji. The goal was to train more highly-qualified leaders for the Mennonite Churches in the Congo. The result was that young people from all over Congo went to the school and left with the idea that the Congo Mennonite Church was a unity of the three Mennonite Churches in the Congo. It was the beginning of a spirit of cooperation between the different Mennonite groups in the Congo. |
|1964||The Kwilu rebellion broke out started by Pierre Mulele, a former minister in the cabinet of the first Prime Minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba. The Jeunesse, French word meaning “youth”, consisted of gangs of men that were dissatisfied with how the independence failed to meet their demands. Although their attacks were aimed at predominately government centers, mission stations were also hit because of their close link to the government. That January the Congo Inland Mission station of Kandala was burned to the ground (Martens 86-88). Even though the rebels were eventually pushed back the local Mennonite Brethren churches that were dependent on aid from North America were left stranded and forced to become independent when missionaries fled for their safety. However, many missionaries fled over to Angola which led to a new mission emphasis in Angola (“Background” 5).|
|1966||The first post rebellion conference is held at Gungu. Nine churches send forty-two delegates to the gathering. In light of the past two years of devastation within the church as a result of the rebellion and extreme poverty. Members of the conference rejoice in their fellowship (Toews and Hiebert 150).|
|1971||New government leadership changed the countries name to Republic of Zaire.  With new government, on June 9 the government of Zaire officially acknowledged the Communauté des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Zaire (CEFMZ) replacing the Association des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (AEFMC)as national entity with the following officers serving on the Executive Committee of the president: Arnold Prieb, president; Djimbo Kubala, vice-president; Mukoso Matthieu, secretary; Dijojo Ngango, legal representative; Hartmut Schroeder, assistant secretary. The executive committee is made of five Zairians and two missionaries. Then on August 7, in a conference held at Kafumba, the AMBM no longer operated separate CEFMZ. The headquarters for the CEFMZ was also built in Kikwit soon after (Toews and Hiebert 164-165).|
|1980||Pakisa Tshimika, a graduate with a master’s degree in public health returned to Kajiji becoming the first non-missionary and university graduate to be in charge of a 150-bed hospital that serves more than 80,000 people. Following Tshimika, Denis Matshifi became the first non-missionary physician in the CEFMZ medical field. Another first was the development of the Department of Health and Development (DESADEC) which provides care in many aspects of health and development. |
|1984||Kadi Hayalume becomes the first CEFMZ woman to graduate with a theology degree. |
|1987||CEFMZ alongside representatives of the other Congo Mennonite Churches participated in sessions of Mennonite World Conference held in Filadelphia Paraguay. At the gathering they issue a joint statement conveying their eagerness to create an organization in Zaire promoting the Anabaptist-Mennonite vision of the church and society. It would also act as a coordinator for activities such as mutual aid and fraternal gatherings in order to increase the unifying ties of Congolese Mennonites. This idea was further reinforced by an inter-Mennonite seminar focused on peace organized by Rev. Mukanza Ilunga at the Mondeko Center in Kinshasa in October. As a result, on December 11, the National Inter-Mennonite Committee was officially formed. |
|1996||The Superior Theological Institue of Kinshasa (ISTK) transformed into the Christian University of Kinshasa (UCKin or Universite Chretienne de Kinsasa). |
|1997||President Mobutu is forced out of Zaire and the country decides to change its name to the Democratic Republic of Congo (“CIA”). This results in the CEFMZ becoming the CEFMC better known as the Communauté des Ëglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (“Background” 5). Replacing him was Mzee Laurent Desire Kabila which signified the time when violence and recruiting child-soldiers into fighting began to take root. |
|2001||Sixteen Mennonite women theologians gathered in Kinshasa to discuss issues relation to Congolese Mennonite women theologians. |
|2003||In August Mama Kadi Tshinyama was ordained by the CEFMC. She was acknowledged for her contribution in the fields of spiritual formation, economic development, and theology. Since then, three more women theologians have ben ordained in the Congo and even more are scheduled to come (Redekop).|
|2006||New Constitution for the DRC is adopted with a commitment for free election in June. (Witness – summer 2006)|
|2007||From November twenty-second to the twenty-fifth the world’s second largest concentration gathered in Kinshasa. The meeting was made up of fifty Congolese representing each of the three Mennonite denominations in Congo – the Congo Mennonite Brethren Church, Congo Evangelical Mennonite Church and Congo Mennonite Church. It was the first National Forum of the Congo Forum for Conversation, set up by Mennonite World Conference to promote conversation among Congolese Mennonites about the future of their churches and to think about new models for relationships with the global Anabaptist community. The diverse group was a rarity in the Congo which was made up of as many women as men, participants both you and old, and lay people of the church alongside church leaders (Lind).|
Identification within the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition
Based on a phone conversation with student Doug Kulungu, a student since 2005 at Fresno Pacific (Son of MCC representative Pascal Kulungu as well), and an e-mail correspondence with both Lumeya Nzash and Clement Kroeker I have come to a conclusion on several connections that the Mennonite Brethren Church of the Congo has with broader Anabaptist-Mennonite traditions. These are a Christ-centered theology, Peacemaking, missions, and yearning for learning.
To identify with the CEFMC is to be Christo-Centric or Christ-Centered writes Lumeya. In early missions this is shown through the believer’s baptism. At such mission stations, only adults were baptized into the church. Like early Anabaptists, baptism was given upon a confession of faith after a period of catechetical instruction that marked ones acceptance of their new life in Christ. To belong to the CEFMC today is to join a fellowship in communion with the crucified and resurrected Christ. The grace experience in baptism is then coupled with a radical change in lifestyle exemplified in daily obedience to discipleship. Congolese are called to live out their faith and take up the cross and follow Christ daily. 
The CEFMC is a very closely linked with peacemaking. This has a strong emphasis in a country that throughout its history has almost always been ravaged by war. According to Kulungu, Mennonites in the Congo believe in peacemaking and peace building at the core of their beliefs. CEFMC has numerous programs promoting peace in the Congo and Africa as a whole. In fact, Congolese Mennonites are greatly contributing to the process of peace education and conflict transformation. Organization like the African Institute of Conciliation (INAC or Institut Africain de Conciliation) and the Council for Peace and Reconciliation in the Congo (CPRC) have actively engaged in peace education and conflict resolution without violence since civil war broke out in 1996. 
Focus on missions
In the CEFMC church planting is essential. Through their beliefs that the glorified Christ will again return seated at the right hand of the Father, there is a strong emphasis on missions. In fact, sharing their faith is not a choice but rather a commission by God. As a result, Churches are being planted locally (within the DRC), in Africa (Republic of Congo, Angola, South Africa, and more) and even globally (France, Canada, and the United States) (Lumeya).
The CEFMC is very involved in MWC and MBMSI. Since the 1980s, all the three Mennonite church conferences in the Congo have participated in MWC. Leaders from each conference such as Rev. Masolo of CEFMC have served on the Executive Committee of MWC. In fact, Dr. Pakisa Tshimika is currently on the MWC staff. Also, through cooperation structures like the National Inter-Mennonite Committee (CONIM) various programs have been implemented such as peace education, training and information on the Anabaptist vision, research and documentation on the identity of Mennonite churches in Africa, and Inter-Mennonite consultations. 
The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world with seventy-one percent of its population under the poverty line (“CIA”). Spiritually the CEFMC is strong. In fact the church is growing quickly despite such poor economic conditions. However, how does a church support itself when ninety percent of its members are unemployed? Although Communauté des Eglises des Frères Mennonites du Congo is one of the largest Mennonite groups in the world, it is very strong but very poor and does not receive much help from any foreign organization. Thus the CEFMC will continue to struggle with physical challenges due to the constant uncertain political and economical situations in the DRC (Kulungu).
Gap of skills
Missions in the Congo have always emphasized teaching and learning the Gospel. This was often done through chapel-schools where orphans were taken in and taught agriculture, broad education, and the Gospel. An extension of these chapel-schools became the biblical institutes for teaching the next generation of theologians (Lapp and Snyder 52). Although this emphasized growth resulted in much growth in the CEFMZ it also resulted in a gap of skills (Lumeya). Many youth were becoming pastors and then the rest were mainly unemployed and in the church. A new emphasis must be made on getting youth to schools to learn other trades not just scripture. Teachers, doctors, mechanics, and other various professions must be taught so that the members of the church can stabilize and support the church. As Kulungu put it, a diversity of knowledge is crucial to a healthy church (Kulungu).
Future of Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo
When asking someone native to the Congo about the future there is some hesitation in their response. This is due to the fact that in Africa it is uncommon think let alone worry about the future. This is not attributed to ignorance but rather African society. In light of this fact, the future for the Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC) is both optimistic and troubling. There is no doubt in the minds of the CEFMC that its church will continue to grow. The question is how quickly. Will the church double in five years? Ten years? Fifty years? However, financially, the future of the church does not look any different. The physical finances of the church are all dependent on the government so it predicts to have similar problems (Kulungu).
Key Individuals in the Communauté des Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo
- Damien Pelende Tshinyama is the president of Eglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo
- Pascal Kulungu is Mennonite Central Committee's contact person with CEFMC
- Gilbert Ndunda was the presiding officer in 2003
- Ngelego was the Secretary General in 2003
- Dr. Pakisa Tshimika was the Director of Health and Development in 1995
- "Democratic Republic of the Congo," CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cg.html (accessed 15 April 2011).
- "Mennonite World Conference Directory (2006)." Mennonite World Conference. http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/PDF-PPT/2006africa.pdf (accessed 7 April 2011).
- Juhnke, James C. A People of Mission: A History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Missions . Newton, Kansas: Faith and Life Press, 1979. Print.
- Lapp, John A, and C A. Snyder. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts: Global Mennonite History Series: Africa. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006. Print.
- Janzen, A. E. and Peter M. Hamm. "Communauté des Ëglises de Frères Mennonites au Congo." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C65403.html.(accessed 18 April 2011)
Aaron Shelly compiled much of the information presented here in a student research paper for a spring 2011 Anabaptist Mennonite History Class at Goshen College.