Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya
|Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya (CONEMPAR)|
Map of Zones within CONEMPAR
Number of Members
c.c. 2475 Av. Venezuela 1464 Asunción, PARAGUAY
Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya (CONEMPAR) is a conference of Mennonite Churches located in Paraguay, and has been an independent conference since 1990. It is a part of the Mennonite World Conference, and member churches are Spanish-speaking. CONEMPAR has roots in both the German Mennonite Churches in Paraguay and the Mennonite Mission Network. In 2012, the conference included 47 congregations and 2182 members.
Although CONEMPAR did not begin officially until 1990, the conference developed out of a long history of Mennonites in Paraguay.
|.....1926.....||1,700 conservative Mennonites from Canada immigrated to Paraguay on the basis of promises guaranteeing religious freedom, freedom to run German-speaking schools and no requirements to take oaths. Under Law 514, the new immigrants were afforded exemption from military service and certain taxes. They settled in the Chaco region of Paraguay.|
|1930||1,500 Mennonites from the Ukraine arrived in Paraguay seeking new opportunities after the combined effects of World War I, the Communist Revolution in Russia, and a drought in the Ukraine.|
|1937||A group of 748 Mennonites left the colonies in the Chaco and created a settlement in East Paraguay.|
|1947||2,400 Mennonites emigrated from the Soviet Union and created another colony in the Chaco and another colony near the 1947 settlement in East Paraguay.|
|1948||The Mediation Committee, or Vermittlungskomitee, was formed by the Mennonite Churches in the Chaco and the colonies in East Paraguay as a way to facilitate communication and consensus between churches. In addition, the Committee handled the distribution of money (predominantly from churches in the United States and Canada) for orphans, widows, and the sick or injured among the community. This Committee was the precursor to modern Mennonite conferences in Paraguay. Later, it was responsible for mission work to indigenous peoples, Paraguayans of Hispanic descent, and poor Germans in Paraguay. |
|1963||The Committee for Mennonite Missions for Paraguay was created, taking over many of the responsibilities of the Mediation Committee. Its central goal was to facilitate mission work between Hispanic and indigenous Paraguayans. Although German-speaking missionaries were initially responsible for these churches, Latin Paraguayan pastors gradually took leadership.|
|1971||A large number of Brazilian immigrants to Paraguay sparked evangelization efforts in Portuguese. Today, this demographic is particularly significant in Zone 3 of CONEMPAR.|
|1972||Arnulfo Zárate and Evacio Alfonso first presented the idea of a national conference to COMAESP.|
|1976||The Committee for Mennonite Missions in Paraguay was rechristened Comité Menonita de Acción Evangélica y Social en el Paraguay (COMAESP), the Mennonite Committee for Evangelical and Social Action in Paraguay.|
|1986||The first conversations about the creation of a conference began, led by three pastors, Julio César Melgarejo, Carlos Altenburger, and Secundino Molinas. They began a process of traveling between churches to find opinions about a possible new national conference.|
|1989||The indigenous churches involved with COMAESP separated from that Committee and created Menno Indianer Mission (MIM). The initial organizational changes necessary for the formation of CONEMPAR were made.|
|1990||CONEMPAR was registered as an independent conference with Mennonite Mission Network.|
|1991||CONEMPAR made its official split from the leadership of COMAESP. The majority of the Spanish-speaking churches in Paraguay joined CONEMPAR, although a few churches continued to operate under the jurisdiction of COMAESP and local governance, including churches in the Chaco. Distance from other churches in the conference was a significant factor in their decision to remain part of COMAESP, although several churches in the Chaco have since joined CONEMPAR. The initial years of the new conference were particularly challenging due to the lack of experience of most of the pastors involved.|
Growth and Development
|1991-1995||The conference aimed to achieve economic independence during this period. Although the conference became more independent, it was not able to achieve complete financial independence. Total membership of churches in CONEMPAR dropped.|
|1996-2002||In 1996, the Paraguayan economy suffered, making the economic situation of the conference precarious. A new Executive Committee was elected in 1997. This administration adopted bylaws for the conference by 1999, and by 2002, CONEMPAR was completely financially independent. In 2002, the conference published a Manual of Faith and Doctrine.|
|2003-2011||Over this period, the church experienced significant growth in membership. Recent efforts by the administration of CONEMPAR led to improved working conditions and benefits for pastors, including health insurance and support opportunities. Some churches are now able to receive financial support, and development efforts provide socio-economic preparation in church areas, making it possible for them to become self-sustaining. Training for pastors, treasurers, and leadership became available.
In 2006, the 222 program was introduced, named after 2 Timothy 2:2, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." The program aimed to be training for evangelism and teaching.
|2012-Present||In recent yearsh, the conference has worked to expand the church. In order to support this effort, several initiatives have been instituted. The conference has sent several pastors to the International Revival Center megachurch in Bogotá, Colombia to observe the approaches towards worship in that church. In addition, CONEMPAR has made connections with the Honduran Amor Viviente church, who have built up a unified discipleship/teaching program. CONEMPAR is in the process of adopting those materials.|
The official doctrine and declaration of faith of CONEMPAR can be found in Spanish here or in English here. Like the early Anabaptists, CONEMPAR places high importance on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and nonviolence. Members of the conference are involved in a large amount of mission work and evangelization as a way of serving the surrounding community.
However, the conference focuses on embracing new worship styles, and member churches tend to have an emphasis that is very similar to the approach of an evangelical church.
The administration of CONEMPAR includes an executive committee of seven members, led by a president. Elections are held every three years. In addition, there are presidents for each of the five zones, an executive secretary, and an advisor. The conference includes commissions for work with women, youth, education, missions, and finances.
Challenges and Future Plans
Moving to self-reliance, economically, is one major challenge the conference is currently working to confront. Due to the initial financial support from German Mennonites and Mennonites in the United States and Canada, many members of churches in CONEMPAR expect to have financial assistance, and do not see tithes as a necessity in keeping the church running. However, recent statistics indicate the amount of money in the conference budget grows each year, despite the decreasing financial contributions from Mennonite Mission Network.
Furthermore, the church continues to work for increased numbers through evangelistic opportunities and church plants. One significant mode of outreach practiced by members of CONEMPAR is the method of starting a home Bible study. A home Bible study is run as though it is a small-scale church service, and commonly leads to church plants.
Among youth, outreach efforts include a conference-supported week of camp every January. In addition, there are youth get-togethers between churches, especially among all of the churches in one zone. Many youth from CONEMPAR join the Voluntary Service program run by the German Mennonites in Paraguay, and members of the indigenous Mennonite community join that service program as well, creating an opportunity for members of different cultures within the Mennonite youth in Paraguay to meet.
In the short term, the conference looks to grow and to become completely financially independent. CONEMPAR's long-term plans include further growth, working with the other Mennonite churches in Paraguay and Latin America, and taking a more evangelistic approach to worship.
Important Figures in CONEMPAR
Current president of CONEMPAR, serving his second term (ends 2016). Marecos left a government job in accounting in order to serve in the Mennonite church, and applied his accounting knowledge as a treasurer for the conference. Although Marecos has attended seminary, he became President of the conference before he had yet pastored a church. Marecos' initiatives include a push for financial self-sufficiency and work to increase membership in CONEMPAR.
Melgarejo is the lead pastor of the Villa Hayes church, which is the largest church in the conference. As pastor there, he delivers most of the sermons, is in charge of the church vision, leads the board of elders, and counsels members of the church. Melgarejo attended seminary after several years of preaching and with several children in school, sending a message that theological training is important in the church, although it was not required at the time. He was involved in the 222 program.
Neufeld was exposed to mission work as a child, and his missionary spirit remains evident in his work today. He offers a combination of clear opinions and good interpersonal skills, making him the kind of leader people want to follow. This is evident in his church, where membership continues to grow. Neufeld is part of a ministry that gives talks on Biblical values in the realm of public servants, called "Good Government." The ministry works with public employees in sectors ranging from the Ministry of Health to the Treasury Department.
- "Association of the Spanish-Speaking Mennonite Churches," by Gerhard Ratzlaff, trans. Jake K. Balzer.
- In this section of the book One Body, Many Parts: The Mennonite Church in Paraguay, Ratzlaff discusses the transition from Missions Committees in Paraguay to CONEMPAR and other conferences. Ratzlaff grew up in the Neuland Colony, a German Mennonite Colony in the Chaco of Paraguay. He is the director of the Mennonite Historical Archive in Asunción, Paraguay.
- "La Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya," by Gerhard Ratzlaff.
- Ratzlaff again discusses the background of CONEMPAR. In this history, he focuses on the German roots and early history of the convention.
- "Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya," by Gerhard Ratzlaff.
- This article is an entry in Lexikon der Menoniten in Paraguay, an encyclopedia of Mennonite groups in Paraguay. Ratzlaff addresses the formation of the conference and the difficulties inherent in incorporating churches from many areas of Paraguay.
- Mission and Migration, by Jaime Valladares.
- Valladares, Professor of Church History aand Cultural Studies at the Latin American Biblical University in San José, Costa Rica, discusses Mennonites in Latin America. He addresses the organization and the founding of CONEMPAR.
- "Paraguayan Utopia and Reality: The Case of the Indígenas," by Calvin Redekop.
- Redekop began researching Paraguay after forming close friendships with several Paraguayans in college, and has since visited numerous times. He made this presentation at Kaufman Museum, and describes the history of immigration to Paraguay with a focus on Mennonite groups.
- "Quienes Son Los Anfitriones De La Asamblea 15?" by Carmen Epp.
- Epp reports on the member organizations of Assembly 15, including CONEMPAR.
- Dario Marecos
- Marecos is the current President of CONEMPAR. Prior to his election as President, he served as Treasurer for the conference for several years. He was involved in the creation of the document "History of CONEMPAR."
- C. Paul Amstutz
- Amstutz is a missionary who served with CONEMPAR for several years and continues to serve in Paraguay. He was a pastor at a member church in CONEMPAR from 2004-2008, and worked with the 222 initiative.
- Mennonite World Conference Membership Information
- This resource includes membership and congregation information for all churches and conferences in Mennonite World Conference, including CONEMPAR.
- CONEMPAR website
- This website is hosted and maintained by the conference. It includes news, information about the conference, photos, and contact information.
- CONEMPAR page, Mennonite Mission Network Website
- Due to the Mennonite Mission Network's involvement with and support of CONEMPAR, they maintain an information page about the group. This page includes information about missionaries associated with the group.
- Jantz, Maria; based on data from Marecos interview.
- "Conózcanos." CONEMPAR. Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
- Marecos, Dario. E-mail interview. 01 Dec. 2014.
- Epp, Carmen. "Quienes Son Los Anfitriones De La Asamblea 15?" Correo 1 (2009): 12. Print.
- "Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya (CONEMPAR)." Mennonite Mission Network. Mennonite Mission Network, 2014. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
- "Membership." Mennonite World Conference. Mennonite World Conference, 2012. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
- Redekop, Calvin. "Paraguayan Utopia and Reality: The Case of the Indígenas." Mennonite Life 1 May 2010. Print.
- Ratzlaff, Gerhard. "La Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya." Historia, Fe Y Prácticas Menonitas: Un Enfoque Paraguayo. Asunción: Facultad De Teología, Instituto Bíblico Asunción, 2006. 207-09. Print.
- Valladares, Jaime P. Mission and Migration. Trans. C. Arnold Snyder. Ed. John A. Lapp. Intercourse, PA: Good, 2010. 321-22. Print. Global Mennonite History Ser.
- Ratzlaff, Gerhard, and Jake K. Balzer. "Association of the Spanish-Speaking Mennonite Churches." One Body, Many Parts: The Mennonite Churches in Paraguay: Versatile Church, Militant Church, Graciously Blessed Church. Paraguay: G. Ratzlaff, 2008. 196. Print.
- Ratzlaff, “La Convencion.”
- Ratzlaff, “La Convencion.”
- Ratzlaff, “Association.”
- Ratzlaff, Gerhard. "Convención Evangélica Menonita Paraguaya." Lexikon Der Menoniten in Paraguay. Asunción: n.p., 2009. 97-98. Print.
- Ratzlaff, “La Convencion.”
- Amstutz, C. Paul. Skype interview. 09 Dec. 2014.
Maria Jantz compiled much of the information presented here as part of an undergraduate research project in Anabaptist History at Goshen College (Fall 2014).