Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina

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Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina



Número de Miembros



Insert Presiding Officer Here


Mercedes 149 Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA


(54) 2946-443111 (54) 2946-443576



Website- Página Web


La Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina es el grupo más grande de los grupos anabautistas en Argentina. En el 2006 la iglesia tenía 57 congregaciones y 4.000 miembros. [1] To learn more about the Mennonite experience in Argentina click here.


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Missions in Argentina can be categorize in three periods says Ernesto Suarez Vilela, a member of the IEMA, in his book 50th Aniversario de la IEMA, 1919-1969. The first period is from 1917, the onset of the missions in Argentina, and 1932. This period is characterized by an explosion of missions. Around twenty churches were constructed and about four hundred members were baptized. Furthermore, many advances in biblical studies were made and developments in orphanages also were predominant. The Second period, from 1933-1969, is viewed with a trend that most rural communities are depopulating and coming to the city. This halted many of the church missions, due to halted growth. The third period, between 1940-present, is viewed as the beginning of the late reaction of the mission to relocate its endeavors. Many of the urban churches were founded during this period.[2]

Why Argentina?

Initial move towards missions in Argentina was one of much deliverance. The Board investigated options and weighed the pros and cons. There were many nations available to the Mennonite Mission Board to initiate programs such as Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. One of the main concerns of the Mennonite Board of Missions, in Elkhart, Indiana, was conscious of health requirements of missionaries. Due to its temperate climate and the responsiveness of its people to the Gospel Argentina was chosen in 1917.[3] The missionaries J. W. Shank and wife, and T.K. Hershey and wife left for Argentina with $20,000 to start a ministry. They arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 11, 1917. The predominant religion of Argentina is Catholicism, however, the Mennonite Mission flourished throughout its beginning years.

J. W. Shank noted that Argentina is amalgamation of many nationalities and ethnicities creating uniquely diverse conditions for ministries. However, one major commonality with many Argentinians was the association to Catholic practices and traditions. Catholic traditions like kneeling, visual images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and communion were starkly different from the practices of the Mennonite missions. The mission church services were well attended and had much impact on the people. Especially during services that included foot washing and times for testimony became powerful ways to engage the community in positive ways.[4]

In 1942 the growth of Argentinian churches, as J. W. Shank suggests, were influenced by a series of social issues. Much of the population was dependent on the availability of work, where work can be found and for how long. The increase of work usually allows church, “membership increases for a while; the membership remains the same for a longer period.”[5] In other words the memberships will remain stagnant for longer periods rather than see much fluctuation throughout the years. The Argentinian constitution allows for religious freedom, but most of the country is Roman Catholic. In the early stages of the Mennonite mission within Argentina there was much animosity between Catholics and the members of the Mennonite church. Many members were not experienced enough to confront persecutions and thus would revert to old traditions, a lack of spiritual strength to stand up for beliefs. Divisions among churches were also a factor that affected church memberships. Deaths within the church were also a reason for loss of members (reason unknown didn’t say). As of January 1942 the membership in the Mennonite mission was 532. In comparison to the membership during 1923, a total of 90 members, the church mission grew considerably.[6]

Early Mission

The initial thirty years of the mission were marked with many different missions. The missionaries focused their efforts on church development, education, care for children, and women’s ministries.[7] After arriving in Buenos Aires, the missionaries enrolled in language classes. In addition, the Mennonite Board of Missions encouraged excursions into the countryside to best direct need. The mission was largely successful, according to John Driver, because of the emphasis on the personal religious experience.[8]

Pehuajo (1919)  Approximately two hundred miles west of Buenos Aires was a town, around five thousand. The village of Pehuajo was the first mission that was developed in Argentina. This town proved to be a very fruitful mission. The missionaries built their first church in this area in 1923. Soon after the building of the church many members desired a better understanding of Bible and Mennonite theology, a biblical institute was formed, taught by N. Litwiller.[9] Subsequently many more projects were developed such as youth group, a church council, kindergarten schools and women’s ministries.

Trenque Lauquen (1920)  The mission in Pehuajo grew enough that by 1920 J.W. Shank and wife started another mission. Many Argentinian leaders, coming out of Pehuajo’s biblical institute, aided this development of programs in this town. Other missionaries that came were: D. Parke Lantz, Albano Iuayza, Feliciano Gorjon, and Pedro Lanik. The mission in Trenque Lauquen created, in similarity to Pehuajo, a very inclusive ideology. They focused primarily on the youth, women’s ministries and family development. The youth program, Jovenes Evangelicos Menonitas de Argentina, grew tremendously; it was funded greatly by the mission churches in the area. Some of the pastors of Trenque Lauquen were also invited to train at Goshen College. Care for children was also a major concern to the mission. In 1926 an orphanage was built, and through its twenty nine years of existence helped three hundred and fifty children.

Santa Rosa (1921) Town located in the middle of the Pampa, about 407 km west of Buenos Aires. Mission focused on developing kindergartens.

Carlos Casares (1921) Missionary was W. G. Lauren. About 316 km. from Buenos Aires.

Francisco Madero (1923) Pablo Cavadore was pastor, a graduate from the Pehuajo Biblical Seminary. Town is about 23 km west of Pehuajo.

Tres Lomas (1925) The town was non-Catholic town, something unusual. It is located about 512 km. west of Buenos Aires. The mission in this town was focused on developing education for children, kindergarten, and Bible readings within the churches. The missionaries and pastors of Tres Lomas included: Amos Swartzentruber, W. E. Hallman, Ernesto Suarez Vilela, and Ross Goldfus.

America (1926) Located about 77 km. north of Trenque Lauque.

Meridiano Quinto (1926) The mission in this town was focused on the colportage, the publishing of books and tracts.

Bragado (1926) The Bible institute of Pehuajo was soon transferred to Bragado. The director of the institute was J.H. Koppenhauer.

Many other church missions were started in: Pelligrini, 30 de Agosto, Maza, Moctezuma, Smith, Alberti, Conguinacy, Martinez de Hoz ,Quiroga, Gosquin, French, O’Brien, La Falda, Salto, General Villegas, Piedritas, Capital del Monte, Ramos Mejia, Floresta, Carlos Paz, and Ituzaingo (the churches are chronologically placed as best as can be). These missions developed from 1930-1957).

The Mission in the Chaco (1942) The Chaco mission was located about 1,609 km north of Buenos Aires. The Native American Indians, Toba Indians, were for the most part non-Spanish speakers, illiterate and very isolated from the rest of the Argentinian economy. J. W. Shank and wife, Calvin Holderman and Francis Leake were sent here to develop programs that assisted these native peoples develop a competency for the Spanish language. In addition the missionaries helping natives learn Spanish, they would help to translate the Bible into their native language. Translating proved to be very difficult because the Toba Indians had no expressed written language. However, the effort that J.W. Shank and wife exercised was to indigenize scripture a valued effort in the Chaco mission. Churches in the Toba were led mostly by trained Toba leaders. This area was very poor and hygiene was very necessary for the native people to avoid disease. The mission, however, was discontinued as part of the Mennonite Mission in 1949, but continued to operate under the United Evangelical Church.

The Mission in 1960-1970s In previous decades, prior to 1966, the militaristic government of Peron was in power. A civil ousting of Peron was led by civilians and students of Argentina. Soon after the dissolution of the government much of the political process was very unstable. Many of the rural people were beginning to enter the city, limiting the growth of rural missions. Missions began to focus on the development of churches within Buenos Aires. Floresta, one of the first churches of Buenos Aires, was 1948; this church served to initiate several more churches within the capital. At the onset of the 70s the Mennonite Board of Missions was planning on cutting funding to the Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Argentina (IEMA). This concerned many of the churches, primarily because in some churches there was a lack of pastors. Many of the biblical institutes formed earlier in the mission were only developed primarily to train lay people to lead church congregation, somewhat of Bible studies, and not theological seminaries. In the early 70s the IEMA contacted their Mennonite brethren in Montevideo, Venezuela. The Venezuelan seminary opened an extension program called Centro Evangelico Menonita de Estudios Biblicos (CEMEB). In an attempt to curve the inevitable impact of financial troubles the churches within Argentina were encouraged to support their own pastors; not all churches were in favor of this decision because many of the churches found it difficult to pay pastors an adequate amount. In realization of this fact IEMA considered encouraging dialogue among church members and pastor to attempt to reach consensus for salary, and a common fund would be developed by IEMA to assist through this process.

Church Membership

1942-532 total members

1967-800 total members

2007-4000 total members

Publishing From 1932-1985

La Voz Menonita, also known as The Mennonite Voice (1932-1962): The magazine started in 1932, and was published in Trenque Lauquen. The main purpose of this magazine was to identify the mission of the Mennonites within Argentina. It promoted peacea theology, family dynamics, women in ministry, historical Mennonite roots, music, and testimonies. A major work in the early editions of the La Voz Menonita was the description of the Anabaptists in the 16th century. It was important for the editors and writers of this material to identify the legacy and mission of the Anabaptist theology and its implication to the modern Argentina. There were different ways that the magazine promoted Christian values. Mainly it contained articles that demonstrated unwavering faith: baptismal stories, the rebirth of members of the church, and testimonies of Argentinian and missionary persons. It also served the function of maintaining all IEMA communities in conversation with each other, the magazine had section for news and events such as: JEMA retreats, current women’s ministries, articles about Christian living and upcoming conferences. This material was very dynamic in its outreach. Even though most of the magazine was directed towards an older demographic, there were also articles directed towards the younger members of the church. There would be stories for children that taught Christian values, almost in every edition. IEMA directed their efforts through this material to be all inclusive. This production stopped in 1962. This magazine was provided through subscritions. El Discipulo Christiano, also known as

The Christian Disciple (1965-1973): This material was focused on the greater work of the IEMA. It was published in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The first edition of this magazine outlined the focus: 1. The necessity to address problems that the church is facing: missions, Christian education, and what is necessary to provide Christian workers. 2. The church is to be challenging and helpful toward personal growth in Christ for the individual. 3. Help alleviate daily problems of Christian living. 4. Serve as a prophetic voice for the church. 5. Encourage the disciple and church to confront social problems and injustices with the message of the Gospel. 6. Work for the greater unity of the IEMA and global church. 7. Aid the Anabaptist tradition of development and missions. During the printing of this magazine would fall between the era in which the Peron ousting and the military coup of 1976. The material was provided by subscriptions.

Perspectiva, also known as Outlook (1975-1985): This was a fairly simple version of the prior magazines. It was very cheap, considering that they were financial based on donations, per copy, rather than subscriptions. The magazine was more conservative in its mission statement and sought to identify and address the meaning of Christian living. The goals were: to write material that is in line with scriptures and if the reader finds that it is, then Perspectiva hopes the reader would live in such way. Christian Education There have been various education material published for the IEMA. The first among these was the Estudios Biblicos para Creyentes written by J. W. Shank produced in 1928. These initial Bible studies materials were very basic, comprised of questions and subsequent response in Biblical verses. In 1972 Edward Yoder produced Estudios de Doctrina Christiana. The material is majorly focused on the discussion and conversation dealing with biblical passages. There would be a discussion leader that would open the study with a introduction to the material and they would enter a questioning and discussion period. The study was separated into four volumes. Part 1 deals with how the Christian should interpret God and the teachings of the Bible. Part 2 focuses on the fallen humanity. Part 3 situates the church amongst the mission and its function as part of the Christina body, the mission and life. Part 4 focuses on Christian living in the modern day through Christ.

Major Challenges

In the late mission work of J. W. Shank and the Mennonite Mission Board was developing mistrust. One of the important focuses of Shank was to develop indigenized theology of the Gospel and Mennonite theology, but the MMB and other missionaries in Argentina were become wary of the direction of Shank. The IEMA churches and in general most Latin-American churches are facing several difficulties. One of the major challenges is to identify the meaning behind what it is to be Mennonite or Anabaptist, the core theology. Another is what do the individual churches interpret as being a peace church. Also another challenge is the reasoning behind adopting or not adopting the title evangelical in addition to Mennonite. Many churches are either against the usage of Evangelical in an attempt to promote a middle way, neither Catholic nor Evangelical. In addition to theological issues Argentina faces other secular challenges. Anabaptist theology lays the foundation for going against the social norm. For instance, principles of autonomy, separation with the state, communal values, community, the ability to exist without delineated leadership, developing peace strategies and questioning social, political, and philosophical dogmas are reasons why the IEMA finds them a challenge and a calling. The ability to function in a country that has traversed a very militaristic and political troubles being a counter story to the social norm takes courage and faith. People to Bring to Goshen College Daniel Gomez: Currently finished his doctorate in History. He is a member of Floresta Mennonite Church, and his doctoral paper was a critical look at the Mennonite Church history in Argentina. It discusses socio-political-economical-theological issues that have/are affecting the mission.

Vida Contemporánea

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Personas importantes en la vida de la iglesia

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Recursos Electrónicos

2006 Mennonite World Conference Directory for Caribbean, Central and South America

Un Relato de la Patagonia: Congregaciones de Argentina e Illinois se dan la mano para hacer la Mision de Dios[10]

Bibliografía anotada

Iglesia Anabautista de Buenos Aires. http://www.menonitas.org.ar/ (accessed 23 June 2009).

This is the official website of the Iglesia Anabautista de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Anabaptist Church), a congregation that is part of the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina. On the site, the congregation outlines their Mennonite identity. The site also provides contact information and local news about church life. Of special interest are several links to other Latin American Anabaptist organizations.

Archivos y Bibliotecas

  • Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Argentina Archives
The church collected and stored archival materials in a room at the Mennonite church in Bragado. In the late 1960s the collection was moved to the Floresta Mennonite Church (Iglesia Menonita de Floresta) in Buenos Aries where Ernesto Vilela cared for them until he died. In 2008 Luis María Alman Bornes moved the archives back to Floresta. To learn more contact Luis at Alman.Bornes@gmail.com.
  • Argentine Mennonite Libraries
IEMA has a small conference library along with archives. It consists of a small number of uncatalogued books in English and Spanish. Additionally, the Instituto Bíblico Menonita, a Bible institute in Bragado, Argentina sponsored by the Argentine Mennonite Church, had a small library. The library closed in 1954, and in 1956 most the collection moved to the new Mennonite seminary in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Enlaces Externos

Iglesia Anabautista de Buenos Aires


  1. "2006 Mennonite World Conference Directory for Caribbean, Central and South America," Mennonite World Conference. http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=16 (accessed 17 June 2009).
  2. Ernesto Suarez Vilela, 50th Anniversario de la iglesia evangelica menonita Argentina, 1919-1969.Commision de publicaciones Iglesia Menonita Argentina, (1969), 104.<ref>fckLRLa Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina se desarrolló por la obra misionera en 1917. La primera congregación se formó en 1919 y la conferencia se organizó en 1923. Debido al tamaño del país y la distribución de las iglesias, la IEMA se organizó en cinco regiones. Las regiones tienen actividad misionera y de servicio. La IEMA es miembra del Congreso Mundial MEenonita.<ref>Global Gift Sharing Report (MWC, 2005), 6.
  3. Shank, Josephus Wenger. 1979. Establishing Christ's church under the Southern Cross: the autobiography of J.W. Shank 1881-1970. Elkhart, Ind: Mennonite Board of Missions. (1943), 13.
  4. Shank, 1943, 86.
  5. Shank, 1943, 83.
  6. Shank, 1943, 85 and 89.
  7. Ernesto Suarez Vilela, 50th Anniversario de la iglesia evangelica menonita Argentina, 1919-1969.Commision de publicaciones Iglesia Menonita Argentina, (1969), 104
  8. John Driver, El legado Anabuatista y la iglesia de hoy, (1992).
  9. Richard W. Hallman, A History of the Mennonite Church in Argentina, (April 13, 1960), 1.
  10. http://www.mennonitemission.net/SiteCollectionDocuments/Tools%20for%20Mission/Missio%20Dei/MissioDei09.S.pdf