A shortage of French-language Anabaptist literature and training motivated 21 participants from eight countries on three continents to gather Sept. 27-29, 2017, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in search of a solution.
The Réseau mennonite francophone (Mennonite Network of French Speakers) worked toward creating a consortium of theological schools and partner institutions to develop an online training program in Anabaptist theology for French speakers in Africa, Europe and North America.
Most French-speaking Mennonite pastors are trained in interdenominational institutions and don’t have specific training in Anabaptist theology, said Neal Blough at the Réseau mennonite francophone (Francophone Mennonite Network) meeting. He teaches about Anabaptist life and thought in universities and congregational settings and is a foremost authority on Anabaptism in France.
Although there are Mennonite Bible schools in many countries where French is the educational language, the only university-level theological program taught from an Anabaptist perspective in the French language is at the small Bienenberg seminary in Switzerland, Blough said.
A proposal presented by a working committee that had been named at a 2014 meeting of the Mennonite Network of French Speakers in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, served as the foundation on which the September gathering was built. Attendees decided that the curriculum will focus on Anabaptist issues of justice and peace.
“An Anabaptist training program could make reconciliation, justice and peace available to all Christians,” said Rubin Pohor of Faculté de Théologie Evangélique de l’Alliance Chrétienne (FATEAC), a Missionary Alliance university, which hosted the gathering.