Vietnam Mennonite Church holds assembly after receiving legal status

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — The Vietnam Mennonite Church held its first official General Assembly Nov. 15 to 17 at a guesthouse and conference complex in Binh Thanh District.

The event came after the church received full legal status from the Vietnam National Religious Affairs Committee. Although a previous assembly was held, this was the first as a legally recognized church. As a result of its status the church can now hold corporate title to real estate property, establish a Bible Institute for training pastors and leaders, forge relationships with other denominations to sponsor joint projects, serve as an official partner with the Mennonite Central Committee in relief and community development work, extend and accept invitations for international conferences.

The three-day proceedings were interspersed with times of worship, preaching and business. The worship sessions included both Vietnamese and ethnic minority churches using contemporary and traditional styles.

The more than 200 participants, of whom 188 were delegates, included pastors, evangelists and members of the six districts in 24 provinces, representing 6,123 believers. Others included choir and dance team members and a children's choir/dance team. A highlight of the conference was the rendition of the "Hallelujah Medley" sung by an 80-voice choir of denominational leaders, pastors and evangelists.

At the opening ceremony, Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung, provisional president of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, expressed thanks and praise to God that through the blood of Jesus, God has redeemed, established, led and protected his church in Vietnam throughout the challenges and difficulties in Vietnam's history. Pastor Trung presented a brief history of the Mennonite Church in Vietnam and a summary of the work of both Eastern Mennonite Missions and MCC.

During the opening ceremony, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Xuan, deputy director of the National Religious Affairs Committee, noted the long-term involvement of Mennonites in Vietnam, beginning with MCC and later EMM. He expressed appreciation for the uniqueness of the Mennonite contribution to Vietnam as a Protestant denomination with emphasis on both religious and social concerns.

Dr. Larry Miller, general secretary of Mennonite World Conference, and the six members of the MWC Koinonia Delegation—representing the five continental regions who attended—also offered congratulations. After presenting a token gift plate to the Vietnam Mennonite Church, Miller introduced the MWC delegates.

"These are the most important gifts we bring to you, ourselves as an incarnation of communion with you in the global body of Jesus Christ," Miller told the crowd.

 The assembly also marked the 51st anniversary of Eastern Mennonite Missions coming to Vietnam with congregational singing, choirs, liturgical dances, a reading of the history of Mennonites in Vietnam and preaching.

During two days of business meetings the constitution was ratified and officers were elected. Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung was elected president. Other election results include: Pastor Nguyen Hong An, first vice-president; Pastor Huynh Dinh Nghia, second vice-president; Pastor Nguyen Minh Sang, general secretary; and Apprentice Pastor Nguyen Van Khoa, general treasurer.