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Black, Brown, and Mennonite: Lessons from the Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, and Black Freedom Struggles for the Mennonite Church

3.27. 2017 Written By: Felipe Hinojosa 290 Times read

We invite you to join us for a series of discussions and lectures on the legacy of the Minority Ministries Council of the Mennonite Church March 30-April 1 at the Greencroft Community Center in Goshen, Indiana.

Who were the Minority Ministries Council and why does their work matter? Between 1968 and 1973, the Minority Ministries Council (MMC) worked in African-American and Latino Mennonite communities. They organized a K-12 educational program called “High Aim” that created a pathway for Black and Latino youth to attend Mennonite schools, they provided grants for community development in places like St. Louis and South Texas and they organized a number of theological consultations and church leadership conferences that focused on race and culture in the church.

The MMC did important work across multiple constituencies in Anabaptist/Mennonite churches and communities as they organized social justice movements that were firmly rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The work of the MMC was cutting edge and in many ways ahead of the rest of the denomination during the Civil Rights era.

But since the group disbanded in 1973 the Mennonite church and its primary storytellers, historians and church leaders have, for the most part, ignored their important story and their contributions to the life of the church.

As someone who grew up in the Mennonite church, and whose parents gave their entire lives to serving this church, I am committed to ensuring that the stories of African-American and Latina/o communities are never forgotten. We are currently living in a moment of gross indecency in this country. .A moment where the lives of Black and Latino people are under attack and where the very idea of what it means to be an “American” is once again highly contested. As troubling as this moment is, I believe it also demands that we write a new history that reexamines how racism takes place in America and that reevaluates the church’s role in both healing and perpetuating racial tensions.

This conference brings the MMC group back together, African-American and Latina/o Mennonite church leaders from the 1960s and 1970s, as a way for us, for the entire Anabaptist/Mennonite community, to honor them for their work and to say thank you for working to make our churches welcoming to people of all racial/ethnic backgrounds.

A few of the highlights of the conference include two keynote lectures. The first on Thursday evening is by Tim Matovina, Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, and on Friday afternoon a talk from David Evans, Assistant Professor of History and Mission at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Tobin Miller Shearer, Regina Shands Stoltzfus, and Felipe Hinojosa will lead a discussion on “Race and Mennonite History” and a group of Goshen (Indiana) College students will discuss their student activism and coalition building.

More details about the schedule and registration information can all be found at: https://www.goshen.edu/ciie/mmc-conference/.

We hope you will join us in honoring MMC leaders and preserving an important part of the Anabaptist/Mennonite story in America.

Dr. Felipe Hinojosa

Felipe Hinojosa is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University in State College, Texas. His book, Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith and Evangelical Culture, details part of the story of the MMC’s work. He is one of the planners of the MMC conference. 

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