India Mennonite Brethren elect new leadership after years of turmoil

Delegates select “I.P.” Asheervadam as president of the India MB Conference Governing Council

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The newly elected Governing Council gathers for its first meeting Nov. 17. — Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India

Mennonite Brethren in India selected new leaders in October, giving hope that long-simmering conflicts can be put in the past.

Injamuri “I.P.” Asheervadam was selected as president of the Governing Council by delegates who voted in a process outlined in the conference’s constitution. That process had been ignored by former president P.B. Arnold, a surgeon who led the conference for more than 40 years. Mission workers withdrew from conference oversight in the late 1960s.

Injamuri “I.P.” Asheervadam was selected as president of the Governing Council by delegates who voted in a process outlined in the conference’s constitution.

Asheervadam is principal of Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College in Shamshabad and plans to continue leading the college for the time being as he also leads the conference, the largest conference in the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) and one of Mennonite World Conference’s largest.

According to MWC, the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India, with 212,000 people in about 1,000 churches, is the international body’s second-largest conference, after the Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia.

Arnold, a respected physician, came under increasing scrutiny for what critics called unbiblical abuse of power and authority, alleged misappropriation of resources and sale of church properties for personal gain, the use of judicial courts to resolve disagreements, wounded confidence among international agencies and institutions and a lack of transparent leadership elections.

Members of the conference called for a transition in 2020, which ICOMB echoed; both parties declaring they no longer recognized the leadership of Arnold and other members of the Governing Council.

Members of the Governing Council of the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India visit Mennonite Brethren Zion Church in Chinna Chinta Kunta on Dec. 15 for pre-Christmas festivities and seminars. Photo: Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India

Following a visit to India in February, ICOMB executive director Elton DaSilva told Anabaptist World that ICOMB affirmed the new Governing Council and will work with it to advance the ministry in India.

“New Leadership has emerged, and it is well-received by our churches,” Asheervadam writes by email. “In the last couple of months, as a new Governing Council, we have traveled almost all fields of our conference and participated in many church programs such as church dedications, ordaining pastors and evangelists, participating in harvest festivals and Christmas programs. . . . There are challenges, but the response of the churches is very good.”

Delegates line up Oct. 28 in Mahabubnagar, where delegates were elected to the Governing Council of the Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India. Photo: Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of India

The delegate vote Oct. 28, 2023, brings a peaceful resolution to a chaotic situation. Opposing groups filed lawsuits questioning Arnold’s ability to sell church properties, creating backlogs in the legal system.

Asheervadam leveraged his position as Bible college principal, with relationships across the conference, to revitalize the Board of Evangelism and Church Ministries. The board’s leadership was realigned with a coalition of leaders who have focused on mobilizing churches to imagine what could be accomplished if the conference were freed of corruption and mismanagement. A coalition emerged that included most of the groups contesting Arnold’s leadership.

“So much we had to pray. So much we had to plan. So hard we had to work,” Asheervadam writes. “So many people had so many ideas. So many meetings we had to organize. So much we had to travel.”

Others elected to the ­Governing Council include vice presidents Panderla Menno Joel, S.S. David, N. Isaiah, P. Pushpa Stephen and G.P. Blessington; general secretary G.K. Rufus; assistant secretary A. Shyam Rao; treasurer S. Titus Rajender; and members M. Hapy Paul, P. Joshua, N. Hosea and B. Timothy.

Reprinted by permission from Anabaptist World.

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