Leaders set example of forgiveness in Honduras

Groups with Anabaptist roots put aside tensions that separated them for 20 years

Dec 3, 2018 by and

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Leaders of the Amor Viviente (Living Love) and Centro Cristiano Internacional churches met Nov. 14 in an act of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness.

People prepare to receive communion at the reconciliation event of the Amor Viviente (Living Love) and Centro Christiana Internacional denominations Nov. 14 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. — Richard Showalter for MWR

People prepare to receive communion at the reconciliation event of the Amor Viviente (Living Love) and Centro Christiana Internacional denominations Nov. 14 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. — Richard Showalter for MWR

They embraced in the presence of more than 200 witnesses, including people from other denominations and reporters from radio and television stations.

“This is a historic moment,” said witness of honor Saul Gomez, elder evangelical Honduran leader and founder of the Honduran Bible Society, as he gave a meditation on Rom. 12:18 (“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”).

The two groups share Anabaptist roots in the youth ministry of Ed and Gloria King in the 1970s and ’80s. Amor Viviente is a member of Mennonite World Conference and its Global Mission Fellowship. It is a founding member of the International Missions Association, a global group of Anabaptist mission leaders that meets annually.

CCI is an international network of more than 400 congregations that emerged under the leadership of Rene Penalba in 1998 after he discontinued leadership of the Amor Viviente mother congregation in Tegucigalpa.

Differences in leadership understanding, practice and gifting had led to suspicions of financial mismanagement and attempts to control each other’s power and influence. Details are unknown, but assumptions led to uncharitable motives and actions, and the walls grew high and strong.

“Penalba and I had never seen each other in the past 20 years since our public, mutual recriminations began,” said Carlos Marin Montoya, president of Amor Viviente. “Prior to that we were very close personal friends as well as colleagues in ministry at Amor Viviente.”

In Montoya’s experience, the reconciliation began after he and his wife, Suyapa, were reconciled with a family in their community who had become estranged from the church. They saw good fruit as the family returned and blessed the church.

Later, Suyapa Montoya asked him, “What about your relationship with CCI?”

“I was convicted by the Holy Spirit,” said Montoya at the meeting.

In October, nine leaders of Amor Viviente and CCI were ready to meet for the first time.

“Neither of us knew what to expect from the other,” Montoya said. “But when Penalba walked into the room, his eyes locked on mine, and he said, ‘I need a great forgiveness from you.’ I wanted the same from him. Together we were in tears, giving and receiving forgiveness.”

The Nov. 14 meeting was marked by confessions of sin by both Montoya and Penalba on behalf of themselves and their groups.

“We have grieved the Holy Spirit by our actions and wounded the body of Christ,” reads the accord which they signed. “We commit ourselves to walk together in ministry, education, and other activities as the Spirit leads.”

The assembly shared in communion. In worship, the unusual congregation sang two songs written by Penalba and two by Montoya, composed many years ago as young men in the early days of Amor Viviente.

“Something broke in the heavenlies,” said Steve Shank, representative of Eastern Mennonite Missions and longtime friend of both groups. “It’s a new day in Honduras.”

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