[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Most North American Christians know little history of churches overseas. Lawrence M. Yoder is an exception.
Dr. Yoder's latest book, The Muria Story: A History of the Chinese Mennonite Churches of Indonesia, chronicles the formation and development of the first non-western Mennonite church to be organized by indigenous people. Yoder is professor of missiology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where he has taught since 1983.
"This is the history of the first Mennonite church to be formally organized outside of Europe and North America," Yoder said. "While an indigenous movement, it became identified as a Mennonite church. Eventually this church produced two Mennonite World Conference presidents, Charles Christano (1978-1984) and Mesach Krisetya (1997-2003)."
Yoder spent 1970-79 in Indonesia teaching theology in a college-level seminary, working for Mennonite Central Committee and starting work on this book. For nearly 30 years, Yoder has worked on versions of this text. The first was for his master's thesis. He then prepared two Indonesian language editions of the book, the second is a two-volume work published in 2000 and 2002 titled, "Tunas Yang Tumbah: Serjarah Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia 1920-1977 (Growing Plant: History of the Muria Christian Churches of Indonesia, 1920-1977)." His current book is an English version based on that two-volume work.
"This is not a direct translation," Yoder said. "I added some things that could be assumed in Indonesia, and I took some things out that I thought would be too detailed for readers outside the country."
The Muria church in Indonesia began as a minority church. The Javanese Mennonite church, which goes back to the 1850s, was begun by missionaries in rural areas. The missionaries did not pay much attention to the cities, or to the Chinese Indonesians, who did not speak high Javanese, the language used for worship in the Javanese churches, but only spoke Malay, the trade language, and low Javanese.
In 1920, a rapidly-growing Chinese Christian congregation was forming in the city of Kudus, at the southern foot of Mount Muria in Central Java. This congregation was not the result of missionary effort, Yoder noted. Rather, it formed and grew because of a local man, Tee Siem Tat, and his colleagues, who founded the church and only on December 6, 1920 were baptized by a Russian Mennonite missionary Nikolai Thiessen serving under the Dutch Mennonite Mission Society.
Yoder's latest book, "The Muria Story: A History of the Chinese Mennonite Churches in Indonesia," was published in June 2006 by Pandora Press. It is available at the online store at the Pandora Press web site: www.pandorapress.com. The cost is $38.
For more books written by Eastern Mennonite Seminary professors click here.
-Laura Lehman Amstutz