HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Vietnamese pastor Nguyen Quang Trung led a 40-year struggle to see the Vietnam Mennonite Church (VMC) legally recognized, finally succeeding in 2007. Now, after 51 years of service to the VMC and eight years as its first official president, Trung is stepping down. Entrusting its future to the next generation, the VMC elected Pastor Huynh Dinh Nghia as its new president on Dec. 2, 2016.
Nghia, pastor of the Tan Hiep church and who previously served as Second Vice President of the VMC, has been elected to a four-year term as president. One hundred and ninety voting delegates from churches across the country cast their votes at the VMC’s Third General Assembly, which took place on Dec. 1–2, 2016.
Gerry Keener, a former missionary to Vietnam who was present at the General Assembly, said that the new leadership of the church marked a transition from the “establishment phase” of the VMC to a new phase of building on the existing foundation.
“The new leadership will focus on developing quality ministry and revitalizing evangelism. It will also build on the established training program to further develop the quality of the training," said Keener, who now serves as executive vice president of Eastern Mennonite Missions. Keener said the VMC also intends to strengthen the legal position of the church by establishing a permanent office location.
The VMC’s new president brings a passion for evangelism to the position. Originally part of the Pentecostal movement in Vietnam, Nghia established his first congregation as part of the unrecognized house church movement in 1989. In 2006 he joined the VMC, then not an officially recognized institution, after becoming acquainted with Trung.
Several other church leadership positions were filled during the General Assembly election. Ngueyn Minh Sang, pastor of the Hoi An church, was elected as First Vice President. Nguyen Hong An, pastor of the Vinh Long church and the former VMC First Vice President, was elected to the Second Vice President position. Having already served two consecutive terms as First Vice President, An cannot serve a third.
Huynh Minh Dang, pastor of the Vinh Cuu church, was re-elected for a second term as General Secretary. Nguyen Van Nho (Khoa) was elected as Vice General Secretary. Ly Vinh, pastor of the Bau Lam church, was elected as General Treasurer. Tran Quang Duc was elected as Vice General Treasurer. Ten other members were elected to the full board to carry various roles in the church.
The VMC’s General Assemblies, held every four years, are a time to celebrate the church’s past and anticipate its future. In addition to the election of new leadership, the 2016 General Assembly included worship by four ethnic choirs, congratulatory letters read by representatives from Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite World Conference, and a graduation ceremony for a class of 15 pastors and church workers who earned ministry certification.
When asked for his view of the current priority ministry needs of the VMC, Nghia answered that the church must continue and further develop the leadership training begun by Trung. Pastoral certification training, lay leader training in local districts, and Vacation Bible School for children are all top priorities. Nghia also said that the younger generation of leaders must work alongside more experienced pastors. He called for a renewal of ministry focus.