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Garcia brings global perspective to annual Bethel lecture series

October 20th, 2020

Cesar Garcia photo by Janet Bauman for Canadian Mennonite

The first leader of a worldwide Mennonite confederation to hail from the global South will give this year’s Menno Simons Lectures, Sunday and Monday, Oct. 25-26.

And for the first time in the almost 70-year history of the lecture series, it will take place entirely online.

Speaker César García, a native of Colombia now living in Canada, became general secretary of Mennonite World Conference in 2012.

The series title is “Towards an Anabaptist Catholicity.” Lectures are Sunday, Oct. 25, 7 p.m. (live online with Q&A to follow); Monday, Oct. 26, 11 a.m. (pre-recorded); and Monday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m. (live online with Q&A to follow).

Go to to register and receive the Zoom link a day or so in advance of the first lecture.

Lecture 1 is titled “Anabaptist Catholicity: A Definition.”

The second lecture, “Anabaptist Catholicity as Centripetal Force,” be pre-recorded as part of Bethel’s convocation series, will be available at

Lecture 3 is titled “Anabaptist Catholicity as Centrifugal Force.”

César García’s personal “Mennonite story” began in Bogotá when he was 11 and started attending Iglesia Hermanos Menonitas Dios es Amor (God is Love Mennonite Brethren Church) with his mother and sister.

Although he fell away from church for a while, what García calls his “first conversion” happened when he was 19. He gave in to his mother’s pressure and attended a Dios es Amor youth meeting, where the words of the speaker that night made a deep impact.

A lifelong love of learning has introduced García to many theological traditions.

He attended a Catholic private school as a child, and worked for six years at a Christian radio station, interacting with people from charismatic, evangelical and mainline denominations.

His first formal theological education took place at Seminario Bíblico de Colombia, an interdenominational seminary in Medellín, where he received a Bachelor of Theology and Bible degree with an emphasis on missiology.

Now steeped in Protestant theology, García experienced his “second conversion” – to Anabaptism – after Juan Martínez, then president of the SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala, challenged García to continue his education by studying Anabaptism.

He did so on his own at first, reading whatever he could find.

When García and his spouse, Sandra Báez Rojas, became church planters in Bogotá, they wove their newfound theology into Iglesia Hermanos Menonitas Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower MB Church), and the congregation grew and flourished.

Garcia served as chair of the Iglesias Hermanos Menonitas de Colombia (Mennonite Brethren Churches of Colombia), 2002-08. He has an M.A. in theology from Fresno (Calif.) Pacific Biblical Seminary.

César and Sandra are the parents of two young adult daughters, María and Paula. After seven years working from an office in Bogotá, they relocated to Kitchener, Ontario, in 2019.

The John P. and Carolina Schrag Kaufman family established the Menno Simons Lectureship Endowment to promote research and public lectures by recognized scholars relating to Anabaptist-Mennonite history, thought, life and culture, past and present. Since 1997, the family of William E. and Meta Goering Juhnke has also contributed substantially to the endowment. Both families have their roots in the Moundridge area.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 among “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by for 2020-21. For more information, see


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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.