MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Mennonite Mission Network) — For more than 60 years, John Driver’s ministry has involved teaching about God from the periphery. For one day, during the 13th Anabaptist-Mennonite Congress of the Southern Cone, Driver was central.
During the gathering in Uruguay, participants and organizers released a festschrift – a published tribute of essays and articles about Driver's theology and ministry. Comunidad y misión desde la periferia (Community and mission from the periphery), edited by Milka Rindzinski and Juan Francisco Martínez, includes 14 essays and articles about Driver or the ideas and concepts he embodied. The book, printed in Spanish by Semilla of Guatemala and Ediciones Kairós of Argentina includes reflections on Driver himself and articles about living in radical community, histories of peripheral living, studying the Bible as committed disciples and extending the practice of mission.
All 14 authors are theologians from Latin America or Spain who have studied and learned from Driver.
“God gave the Hispanic world a great gift in the person of John Driver,” Martínez wrote in his preface. “His publications, papers, classes and conferences have challenged an entire generation of people that look to be faithful to the radicalness of the gospel.”
John and Bonny Driver, both 82, have ministered throughout Latin America for 60 years, which began with a Mennonite Central Commitee community development project in Puerto Rico from 1945-1948 and continued with the couple’s long-term presence in five countries through Mennonite Board of Missions, now Mennonite Mission Network, for most of his career. In all, the Drivers spent more than 40 years with MBM based in Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Spain, and Argentina.
While Driver was honored by the festschrift, he said he most appreciates the feedback from his Hispanic brothers and sisters throughout his 60-year ministry.
“This sojourn has largely determined how I read the Bible and history, how I look at the world, how I think, how I feel,” Driver wrote in a recent e-mail.
Driver said he learned to view the world from the periphery while living in a markedly poor Puerto Rico community. In a time of violent revolution and repression in Uruguay, he searched tradition and scripture and found a gospel of peace. In Spain, he and Bonny discovered the importance of living in community and a concern for mission within and outside of the church.
Finally, Driver wrote, “Back in Latin America in the midst of violent repression and enormous suffering during the past three decades, I learned that innocent, vicarious suffering can, indeed, be salvific.”
Driver intended to turn his background in chemistry into a career, until the Drivers’ service in the Hispanic world uncovered what they termed a call to mission. The change, Driver said, came without second thoughts.
The festschrift was not the only book featured at the congress. Driver released his new book, Convivencia Radical: Espiritualidad para el siglo 21 (Radical Togetherness: Spirituality for the 21st Century), published by Ediciones Kairós, and edited by Guillermo Font, pastor of the Mennonite church in Trenque Lauquen, Argentina. Driver said the book, printed in Spanish, includes sections on the spirituality of first-century Christians and 16th-century Anabaptists as well as pointers for modern Anabaptists in dialogue with other Christians.
The book began as lectures delivered five years ago in Argentina. Organizers said the lectures Driver offered at the congress could eventually become another volume.
Driver earned degrees from Goshen (Ind.) College, Goshen Biblical Seminary (now Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary) and Perkins School of Theology. He taught and served as academic dean at the Seminario Evangélico Menonita de Teología in Montevideo, Uruguay. He also taught for Seminario Anabautista Latinoamérica, part of Semilla in Guatemala, Instituto Bíblico de Buenos Aires, Argentina, Seminario Menonita de Colombia in Bogotá and in the Hispanic Ministries department at Goshen College. Driver’s books have been published in Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and Japanese.
He and Bonny have three children. They are active members of East Goshen (Ind.) Mennonite Church.
For more information on the festschrift or Driver’s new book – both in Spanish – visit Kairós online.
Mennonite World Conference contributed to the background of this story.