“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps” (Psalm 137: 1-2).
Over two days at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016, “God~Faith~People,” keynote speaker Safwat Marzouk addressed the topic of covenant that was central to the theme text, Jeremiah 31:33.
During the July 7 worship service, he explained that covenant is an agreement of mutual obligation, in which each party has the ability and responsibility to uphold his or her side.
“Too often Mennonites have focussed on disunity.”
With these words, Gareth Brandt began his seminar, “Running towards community,” and he then showed how Mennonite/Anabaptist history is pockmarked with splits and schisms. But Brandt said that he sees these splits as inevitable. “If everybody has a voice, then you’re going to have these splits,” he said of Mennonite polity.
The seminar title started in response to the young adult “problem.”
“[‘Young adults don’t need the church’] is not meant to be a defiance statement, but a statement of fact,” said presenter Chris Brnjas, a co-founder of Pastors in Exile (PiE) in southwestern Ontario. “The church is no longer a central force in the lives of young adults.”
Although a concrete picture of what Mennonite Church Canada might look like in two years isn’t yet determined, 318 delegates voted to approve in principle the direction proposed by the Future Directions Task Force to develop a more integrated nationwide church body; 21 voted against, and 4 ballots were spoiled.
Did you know that if all of the textual records and photographs in Winnipeg’s Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) Archives and Gallery were stacked on top of each other, they would be taller than the CN Tower?
That was one of the facts Korey Dyck shared during a seminar entitled “History matters: A new vision for the Mennonite Heritage Centre” that he led.
Nine years of careful study, sensitive listening, deep engagement by many, but not all, congregations—and innumerable meetings of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) Task Force—led to a large majority vote in favour of creating space for congregations to differ from one another when it comes to same-sex relationships.
In his seminar “Confessions of faith: Sources of unity or division,” Karl Koop told the story of 3,000 Mennonites who met during a five-hour meeting in Amsterdam in 1639 to bring together three Mennonite groups that had been severely divided.
Following on the heels of the delegate sessions for Mennonite Church Canada, about 40 interested leaders got together at Wanuskawin Heritage Park in Saskatoon to think about how to move forward the agenda of creation care, particularly the issue of climate change, in Mennonite congregations across Canada
EVI members Laura Carr-Pries and Peter Epp speak to delegates during a seminar at Assembly 2016. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
When Laura Carr-Pries got together with fellow students at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg last year to discuss the challenges facing Mennonite Church Canada, she wasn’t sure how things would go.
Use land for food production, not burying the dead
In a much-anticipated assembly, delegates have clearly spoken on behalf of Mennonite Church Canada. After an eight-year Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process, delegates approved the BFC7 recommendation with an 85 percent majority. This is clear affirmation for seeking a way forward together in responding to committed same-sex relationships.
“What does a healthy congregation look like?” I asked a pastor friend recently. He responded by telling a story of how he had led his congregation through a contentious issue. In the process, people spoke openly of their views, listened carefully, and, in the end, came to a satisfactory understanding about how to live with their differences.
In my childhood home, we had a unique red velveteen bag. When you pressed on the bag in the right place, you heard the sound of someone laughing, really guffawing. The recording went on for at least a full minute and you could almost hear the person wiping the tears from his eyes.
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The truth is more important than the facts.”
I agree, although I’m not sure that I could explain why. What is the difference between truth and fact?