‘We Declare’ and beyond

August 17, 2022 | Editorial | Volume 26 Issue 17
Virginia A. Hostetler | Executive Editor
Fanosie Legesse, part of Mennonite Church Canada’s Intercultural Church Steering Committee, leads a workshop at Gathering 2022 entitled ‘When evangelism meets interculturalism.’ (Photo by Jessica Evans)

In this issue you will find reports about Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2022. Recently over 300 of us met in person and virtually to explore the theme, “We declare.”

I was impressed by the turnout of delegates in Edmonton and by the engagement of younger folks in the business sessions, worship times, workshops and on social media (#WeDeclare2022). Participants seemed happy to renew in-person connections and to celebrate together the faith that sustains us. I was moved by the power of the “We Declare” statement we spoke and acted out in the worship times.

Throughout the four days, we experienced an overall cooperation with the wearing of masks, even though—for some attendees—that pandemic practice is no longer happening in their own communities and congregations. We saw a generous spirit on the part of the local volunteers, who dedicated a holiday weekend to host and serve out-of-town visitors.

The keynote speakers pointed often to the good news of loving and authentic relationships: between humans and God and between neighbours and strangers in our own communities. There was much wisdom to reflect on and live into.

It’s clear that we as a church want to be a part of God’s good news. And yet, something was largely missing from the conversations at Gathering 2022: the e-word. Evangelism. Or witness and proclamation—words that one would associate with the act of declaration.

One can perceive a divide within the Mennonite church in Canada between those of us who see evangelism as the primary calling of the church and those of us who relegate evangelism to a regrettable chapter of church history. Some of us proclaim boldly a message of salvation while others of us tie that kind of proclamation to harmful practices of colonialism, racism, patriarchy and more.

That divide is present in our corporate life and sometimes even within our individual souls. So, we need more  occasions for having honest and compassionate conversation about how the gospel is proclaimed. It is vital that we as a church move beyond the events of one weekend and keep exploring together the meaning of “We declare.”

Are there ways to bridge the divide in how we understand our role as Christian communities? What do we do with calls from some marginalized groups for the church to step away from its traditional way of ministering among them? How do we understand Jesus’ “Great Commission” in the 21st century? What might it look like to make disciples in our contexts?

Mennonite Church Canada has offered the invitation for reflection and conversation using the digital resource, “We Declare What We Have Seen and Heard: A Study Guide and Sermon Series for our Nationwide Community of Faith.” This six-session guide grounds the conversation in Old and New Testament scriptures and invites individuals and congregations to consider how we fit into God’s grand mission of reconciliation. It asks, “Can we renew our joy in the gospel so that our words and actions are truly good news for us and our neighbours?” and “How might your congregation better integrate words and actions so that your gospel witness is not simply one or the other, but both?”

To accept this invitation, you can start by downloading the guide from CommonWord. You can watch a preview video below.

A thank you

This month Canadian Mennonite staff says goodbye and thank you to intern Daisy Belec, who joined us during her summer break from university studies. Daisy made her contribution primarily through CM’s social media platforms, serving with dedication and commitment. She says, “My few months with Canadian Mennonite have taught me years-worth about how to live out my faith passionately and actionably. Between the wonderful people I have been working with this summer, those I have interviewed, and those whose stories I have read by talented professionals, I feel inspired and equipped to step out into the world and say, “I have something to offer through the power of Christ in me.”

A reminder

The next issue, dated Sept. 5, will be released in a digital-only format. Subscribers can watch for it in their email inbox, and individual articles will be accessible at canadianmennonite.org.

More Gathering 2022 coverage:
Gathering 2022: MC Canada invited to declare and embody the gospel
A focus on rest and renewal
‘Do you hear what I hear?’

In This Together aims to widen the circle of inclusion

Read more editorials:
Exploring the Anabaptist family online
Notes from afar
‘Following’ Mennonites

Fanosie Legesse, part of Mennonite Church Canada’s Intercultural Church Steering Committee, leads a workshop at Gathering 2022 entitled ‘When evangelism meets interculturalism.’ (Photo by Jessica Evans)

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Yes, sadly the topic of Evangelism was missing from Gathering 2022. As far as I can tell from the portions of Gathering 2022 that I watched online and from the reporting I've read in CM, something else was missing too: the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The biblical and true gospel is all about God and what He has done for us, not the other way around. It’s about mankind’s need of a Saviour who is willing to redeem us from sin so that we can stand blameless before our holy, righteous, just and merciful God on Judgment Day. It’s also about God sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins so that those who repent and believe/trust in Him will be released from the guilt of sin and inherit eternal life (see John 3 and 1 Corinthians 15). And naturally it follows that there was nothing said regarding the terrible consequences of rejecting Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Why would the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ not be proclaimed at a gathering such as this? Is it because such doctrine has been deemed secondary?

I would be interested in hearing why this wonderful opportunity to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ was missed.

While we didn't sing "Just as I Am" or walk down the "Roman Road," the Gospel was absolutely shared at our national gathering. While Elaine Fehr shares one articulation of the Gospel, we saw other articulations throughout the gathering. From John Boopalan's message "What is the Gospel" to In This Together's worship service, and from Cheryl Bear's message telling us to listen to Doug Klassen's sermon on Sunday, the gospel was articulated throughout.

God is at work in Mennonite Church Canada. The Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ was present and experienced in the Evario Events Centre that long weekend.

Beyond such, the entire theme was focused on our response to the Gospel. Us receiving the Gospel is a prerequesite assumption necessary for us to then go out and declare it. "We Declare" only because we have first received.

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