Transition plans, storytelling and navigating change were all part of the Jan. 27-28, 2018, weekend when the Mennonite Church Canada Joint Council convened at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond.
Mennonite Church Canada
Common knowledge helps to form our identity. It creates the basis from which to describe ourselves and helps us to understand others.
Change can create a crisis of identity. When what we thought to be fact changes, it can create a distressing cloud of confusion and uncertainty. We wonder if there is anything we can know. And we no longer trust what we think we know.
“Believe the best about each other.” When delegates met for the Mennonite Church Canada assembly this past fall, there were swirls of questions, confusion, caution and qualms. From the dense detail and multiple pages on denominational restructuring that we waded through, it was this phrase of hope and encouragement that jumped out at me, and others as well.
Informing Mennonite Church B.C. congregations how they will fit into the new structure while MC Canada reorganizes was the focus of two cluster meetings in November. Meetings in Richmond on Nov. 21 and in Abbotsford on Nov. 23, 2017, drew about 20 people each, with participants from Black Creek and Kelowna joining in online for the Abbotsford meeting. “This was especially an effort to bring clarity to how donations should be given in the new structure,” said Garry Janzen, the regional church’s executive minister.
“We don’t all see things through the same lenses. We don’t all agree on every little or big thing, but we are loved by you, and we love.”
That prayerful acknowledgement of diversity and unity as God’s community by Vernelle Enns Penner opened Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Assembly 2017 on the evening of Oct. 13 at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg.
While some delegates at Special Assembly 2017 looked forward to the nationwide church restructuring process, others mourned the loss of what has been an important part of their church life.
At this juncture in Mennonite Church Canada’s history, it seems appropriate to reflect on the church’s work and the impact that work has had on the lives of MC Canada’s people across the country:
“What are the dreams that have been placed in us? What has God whispered in our ears? How has God invaded our thoughts?” asked Willard Metzger, Mennonite Canada’s executive minister (formerly executive director). Thus began his final address on Oct. 15 to those who gathered for Special Assembly 2017.
As the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada anticipates potential change following the Special Assembly, we are reminded of things done, and not done. We are deeply aware of weakness and strength. We are aware of successes and failures. We are aware that the journey is not over, and significant challenges remain.
Randell Neudorf, pastor of the Commons church in Hamilton, Ont., speaks in favour of the resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Neudorf spoke of wanting his son, who has an Ojibway background, to grow up in a land that sees him and his people as full members of the human family. The Doctrine of Discovery is a historical belief that lands without Christian inhabitants were empty and open to the predation of Christian princes. The Doctrine continues to influence the law about Indigenous Peoples in Canada (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
Mennonite Church B.C. moderator Lee Dyck, left, and executive minister Gary Janzen suggest changes to the Being a Faithful Church recommendation on July 9 at MC Canada’s Assembly 2016, before discussion and the vote to approve the amended recommendation. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
Harry Lafond of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, left, chats with Ben Pauls during a tour of the Saskatchewan first nation on July 9, during Assembly 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
Larry Redpath of Trinity Mennonite Church in Mather, Man., takes part in a smudging ceremony in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation on July 9. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
“A season of change,” lament, fear, anxiety, confession, uncertainty, safe space, brave space . . . hope.
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.
I have always been part of the Mennonite world, having been called to Jesus Christ in my early years; active in the fellowship of the church throughout my youth; and trained by the church through Canadian Mennonite Bible College, Winnipeg, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y.
We are a group of pastors from each of the five area churches who have gathered around the current Future Directions Task Force conversations in an effort to understand and respond together. We write as younger pastoral leaders with hopes for many years yet in service to the Mennonite church in Canada, and so with a significant stake in this ongoing process.
Photo by Marcello Gambetti from freeimages.com
As I’ve continued to follow the process set in motion by the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF), I’ve come to a different place with my thoughts on this major restructuring of our denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. It seems clear that, with the exception of Mennonite Church Alberta, the recommendations of the Task Force have been approved to some degree by the area churches, and that the restructuring will most likely go ahead.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the wider Mennonite church these past few weeks, as there have been discussions about the future of Mennonite Church Canada at the gatherings of each of the regional churches.
The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the Future Directions Task Force and Mennonite Church Canada leaders that was signed by all 24 Witness workers in light of the Task Force’s concluding report (commonword.ca/go/469).
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective was published in 1995 and is still used by Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.
You may have heard about what happened at Mennonite Church USA’s convention earlier this month, specifically with regard to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ Mennonites. And, like me, you may be saddened by the hurtful interactions that occurred as our sister-church gathered.
How to financially sustain ministry is a topic of discussion for at least six national church bodies in Canada, including Mennonite Church Canada.
Maybe it was the downright gorgeous summer weather before the heat wave swept into central and southeastern Canada. Maybe it was the powerfully inspired music led by Paul Dueck and his gifted musicians in University of Waterloo’s Humanities Theatre.