MC Canada moves in a new direction

Jul 18, 2016 by

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Mennonite Church Canada delegates approved a proposal to shift the denomination’s emphasis from the national level to networking among area churches and created space for congregations with differing understandings of same-sex relationships during the July 6-10 assembly in Saskatoon, Sask.

Mennonite Church CanadaDenominational staff reported the Future Directions Task Force’s proposal was approved in principle by a vote of 318 to 21. It seeks to develop a more integrated national church body by shifting many tasks to a more local level. Many of the changes were prompted by budget challenges stemming from reduced donations.

The vote followed two years of process by the task force and intense debate during assembly seminars and plenary sessions.

An interim council of moderators from each area church and the national body will identify a project manager to guide a transition process and determine budget requirements. No changes to current structures will occur until that happens, although assistant moderator Alfred Neufeldt said budget constraints may require some internal or programmatic changes.

Room for testing

The vote to create space and test alternative understandings of same-sex relationships passed 277 to 50, with 23 abstentions. It followed a nine-year process of study, listening and engagement by many MC Canada congregations. Churches that bless same-sex marriages will be given space to do so as MC Canada continues discernment.

Delegate Ray Friesen of Swift Current, Sask., sensed a key moment when Gerry Binnema, pastor at Black Creek (B.C.) United Mennonite Church, shared that he had anticipated voting “no” prior to attending the assembly. While a seminar by Dan Epp-Tiessen on “reading the Bible in light of same-sex relationships” did not change his mind, it did help him consider that differing understandings can also be valid.

The four points recommend:

– Affirming that the Confession of Faith continues to serve MC Canada;
– Respectfully acknowledging that some have come to a different understanding of marriage than the traditional one of only between one man and one woman for life;
– “Creating space/leaving room” to test other understandings, to see if they are a prophetic nudging by God; and
– Developing a way to monitor implementation, since continuing discernment will be needed.

Delegates also passed resolutions repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery — a settler teaching that marginalized and took rights away from indigenous people for centuries — and committing churches to become more aware and informed on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Calvin Quan of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church was named the new denominational moderator.

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