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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  • Steven Stubble

    Same old same old. Predictably, MC Canada opens the door to the wisdom of the world, wondering whether a “prophetic nudging by God” might be saying “Same-sex unions are a blessing ” to one part of the church, and then “Same-sex unions are sinful” to another part of the same church — and all the while having virtually no idea how to tell one nudging from the other. This disaster has been long in the making, yes much longer than the nine years of supposed “discernment” (read: waiting to see which way the sociopolitical wind was blowing). Is there any one out there who doesn’t know how this will end?

    • Byron Rempel-Burkholder

      The question could just as well be: Is there anyone who DOES know how this will end? Any discernment of the Spirit is fraught with risk, even if the process has been long and arduous as this one has been. Steven, try pondering Acts 10 to 15, and the early church’s move to recognize inclusion of Gentiles in the church. No one “knew” how it would end, and there were still naysayers along the way, with good scriptural support, but the church went forward anyway.

      • Steven Stubble

        Byron, the early churchs hesitation to include Gentiles was, surprisingly, not grounded in Scripture but in Jewish (man-made) tradition — there are no OT laws commanding avoidance of unbelievers for its own sake. Quite the contrary, the OT forsees that the offspring of Abraham (Messiah) will bless ALL nations! So the naysayers had no scriptural support beyond their pharisaic legalism. But lets stick with your analogy for a moment: can you imagine, somewhere between Acts 10 and 15, the Spirit saying to Peter “The Gentiles are clean!” and later on to Paul “The Gentiles are unclean!” ? Yet this is precisely the approach MC Canada is trying to take.
        I’m neither prophetic nor cynical, but suspect things will end with full, official LGBT inclusion by MC Canada, with a number of conserative splinter groups leaving the main conference. You never know, though; after all, the affirmed Confession of Faith clearly states: “Other claims on our understanding of Christian faith and life, such as tradition, culture, experience, reason, and political powers, need to be tested and corrected by the light of Holy Scripture”. Sounds good, now lets see if they really believe this. Let me encourage the saints to stand firm in the faith delivered once for all, and to seek the praise of God more than the praise of men!

  • Delmer B. Martin

    Greetings from Mennonite County in Elmira Ontario. I agree with the
    fact that Sin is Sin! and leaders should vote for what is clearly
    Biblical and leaders should do so passionately. The issues are clearly
    not about disobedience to simply the Mennonite Church, or about how
    much we should Love our neighbors…it is about out and out, SIN
    against God’s Word and Purpose! The politically-correct-worldliness that
    surrounds us and especially all lukewarmness towards God and THE TRUTH
    will be destroyed at Judgement. YOU can NOT compromise THE TRUTH, even
    if the vote was 100% for sanctioning an attempt at doing so!!!

    Both Jesus and satan come here to divide because; we (unlike animals) were given
    the gift of freewill. (Luke 12:51) We will either follow/serve ONE or
    the other. We must serve GOD and not man or self. As Matthew 22;38
    clearly indicates; We must Love/obey God FIRST (as it clearly stipulates
    that this is the FIRST and GREATEST Commandment, and then we can love
    our neighbour as the secondary command states.

    Fact: God loves the sinner BUT He hates sin!!!

    The big TROUBLE does not start with a seeker, it starts if/when the seekers take control away from the Christians in their own house…(even if it something as subtle as you must accept me the way that I am) Soon you will no longer recognize your own house. You will eventually no longer be welcome in your own house once satan gets majority control. To really complicate matters, democracy becomes absolutely meaningless if both sides become controlled by satan. End time prophecies are now being fulfilled right inside our Mennonite Congregations.

    I am a prodigal son and just a pilgrim HOWEVER I am one who passionately
    believes that The TRUTH will make me FREE! as per (John 8:32) In my pilgrimage
    I have researched and studied our Church and Congregations histories
    for almost 20 years now and it clear to me that some of the greatest mistakes
    re; schisms occurred when our people put our so called love of neighbour
    and ourSELFS (and wanting our own personal peaceful Communion Service”
    ahead of first and foremost being truly obedient to The “First and
    Greatest Commandment” found at Matthew 22:35-39. Also it is critical
    that we “fear the Lord” and “strive for perfection” ,as a Christian
    BEFORE we get too concerned about just being a good Mennonite or
    Anabaptist. Unlike many of the old schisms, the leaders in our recent
    controversy should advocate in Truth and Strength against what was
    creeping in. Sin is Sin and to allow a STIPULATED SIN to be integrated
    in any church is ANTI-GOD and Anti-Christ.

    Obedience to GOD is paramount especially when one is not sure about something.

    You cannot lose when GOD is on your side, even when your so called neighbors
    are clamoring to get into your house crying, oh lets compromise for peace, peace!
    Peace with GOD is required FIRST! There can be no compromise on this
    issue. God is NOT mocked! Biblical Truth guarantees that turning your/our Mennonite
    Congregations into a modern Sodom and Gomarah would not be good for
    even those that would advocate for it! They and we must repent and
    become obedient to God. Praise GOD for Christians who actually still
    obey GOD and his WORD, and may God have mercy on us all!
    May God Bless and Protect Us.
    Delmer B. Martin

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