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Finding common ground in MCBC

   

Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Church BC joint release
November 4, 2003
- Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man.— Executive leaders from Mennonite Church BC and Mennonite Church Canada met at Vancouver’s Sherbrooke Mennonite Church on October 24 to find common ground amidst ongoing tensions.

This meeting followed a series of four regional “listening meetings” hosted by Mennonite Church BC and attended by Henry Krause, Moderator of MC Canada and Dan Nighswander the general secretary. The listening meetings identified both concerns and appreciation MCBC churches have about the national body.

“It was evident that there are a variety of perspectives,” said MCBC moderator Doug Epp. Among those congregations that expressed concerns about MC Canada some clearly shared a desire to withdraw from membership in MC Canada while others spoke of wanting to work from within to help bring about change. On the other side of the spectrum congregations spoke of a strong appreciation for their connection with the national body.

The executive meeting started with a time of frank and honest sharing about the emotions and stresses that the current discussions evoke, and also the hopes that leaders have for positive outcomes. Further conversation included reports on what was heard in the listening meetings and thinking together about actions that could be taken to address the concerns raised.

Many of the issues raised in the listening meetings and in correspondence leading up to the meetings were linked with the wider church’s discussions on homosexuality. Specific concerns included the extended dialogue about same-sex relationships without apparent boundaries, the impression of excessive discussion of these issues in Canadian Mennonite, the prominent presence of BMC (Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests) at the MC Canada assembly in St. Catharines, and the evident weak response from MC Canada leadership to congregations that diverge from denominational statements on sexuality.

“Participants at the Listening Meetings also indicated they had different expectations of leadership style and ethos,” said Nighswander. He added that in some congregations an understanding of Mennonite Churches congregationally based authority structure was lacking or was called into question. “There are also pressures of cultural change and the influences of how other churches are dealing with these issues that intensify the concerns expressed.”

A special conference session for MCBC has been called for November 29. Documents from the area conference, statements from some BC congregations and a report on MC Canada’s response will be distributed to MCBC churches in advance of that meeting. Actions that will potentially affect the church across Canada will be reported and tested in churches across the country and/or at the respective annual delegate assemblies.

The executive members concluded their discussion with a time of prayer, soliciting God’s guidance and wisdom for each other as they continue to seek a faithful and common path on which they can walk together.