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B.C. delegate session marked by hope


June 5, 2004
- From report by Angelika Dawson for the Canadian Mennonite
- used by permission

Chilliwack, B.C. —Under the theme, “Faithful past, hopeful future! Continuing the journey,” Mennonite Church British Columbia held its annual sessions on June 5 at Eden Mennonite Church.

After a year of addressing difficult issues, delegates felt positive as they looked to the future.

In a morning meditation, Willard Metzger, chair of Mennonite Church Canada’s Christian Witness Council, reminded delegates that experiences in the desert do not mean we are outside the will of God.

“Thank God for the desert,” he said, referring to Israel’s exile. “Without the desert, we could not experience refinement, refocusing or God’s mercy.”

There were some inspiring moments during reports. John Melendez, pastor of Centro de Fe y Esperanza Iglesia Menonita (Faith and Hope Centre Mennonite Church), the newest church plant in east Vancouver, praised God for doors opening in the community. Jorge Hoajaca, pastor of First United Spanish Mennonite Church, translated for him.

Hoajaca affirmed the process by which the congregation was launched—First United Spanish Mennonite, Peace Mennonite and Grace Chinese Mennonite partnered with the Evangelism and Church Development Committee to establish the church.

“We should continue to encourage this model, especially when resources are limited,” he said.

The most poignant moment occurred when Helmut Isaak, pastor of Cedar Hills Mennonite Church, talked about the loss of his wife, Katie.

“When she died there was peace,” he said, choking back tears. “The room become a holy place and she gave us a great gift: she showed us how to die, to go to God when he calls.” Isaak thanked “the family of God that is the conference” for the many ways he was supported through her illness and death.

The financial report was the surprise of the day. Delegates were told they would not be voting on a 2005 budget. The executive committee had decided to move the annual sessions for 2005 from June to February, when a budget will be presented.

Some delegates questioned whether the executive could make such a decision without a constitutional change or at least a delegate vote. By the end of the day the matter had still not been clarified. Plans are to implement this decision, with a meeting in February.

Moderator Doug Epp reminded delegates that the past year has been “interesting.” Although it was a sometimes frustrating process, through it all God has been faithful.

During the past year, delegates met twice at special meetings and in four area meetings to discuss MC British Columbia’s relationship to MC Canada and issues around homosexuality.

At the March special delegate meeting, delegates agreed that an ad hoc committee would address concerns so that the executive committee could return to revisioning for the future of MC B.C. During the next 18 months, the ad hoc committee will plan workshops on homosexuality and governance, hold more listening meetings, and work with MC Canada staff on these issues.

A letter from MC Canada* was included in the delegate package. It acknowledged the proposed process and its willingness to participate fully to strengthen relations between MC British Columbia and MC Canada.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to the proposed visioning and evaluation process drafted by the executive. It is anticipated that the process—which will include surveys, consultations with churches and individuals, the formation of a steering committee and the possible hiring of a facilitator—will be completed by 2006. The goal of the process is to have a clear and owned vision with “articulated and prioritized ministries.”

Although some called for a simpler process, delegates approved the proposal.

When Epp asked delegates what they had learned during the day, responses included the recognition that God calls the church to be faithful and that God is in the midst of healing and brokenness.

The day ended with prayer and a commissioning litany. There was a sense of hope for the continuing journey of MC British Columbia.

*View the Web version or Download the MC Canada PDF Letter [44 KB PDF file - Help with PDF files]