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MC Canada Letter to MCBC

   

April 19, 2004

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the congregations of Mennonite Church BC:

As many of you know, MCBC and MC Canada have been working together to better discern and understand our relationship with one another in the context of some contentious issues.

In a November 2003 meeting of the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada, board members discussed the correspondence that was received from the MCBC Executive and the conversations have taken place among leaders and members of MCBC churches. This correspondence outlined a series of actions MCBC was seeking from MC Canada.

The General Board followed up with a letter of response indicating what actions we had been able to implement or were planning to address. We promised to continue working on these issues and to keep you informed. This letter is the next step in that process.

At our March meeting (Leadership Assembly, March 4-6) the General Board discussed outstanding concerns and spent time in prayer for the church in BC as you anticipated the special delegate meeting on March 13. In an April meeting (April 16-17) the General Board had further conversation in light of the outcomes of MCBC’s March 13 meeting. In summary:

  1. We recognize the work of the MCBC Executive and the ad hoc writers group in revising the recommendation which you approved on March 13. We pledge to work with the MCBC Executive and MCBC churches in finding ways to move toward greater cooperation and fuller understanding, so that together we can strengthen our witness in BC, Canada and the world.
  2. We acknowledge that we failed the churches in MCBC—especially those who had not been part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and the General Conference, but perhaps others as well—in not coming to you at the time of the transformation into the new structures. We fell short in helping you to understand what it means to be part of MC Canada and we did not get to know you well enough as we drew you in as members. Now at this late date we want to make up for that shortcoming. We offer to send staff and elected representatives to the BC churches on invitation, individually or in clusters, to facilitate conversation about what the congregations and the national church are doing to further the work of the gospel.
  3. It has been pointed out that we do not have appropriate structures in place to deal with questions of theology, ethics and practice. The agenda at this year’s assembly (Winkler 2004) includes time for preliminary delegate discussion of ways to address this, with the anticipation of developing a plan for approval at next year’s assembly (Charlotte 2005).
  4. Some of the disagreement that has been identified in our conversations is perceived to be between MCBC (and its congregations), and other area conferences (and their congregations). Leaders of all the area conferences also serve on MC Canada’s General Board. Here, and in the annual meetings of Moderators, Secretaries and Conference Ministers, we have learned to know and trust each other . We believe it would be profitable for other members of area conferences to learn to know one another. The annual assembly is one place to work at that, but we need more opportunities. We offer to facilitate a visit by representatives of other area conferences, especially from Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, to MCBC to meet with the conference and congregational leaders.
  5. There have been many expressions of concern around the perceived relationship between MC Canada and the Brethren Mennonite Council on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Issues (BMC). This was especially focused by the presence of BMC at the Assembly in St. Catharines. The General Board has spent much time in prayer and discussion about this. We have clarified our expectations for Assembly 2004 in Winkler, and we are in conversation with the leaders of BMC about this. The Report Book for the Assembly will clarify our understandings and intentions.
  6. The General Board has spent considerable time discussing what is meant by “dialogue” on matters of homosexuality. At this summer’s assembly some time has been set aside to have discussion around tables amongst the people who attend. Statements on dialogue will be included in the report book to help prepare delegates for this conversation. We invite MCBC delegates to be present and join in that discussion. We also suggest that congregations and congregational leaders use this material for discussions in their own settings. If you are able to have such a discussion, we invite you to send your insights to us.
  7. Concerns have been raised, about the role of the Canadian Mennonite in representing MC Canada and the area conferences. We have had conversations with the Canadian Mennonite Publishing Services Board and the interim editor about these concerns, and we have listened to readers and church leaders who express a variety of perspectives on their expectations of the Canadian Mennonite. A further conversation on both the funding formula and the editorial policies of Canadian Mennonite will be held this summer when the new editor, Tim Dyck, and representatives of the board meet with representatives of the area conferences and MC Canada.
  8. We note that MCBC passed a resolution to plan seminars on sexuality and church polity. We believe these are good initiatives, and we offer to participate with you in these events in whatever ways are helpful. We believe these seminars might also be profitable settings for sharing with people from other area conferences.
  9. At this year’s Moderators, Secretaries and Conference Ministers meeting (Leadership Assembly, March 5-6) participants had extended discussion on how various area conferences are working with congregations at variance with the Confession of Faith or denominational statements. There is much to learn from one another as conferences shape their individual policies.
  10. We recognize that good communication is essential for good relationships. We commit ourselves to improving our communication, including how we listen to voices from our churches as well as how we keep congregations informed of what other parts of the church are thinking and doing. One forum for engaging in discussion is the Talk-About on-line discussion board at http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/talkabouts/.
  11. MCBC has asked, in the March 13 meeting, that the General Board report to the MC Canada assembly this summer “an update of the GB response to MCBC concerns as introduced in their November 8, 2003 letter to MCBC.” The GB is committed to doing this; at this time we will also report on the discernment that MCBC has planned and how MC Canada’s GB is participating in that process.
  12. In the interest of ensuring openness in communication with all members this letter will be released to the Canadian Mennonite and posted it on the MC Canada web site (www.mennonitechurch.ca) for wider access after your annual meeting on June 5.

There is much work to be done by MCBC and its congregations and by the rest of Mennonite Church Canada – our country-wide community of congregations – in order to satisfy the intentions of the MCBC resolution and in order to achieve the goal of laying “a foundation for a stronger partnership between MCBC and MC Canada in the future.” (as stated in the MCBC resolution of March 13). It is our hope that this and subsequent reports to MCBC will contribute to that goal.

We invite you to mutual, prayerful encouragement, that we might come “to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2) and honour God through our common love and shared witness (John 13:35).

Sincerely,

(Original Signed)

Henry Krause, moderator
on behalf of the General Board