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Come to Canada, Canadian delegates urge


“We sometimes distance ourselves periodically, but we still are part of the family,” said delegate David Martin about the future of joint MC Canada/MC USA assemblies.

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July 8, 2005
-by Tim Miller Dyck, Canadian Mennonite

Winnipeg, Man.— Both adult delegates and youth repeated calls for strong connections between Canadian and US churches at Friday afternoon’s Canadian delegate session — preferably including another joint assembly held in Canada.

Alternate formats were backed by several table groups: “Maybe we can do a joint gathering for worship, workshops, drama and music every six years modeled after Mennonite World Conference and have a Mennonite North America Conference,” suggested delegate Ray Friesen.

There were also repeated wishes for the next joint assembly to be held in Canada or closer to the border. “The biggest thing is to keep the conference more northerly. There are a lot of kids who would have come if it wasn’t so far,” one youth reported. “We are open to meeting together in the future but only if there is a real reciprocal relationship. The next meeting should be in Canada,” stated delegate Craig Frere for his table group.

Finances, geographic accessibility and little overlap in agenda were all mentioned as barriers for shared assemblies. (Besides financial costs for those that are here, delegate attendance is the lowest it has been in years—207 congregational delegates are present, just seven more than needed for quorum.)

Despite the practical concerns, there was warm appreciation expressed for this assembly. “We really learned a lot from each other,” one delegate reported. Skills in the U.S. church at multicultural integration and church planning among minority groups were two examples raised.

Along with assemblies, delegates also suggested shared promotion of programs, professional associations, articles in church magazines, publications, sister church partnerships, and joint education of pastors as ways to maintain ties.

In other business, delegates wrestled with what expectations of MC Canada church membership should be. A small number of churches have asked for the option to be members of their area conference only, not the national church body.

The table groups that reported were generally supportive of more flexible models of membership. “Within a family, we have different levels of participation. We don’t all attend the family reunions. We sometimes distance ourselves periodically, but we still are part of the family,” said delegate David Martin.

Delegates also unanimously approved the creation of a Faith and Life Committee to provide national leadership on theology, ethics, polity and church practice.