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Action seeks solution for Israelis and Palestinians

Delegates vote on Israel-Palestine resolution at the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon, Sask. (Photo by Matt Veith.)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 23, 2016

On July 9, 2016, a clear majority of delegates to Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016 voted in favour of a resolution seeking non-violent solutions to injustices in Israel-Palestine. Only one of 343 registered delegates voted against the resolution. (The resolution can be seen below.)

A similar resolution arose at the 2014 assembly, but was tabled for further work. A motion at the 2011 Assembly encouraged congregations to become more aware of Palestine-Israel issues.

Taking down our harps

Dick Benner
Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jul 20, 2016

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps” (Psalm 137: 1-2).

These familiar words from the Psalmist, cited by Cindy Wallace as she opened the worship of Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon, persisted as a lament throughout the five-day event that brought together more than 500 delegates and congregants from across Canada.

Hope through lament and loss

Randell Neudorf, pastor of the Commons church in Hamilton, Ont., speaks in favour of the resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Neudorf spoke of wanting his son, who has an Ojibway background, to grow up  in a land that sees him and his people as full members of the human family. The Doctrine of Discovery is an historical belief that lands without Christian inhabitants were empty and open to the predation of Christian princes. The Doctrine continues to influence the law about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Feature | By Dave Rogalsky | Jul 20, 2016

“A season of change,” lament, fear, anxiety, confession, uncertainty, safe space, brave space . . . hope.

Ready for God’s response?

With poetic grace and an invitational tone, Cynthia Wallace of Warman (Sask.) Mennonite Church, pictured on the screen,  challenged Assembly 2016 participants at the July 6 worship service to dream boldly and then asked if they were ready for God’s response. (Mennonite Church Canada photo)

Focus On | By Dan Dyck | Jul 20, 2016

With poetic grace and an invitational tone, Cynthia Wallace of Warman (Sask.) Mennonite Church challenged Assembly 2016 participants at the July 6 worship service to dream boldly and then asked if they were ready for God’s response.

Using the “God~Faith~People” theme text from Jeremiah 31, Wallace characterized the Old Testament story as filled with surprises and “tenacious hope.” God’s people in Jeremiah’s day expected neither destruction nor a new covenant.

Covenant and law: A matter of relationship

Over two days at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016, ‘God~Faith~People,’ keynote speaker Safwat Marzouk addressed the topic of covenant that was central to the theme text, Jeremiah 31:33. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Focus On | By Deborah Froese | Jul 20, 2016

Over two days at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016, “God~Faith~People,” keynote speaker Safwat Marzouk addressed the topic of covenant that was central to the theme text, Jeremiah 31:33.

During the July 7 worship service, he explained that covenant is an agreement of mutual obligation, in which each party has the ability and responsibility to uphold his or her side.

Making a case for community

In a seminar entitled ‘Running towards community,’ participants study the Schleitheim Confession to discover what the seven articles have in common. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Focus On | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

“Too often Mennonites have focussed on disunity.”

With these words, Gareth Brandt began his seminar, “Running towards community,” and he then showed how Mennonite/Anabaptist history is pockmarked with splits and schisms. But Brandt said that he sees these splits as inevitable. “If everybody has a voice, then you’re going to have these splits,” he said of Mennonite polity.

‘Young adults don’t need the church’

Chris Brnjas of PiE leads the ‘Young adults don’t need the church’ seminar at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Focus On | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

The seminar title started in response to the young adult “problem.”

“[‘Young adults don’t need the church’] is not meant to be a defiance statement, but a statement of fact,” said presenter Chris Brnjas, a co-founder of  Pastors in Exile (PiE) in southwestern Ontario. “The church is no longer a central force in the lives of young adults.”

The future lies in the past

There is room for laughter in biblical storytelling, as these participants discovered during Ken Quiring’s seminar at Assembly 2016. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Focus On | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Ken Quiring is convinced that the future of biblical literacy lies in video. This may be one reason why he and others like him have joined a growing movement known as “biblical storytelling

“We are reading print less and less, but we are doing more and more video,” said the pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Brandon, Man., during an Assembly 2016 seminar entitled “Back to the future: Telling Scripture by heart,” whose goal was to “demonstrate why Scripture has become, for me, an oral, physical and multi-sensory experience.”

‘We are all responsible for what happens next’

Delegates, including Julia Thiessen of Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg at the microphone, line up to speak about the Future Directions Task Force recommendation to realign Mennonite Church Canada in light of declining donations to the denomination. (Photo by Matt Veith)

Focus On | By Deborah Froese | Jul 20, 2016

Although a concrete picture of what Mennonite Church Canada might look like in two years isn’t yet determined, 318 delegates voted to approve in principle the direction proposed by the Future Directions Task Force to develop a more integrated nationwide church body; 21 voted against, and 4 ballots were spoiled.

Following General Board moderator Hilda Hildebrand’s announcement of the ballot results, Aldred Neufeldt, chair of the now-defunct Task Force, answered a question that surfaced frequently leading up to today: What’s next?

A vision for the MHC Archives and Gallery

Korey Dyck, the director of the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives and Gallery in Winnipeg, speaks about the organization’s vision at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Focus On | By Aaron Epp | Jul 20, 2016

Did you know that if all of the textual records and photographs in Winnipeg’s Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) Archives and Gallery were stacked on top of each other, they would be taller than the CN Tower?

That was one of the facts Korey Dyck shared during a seminar entitled “History matters: A new vision for the Mennonite Heritage Centre” that he led.

Dyck, as the centre’s director, said there is something for everyone in the archives: “We can find stories that everyone will appreciate.”

Delegates vote to allow space for differences

Usher Pat Gerber-Pauls gathers the ballot bags from delegates during the vote on same-sex marriage on July 9, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Focus On | By Dan Dyck and Dick Benner | Jul 20, 2016

Nine years of careful study, sensitive listening, deep engagement by many, but not all, congregations—and innumerable meetings of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) Task Force—led to a large majority vote in favour of creating space for congregations to differ from one another when it comes to same-sex relationships.

With permission to allow abstentions, 277 delegates voted “yes,” 50 voted “no,” and 23 abstained in their response to an amended BFC recommendation that took into account some concerns from MC B.C. about language.

The place of a ‘confession’ in church life

Barb Draper
Focus On | By Barb Draper | Jul 20, 2016

In his seminar “Confessions of faith: Sources of unity or division,” Karl Koop told the story of 3,000 Mennonites who met during a five-hour meeting in Amsterdam in 1639 to bring together three Mennonite groups that had been severely divided.

Looking to the future of Canadian Mennonite

Canadian Mennonite editor Dick Benner, right, speaks with Dean Peachey during the Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service luncheon held on July 7 at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Focus On | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Canadian Mennonite has been around in some form or other for 62 years, and as editor Dick Benner pointed out, the Mennonite church in Canada has witnessed many changes during that time.

How the church can move creation care forward

The Riel Gentlemen’s Choir, led by Jesse Krause, right, sings ‘Carbon Dioxide,’ one of the humorous songs about climate change and creation care that they brought to ‘Caring for God’s good creation,’ a churchwide consultation on creation care and responding to climate change, held at Wanuskawin Heritage Park on July 10, 2016. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

Focus On | By Dave Rogalsky | Jul 20, 2016

Following on the heels of the delegate sessions for Mennonite Church Canada, about 40 interested leaders got together at Wanuskawin Heritage Park in Saskatoon to think about how to move forward the agenda of creation care, particularly the issue of climate change, in Mennonite congregations across Canada

‘We’re not your stereotypical teenagers’

Daniel Ayala, left, and Jonah Thiessen participate in #CovenantCrew2.0. (Photo by Krista Loewen)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jul 20, 2016

When an intense rainstorm started just as Mennonite Church Canada Youth Assembly 2016 participants set up their tents during the first afternoon of their canoe trip, organizer Krista Loewen was apprehensive.

Laments and hopes for MC Canada

EVI members Laura Carr-Pries and Peter Epp speak to delegates during a seminar at Assembly 2016. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Jul 20, 2016

When Laura Carr-Pries got together with fellow students at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg last year to discuss the challenges facing Mennonite Church Canada, she wasn’t sure how things would go.

Out of those discussions, she and her peers formed the Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI) in response to MC Canada’s Future Directions Task Force. EVI had a strong presence at the MC Canada Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon from July 6 to 10, 2016, and led one of the event’s seminars.

Readers write: July 25, 2016 issue

Viewpoints | Jul 20, 2016

Use land for food production, not burying the dead

For some time, I have wondered whether we are good stewards when we use precious real estate to bury our dead. I do not now own real estate, and I question why, upon my death, I should own a piece of land for the next thousand years. Thousands of hectares of land hold grave markers, pay no taxes, require maintenance and are all but forgotten. I will give up my little plot to grow food for a starving world.

Delegates have spoken

Willard Metzger
Viewpoints | By Willard Metzger | Jul 20, 2016

In a much-anticipated assembly, delegates have clearly spoken on behalf of Mennonite Church Canada. After an eight-year Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process, delegates approved the BFC7 recommendation with an 85 percent majority. This is clear affirmation for seeking a way forward together in responding to committed same-sex relationships.

Healthy diversity

Melissa Miller
Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Jul 20, 2016

“What does a healthy congregation look like?” I asked a pastor friend recently. He responded by telling a story of how he had led his congregation through a contentious issue. In the process, people spoke openly of their views, listened carefully, and, in the end, came to a satisfactory understanding about how to live with their differences. “A healthy congregation,” he concluded, “is able to take part in honest, respectful discussions and live with the tension of a variety of views.”

Joy proposition: Give till it feels good

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen
Viewpoints | By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen | Jul 20, 2016

In my childhood home, we had a unique red velveteen bag. When you pressed on the bag in the right place, you heard the sound of someone laughing, really guffawing. The recording went on for at least a full minute and you could almost hear the person wiping the tears from his eyes.

The pursuit of truth (Pt. 7)

Troy Watson
Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Jul 20, 2016

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The truth is more important than the facts.”

I agree, although I’m not sure that I could explain why. What is the difference between truth and fact?

Old Order Mennonite farmer

Photo by David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Viewpoints | By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Jul 20, 2016

An Old Order Mennonite farmer in Waterloo Region, Ont., works the fields by horsepower in 1950, much as his 19th-century counterparts would have done. We take the cycle of the seasons for granted, yet in 1816 Mennonite settlers in Upper Canada (now Ontario) experienced “the year without a summer.” When Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in 1815, average global temperatures decreased by up to 0.7 C. Waterloo Region experienced seven heavy frosts in June and July of the next year.

Exploring tough subjects and intense spaces

‘Tough subjects and intense spaces’ seminar leader David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. He led a seminar at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Web First | By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Jul 20, 2016

David Driedger enjoys challenging stereotypes, pushing boundaries and making people think. “[He] often pushes against established practices and the beliefs of the church from the inside,” Ben Borne said, introducing Driedger as a speaker who loves the church and engages with tough subjects and discussions.

Driedger said, “I sign up to lead [seminars] because I want to learn a topic . . . to build capacity and find the tools to engage.”

Good news sometimes comes in small packages

Lois Siemens, centre, and Sharon Schultz present a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church” at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. Looking on is Erwin Warkentin. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Web First | By Donna Schulz | Jul 20, 2016

Someone once asked Sharon Schultz if she became pastor of Eyebrow (Sask.) Mennonite Church in order to help the church to die well. Schultz did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that “I don’t think that’s why God brought us here.”

Schultz and Lois Siemens, who is pastor of Superb Mennonite Church near Kerrobert, Sask., led a seminar entitled “Proclaiming the good news in town and country: Stories from the rural church.”

As Schultz pointed out, “There are differences between rural and city churches. These are some of the ways we share good news in our context.”

‘Partnering with God’s healing and hope’

At an Assembly 2016 seminar Daniel Horne and Jason Martin invite attendees to participate in the work of Mennonite Church Canada Witness by making donations that would uncover photos of MC Canada Witness workers. By the end of the assembly, the poster was completely uncovered, and, with matching donations, more than $10,000 was raised for Witness work around the world. (Photo by Matt Veith)

Web First | By Dan Dyck | Jul 20, 2016

That 14 people out of 38 who registered showed up for the “Partnering with God’s healing and hope” seminar may have indicated some wearying of Assembly 2016 participants. But those who came paid close attention to the presentation and asked good questions about what a mission partnership with a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker or ministry means.

Presenters Daniel Horne and Jason Martin shared a roundup of all 30 current workers in ministries and pre-emptively addressed the most common questions: What is a partnership and how does it work?

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