Option A: Being a Faithful Church (BFC) 7 remains and Mennonite Church B.C. chooses to have congregations trust each other.
Option E: MC B.C. rejects BFC 7 and chooses to leave the national church. (The background to this option is the view that BFC 7 overturns the area church’s re-covenanting process done in 2006 and 2007, as well as the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.)
These two diametrically opposed options, among a total of six, received the most first-place votes in a survey presented to congregants of MB B.C. churches late last year by the area church’s Leadership Board. The survey was designed to help the area church move forward in the wake of last summer’s national church resolution that “created space” for congregations to differ on same-sex marriage.
Almost 30 percent of MC B.C. members completed the survey. Respondents were asked to rank all six options in order of preference (from 6 points for first place to 1 point for sixth place), with the resulting percentages showing approximate evenness among the six options (between 18 percent for Option A and 15 percent for Option E).
However, raw numbers showed the greatest number of first-place votes went to Option A (195), with Option E having the second most (165). But 30 surveys were turned in with Option E marked as the only choice, as some people felt that giving credibility to options they didn’t like at all skewed the survey; those 30 were considered incomplete and were not counted in the official results. Had they been counted, Options A and E would have finished in a dead heat for first-place votes.
The other options were:
B: BFC 7 remains and MC B.C. chooses to have congregations covenant to not perform same-sex marriages and to not call pastors who are in a same-sex relationship. (17 percent, 51 first-place votes)
C: BFC 7 remains and MC B.C. chooses to leave space for individual congregations to become area-church-only members if they are unable to accept BFC 7. (17 percent, 2 first-place votes)
D: MC B.C. rejects BFC 7 but still chooses to remain networked with the national church. (17 percent, 36 first-place votes)
F: MC B.C. rejects BFC 7 and chooses to leave the national church; however, individual congregations have the option to affiliate nationally. (16 percent, 18 first-place votes)
The results of the survey and other topics, including the Future Directions process, were addressed by almost 200 interested members of area church congregations gathered at Peace Mennonite Church on Jan. 21, 2017, for an open roundtable discussion. Participants were asked to respond to the questions: “What insight or wisdom did you hear at your table?” and, “How do you hear God’s wisdom?”
Executive minister Garry Janzen encouraged the group by talking about relationships.
“I hope we believe that our relationships will still have integrity,” he said. “Let’s come as a people of God together. That would be a church that is bigger than ourselves, a beacon of hope in a changing world. . . . [Let us] continue to be in dialogue with those whom we disagree—even though it’s hard, and we have a disagreement—and not only hunker down with those of the same mind. Love forgives again and again.”
Some called for more time to process the issues.
“Not all of us here today are coming with the same background, length of time, congregational polity or conference polity,” said Barry Lesser, pastor of Yarrow United Mennonite Church. “Wisdom for us is to take the time to process those shortcomings, not assuming we need to arrive at a decision today. I think we need to follow the leading of the Spirit! Let’s take the time to talk to each other.”
The Jan. 21 meeting was a followup to one on Oct. 22, 2016, that was a time of discussion and sharing of ideas following the passing of BFC 7 at last summer’s MC Canada assembly. That decision had met with mixed reactions in MC B.C., and sparked the need for further discussion. At the October meeting, a group of 11 pastors presented an option for MC B.C. to leave the national church body.
“The responses to the [Jan. 21] meeting affirmed that this was a good format for looking at this issue,” said MC B.C. moderator Lee Dyck. “This meeting wasn’t an isolated event, but part of moving forward together.”
Janzen commented afterward: “Even though there were some challenging questions, we were able to put together reasonable responses in a team effort. I believe that it ended well, and there were a lot of affirming comments that came to us after it was over.”
Following the Jan. 21 meeting, the Leadership Board’s next step is to read through all the table responses and see if any amendments should be made to a proposal for the upcoming annual general meeting on Feb. 25, 2017, that will address MC B.C.’s relationship to, and interpretation of, Article 19 of the Confession of Faith.