On Dec. 7 and 8, the new Joint Council of Mennonite Church Canada met for this first time. (See a follow-up to those meetings here.)
Following the re-structuring of MC Canada and its regional churches, this group replaces the former General Board and commissions. The Joint Council is made up of a moderator and representative from each regional church and a four-person national executive. Along with an executive staff group of national and regional executive ministers, the council brings regional agendas together to determine nationwide priorities for Mennonite Church Canada.
MC Eastern Canada
- Paul Wideman, moderator of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, says, “My hope is that five years from now individual congregations across the country will feel closer to each other,” in reference to the recent changes in MC Canada structure. “Although we have worked together in the nationwide structure before, this new model calls for all the regional churches to review their areas of strength and how those gifts can be brought together.” Wideman was a part of the interim council that oversaw the transition to this new structure. He has served the regional church on the executive council for the past seven years. He and his family attend Community Mennonite Fellowship in Drayton, Ont.
- Alicia Good, pastor of North Leamington United Mennonite Church, in Leamington, Ont., was appointed by the executive council to be MC Eastern Canada’s second member of the Joint Council. “The national church is important and connects congregations to each other across Canada,” she says. “We are in a time of great change within our society, church and in our denomination. It is critically important that we engage with that change and put our heads together to determine what God is calling us to be in this changing world.”
- Peter Rempel has been the moderator of MC Manitoba since 2012 and a member of Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg since 1994. His service to the church and the world has included stints with: MC Canada Witness (coordinator for Africa and Europe: 2000-2005); Mennonite World Conference (assembly program planner: 1989-90, and Global Mission Fellowship coordinator: 1998-2005); Council of International Anabaptist Ministries (coordinator: 1996-2005); Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada (research and human resources assistant: 1976-81); MCC Europe (assistant director: 1981-86); and MCC Manitoba (executive director: 2005-12, 2015-16, and interim program director: 2016).
- Gerald Gerbrandt is moderator elect of MC Manitoba. He worked for Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC)/Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) for most of his working life, serving as admissions counsellor, interim business manager, academic dean (1982-97) and president (1997-2003 at CMBC/2003-12 at CMU). He and his wife Esther have been active at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg since their marriage in 1971.
- Ken Warkentin is the moderator of MC Saskatchewan. He has degrees in agriculture economics and education. He has spent most of his working life in farming and real estate. Other experience includes serving as chair of the Swift Current Health District; finance chair of South West Crisis Services; finance chair of MC Saskatchewan; and board member/chair of Zion Mennonite Church in Swift Current, Swift Current Bible School, Rosthern Junior College and Herbert Nursing Home.
- Jacquelyn Janzen currently lives on an acreage outside of Prince Albert. “I grew up here with my family attending Grace Mennonite Church since before I can remember,” she says, adding, “I began to take an active role in our congregation at the age of 12 when I started fundraising to attend Mennonite World Conference in Zimbabwe. That trip sparked my passion for the global church. I continued to participate in the church locally and beyond by joining the Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization Committee, travelling to the Can’t Keep Quiet youth assembly in Charlotte, N.C., volunteering at Shekinah Retreat Centre in various roles, and helping to teach Sunday School.” She was baptized and officially became a member of Grace Mennonite Church on Easter Sunday 2015. She currently holds the position of board chair for Parkland Restorative Justice.
- Paul Neufeldt, moderator of MC Alberta, lives with his family in Coaldale, and he is a member of Lethbridge Mennonite Church, actively serving on the IT Committee and as a part of the sound team on Sundays and at special events. He is very passionate about MC Alberta and has been since he was a part of the Youth Leadership Team from 1998 to 2001. He moved on to become chair of the Camp Valaqua Committee from 2005 to 2011. He joined the executive of MC Alberta as vice-moderator in March 2017, and then took over the role of moderator after Dan Jack's untimely death last July. During this time of change, both regionally and nationwide, he recognizes that it will be a challenge but one that he looks to with hope for the future.
- Vince Friesen is a member of First Mennonite Church in Edmonton and vice-moderator of MC Alberta. “My hope is that the new structures will engage congregations in a positive, constructive way, allowing for our churches to flourish,” he says. “In particular, I hope that our local, regional and nationwide church will remain relevant for our young generations and the generations to come. I hope that we can all come closer to God. I ask for congregants to be patient as we are working to iron out all of the various aspects of the new structure. Constructive criticism is always welcome. If someone feels very strongly about some issue, he or she should get involved at the regional church level and help improve the workings of the church.”
MC British Columbia
- Lee Dyck, MC B.C.’s moderator, says, “As we live into a new structure as MC Canada, we need to move nimbly and with a great degree of flexibility and creativity, encouraging the art of generosity, service and love for the church, it's people and the God who energizes it. We need people to be championing the church, to be cheering for it as though it were their favourite sports team. Fly the flags! Raise the banners! Sing the anthems!”
- Betty Loewen, a member of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, was appointed to be MC B.C.’s second member on the Joint Council. She retired one year ago from a career in nursing. She is on the Ministry Team at her church, and has served on various ad hoc committees there as well. She was on the Church Health Committee for MC. B.C., as well on the General Board for MC Canada in the past. She is curious about where God will lead MC Canada in this next phase of our future.”
The following three elected officials, along with one other Joint Council member, form an executive committee to advise the MC Canada executive minister between meetings:
- Calvin Quan is moderator of MC Canada. As a professional engineer, he has led product and process development teams in technology companies for 20 years. A member of the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church for 30 years, he has volunteered in various leadership roles, including chair of the church board, and vice chair of MC Eastern Canada’s finance commission. In the past year, he served as moderator of MC Canada, chair of the Interim Council, and as board treasurer of a community based preschool. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Toronto and lives in the city with his young family.
- Geraldine Balzer is assistant moderator of MC Canada. She envisions an MC Canada as a nationwide organization that supports the work of a diverse group of congregations, and works toward embracing cultural, linguistic, ethnic and theological diversity, building on its strengths and learning from its weaknesses. She wishes to work toward reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada. She is an alumna of Rosthern Junior College (RJC), Sask., and Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont. She currently works as a professor of education at the University of Saskatchewan, teaching in the areas of English Language Arts and Curriculum theory with a focus on post-colonialism and decolonization strategies. She has served on a variety of boards, including RJC and Grebel.
- Allan Hiebert is secretary/treasurer and chair of MC Canada’s Financial, Policy and Audit Committee. He holds an MBA from the University of Manitoba and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Alberta. He has experience in leading large teams in engineering software design, development, support and training, and was an officer of a publicly traded company for 12 years. He has volunteered as chair, vice-chair, board member and finance trustee with numerous organizations, including the Calgary MCC Thrift Shop, Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, and Foothills Mennonite Church, where he has been a member since 1997). He has served as treasurer and member of the General Board of MC Canada since July 2016.
Read more on the new Joint Council, http://canadianmennonite.org/stories/challenges-and-excitement
The new Joint Council of MC Canada is composed of, from left to right, front row: Ken Warkentin, moderator, MC Saskatchewan; Paul Neufeldt, moderator, MC Alberta; Lee Dyck, moderator, MC B.C.; Paul Wideman, moderator, MC Eastern Canada; and Peter Rempel, moderator, MC Manitoba; and back row: Jacquelyn Janzen, MC Saskatchewan rep; Vince Friesen, interim MC Alberta rep; Betty Loewen, MC B.C. rep; Calvin Quan, MC Canada moderator; Alicia Good, MC Eastern, Canada rep; Allan Hiebert, secretary/treasurer; Gerald Gerbrandt, MC Manitoba moderator elect and MC Manitoba interim rep; and Geraldine Balzer, assistant moderator, MC Canada. (Photo by Ryan Siemens)