In a letter dated Feb. 4, Tofield Mennonite Church notified the congregations of Mennonite Church Alberta that it had voted 94 percent in favour of withdrawing its membership from the area church. Congregational chair Brian Goerzen wrote that the congregation feels the basis for unity in the area church has been broken.
“We have come to understand that we view the Scriptures—the relevance, power, authority of the Scriptures themselves, and what they say about God, mankind, sin and salvation—very differently from the conference,” his letter stated, citing II Timothy 3:14-17.
Tofield Mennonite began with Soviet Mennonite immigrants meeting in homes in 1929, and officially organized itself as a congregation in 1936 as Schoenwieser Mennonite Gemeinde zu Tofield. In 1950, the language of worship switched from German to English.
Despite the high percentage of members voting to leave, the decision to leave was a difficult one for the church, as there are many family connections and much shared history between congregants and the larger Mennonite church.
The letter shared this pain: “Please know that MC Alberta and its members are in our prayers.”
Dan Graber, MC Alberta’s area church minister, lamented the withdrawal, but echoed Goerzen’s words. “We wish them God’s blessing,” he said.
Correction, posted April 23, 2015
Tofield Mennonite Church, Alta., began with Russian Mennonite immigrants. It was named the Schoenseer Mennoniten Gemeinde zu Tofield until the name changed to Tofield Mennonite Church in 1960. In 1957, Abe Baergen was designated to serve the congregation with an English service once per month. Incorrect information gleaned from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (www.gameo.org). Canadian Mennonite regrets the error.