Assembly 2016 may become known by delegates as a watershed event.
By turns intense and emotional, joyful and worshipful, the gathered delegates made significant decisions that will impact the Mennonite Church Canada body for years to come. They met in Saskatoon, Sask., July 6 to 10, 2016.
On Thursday evening, July 7, delegates voted in favour of repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery—a settler teaching that has marginalized and taken rights away from indigenous people for centuries. While much education on the Doctrine of Discovery has already begun among congregations, much more is required.
On Saturday morning, July 9, 85 percent of the delegates voted in favour of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) recommendation to create space and test alternative understandings to traditional beliefs on same-sex relationships. Congregations who are asked to bless same sex marriages will now be given space to do so, even as the national family of faith continues testing to see if such discernment is a nudging of the Spirit of God.
On Saturday evening MC Canada moderator Hilda Hildebrand announced the results of the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF) recommendation, which passed with 94 percent vote. The vote authorizes the board to develop more concrete plans to re-structure national and area churches into a simpler, more integrated body. Leaders will come back to delegates with those plans by 2018 or sooner.
A following resolution to thank and dissolve the Task Force also passed.
Delegates processed an amended resolution on Palestine and Israel on Saturday evening, in response to a plea from Palestinian Christians that “the global church come alongside the Palestinian people as they suffer under Israel’s 49-year military occupation of their lands.” The amendment included acknowledgment of the suffering of Jewish people in the conflict, and a desire to work with Jewish organizations in Canada as well.
Delegates voiced concerns about what this statement would mean for relations with Jewish people and organizations in Canada and observed that the church has been historically complicit in both anti-Semitism and Christian Zionism.
The resolution passed after further discussion, with some speakers noting the weight of making this decision with too little knowledge or discussion.
The motion was carried, though some delegates abstained since they have not yet consulted their congregations on the matter.
Four nominees were acclaimed to their offices: Calvin Quan, of Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, will be the new moderator; Allan Hiebert (Calgary), treasurer; Harold Peters-Fransen (Winnipeg), recording secretary; Don Rempel Boshman (Winnipeg), chair of Witness.
Updated version of this story was posted at 4:30 pm. EST, July 11, 2016.
To read the discernment documents, the daily news sheet and Twitter feed, or to watch video of the plenary and worship sessions, go to the Mennonite Church Canada website. The hashtag #menno2016 points to Assembly 2016 coverage on social media.
More about the discussions at Assembly 2016:
Hope through lament and loss (overview)
‘We are all responsible for what happens next’ (Future Directions)
Delegates vote to allow space for differences (Being a Faithful Church)
Action seeks solution for Israelis and Palestinians (Israel-Palestine resolution)
Delegates have spoken (a word from Willard Metzger)