Henry Paetkau will serve as the interim executive minister of Mennonite Church Canada beginning on Oct. 16. He replaces Willard Metzger, the current executive minister whose term ends on Oct. 31, 2018. Paetkau brings with him a diversity of experience that Joint Council believes meets the current needs of MC Canada during this time of transition. Most recently, he served as area church minister for MC Eastern Canada. Previous to that, he was president of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., for eight years, and denominational minister of MC Canada for three years.
Mennonite Church Canada
Steve Heinrichs and supporters gather for prayer outside the courthouse in Vancouver during his two-day trial on Aug. 7 and 8, 2018. (Photo by Brad Leitch)
Steve Heinrichs was found guilty of criminal and civil contempt of court in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on Aug. 8, 2018, and was sentenced to seven days in provincial jail. He was immediately taken into custody and transferred to the North Fraser Institute in Coquitlam to serve his sentence. (Aug.
I’m more and more dismayed by the regionalizing trajectory we seem to be on. From national and international politics to neighbourhoods and churches, it feels like we are contracting our boundaries rather than expanding.
Above: Donations from congregations and individuals to national and area/regional church bodies. (All dollar figures adjusted to 2018 dollars.)
Often our society relies too much on numbers. In gravitating to quantification we tend to short-circuit the truth, which is nuanced and multilayered.
But when it comes to our denomination, I would like to see more numbers. Specifically, how has overall giving to area/regional churches and Mennonite Church Canada changed over time?
Seven months after the creation of a new structure for Mennonite Church Canada, the Joint Council met for its third meeting on May 5 and 6, in Toronto.
• Members approved “in principle” a budget of $2.08 million for the nationwide church’s fiscal year ending in January 2019. This exceeds the target of $1.92 million originally proposed, but is seen to be more realistic at this point in the transition. (See more about financial trends at “A picture of gradual decline.”)
After careful consideration and prayer during meetings in Toronto on May 5 and 6, the Joint Council of Mennonite Church Canada discerned with executive director Willard Metzger that it was the time to seek new leadership for the nationwide church. The Joint Council has appointed a search committee, chaired by Geraldine Balzer, to determine leadership needs and to find Metzger’s successor.
Transition plans, storytelling and navigating change were all part of the Jan. 27-28, 2018, weekend when the Mennonite Church Canada Joint Council convened at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond.
Common knowledge helps to form our identity. It creates the basis from which to describe ourselves and helps us to understand others.
Change can create a crisis of identity. When what we thought to be fact changes, it can create a distressing cloud of confusion and uncertainty. We wonder if there is anything we can know. And we no longer trust what we think we know.
“Believe the best about each other.” When delegates met for the Mennonite Church Canada assembly this past fall, there were swirls of questions, confusion, caution and qualms. From the dense detail and multiple pages on denominational restructuring that we waded through, it was this phrase of hope and encouragement that jumped out at me, and others as well.
Informing Mennonite Church B.C. congregations how they will fit into the new structure while MC Canada reorganizes was the focus of two cluster meetings in November. Meetings in Richmond on Nov. 21 and in Abbotsford on Nov. 23, 2017, drew about 20 people each, with participants from Black Creek and Kelowna joining in online for the Abbotsford meeting. “This was especially an effort to bring clarity to how donations should be given in the new structure,” said Garry Janzen, the regional church’s executive minister.
While some delegates at Special Assembly 2017 looked forward to the nationwide church restructuring process, others mourned the loss of what has been an important part of their church life.
At this juncture in Mennonite Church Canada’s history, it seems appropriate to reflect on the church’s work and the impact that work has had on the lives of MC Canada’s people across the country:
“What are the dreams that have been placed in us? What has God whispered in our ears? How has God invaded our thoughts?” asked Willard Metzger, Mennonite Canada’s executive minister (formerly executive director). Thus began his final address on Oct. 15 to those who gathered for Special Assembly 2017.
As the General Board of Mennonite Church Canada anticipates potential change following the Special Assembly, we are reminded of things done, and not done. We are deeply aware of weakness and strength. We are aware of successes and failures. We are aware that the journey is not over, and significant challenges remain.
EVI members Laura Carr-Pries and Peter Epp speak to delegates during a seminar at Assembly 2016. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
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.
We are a group of pastors from each of the five area churches who have gathered around the current Future Directions Task Force conversations in an effort to understand and respond together. We write as younger pastoral leaders with hopes for many years yet in service to the Mennonite church in Canada, and so with a significant stake in this ongoing process.
Photo by Marcello Gambetti from freeimages.com
As I’ve continued to follow the process set in motion by the Future Directions Task Force (FDTF), I’ve come to a different place with my thoughts on this major restructuring of our denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. It seems clear that, with the exception of Mennonite Church Alberta, the recommendations of the Task Force have been approved to some degree by the area churches, and that the restructuring will most likely go ahead.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the wider Mennonite church these past few weeks, as there have been discussions about the future of Mennonite Church Canada at the gatherings of each of the regional churches.
The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the Future Directions Task Force and Mennonite Church Canada leaders that was signed by all 24 Witness workers in light of the Task Force’s concluding report (commonword.ca/go/469).
Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective was published in 1995 and is still used by Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.
You may have heard about what happened at Mennonite Church USA’s convention earlier this month, specifically with regard to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ Mennonites. And, like me, you may be saddened by the hurtful interactions that occurred as our sister-church gathered.
Maybe it was the downright gorgeous summer weather before the heat wave swept into central and southeastern Canada. Maybe it was the powerfully inspired music led by Paul Dueck and his gifted musicians in University of Waterloo’s Humanities Theatre.