Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 15
July 31, 2006


God’s people tomorrow

The question of who we are often comes up at assemblies. There was an illustration of this in the discussion at the Edmonton 2006 assembly on selecting a foundation scripture verse for the national church. [See pages 6 to 11.]

This question previously was considered by delegates two years ago at the Winkler assembly. At that time, delegates asked the General Board of the national church to choose “an appropriate scripture motto” for the church and bring it to delegates at the 2006 assembly. In 2004, there was some puzzlement and frustration as to why this issue had even arisen since I Corinthians 3:11 had been used as the foundation scripture for many years by the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC), two of predecessors of Mennonite Church Canada.

“When did we lose this as our scriptural passage?” one person asked in Winkler.

At Edmonton, the General Board proposed a rotating series of verses to be changed every two assemblies. This is different than what was passed in 2004, and a number of delegates quite rightly objected to this. Delegates eventually passed (for the second time) the resolution to have a single foundational verse, and, in addition, approved the idea of a rotating verse to be changed every two assemblies. But in the discussion on which verse to choose, Ontario delegate Fred Martin reminded the group that I Corinthians 3:11 is only an obvious choice for part of what is now Mennonite Church Canada. [See page 27 for more.]

“I speak against this motion,” he said. “I think this verse represents one stream of our history very strongly, but I don’t think it represents the total integrated reality that MC Canada is now. I think it would be a good exercise to go the leadership assembly again and let them work with some of the suggestions that they were given for a single verse and come up with something new and fresh, and represents the integrated conference.”

Two large groups of churches now part of MC Canada—the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, and the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference—were not part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada until quite recently and had no tradition of a foundational verse. These two, along with the Conference of United Mennonite Churches in Ontario, joined in 1988 to form what is now MC Eastern Canada.

Now, I don’t think many in MC Eastern Canada would object to I Corinthians 3:11 in principle. It’s a central belief of Christianity and is a particularly important Mennonite verse. However, Martin’s comment should be a reminder that MC Canada should not be seen as just CMC by another name. It’s a new organization with a different make-up of churches.

That MC Canada is a new organization has been very evident in looking back over past assemblies. We’ve devoted a huge amount of time to structural adjustments and matching bylaw changes; weathered a financial crisis caused by accounting mistakes and a large drop in donations in 2001-03; developed an Identity and Purpose Statement; established a Faith and Life Committee; and voted to change membership rules to be more like the way it was for CMC.

The motion on a peace tax alternative in Edmonton was a refreshing and exciting change from the internal focus of so many recent assemblies. I dearly want the church to be engaging the wider world with the good news of Jesus Christ, in the many forms that takes. The theme for the Edmonton assembly was “God’s People Now!” If we are going to be God’s people for tomorrow, this is our task.

—Tim Miller Dyck

Back to Canadian Mennonite home page