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A time to uproot

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Following many meetings and discussions, the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church in Manitoba is ending its participation on Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) boards.

This decision was made at a Sommerfeld church brotherhood meeting in November.

“One of the great things about MCC is that we are an example of churches working together and building bridges to connect people and ideas across cultural, political and economic divides,” said Ron Janzen, executive director of MCC Manitoba.

“We are saddened by the church’s decision to withdraw its membership because Anabaptist and Mennonite churches own MCC and form the ties that bind us together.”

When Janzen met with church leaders to discuss this decision, the leaders talked about two issues that had created dissent within their congregations in recent years.

One of the issues is MCC in Canada and the U.S. adopting the Mennonite World Conference’s shared convictions as the faith statement for MCC in 2009. These shared convictions were adopted by leaders of the global Anabaptist community in 2006.

The other issue is what was seen as inappropriate presentations at an educational conference on equipping churches to nurture healthy sexuality. MCC Manitoba along with three Mennonite churches and three other agencies organized the event in 2010.

“At our meeting with the Sommerfeld church leaders we acknowledged our mutual sadness over this parting,” said Janzen. “We reflected on God’s word in Colossians 3:12–15 which speak of peace, forgiveness, unity and love. We prayed that over all these things we would put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (vs 14).”

Janzen, who took over the leadership of MCC Manitoba in September, said as he reviews the notes of meetings with Sommerfelder leaders over the years, he feels MCC has made efforts to resolve conflicts arising from these issues and others.

This parting of ways reminds him of Ecclesiastes 3: There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…. A time to plant and a time to uproot….a time to tear down and a time to build.

“We spent time on binding and unity – with this decision it is time to move forward as the Holy Spirit moves in each of us,” said Janzen. “It is sad but there is also hope as it takes us down new paths of possibilities.

“This frees people who are committed to MCC to double their efforts and frees those who feel strongly about leaving MCC to move forward as they fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.”

He acknowledges the valuable contributions that representatives of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church have made on MCC boards over the years and anticipates that members from Sommerfeld congregations may wish to continue serving on MCC boards as members at large.

Although the church’s official representation on boards is ending, Janzen said it is his understanding that the church leadership is not discouraging its congregations from supporting MCC through activities such as thrift shops, relief sales, and meat canning.

—Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada.

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