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An open letter to MB church leaders

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In late March 2021, an open letter circulating on the internet was brought to the attention of our MB leadership. The letter was written in response to Artisan Church’s request for release from the British Columbia Conference of MB Churches. As of publication, there were 517 names of individuals associated with the letter. The letter is presented in its entirety below, followed by a response from the National Faith and Life Team.  

Dear members and leaders of the MB church in Canada,

Greetings from your sisters and brothers across Canada!  In this season of annual general meetings (AGMs), our congregations, provinces, and national conference are gathering to make many important decisions together. We pray that God’s Spirit will encourage the churches and fill us with wisdom, grace, and peace.

These conversations can be rich and rewarding, but they can also be challenging.  We are aware that, following Artisan Church’s recent Milestone Statement on LGBTQ+ Inclusion and at their request, the BCMB churches have been asked to release Artisan Church from their membership. We do not take the recommendation lightly.

That decision is BCMB’s to make, and churches across Canada will be praying for you.  Releasing Artisan Church may be the best for everyone concerned, but the pain of that loss will still be felt beyond your borders. If you do determine that it is necessary to part ways, Artisan’s official ties with the national church and their sister churches across Canada will also be severed. Know that we will weep with you.  And if you find a way to preserve relationship and connection, we will rejoice with you.

We also know that our national conference will need to have this conversation too. As we prepare for upcoming times of gathering and decision-making, we, the undersigned, ask our leaders to create space for us to speak and listen to each other – community to community.  We want to ask questions, seek clarification, and speak the truth in love. Remembering that God welcomes all who seek truth with sincerity and integrity.

Whatever happens, we want to move forward in the trusting confidence that, ultimately, our unity is rooted in Jesus – not denominations.  So we place our hope in the God who has called us into being, and whose church we are.

Yours in the fellowship of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

NFLT Response

May 10, 2021

To the writers and signatories of the “Open Letter to MB Church Leaders” (March 27, 2021):

On behalf of the CCMBC National Faith and Life Team (NFLT), we thank you for your prayers that God’s Spirit would fill us and our MB family with wisdom, grace, and peace. We thank you also for your prayers for BCMB and for Artisan Church as BCMB processed Artisan’s request to be released from membership. We recognize that there are many different reasons for each of you to attach your name to the letter and thus we humbly acknowledge that our response here may or may not address your specific concern. We can only address what we understand from the letter as it stands. 

From the signatories to the Open Letter and from other interactions, we see that many in our MB family from across the country share a growing desire to find loving and just responses to LGBTQ+ people inside and outside our MB churches. We hear and agree with this desire and we take seriously Jesus’ command to love our neighbours as ourselves. We also hear your appeal for MB churches and conferences to create occasions for dialogue about how to better live out the gospel and demonstrate Jesus’ love to LGBQT+ people.

As the NFLT, one of our primary roles is to assist our national MB family of churches with how our Confession of Faith addresses Christian discipleship in the midst of Canada’s changing culture, and how the Confession can best be applied in local church contexts. We provide resources to ensure clarity regarding our Confession; and occasionally, if prompted to do so by our Provincial Conferences, we examine specific Articles in the Confession to ensure that their wording best expresses what we understand the Bible says on the topic (e.g., our recent proposed revision to Article 8). We are committed to assisting and resourcing our churches to more lovingly embody our shared convictions, as expressed in the Confession of Faith. We want to enable and assist with many more of these practical and pastoral conversations.

As the NFLT—with MB leaders and pastors representing churches from BC to Nova Scotia—we believe that our present Confession of Faith is faithful to Scripture; but we acknowledge that as an MB family we have often failed to live out our convictions in loving ways. Based on reading, studying, and listening, the NFLT does not think that there are adequate arguments for hosting a conversation on revising our Confession’s convictions about marriage and same-sex intimacy (Articles 10 and 11).  We believe that the best path forward is for our churches and leaders to affirm and teach what we believe are biblically faithful convictions while at the same time applying them in ways that fit the sacrificial way of Jesus in the world.

Recently we have been actively giving more time and effort to this exact question about how our churches can show Jesus’ love more effectively to LGBTQ+ people. We are creating new written resources that provide guidance for how the convictions of our Confession of Faith on sexuality and marriage can be taught and practiced in our churches more compassionately. We are making other resources (e.g., our 2013 and 2015 Sexuality Study Conferences) more accessible on our website and continuing to gather together key resources to support our churches*. We are revising the existing Confession of Faith’s “Commentary” and “Pastoral Application” sections in order to better clarify the biblical and theological foundations of our convictions and the ways that these convictions can be lived out by all of us today. We are partnering with Posture Shift to provide a more loving and missional response to LGBTQ+ people, and we are committed to fostering deliberate conversation groups with MB pastors and leaders who want to explore what application of our convictions means for their contexts. 

In order to improve our ability to listen to our larger MB family, we are introducing a new email account (listeningwell@mbchurches.ca) to receive input from you and others in our MB family about how we can love LGBTQ+ people better. These submissions will assist us as we create resources so we thank you ahead of time for your valued input. (While we promise to look at all submissions, we apologize that we are unable to provide individualized feedback.) 

Our new Collaborative Model invites any MB church member (or group of MB church members) with questions about how to apply our Confession of Faith in more loving ways to first process these with their local church who can, as needed, ask their Provincial Conference’s Faith and Life team for assistance. The NFLT encourages these local and provincial conversations because this is where relationships with members and churches are closest, where contexts are best understood, and listening can be most effective. We also are excited to hear your suggestions and reflections that grow out of these conversations, and hope you share them with us at the email noted above.

Finally, thank you again for your sincere concern evident in your communication with us. We ask for your ongoing prayers for the NFLT and our national family of churches as together we seek to be faithful to God’s Kingdom mission in the world.

Yours in Christ,

The MB National Faith and Life Team

* The NFLT will be adding resources to the website site in the coming weeks.

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