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A Reflection on Joint Council

posted 10 May 2018, 18:38 by Mennonite Church Alberta
A Reflection on Joint Council
By Brenda Tiessen-Wiens
MCA Moderator

May 4-6 Joint Council
 
Taking on a new role inevitably involves a round of “firsts.” The May 4-6 weekend was, for Margaret Kruger-Harder (MCA Representative) and myself, our first Joint Council (JC) meeting. This gathering of Moderators, Regional Church Representatives, Executive Council members and Executive Ministers was a time to learn about what’s happening in our regions, as well as to work at the concerns and responsibilities that we share as a national body. One of the affirmations that has emerged is the wide-spread sense that the regions are working together and connecting in ways that have exceeded initial hopes. The sense of covenant between regions is strong, and we’re learning that resourcing can happen in a variety of ways. The value of face-to-face gatherings is also seen as core to our understanding of church, and we already look forward to our nation-wide gathering in BC in July 2019.
 
As we explore what it means to be church together, there will naturally be aspects where we differ not only as regions but as individuals. Our discussion about changes in governance at AMBS is an example of this. One agenda item was a bylaw change proposed by the AMBS board to allow for some board members without MC Canada or MC USA membership. Final approval was deferred for a follow-up meeting in order to receive further background information. In our discussion we expressed our strong sense of ownership in AMBS and deep commitment to Anabaptist Mennonite faith formation and training. What governance will best achieve this is not always easy to discern. In our discussions about International Witness, we affirmed guidelines for engaging in new ministries and for how those will be supported. While uncertainties still remain for some workers, some congregations have found the new model of relational funding to be an exciting way to engage directly with workers and with faith groups in other locations.
With some topics, we continue to struggle with how to speak with a nationwide voice while at the same time recognizing our congregations are not all of one mind. Joint Council’s conversation around the participation of MC Canada’s Director of Indigenous-Settlers Relations, Steve Heinrichs, in an ecumenical protest of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline highlighted our varying regional perspectives and differences. Our faith in Christ calls us to work towards reconciliation of broken relationships, and as a larger church body we have made commitments to nurture justice-based relationships of peace between peoples of settler and indigenous background.  It has been a long journey to engage in healing with Indigenous people, and as we seek to honour the findings of the TRC, we find ourselves in positions where we attempt to balance and respect diverse theological, cultural, environmental, social and economic concerns. As we work through this in our local, regional and national churches, we find ourselves in uncomfortable discussions where there isn't consensus on expected or hoped-for outcomes.
 
While the overarching sentiment at JC was positive and forward-looking, our meetings ended on a somber note as we processed the decision that Willard Metzger will not be continuing with MC Canada past this fall. The last several years of envisioning a new church structure have not been easy, but Willard’s prayerful and pastoral leadership and presence helped to guide us to where we are today. And so the transition process will continue through the coming year. As we continue to move forward we are encouraged by the covenant that holds us together as regional churches, reflecting a strong commitment to respond to the leading of God’s spirit. In spite of the areas where there will inevitably continue to be uncertainty, the sense that God is, indeed, present and guiding us provides us with an underlying sense of calm and assurance.
 
Brenda Tiessen-Wiens
Moderator, MCA
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