MB Herald Digest | April 2023

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Jesus shines through brokenness
Chook Reid VOLUME 62, NO. 4 „ THE MB HERALD INTERVIEW — MARK BAKER „ HOLY SPIRIT—FILL US WITH YOUR PEACE/SHALOM! „ WORDS OF COMFORT IN CHAOTIC TIMES Digest APRIL 2023 MBHERALD.COM More than sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada

Q: How do you speak well about marriage with your neighbours, knowing that marriage can be difficult?

A: Check out the Faith and Life online pamphlets about marriage and family. www.mennonitebrethren.ca/ nflt-resources


Mennonite Brethren Herald Digest is digitally published monthly by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, primarily for the use of its members, to build a Canadian MB community of faith. We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world. However, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the church as a whole.


APRIL, 2023 | VOLUME 62, NO. 4


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“I believe it is true that we are not only diverse, we have become fragmented. In family terms, it is not unfair to say that we have become disconnected to an unhealthy extent.

Read Brian Cooper’s article on page 18.

8 13





Stephanie Christianson



Dan Chook Reid

THE CROWN Philip A. Gunther



Sharing the life and story of Mennonite Brethren in Canada





From the editor

Over the last few weeks, my son and I have been rehearsing our parts in our church’s Good Friday (Easter) cantata. By the time you read this, the cantata will be in our rearview, and we can get back to whatever else we do with our spare time. At 19, he doesn’t hang out with his dad as much as he once did. So I am grateful for the evenings we spent in biblical costumes and fake facial hair. Even more thankful for the times he helped me sharpen my lines and how he brought insight into what language best conveys the Easter messages of hope, salvation and grace.

How deliberate are we in choosing words of hope and affirmation? How often do we take inspiration from Jesus in framing our conversations or self-talk? In her devotional, on page 29, Ontario pastor Connie Maier shares how her mother’s passing and the following grief causes her to rethink how words can bring comfort amid the turmoil.

In his essay entitled “All in the family?” MB Seminary’s Brian Cooper unpacks how our perception of an MB Church family has developed and challenges us to be, first and foremost, a spiritual family “united not simply in a common commitment to Jesus, but in a common understanding of what that commitment entails.”

This issue is rich with content, one of the lengthiest issues I’ve worked on. There’s so much to take in, but I do not want you to miss Dan Chook Reid’s testimony starting on page 15. In “Jesus shines through brokenness,” Dan shares how the Ontario Conference of MB Churches and his family at Bytown Community Church sustained and supported him through a church plant interrupted by his multiple cancer diagnoses.

I am more than impacted—I’m downright gut-punched sometimes by the depth of human suffering I read in the pages of this magazine. And then, a turn of the page reveals a story of reconciliation and healing, lives renewed through the grace of Jesus.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the April issue of MB Herald Digest Thanks to the readers and churches who support us by reading and sharing the MB story daily. It’s an honour to serve this community of churches.

God bless.

Free your staff from the burden of bookkeeping! STRESSED? 1-888-669-6575 legacy@mbchurches.ca ccmbclegacyfund.com CCMBC Legacy Fund’s Accounting Services strives to provide our MB churches and conferences with highquality financial information in a timely manner. For more information and/or if you are interested in registering your MB church or provincial conference for CCMBC Legacy Fund Accounting Services , please visit our website or contact our office at 1-888-669-6575. INVESTING IN KINGDOM GROWTH TOGETHER


ONMB Convention

February 24-25

MBCM Assembly

March 3-4

AEFMQ Convention

March 21 & 25

SKMB Assembly

March 24-25

ABMB Convention

April 14-15

BCMB Convention

April 28-29

Pastors Credentialing Orientation

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ICOMB (International Community of Mennonite Brethren) invites you to participate in a fundraising event for the global MB Church. This dinner event with international speakers will be at Bakerview Church, at 6 pm in Abbotsford, BC. For more information, contact victorw@icomb.org

Consider joining us and investing in the next generation of leaders in our global MB family.

International Community of Mennonite Brethren


Q&R corner

This new MB Herald Digest column provides responses to questions that readers may have about CCMBC and its work collaborating with provincial MB conferences in areas of spiritual health and theology, leadership development, mission, and organizational health in order to achieve the overall mission: “To cultivate a community and culture of healthy disciple-making churches and ministries, faithfully joining Jesus in his mission.” If you would like to contribute a question, please send it to questions@mbchurches.ca

Please note that we will not be using your name in the MB Herald Digest in order to respect those who prefer anonymity. There may not be space to respond to every question—and sometimes we might not really have the ability or authority to respond to some questions (for example, those that relate more directly to one of our provincial MB conferences or to a local church leadership). We apologize in advance if we are unable to publish a response to your specific question.

Thanks, A., for your great question. It would require a much lengthier response to do this justice so thanks for your grace. First of all, all of us owe a significant debt to the scientific (and specifically medical) advances that we benefit from.

We have a better understanding of God’s beautiful world and a better understanding about how to respond to illness and disease which at this point is still part of this beautiful world. We recognize and respect that science/medicine is a God-given means to discover some of God’s truth.

But your question is obviously about more than this. If I’ve understood you correctly, you are asking about what kind of contribution medical

research should have in our understanding of Christian ethics—and whether there is a point where we would (or should) revise our ethical expectations around sexuality and gender for example in light of recent research?

Our understanding of the path to “life” (physical, relational, spiritual) involves responding to God’s gracious invitation to forgiveness; the receiving of a new identity (child of God, citizen of God’s eternal Kingdom, member of the body of Christ); a release from bondage to sin, Satan, and death; and an invitation to walk in the way of Jesus within a community. This path to life has implications for everything Christians

At what point does science, and in this case the medical profession, provide compelling enough evidence that it could be a participant in the dialogue and help inform our interpretation of scripture?

do vocationally, economically, socially, sexually, etc. As MBs, we have given first place to Scripture to hear Jesus guide us on this path to life (e.g., Article 2—“We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice”). By means of our community hermeneutic, the MB Confession of Faith summarizes our understanding of God’s path to life as articulated in the Bible—from salvation itself, to participation within the church, to discipleship ethics, to the final return of Jesus. Now, if medical research were to “inform these conclusions,” the question must begin with how and to what extent? I’m assuming that part of medical research involves the measuring of agreed upon metrics (e.g., physical measurements of health/disease, length of life, reported levels of happiness/anxiety, etc.) and then making “scientific” judgments about which behaviors lead to positive outcomes and which do not. While these are valuable metrics for evaluating human behavior, it is unclear to me whether this research should lead us to fundamentally change our biblically founded understandings of Jesus’ path to life. Part of this is because our human research metrics do not seem to be closely correlated with God’s own metrics for what constitutes “life to the full” and “faithful discipleship.” Jesus called his followers to “take up their cross”— and, in response, many early disciples left secure family situations to become itinerant preachers facing opposition and persecution. Many early Christians lost economic security, became ostracised from their communities, and even died as martyrs. If medical research had studied these individuals, what would they have concluded about whether following Jesus had health benefits in comparison with those who refused to follow Jesus and stayed comfortably within their Jewish (and/ or Gentile) families? How would the parents and siblings left behind by these early Christians have experienced the family breakdowns caused by new converts essentially abandoning their biological families? Would researchers conclude that people should reconsider Jesus’ harsh words in order to avoid these negative outcomes to self and others? Science can measure certain things—but faithfulness to Jesus does not seem to be one of them.

In addition, what should Christians do if and when medical research discovers that our expectations of the Jesus’ discipleship path produce negative metrics in physical health, mental health, and/or life expectancy? At what point should we “follow the science” and change our commitments? If medical research concluded that those self-identifying as atheists, or Sikhs, or Mormons, scored better on medical research metrics, would this lead us to reconsider whether we should continue to invite people to become followers of Jesus at all? If medical research concluded that a quick divorce led to better outcomes in response to certain marital difficulties (e.g., infertility, birth of a special needs child, etc.), would this lead us to reconsider our commitments to a long-term covenantal commitment? We could obviously go on with these questions to include areas of singleness, gender identity, sexuality, sanctity of life, and so on.

It seems to me that we want to welcome medical research as one type of barometer as we seek to live faithfully toward what we believe is Jesus’ path to life. However, if we discover that medical research is reporting an increase in negative metrics for those pursuing a path we have understood as the way of Jesus, should we change the path, or consider whether other factors are at play? We must acknowledge that our church communities often fail to support individuals in difficult discipleship journeys. It may be that medical research is revealing more about our collective failure as a community rather than the nature of the ethical path itself.

To conclude, we want to hear all medical research to see what we can learn from it, but if we are going to be people who revise our ethical understandings about the path of Jesus endlessly in order to “follow the science,” then we should admit that we are replacing Scripture with a higher authority. And that “higher authority” will be subject regularly to profound changes and reversals of what is presently deemed to be true and life-giving. As a result, we will necessarily need to reflect very carefully and cautiously on medical research that is attempting to speak into all the areas of human life that make up the discipleship journey. Thanks again for your great question!



n 2015, Gediminas and Kristina Dailyde left their home in Lithuania and traveled to Canada to participate in Multiply’s long-term missionary training. It was a rich time of learning, equipping, and becoming aware of their many connections within the global MB family. They returned several months later to Vilnius, Lithuania, to start a church and serve among their own people.

However, several years later, in 2022, when war broke out in their region, relationships with their global family were put to the test. How would they respond to this crisis?

“On February 24, 2022, everything changed for us in Lithuania,” said Gediminas. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, it hit us personally. We thought to ourselves, ‘If Russia will go to Kyev, they will go to Vilnius.’ We just weren’t prepared for this. Our churches weren’t prepared for this.”

Gediminas and his small MB church in Vilnius were in shock, but they were also determined to do whatever they could to help. Together with other MB church leaders in Lithuania, they knew they had to do something. “We immediately connected with MB church leaders in Eastern Ukraine,” said Gediminas, “and we asked them what we could do.”

MB churches in Lithuania began mobilizing teams and vans to bring basic supplies like food and clothing to Ukraine. “We just reacted to the need, and we drove

right into Ukraine, and whatever we brought to them, they brought to others. They knew where the greatest needs were.”

It was Lithuanians helping Ukrainians help other Ukrainians—an effective chain of helping. Yet Gediminas was quick to point out that there were more links in the chain, one of them being Multiply’s Regional Team Leader for Europe and Central Asia, Johann Matthies. “Johann was the one who coordinated our efforts,” Gediminas explained. “Although he lives in Germany, Johann had spent so much time in Ukraine, and he knew all of the different leaders so well.”

According to Gediminas, this coordination was essential because it was hard at times for non-Ukrainians to know how best to help. “When you don’t know the people personally, it’s hard to know how to help,” he said simply. “It’s actually possible to help in ways that don’t really connect with real needs.”

However, with Johann’s facilitation, Gediminas and the others from Lithuania were able to meet with the Ukrainian MB church leaders and identify with them in their struggle. “Our help was very small compared to other organizations,” said Gediminas, “but the connections we made with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters were very strong. On our visits across the border, we sat with them for hours and listened to their specific needs. We ate borscht together. We prayed


together. Of course, we brought supplies and money, but they told us later that the most meaningful part for them was that we came into their country, into their suffering, just to be with them.”

For Gediminas, this identification was at the heart of effective collaboration in Ukraine, and he saw something similar in the international response. “This crisis in Ukraine brought a lot of different people together globally,” said Gediminas. “We couldn’t do this on our own. But as soon as we started doing something, Johann connected us with churches in the Netherlands, in Germany, in Canada, and the US.”

Gediminas reflected on how personal connections strengthened the relief effort: “Where the chain is connected, where each link is attached to another, and there’s pressure, there is something happening, there is heat generated. That’s what I felt when I was driving through Poland together with Greg Laing (Multiply in Canada) and with John Best (Willingdon Church). Of course, they were giving us help, but there was a connection between us. I learned from them, and they learned more about Lithuania, and about Ukraine. And there was that partnership, that good heat, you know? It’s a spiritual family. It makes a brotherly chain.”

The small network of MB churches in Lithuania had limited resources. Yet, in the end, their relief efforts were multiplied significantly because of the broader international response. It was a global family of faith united in Christ that responded compassionately to a regional conflict, giving people all over the world an opportunity to participate.

In November 2022, Gediminas sent a video message to churches in North America and Western Europe, explaining, “We want to thank all of the churches that helped our Lithuanian MB churches to accept and help Ukrainians.”

His introduction was followed by heartfelt words of thanks from numerous Ukrainian refugees that had found refuge, relief, and hope in Lithuania.

According to Gediminas, the crisis—and the corresponding opportunity—is not over. “We are facing more challenges,” he said. “Our people are getting tired, and we expect more refugees from Ukraine in the winter.”

Yet Gediminas is not despairing. He has witnessed the strength of the global MB family, and especially their spiritual vitality. As real as the needs are in Eastern Europe, and as harsh as the realities of war have become in Ukraine, there is an abiding hope in Christ and in his Spirit at work in the Church. “We will face this together,” said Gediminas, “our faith is strong, our love is real.”

This article was previously published in Witness, Multiply’s quarterly magazine. To read other stories from the latest edition, go to multiply.net/witness or subscribe at multiply.net/subscribe


Please continue to pray for peace in Ukraine, and pray for the global MB family in our efforts to help Ukrainians in their time of need.

Click here for recent updates about Multiply’s response to the war in Ukraine, including prayer requests and giving opportunities.

MARK JH KLASSEN is a writer with Multiply and a member of Yarrow MB Church (BC).

The MB Herald interview

when I encountered people who struggled with legalism, which was prevalent in Central America then.

is J.B.


Mission and Theology at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California and the author of Freedom from Religiosity and Judgmentalism: Studies in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (the tenth installment in the Luminaire Studies Biblical Commentary series). Dr. Baker sat down with MB Herald to discuss his interest in Galatians, key concepts and themes in the book and how it connects to his research on the Centered-set Church. The full-length interview is available here.

MBH: Mark, please give us a brief background. What did your journey look like?

MB: I grew up as the son of a camp director for a Christian boys’ camp in New York State under an evangelical umbrella of churches. I studied at Wheaton College, after which I went to teach at a Christian bilingual school in Honduras for four years. I then worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for three years in upstate New York in Syracuse. After marrying Lynn, I attended a small Seminary in California (that no longer exists) called New College Berkley.

In 1989, Lynn and I returned to Honduras as missionaries. While teaching through SEMILLA, the anabaptist seminary in Central America, I visited Panama, where I first had contact with the Mennonite Brethren Church. In 1999, I was invited to teach at MB Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, and I continue to teach there today.

MBH: What sparked your interest in Paul’s letter to the Galatians?

MB: As a youth ministry worker and a missionary, I thought I had a good sense of what Galatians was about: The Apostle Paul, encountering erroneous teaching that salvation hinged on works, penned his letter to correct this misconception and teach that salvation is by grace, not works. I utilized Galatians

I later read an article by Richard Hays, a New Testament scholar, he recommended that rather than read Galatians through the lens of [Martin] Luther’s experience, better to look at the letter itself to see what was genuinely taking place in the Galatian churches. Hays states that the question of who belongs to the community is really at the heart of Galatians. I was awakened to possible applications for Galatians and its full breadth and depth. I especially appreciate that Hays’ argument wasn’t an over-andagainst argument. It wasn’t saying, “Galatians is not about being saved by grace.” Instead, it said, “It’s that and so much more,” which I have sought to include in my teaching and writing about Galatians.

MBH: This is not the first Galatians commentary. You have written one in Spanish. Why write two commentaries on the same book, and what are some differences between the Spanish version and the Luminaire version?

MB: The main reason would be that Galatians keeps feeding and surprising me. I started this book thinking: “I’m committed to this, so let’s just get through it.” However, I was quickly and pleasantly surprised by how the Spirit led me to see new things and gave me new energy and excitement. As for the commentaries, the Spanish one is a more scholarly commentary, more detailed, with more footnotes and things like that. I was happy for the opportunity and the challenge to write something more accessible for the Luminaire one. To make this book more accessible, I intentionally designed it for use in groups with discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

MBH: You discuss honour-shame dynamics in the New Testament world. How critical is using the honour-shame lens in our scripture reading, and do you have some practical tips for Western audiences to practice using this lens?

MB: Honour-shame dynamics are significant in a few ways. For a Western audience, at the most basic level, it broadens our concept of the liberating significance of the cross of Jesus Christ. We are saved from our guilt, and we are also liberated from our shame. An example would be the Bible study I lead at the county jail in Fresno. Preaching a gospel of release from guilt is a significant, valuable, and essential thing to do in that context. If I only proclaimed freedom from guilt, that would bring

MARK BAKER (Ph.D., Duke University) Toews of

an aspect of salvation to these men. But these men are also profoundly burdened by shame for what they’ve done. To also proclaim that through the cross of Jesus, we are liberated from shame is very significant in that context.

In our increasingly multicultural societies, we encounter people from cultures who are more honour-shame oriented and do not understand terms of guilt and forgiveness as quickly as we do in the west. So it’s of significant evangelistic significance when interacting with people of different cultures. Then there’s also the level of understanding dynamics of scripture itself. In the commentary towards the end of chapter 6, Paul says I boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. At the cross, Jesus flips the whole honour-shame dynamic on its head. He lived a life of including rather than excluding, and Paul states that this is his new honour code, which would have been very counter to typical honour-shame dynamics of the day.

As for how to practice using an honour-shame lens for us in the West, that can be a challenge. One of the things that my co-author Jayson Georges points out in Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures is that the terms honour and shame are not readily used in scripture because that was the culture the scriptures were written in; it’s in the air. We need guides who can help us see these things in scripture. In the commentary, I mention two creative non-fiction books, The Lost Letters of Pergamum by Bruce Longenecker and A Week in the Life of Rome by James Papandrea, which really help us to feel and understand the honour-shame culture of the time of Paul.

MBH: You speak of bounded, fuzzy, and centered church lenses. Another of your books, Centered-Set Church: Discipleship and Community Without Judgmentalism, covers this subject in more detail. Please share more about this idea and how the two books are connected.

MB: This is something that is of special significance for Mennonite Brethren because Paul Hiebert, who was a Mennonite Brethren missionary in India, is the one who developed this way of thinking about the Church: bounded, centered, and fuzzy. He borrowed the concept from math, and it’s used widely now, but it goes back to Paul Hiebert. There are three different ways a group determines who belongs to the group. A bounded group is one that creates certain things that people must comply with, and if they comply, they are on the inside of the group. Bounded churches tend to go the way of judgmentalism, a sense of superiority, excluding people, shaming, etc. This is seen in what we typically call legalistic churches. Still, very progressive churches


that think of themselves as non-legalistic can also be bounded and just as judgmental.

So in response to judgmentalism, some say we need to get rid of this, and they erase the boundary line, and this is what becomes a fuzzy church. It’s like a bounded group with no line and tends to lose its identity. As such, Hiebert advocates for a third approach which is entirely different. This approach discerns who is part of the group by looking at their orientation to a center, which in the case of the church is Jesus. Therefore the way to see if people are a part of the church is to look and see if they are moving toward the center or away from it. I explore these concepts and how to live them out in Centered-Set Church. In this Luminaire Studies book, I’ve sought to give more of a biblical basis to those same concepts.

MBH: What else would you like readers to know about your new book?

One of the themes in the book is the necessity that we continue to proclaim the gospel to non-Christians and ourselves. I think Galatians is a wake-up call to ourselves that the gospel of Jesus Christ is radical and is not our natural way of doing or thinking about things. Therefore we need to regularly be reminded that our salvation, our place in the people of God, is based on the work of God through Jesus Christ on the cross, and we need to be brought back to that center continually.

Purchase your copy of Religiosity and Judgmentalism: Studies in Paul’s Letter the Galatians here.


Women in ministry

Leading, teaching and enriching lives

MBH: Why don’t you just start by introducing yourself and sharing a bit about your faith journey, background, family, and how you came to enter into ministry leadership?

SC: I grew up in a Christian home, and my dad was a pastor. So, I’ve been in ministry my whole life. I remember accompanying him to lead worship services at the nursing home when I was four. So the Church has just always been a part of my life.

I fell in love with theology and studying scripture while studying at Bethany College in Hepburn, SK. I became convinced of the importance of Jesus in every aspect of my life and wanted to live that out. At first, I didn’t know what that would mean vocationally. But now, teaching and serving on faculty at Horizon College and Seminary, it comes full circle.

When I was 7 or 8, I looked at the book the adult Bible study group was reading and thought: I can write this. So I went home and started to write my little notes on the book of Matthew. That desire as a kid to get into scripture and study it came to fruition in my current role at Horizon.

I was worried about where I would find work when I finished my MA in Theological Studies. God, in his goodness, stepped in and planted me where I am at Horizon, working in my field of study. That felt kind of miraculous— there aren’t many of these jobs out there.

MBH: Besides working at Horizon, you assisted the Saskatchewan MB Conference Executive Board and Faith and Life Team. How did that come about?

SC: It started as an internship on the SKMB Executive Board and as part of their Developmental Leadership Team. Conference Pastor Phil Gunther has given me many chances and opportunities to speak at denominational

events. I also do some writing for the MB Herald . More recently, I presented at the SKMB Assembly.

Now I advise the Saskatchewan Provincial Faith and Life Team (PFLT), where I bring a perspective influenced and shaped by my thesis on Anabaptist Mennonite studies on nonviolence. I sometimes liaise between Horizon and SKMB, connecting MB students with Phil and the broader denomination. I brought some students to the SK Leadership Forum in November. A big part of my current role with the PFLT is reviewing credentialing applications, which I enjoy having gone through the process myself.

Stephanie Christianson speaking at the SKMB 2023 Assembly at Parliament Community Church.


MBH: What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced so far in your ministry?

SC: Continually diving into the word of God will always be a highlight for me. Opportunities to preach and teach are always a joy. I love teaching, but I also love academic policy and administration. When I tell people what I do, they chuckle, and I say, “No, no, it’s fun.”

I love designing good course infrastructure; I love nothing better than a well-organized, cohesive, beautiful syllabus. The students know what they need to do. I probably wouldn’t care as much about policy and administration if I was working for a car dealership. But because I’m trying to contribute to the students’ learning and their discipleship, I care about it very deeply. That’s why I’m doing it.

I also love seeing students grow from their first year to their fourth. It’s gratifying and encouraging to see their leadership skills develop and to think that I had a part in that. Maybe not a big part, but I was part of it to some extent. I love that.

MBH: How has your experience as a woman in leadership been thus far?

SC: I did not have a frame of reference for women in ministry leadership positions until I went to Bethany. At 20 years old, I knew I wanted to be in ministry leadership, Did that mean I wouldn’t get married eventually? What about kids? Did that mean, as a woman, I couldn’t preach and teach? I wanted to be obedient to the call on my life, but it meant I needed to wrestle with these questions, both emotionally and academically. I remember struggling with those feelings while writing a paper on 1 Timothy. I brought my writing to my professor



and asked, “What happens if I discover that I shouldn’t be doing this?”

He encouraged me to trust the process, “Go through scripture, fully dive into it, look at the historical, the literary, the cultural context, all of that, and just go with it.” So I did. And I came to one side of the conversation that it was okay for me to do these things, but still, there was significant wrestling.

Today, married, with a 16-monthold, I hold all these parts of me in tension. It takes work. It’s not easy for any working parent, right? But this is, I think, where God has called me right now. In my wrestling, God spoke, “Stephanie, this isn’t a battle you need to fight. Embrace the opportunities I present and trust in me.”

There’s been a release of any friction or hard feelings that I could harbour. Today I lean into my calling fully.

of Faith, Hope and Encourgement
Letters to my Friends Words
Available now at KindredProductions.com Kindred Productions

This is my story



SSeven years ago, February 2016, I walked into a large room and remember clearly feeling like the “new guy” as I found a seat at a table.

It was my first ONMB convention. Apart from Ed Willms and a couple others, I had no relationship with our family of churches.

As I sat down and began to listen, I was not aware of two things. Firstly, over the next two years, my life was going to fall apart. Secondly, the MB family would become significant in my story.

I had received a life-altering diagnosis a week or two earlier. I was told I have a rare cancer that most commonly is found in the salivary glands, adenoid cystic carcinoma.

Upon the news of my diagnosis I was filled with fear, uncertainty and grief.

As I sat with my fellow MB pastors and leaders, I obviously had a lot on my mind. And yet God was faithful. We sat under the stellar teaching of Gordon and Gale McDonald as they described to us what a Marathonic Leader is.

The McDonalds were amazing and inspiring. I had no idea how important their wisdom would be as I embarked on the most difficult two years of my life.

My cancer diagnosis was extremely difficult. I was 31 years old, 2.5 years into marriage, the associate pastor at a growing church plant and the father of my 3 month old child.

Previous to cancer, I felt powerful, strong and confident. Buying life insurance was on my to-do list. Death and human frailty were not at the top of my mind.

And yet, I was insecure. I was searching for my identity in success, affirmation and approval. I recall how I was always aware of where my senior pastor was in a room. Is he watching? What is he thinking? Am I performing to his level? Does he approve of me?

Before working for a MB church, I was a campus minister. I planted one of the largest InterVarsity chapters in recent history and saw many students come to Christ through the ministry.

Now I was pastoring at a hip church plant. It was growing. We were cool, innovative and trendy. We were getting attention. I definitely had pride issues.

With the cancer diagnosis, my life and my identity fell apart. Fear crept in and overtook me. It was crippling.

In April 2016 I received surgery and radiation. I was off work for eight months.

During treatment it became clear I was not OK. Melody, my wife and I began seeing a Christian counselor, who we continue to see to this day.

Finally, when it was time to return to work at the beginning of 2017, the church was in crisis.

The board and our senior pastor were in persistent conflict with no foreseeable path forward.

There were many concerns including accountability, teamwork, developing clear policy and theological questions. It was unclear whether the church would stay in the Mennonite Brethren family. It was not pretty. With all of the issues happening at once, it was difficult to navigate a path forward.

In 2017, as I returned back to work after my cancer diagnosis, I watched everything fall apart. The church that I loved literally was torn apart, going from over 100 people to a handful in literally months, and eventually closing its doors. The community dispersed to churches all over the city but a handful of people unfortunately stopped going to church altogether. It was, and continues to be, heartbreaking.

Near the end of 2017, right as the church was blowing up, Ed Willms and Jeff Janzti reached out. Ed wanted to keep me in the MB family and had a vision for another MB church plant in downtown Ottawa. Jeff was willing to help and offered me a position on his staff team, if I could raise funds, and said that the Gathering would be willing to be our sending church if a church plant were to happen.

“We desire to help adults and children experience wholeness in Jesus Christ that propels them to live by their faith in their families, workplaces and neighbourhoods.”


EEd and Jeff took a chance on me. The ONMB family and the Gathering became my church in a season where I felt like an orphan. I was adopted, trained, cared for and supported.

I wish I could tell you that it was easy. Months after coming on staff with The Gathering and starting a journey of emotional and spiritual healing, cancer struck again (early 2018). This time in my lungs. ONMB and our church in Ottawa gathered around us, praying for us, believing in us and supporting us.

Then only a year later, more cancer, more surgery.

People in our MB family never stopped believing that God is big enough to use the pain and disappointment of my story for his glory. Even though life has been incredibly hard these past seven years, my church family, and our denominational family have continued to recall the stories of God’s faithfulness, his love and his commitment to his Church.

About two and a half years ago, at the height of the pandemic, Bytown Community Church was born.

If you were to ask when we launched, I don’t have a real answer. It was slow and organic, starting with small groups on zoom and then moving to parks when large in-person gatherings indoors were still not recommended.

Today Bytown is mostly students, young professionals and families with young children, gathering in downtown Ottawa in a beautiful Presbyterian church on Sunday afternoons.

We desire to help adults and children experience wholeness in Jesus Christ that propels them to live by their faith in their families, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

We aren’t extravagant or sexy. Our worship is pretty simple. And yet, in my biased opinion, Jesus is present and working in our midst. Healing people, deepening faith, building community and bringing glory to the Father.

Around the time Bytown began, I found out cancer had returned. It was inoperable. I live knowing that as my small church grows slowly, my cancer grows slowly too. Only time will tell what God’s story is for me and for this fragile church.

Though the past seven years have been so difficult, two things are true.

Firstly, I am thankful for this family. Your love, prayers and support are incredibly helpful.

Secondly, Jesus is using this painful story to not only bring about a new church plant to our ONMB story but also, and maybe more significantly, to heal my broken heart.

Over the past seven years I have discovered that Jesus is truly with me and loves me.

I entered 2023 with a lot of fear. I was worried that my cancer was growing and that I would soon begin to feel symptoms (currently I look and feel great, the cancer is very small).

My biggest fear of all is that my wife will not be provided for and that my children (7 and 5) will not have an earthly father.

One night I was setting up our living room for a prayer meeting. Bytown gathered to pray for our city and our church.

I set out candles and snacks. I added a small wooden cross. Everything was set to go.

As I was preparing, my children, with great enthusiasm, asked if they could help. My five year old wanted to put up a picture of the nativity scene he had coloured in Sunday school (I didn’t correct him that it was now January) and my seven year old disappeared upstairs. Marcus emerged with a beautiful picture he had received as a gift. It was Jesus embracing a young child. We hung it on the wall.

WWeeks later, my wife Melody and I sat on our couch, praying before bed. Once again, I was confessing my fears.

In the quietness and peace of my living room, Jesus met me in a profound way. I saw the picture that my son had given me and Jesus invited me to be the child in the photo. To simply crawl into his arms and allow him to carry me through life.

As I received the invitation to be a child, my fears dissipated. The healing journey came slowly over the past seven years but I can tell you that I have never felt so free or whole. The beauty and irony that it took seven years was not lost on me as seven is a number of completeness and wholeness in scripture.

Through my testimony, I remember that Jesus does truly shine through our brokenness. If he can heal my broken heart and make something beautiful, how much more can he do in your own life? Following Jesus, even when our world falls apart, is worth it. Jesus is greater than the darkness and has the power to dispel our fears with his love.

Thank you to the MB family for your part in helping me experience the love of Christ. I am thankful to be your brother in Christ.


REID is married to Melody and is the father to two growing boys. They live downtown in the Glebe, ON.


Re ections on spiritual and biological connection


Family ties?

I have often heard the metaphor used that Mennonite Brethren are a family. In recent years, that metaphor has often arisen in the context of laments about what has been described as the sad state of the Mennonite Brethren family. I believe it is true that we are not only diverse, we have become fragmented. In family terms, it is not unfair to say that we have become disconnected to an unhealthy extent. I am convinced that an important reason for this is that we have lost sight of what it means to be a spiritual family.

I came into the MB world far later in life than many people I encountered upon my arrival. In addition to learning theological convictions and cultural practices, I learned about the Mennonite game and the unique form of family that Mennonite Brethren see themselves as being to one another.

I recall vividly the first provincial conference I attended as a new MB pastor. Conversations during the coffee break were cut short when I introduced myself and people realized that I was not related to anyone they knew. The look of sheepish disappointment in their eyes was palpable. Whatever family was, I did not meet the standard.

That same year (2007), Bruce Guenther cogently highlighted at the study conference in Abbotsford that the collective identity of Mennonite Brethren has long been connected as much around ethnicity as faith. Ethnic identity has often been associated with the

implication that “only Mennonites with D-G-R-S [Dutch-German-Russian-Swiss] roots are ‘true’ or ‘real’ Mennonites.” This has created “a kind of terminological imperialism that creates unhealthy insider/outsider social boundaries.”1

What kind of family are we called to be?

This tendency has also blurred the distinction between biological and cultural family connections and spiritual/theological family connections, much to the detriment of our denomination fellowship.

The widespread association of ethnicity with MB identity came as a great disappointment to me as well, but for different reasons. I had entered the MB denomination (if not the family) in part because of a deeply felt theological affinity. I was chagrined to discover that many MBs seemed to define family not theologically, as I did, but biologically and culturally. This did not seem right to me, not because I did not value biological and cultural family connections. Quite the contrary. I found the web of connections interesting, and valuable. What concerned me was that biological and cultural connections had overshadowed theological connections. That did not

1  Bruce Guenther, “From Isolation and Ethnic Homogeneity to Acculturation and Multi-cultural Diversity: The Mennonite Brethren and Canadian Culture,” Direction 39 No. 2 (Fall 2010), 152.
I was chagrined to discover that many MBs seemed to define family not theologically, as I did, but biologically and culturally. This did not seem right to me.

accord with what I saw in the life and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, and I feared the trouble that would ensue.

In the past couple of years there have been multiple rounds of very difficult theological conversations among Mennonite Brethren. Let’s just name the elephant in the room. Conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion have revealed that the different ways of considering one another family have dramatically complicated an already difficult conversation topic.

I am not so bold as to presume to dissolve the LGBTQ+ question other than to point to our Confession of Faith as a source of theological guidance. But I think our further conversations can be helped by reflecting theologically on what it means to be family, because understanding what this means can help orient us in the right direction.

Jesus’ call to spiritual family

Jesus’ words from Matthew 10 are a stark reminder to me that the call of discipleship is not always friendly to the expectations and demands of being part of a biological or cultural family. Jesus’ statements are so jarring that the French philosopher Voltaire insisted that there was a copyist’s error in Matthew 10:34, where Jesus says that he comes not to bring peace, but a sword. Voltaire said instead that Jesus actually came to bring peace, not a sword, and that a later writer transcribed Jesus’ words incorrectly, because Voltaire couldn’t wrap his head around the implications of Jesus’ words.

But the call to discipleship in the Gospels is not unclear in its requirement of total commitment to Jesus first, before any other loyalty. Jesus presciently saw that this call would turn family members against one another, would demand awful self-sacrifice, and would cost some

people their lives. It’s enough to make one think twice about becoming a follower of this Jesus of Nazareth.

If Jesus’ words from Matthew 10 are not enough to shake up our notions of family, his reply to the arrival of his mother and brothers in Mark 3 should break it completely. In a comment that almost seems throwaway, Jesus simply and succinctly makes a statement that reorients our priorities about what family is in the Kingdom of God. In Mark 3:33, Jesus asks the rhetorical question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Not waiting for a reply, Jesus continues: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34-35).

In one swift blow, Jesus knocks down any misapprehensions we might harbor in which we confuse the relative importance of biological family and spiritual family. For Jesus, spiritual family necessarily comes first. Blood may be thicker than water, but spirit is greater than blood. What is more, no familial obligations can ever trump the call of discipleship. Christians are to take up their cross, no matter what other calls may echo in their ears – even calls from family members. The drama of these statements becomes even more prominent when we consider the importance of family connections in the Middle

I am not so bold as to presume to dissolve the LGBTQ+ question other than to point to our Confession of Faith as a source of theological guidance.

Eastern culture in which Jesus spoke. Family was everything. But not in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was creating a new family.

What it means to be a spiritual family

So what’s the takeaway for Mennonite Brethren? This is where it gets real, and where it becomes truly difficult... but also vital. As hard as it is to say no to parents, children, siblings, cousins—those we love dearly, the call to say yes to Jesus takes precedence. The call to uphold what we believe our faith in Christ demands, necessitates that we prioritize the unity of the spiritual family even ahead of those beloved biological family members we would like to affirm. This is profoundly hard. It may seem like exclusion, but it is not. It is faithfulness.

It does not mean complete and utter dissociation. Conversations may continue. Friendships may persist, and should. Most of the time, biological and cultural connections are to be enjoyed and celebrated. But theological divisions that arise cannot be subsumed beneath calls to maintain the unity of the family. Theological connections are the measure of true family. Membership in the body, the sign of formal theological affirmation, is connected to theological unity rather than historic connections.

It is painful to see fellow believers with whom we have many years of history articulate theological commitments that take them beyond the limits of the convictions that we have long confessed together. We want to think of them as family; who could countenance not viewing them in this way?

But on the other hand, what do our theological convictions mean if we are willing to surrender them in times of

challenge? It has been suggested that because we view our Confession as a living document, now is the time to review – and revise – it to permit this increased diversity. With respect, I suggest that this is like deciding to go shopping when one is famished – not a good idea. And more, the conversations that our denomination has had over the past decade have yielded a substantial consensus that ought not be overturned by a vocal minority, however earnest and well-meaning.

In the context of the Kingdom, we are not a family if we are not a spiritual one. We are united not simply in a common commitment to Jesus, but in a common understanding of what that commitment entails. We need not anathematize those who differ. Indeed, we all know believers from other families in God’s church. I have precious connections to Anglicans from my time at the Anglican college where I did my graduate studies. But there are important reasons why I am not Anglican, and why they are not Mennonite Brethren. That is okay. Knowing when and why to part ways can be a sign of theological maturity rather than theological failure. And it can remind us what it means to be a family. For the right reasons.

BRIAN COOPER has passion is to help believers do theology well and to understand how to engage cultural issues, theological and historical texts, and Scripture deeply in order to meaningfully bring Kingdom values to bear on their context and impact their world for Jesus Christ. Brian serves as Associate Professor of Theology at MB Seminary and is a member of South Abbotsford Church.

In the context of the Kingdom, we are not a family if we are not a spiritual one.

Moments in prayer


ur April prayer focus is inviting and seeking the Holy Spirit to fill us with Peace. This is the third quality in the fruit of the Spirit list we find in Galatians 5. The biblical concept of peace as expressed through the amazing and expansive Hebrew word shalom and its Greek equivalent eirene—is far bigger than anything we normally associate with the English word peace. Shalom is a state where there is a wholeness, a completeness, and a flourishing in four interconnected relationships—with God, others, creation, and one’s own self. This is God’s ultimate intention for humanity and all creation, present in embryonic form in the early pages of Genesis and in its full vast beauty in the last chapters of the book of Revelation. Since Jesus, this shalom/peace is a present (“now”) but not fully present (“not yet”) reality. Shalom is what God’s Kingdom is all about, and is another way of saying “eternal life.” This is what will exist fully and forever when Jesus returns again.

When we pray “Holy Spirit—Fill us with your Peace/Shalom,” we are asking for something that only God can give by grace (cf. Romans 5:1-2) but we are also asking for the Holy Spirit to move us to action as peacemakers (cf. Matthew 5:19) in a world that desperately needs that peace.

So, we pray first that the Holy Spirit would fill us with shalom with God through a forgiveness that we continue to need each and every day. Each and every day we worship what is not worthy of worship—rather than bowing before Jesus. We put our affections on what can only steal, kill, and destroy—rather than directing our affections to the only One worthy of that affection. Our first prayer is for shalom with God.

Then we pray that the Holy Spirit would fill us to live into a fullorbed Jesus-honouring shalom with others. This could involve the transformation of our own hearts so we can forgive others and be healed from bitterness, hostility, and anger. It could also involve some courageous steps to confront someone in love, and seek reconciliation with others who have wronged us. When we pray to the Holy Spirit for shalom with others, this prayer may be answered in ways that we cannot predict. But we also know that shalom with others is a complicated prayer that may not lead directly to some obvious and full restoration. Even in the complications, we must act according to Romans 12:18—“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

APRIL, 2023

Then we pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us for shalom with creation. This is a prayer to live with the physical creation in a way that reflects how the creation is “good” and “very good,” and we have been called to live as stewards of this creation. Finally, we pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us for shalom with our own selves We are praying for a shalom that triumphs over the evil that causes us to live in conflict with our bodies, minds, and hearts. This destruction of the self can show itself in many forms (e.g., narcissism, self-hatred, hedonism, self-harm, compulsive addictions, etc.).

Praying for the Holy Spirit to fill us with the shalom of Jesus is a huge and comprehensive prayer that touches every area of our lives and through that prayer our families, our churches, our communities, and our world! May the Holy Spirit fill us with that shalom!





What would it look like today to invite the Holy Spirit’s shalom to wash over you, and to flood your inner life?

Where do you most need the Holy Spirit to stream out this shalom? Toward God? Others? Creation? And/or Self?


˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Come and Fill Me Today!

˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Wash over me and flood my life with the shalom of Jesus!


˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! May this shalom of Jesus overflow out of my heart into worship and affection toward you!

˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! May this shalom of Jesus overflow out of my heart upon _________ today! (Repeat this with specific names of those in your sphere of influence where you may need to give forgiveness, receive forgiveness, and/or be healed from a bitter spirit.)

˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! May this shalom of Jesus overflow out of my heart toward God’s good creation!

˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! May this shalom of Jesus overflow out of my heart toward my own self—so that I might experience Jesus’ healing rather than the enemy’s lies that “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

KEN ESAU is the National Faith and Life Director for CCMBC. He and Karen attend The Life Centre in Abbotsford, BC.


The Crown

There is only one King of kings

My mother was a loyal fan of Queen Elizabeth II. Whenever the queen travelled to Canada, my mom brought us kids to go and see her. For mom, Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Canada was a moment in history that she wanted to be a part of and one she wanted us children to experience. Other than Queen Elizabeth II, my only other personal encounter with royalty was at an Abbotsford Airshow in 1974, when my friend and I met King Hussein of Jordan. Both of these experiences continue to truly be memorable some forty-eight years later.

My mom’s fascination with royalty has often caused me to ponder the current significant world events unfolding in my own life. They are prime opportunities to assess the climate of our world, its culture, hopes and dreams. They also present an opportunity to discern how our discipleship, the gospel and the work of

the church is influenced by or influences these important events. For example, consider the upcoming coronation of Charles Philip Arthur George III. This Royal recently became sovereign of the United Kingdom and fourteen other Commonwealth lands. He is the oldest person to accede to the role of king. This reality came after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022. The coronation of Charles III will take place on May 6, 2023.

For those new to the coronation pageantry—dubbed Operation Golden Orb—it is both a symbolic religious ceremony where Charles III will be crowned and the physical act of placing a crown on his head. The coronation is a three-day event that

formalizes his role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of title and powers. It is a thousand-year-old tradition where Charles III will swear to uphold British law and the Church of England. The monarch will be anointed with oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury and presented with the Royal Orb, the symbol of religious and moral authority. Charles III will receive the Sceptre, representing a monarch’s temporal power and symbolic of good governance. He will also be presented with the Sovereign’s Sceptre, representing justice and mercy, and finally, St. Edward’s Crown.

St. Edward’s Crown is the centrepiece of the royal jewels of the United Kingdom. It is named after Edward the Confessor and has been used to crown British monarchs at their coronations since the 13th century. The crown is the most striking


symbol of any monarch’s rule; it symbolizes:

˚ Authority

˚ Power & strength

˚ Dynasty (rightful heir)

˚ ‘Divine right’ (religious anointing)

˚ Achievement

˚ Independence

˚ Victory & glory

˚ Dominance

˚ Beauty

Charles III will bear the weight of the crown’s responsibilities and duties once carried with grace and dignity by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, for seventy years. Indeed, a crowning achievement for Her Majesty.

The upcoming coronation of Charles III causes me to ponder royalty, the crown and kingship. At the same time, I am reading Revelation. In this work, I am enthralled by how Jesus is portrayed as “Lord of lords and King of kings.”1 Jesus is King. He is divine royalty, one who is deserving to wear the crown and all that it symbolizes. During his triumphant entry into Jerusalem – Palm Sunday – crowds of disciples sang out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38 NIV)! At his crucifixion, the sign nailed to the cross above him read “Jesus, the King of Jews” (Matthew 27:37). Scripture further records Jesus as the King of heaven and earth and the King of righteousness. More than that, Jesus’ kingdom is present and coming, powerful and eternal.

Back to Revelation, and this is my purpose for writing, all human crowns must and will be laid down at God’s throne at the feet of King Jesus. John, the recipient of Revelation’s message, is shown the throne of heaven, and he records the following: “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They

were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads…Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:4, 9-11 NIV).

I am convinced that Queen Elizabeth II, a follower of Jesus, we are told, would have laid down her crown (if she could have brought it with her) at the throne of the Lord. The fact is that all of us will have no choice but to lay down our ‘crowns.’

According to the Apostle Paul: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NLT).

Again, here is my takeaway, as a disciple of Jesus, I must, like these twenty-four elders at the throne of heaven, lay down whatever ‘crowns’ I claim to possess. I must lay down my crown of authority, power, strength, power, achievement, independence and glory at the foot of the Lord’s throne. Everything I call my own was first given to me by the Lord. Indeed, in him, I live and move and have my being. Every breath I take is because of the Lord’s mercy. I will

have a place at the foot of the throne, not because of anything I have done, but because my King Jesus provided a means for me to be there through his work on the cross.

One day we will all bow the knee to King Jesus. One day we will all lay down our crowns before him. For some, they will do so with great weeping, for they understand judgement approaches; for others, they will do so with great praise, for King Jesus is fully revealed and will dwell among them. As disciples, we are not to wait until we literally stand before King Jesus to lay down our ‘crowns,’ we are implored to relinquish them today, and every day after that, because King Jesus is our sovereign today and worthy of our deference, more-than-that, our worship.

As a disciple, I am choosing daily to lay down my crown (those things that represent human power, authority, entitlement, independence or achievement). I do so from a posture of humility – I understand that God is holy and perfect, but I am not. I do so from a posture of gratitude – God has redeemed me and has given me hope and peace. I am thankful for his grace and mercy. I do so from a posture of faith – I believe God is sovereign and has my best interests in mind. I am not in control of my life, and my interests often harm myself or others. Finally, I do so from a posture of joy – God will ultimately bring me into his full presence, and I will no longer experience fears or tears. All hail King Jesus!



Revelation 17:14 and 19:16.
REV. PHILIP A GUNTHER is director of ministry for the Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches




The National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) is tasked with providing resources related to the MB Confession of Faith. These resources are to clarify our Confession of Faith, but the larger goal is to encourage greater spiritual health and theology in our MB family. Without a shared understanding of our MB Confession of Faith—its vision and unifying purpose—local churches and leaders could easily move in directions further and further away from our MB missional DNA.

As part of that task, the NFLT have approved in principle a significantly revised introduction that replaces the existing “Nature and Function of the Confession of Faith” document. This new introduction responds to common questions that have emerged within our Canadian MB family that have not been addressed clearly elsewhere.

This is the second in our series looking at key sections of this new introduction here in the Herald with the hope that it will be read widely.

The full version is posted online here

If you have feedback and/or questions related to this revised “Introduction to the MB Confession of Faith,” please send them to listeningwell@mbchurches.ca

Thank you for your participation in this project.



1. How should the MB Confession of Faith function for us as an MB family?

The Confession of Faith rightfully functions in several ways within Mennonite Brethren churches. First, it expresses what we believe the Bible teaches regarding our core theological and ethical convictions. As such, the Confession defines our shared MB theological identity that conveys our commitment to live under the authority of Jesus, who is made known to us in the Scriptures, as we seek to be led by the Spirit of God. The Confession provides an interpretive guide for applying the teaching of the Bible to the relevant questions and issues facing the church.

Second, the Confession expresses our vision for faithful discipleship as Jesus’ followers through who we are and what we say and do. The Confession calls our MB family to integrate what they believe with what they practice and how they worship. The Confession introduces new believers to the core teachings of the Bible and invites new leaders and churches to covenant together with our larger MB family. The Confession guides us in the process of mutual accountability within our covenant community.

Third, the Confession publicly proclaims our witness to the gospel story – God’s redeeming, reconciling, and transforming work through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. The Confession serves as our testimony both of who we are, as a family of churches, and who we are called to be, as we seek to follow Jesus faithfully in this world. The Confession offers shared convictions that can facilitate our participation together with other Christians in God’s mission and partner with them as members of Christ’s body.

3. Is the MB Confession of Faith descriptive or prescriptive?

In reference to the MB Confession, we use the language of “descriptive” and “prescriptive” in specific ways. Because the Confession expresses our shared theological and ethical convictions based on our understanding of the Scriptures, we refer to the Confession as being “descriptive” of what we believe the Bible teaches. Because the Confession articulates our shared convictions that have been discerned together, it does not simply describe the result of a survey of what the majority of Mennonite Brethren might believe at a given time. The point of reference for the Confession is the Scriptures. The Confession points beyond itself and is authoritative to the extent that it accurately describes what the Bible teaches.

The MB family “accept[s] the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice” (Article 2). If the Confession faithfully describes what the Bible teaches, then the Confession can be referred to as “prescriptive” for teaching, ministry, discipleship, and biblical accountability within MB churches. Affirmation of the Confession entails a covenant commitment both to the local congregation and to the larger MB family. Departure from the Confession


constitutes a serious violation of these covenant relationships. Individuals and churches are not free to disregard or teach convictions that are not in agreement with the Confession. These convictions are “prescriptive” and “normative” for each and every local MB church and each and every MB leader (credentialed and non-credentialed) because we hold these convictions to be faithful to what God is telling us through Scripture.

In this specific way, we can refer to the MB Confession of Faith as both descriptive and prescriptive. Our 1987 Resolution on the Confession states: “Since the Confession of Faith represents our best understanding of what God’s Word teaches, we consider it binding for the life and teaching of the church.”

5. What are the foundational expectations for MB churches, MB leaders (credentialed and non-credentialed), and MB local church members in relation to the MB Confession of Faith?

Because the MB Confession of Faith expresses our biblically based theological and ethical convictions, it is an expectation that all MB churches and leaders (credentialed and non-credentialed) “affirm” the 18 articles of the MB Confession of faith. To affirm our Confession means to embrace, teach, and live in alignment with the 18 articles. To affirm involves actively demonstrating support for the convictions expressed in our Confession of Faith. Demonstrating support requires more than just not publicly speaking or teaching against components of the Confession. Demonstrating support is a voluntary embrace of these convictions because of a willingness to join and live in a covenant relationship with the larger MB community that has agreed together to embrace these convictions. Affirming and supporting shared convictions is an act of the will on the part of leaders and local churches.

To affirm the Confession of Faith and actively demonstrate support for the Confession of Faith does not mean that a leader (or a church corporately) has no reservations or questions about how a particular line in the Confession is worded, or about how that conviction should be lived out in complex situations in our world. Affirming the

MB Confession of Faith is about leaders being willing to embrace and support our shared MB Confessional convictions both personally and publicly, and about local MB churches living out an active embrace and support of these convictions in policy, teaching, and practice.

When it comes to members at the local MB church level, the ideal is that all members would affirm the MB Confession of Faith, but because we welcome new members at very different stages of their discipleship journey with Jesus, we are aware that the 18 articles could be overwhelming for some. While we do not expect every new member to have gone line by line through our Confession of Faith prior to joining the local family, local churches will face significant challenges if large numbers of their members are later surprised by our shared convictions and fundamentally disagree with them. Churches will have a difficult time walking together in discipleship, corporate witness, and active mission if significant groups of the church membership never embrace these shared convictions. We recommend that all prospective members receive a basic and winsome introduction to the MB Confession of Faith (and God’s Kingdom story that it reflects) in the hope that they can move toward affirmation and support of the convictions contained there.

6. What happens when an MB church and/or leader moves away from affirming/supporting the Confession of Faith?

For leaders, moving away from affirming the Confession of Faith involves no longer being able to actively support the convictions expressed in the MB Confession of Faith personally and/or publicly. This movement away from the Confession can show up in many ways. For example, moving away could involve living in conflict with our shared ethical convictions about what Christian discipleship looks like (and/or encouraging other followers of Jesus in this direction), and being uninterested in moving back toward the active support of the Confession of Faith. Moving away could also involve teaching, preaching, or declaring personal views that are in opposition to the Confession of Faith. Moving away could involve demonstrating a lack of respect for the larger MB community which has discerned these fundamental convictions together. (See Question #7 for how MB churches, leaders, and members can express their desire for possible revision of our Confession of Faith. This does not constitute “moving away” from our Confession.)

For churches, moving away from affirming the Confession of Faith could involve any action or group of actions that demonstrate that these convictions are actively opposed and/or are not valued in the overall functioning and ministry of the congregation. Encouraging and promoting activities and/ or teaching in conflict with the convictions in the MB Confession of Faith gives the impression of a lack of affirmation and support of our convictions. Hiring leaders who are unable or unwilling to become credentialed through the local provincial leadership would be another indication of lack of affirmation and support.

For MB leaders and churches, deliberate departure from

The point of reference for the Confession is the Scriptures. The Confession points beyond itself and is authoritative to the extent that it accurately describes what the Bible teaches.

the Confession has always been understood to be a violation of their covenant relationship to both the local congregation and the larger MB family—which involves our shared obligations and promises to each other. Active support for the convictions of the MB Confession of Faith is part of the family covenant that MB leaders and churches enter when they choose to identify with the MB family. The language of “MB church family” is intended to express that our local churches should operate with the kind of mutual care, accountability, support, and love that we would expect in a healthy biological or adopted family unit. That kind of mutual relationship should also exist as much as possible between all our MB entities Canada-wide and even beyond (e.g., our local MB churches, our provincial organizations, our national organization, and our related agencies world-wide). Departure from affirmation and support of the Confession of Faith harms these mutual relationships, undermines trust, and puts at risk our shared ability to work well together.

If an MB church leader cannot affirm and actively support the convictions expressed in the MB Confession with integrity, they should reconsider whether the MB family is a good fit for them. This should involve an honest and forthright conversation with whomever that leader is accountable to in an effort to seek a positive resolution. It may be that the leader has misunderstood the conviction, and integrity can be restored through further clarification. But it is also possible that integrity will require one to leave a leadership role and, for credentialed leaders, offer to surrender one’s credential status.

Being part of covenant relationships involves mutual accountability. For Mennonite Brethren, we believe that while our ultimate accountability is to Jesus, leadership in the way of Jesus is best practiced in the context of accountability to others. This means that all MB leaders, credentialed and non-credentialed, are to be held accountable for their covenant commitments expressed when they became leaders. If a local non-credentialed leader cannot affirm and support the shared MB convictions, local church leaders are the accountability group to seek a resolution. If a credentialed leader is in this situation, the local church and provincial leaders are responsible to go through a three-step process (e.g., discovery of what is true; conversation/intervention; and accountability steps). While intervention and accountability steps may produce positive and hopeful results that allow for continued leadership and ministry, ongoing credential status for MB leaders is predicated upon the credentialed leader affirming and supporting the MB Confession. If affirmation and support are not evident, removal of the credential, while a last resort, may be a necessary accountability step in the resolution. These sorts of difficult accountability steps are not in conflict with living in the way of Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17; cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

We recommend that all prospective members receive a basic and winsome introduction to the MB Confession of Faith (and God’s Kingdom story that it reflects) in the hope that they can move toward affirmation and support of the convictions contained there.

If a local MB church cannot with integrity affirm and support our shared convictions expressed in the MB Confession of Faith, they should consider whether this is the best fit for them. Local MB churches are in an accountability relationship with their provincial leadership and provincial church family. Again, while it is hoped that all intervention and accountability steps would produce a return to an embrace of our shared convictions, this may not be possible in certain situations and the church’s affiliation with the provincial MB family may need to end.


Words of comfort in chaotic times Jesus invites us to speak order into disorder

n his book, The Common Rule, Justin Earley talks about how he introduces himself. He is reluctant to offer his profession as a corporate lawyer as his first introduction but instead says, “I change things with words”’. Way more interesting, but also a beautiful way of framing that profession. Using words to change things is how he speaks of words’ creative power. He highlights that just as God used the power of the spoken word to bring order out of the disordered chaos in creation, we, as his image-bearers, possess the power to use words to bring order out of chaos. It is a unique co-creative ability that we have as humans, created in the image of God.

My mom died two weeks ago. I have been stopped suddenly by intense waves of grief pouring over me since then. Her death was a welcome relief to the suffering she had endured in her body, as her mobility and speech declined and her personality changed from the woman we once knew. However, the timing of her death was unexpected, and I am regularly surprised when an impulse to cry overtakes me for a moment.

This week, while reading some of Jesus’ passion narrative, I came across a tiny phrase in John’s gospel, when Mary was at the tomb, puzzled and disturbed at the empty tomb and Jesus’ missing body. In John 20:15, before she recognized Jesus in his risen state, Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Such an odd question for Jesus to ask. He knew full well why she was crying, so why did he ask her that? Isn’t it obvious? Why does Jesus offer this question when the answer is so clearly right before him?

Jesus is offering the woman an opportunity to use her words to formulate a bit of order in her disordered world. Her Lord has died, and she can’t even find his body to honour him in his burial. She needs a way to frame what is behind her emotional response. Perhaps Jesus uses this question to remind her of her co-creative abilities—that by merely articulating why she is crying, to name it, she

can create order out of the chaos she finds herself in.

Jesus does this kind of questioning at other times in his ministry. We all know his question to the paralytic at Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?” or his question repeated in all three Synoptic gospels, “What do you want me to do for you?” first in Matthew’s gospel to two blind men, and then in the Mark & Luke accounts to one blind beggar. But the point is the same. Jesus asks a question with a seemingly obvious response. Why?

Maybe like Mary at the tomb, Jesus wants his image-bearers to use their words of light, hidden beneath the surface, to give voice to their confusion and pain, and to not gloss over their pain of suffering. Just as blood needs to rush to an open wound to begin to form a scab and ultimately to heal it, so too, allowing the pain to flow outward and be spoken can be the beginning of new healing, resurrection life.

Jesus’ suffering on the cross is what we honour and remember this week. He is not immune to whatever suffering we may be experiencing in this season. Even though it may seem obvious on some level, he may ask us why we are weeping—either personally or what we are going through as an MB family. The invitation is to respond with the truth, not stuffing it down, not suppressing it, but believing in faith that the very act of naming it clearly before our Lord will be the first step of bringing order to the chaos we find ourselves in—the first step to recognizing the voice of our risen Lord there beside the tomb that once held him.

CONNIE MAIER is Pastor of Outreach & Implementation at Glencairn MB Church in Kitchener, ON. She is a self-confessed book and coffee snob and a wannabe poet. She has a piercing laugh. If you heard it, you’d know it.


Finish lines


Margarita (Rita) lost her mother Dec. 29, 1929. Her father married Rita’s mother’s twin sister, Tina Apr. 6, 1930. The Russians sent Rita’s father to Siberia in September 1941, never to be seen again. As the eldest, Rita helped her mother. From 1942–1943, when the Germans occupied the area, life was relatively peaceful. However, in September 1943, the family was forced to flee in the Great Trek, arriving in Poland in January 1944. The Polish officials loaded German Mennonites onto a flatbed rail car to eastern Germany. Learning of an MCC refugee camp in Gronau, armed with cigarettes for bribing, Rita crossed to West Germany at night; her family followed a week later. In Gronau, Rita worked in the kitchen, made many lifelong friends, and enjoyed evenings socializing. September 1948, the family sailed for Canada, arriving in Halifax, then boarding a train to Winnipeg, their final destination. There Rita worked 3 years for the wealthy Kennedy family. She was baptized, having previously accepted Christ as Saviour. Rita met Jacob Wiens when he was billeted in her home while attending a church conference. They married the following year, Mar. 21, 1953. Rita’s life consisted of looking after the family, baking, and gardening. During haying season, she fed workers meals and doughnuts for coffee breaks. As the children grew, Rita became more involved in church; ladies’ group became important to her. Rita was known


Hildegard was a well-loved mother, grandmother, and greatgrandmother, known for her tenacity, innovation, and engagement with her family, community, and God. She grew up in the Mennonite community of North Kildonan in Winnipeg, the oldest of 4 children born to Jacob and Liese Peters. Hildegard attended grade school at Lord Kitchener and graduated from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in 1951. Completing her training at the St. Boniface school of nursing in 1955, she worked as a nurse for 4½ years. In 1957, Hildegard married Peter Isaak (1933-2019). Their two sons, Jon (1960- ) and Chuck (1961- ), were the delight of her life. She took great pleasure in managing a thriving home for her three men, joining them in engaging the world with compassion, justice, and kindness. For 20+ years, she taught the high-school girls’ Sunday school class, taking much joy in advocating for them, helping them to know

for her paska and pastries at bake sales. In 1982, as Rita and Jacob were building their retirement home, Jacob died suddenly in a farming accident. Rita moved in alone and turned her focus to her 6 grandchildren living nearby. In 1993, she moved to Abbotsford, B.C. There Rita volunteered 2 days a week at MCC Quilters and 3 days in the Garden Park kitchen. This continued until a major stroke in 2005. Although she could no longer cook or quilt, she recovered. She took the opportunity to travel, visiting Canada’s east coast, Russia, Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, and California. Rita was devastated when her son John died at 38. She carried him in her heart as long as she lived. Rita loved tending roses, wearing beautiful clothing and shoes, and having her hair done. She prayed for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren by name. She often sang, “So Nimm Denn Meine Hände” (Take Thou My Hand, O Father). In 2016, Rita moved into Tabor Court, and later to Tabor Home. She never complained even during months of pandemic isolation. God granted Rita her wish to die peacefully in her sleep.

Birth: April 6, 1928

Birthplace: Manitoba

Death: January 4, 2023

Parents: Gerhard & Elizebeth Peters

Family: children John [d. 1996], Harry, Marlene (Edward) Becker, Edward (Lee Ann); 12 grandchildren; 13 greatgrandchildren; siblings Kaethe Peters, Dan Peters, Elisabeth Klassen

Church: Clearbrook, Abbotsford, B.C.

that they were every bit as competent as the boys in the other class! A whole generation of women count her as a mentor at North Kildonan MB Church and McIvor Avenue MB Church. She was predeceased by her husband of 62 years, Peter Isaak, and her great-grandson, Alex Toews, and remembered with love by her sons and their families.

Birth: February 25, 1933

Birthplace: Winnipeg, Man.

Death: March 16, 2023

Parents: Jacob Peters (1907-1990) & Liese Neufeld Peters (1905-1984)

Married: Peter Isaak, May 15, 1957 [d. 2019]

Family: Jon (Mary Anne Willems), Chuck (Corinne Tiessen), grandchildren Peter (Michaela Poll), Aleah (Devyn Toews), Rianna (Benni Krauss), Haley (Eusebio Raposo), Kristofer; great-granddaughter Jubilee Isaak-Krauss; great-grandson Alex Toews [d. 2023]

Church: McIvor Avenue MB, Winnipeg, Man.

Baptism: North Kildonan MB, Winnipeg, July 10, 1949


Henry moved with his family from Coaldale, Alta., to Chilliwack, B.C. As a young adult, he moved to Vancouver. Henry worked in a logging camp and several sawmills before becoming a city bus driver. He was a faithful, active member of his church, serving in many areas such as helping to maintain the building and as an usher for many years. Henry loved his family and enjoyed camping and fishing trips as well as trips to California with them. He enjoyed gardening. Upon retirement, he spent much time growing vegetables and beautiful flowers. Henry faithfully volunteered at Fraser Valley Gleaners for many years. He loved people and made friends wherever he went. He loved sharing a good laugh with his friends.

Birth: October 9, 1930

Birthplace: Coaldale Alta.

Death: March 8, 2023

Parents: Jacob & Tina Fast

Married: Linda Koehn, Jan. 23, 1959

Family: Linda; children Gary (Nancy), Brenda (Erv) Wiebe; 2 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; 3 siblings Church: Kilarney Park MB, Vancouver, B.C.




Helen was the youngest of 7 children born to Peter and Marie Heide. The family moved from Manitoba to B.C.’s Mt. Lehman area shortly afterward. Helen married John Ratzlaff Aug. 9, 1950. After John spent one year teaching in a one-room school in Northern B.C., they returned to Vancouver and started their family. In the late 1960s, Helen, Walter Paetkau, and other local residents helped set up what is now Archway Community Services. In addition, Helen and John set up a crisis line in the community. Helen believed that one’s faith must be lived, a tenet she followed throughout her life. Their home was always open to students and friends of their 4 children, especially when they moved to Sumas Mountain in the 1970s. When John retired from teaching, they spent a year in China under Mennonite Central Committee, teaching English as an additional language, until their evacuation during the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. Helen was an avid, dedicated, and skilled gardener, as evidenced by the beautiful two-acre garden surrounding their home on Sumas Mountain. They lived up on the mountain until their late 80s when they reluctantly moved into Abbotsford, B.C. Helen continued to garden at her apartment complex in town to the delight of her wonderful neighbours. Here are some of her own memories: “We have lived almost two thirds of our life on Sumas Mountain. Just 20 minutes from the busy streets of Abbotsford, we pioneered without hydro or telephone, dependent on ourselves. We lived with spectacular views of the Fraser River, Hatzic Lake and Prairie, and the North Shore Mountains. We watched the seasons change, the resident eagles soar outside our living room windows, and the deer wander across our driveway. We never tired of the view and we loved all the hard work. We learned to be self-reliant for our water, heating, and electrical needs. Our children brought home many friends, for free bed and breakfast services. This is where gardening became a passion, and we planted every tree and shrub and flower that was not part of the forest around the property. We were happy to share our garden for wedding parties and anniversaries and birthdays and other celebrations.” Helen had a very full and joyful life, and many happy and adventurous years with John. Her final message to her family: “Our love will be with you always. Our prayers for you will never stop.”

Birth: June 17, 1928

Birthplace: Manitoba

Death: January 10, 2023

Parents: Peter & Marie Heide

Family: children Jonathan (Lorraine), David (Ruth), Mitzi Payie, Carol (Terry) Sawatsky; many grandchildren & greatgrandchildren Church: Highland, Abbotsford, B.C.



Helen Wall was the third of 9 children born to George and Maria Konrad, in Gnadenthal, Man. Her first 12 years were spent there, attending school, taking care of her brothers, and being part of a busy, hardworking family. Helen finished high school, boarding at Mennonite Collegiate Institute. In 1946, her family moved to a dairy farm in Matsqui, B.C. Helen set out for a new adventure by attending normal school in Vancouver to earn her teaching certificate. She taught for one year in a one room school with Grades 1 to 6. Helen met Jake Wall at Matsqui MB Church. Their first date was to Peace Arch Park. They married in 1948, after the flood waters had receded, and settled on a dairy farm. This is where the 4 children were born; it holds many memories for them. Helen and Jake looked around for more land or a change of occupation. The opportunity came, in 1964, to purchase Grace Book Shop in Chilliwack, B.C. Jake and Helen embraced the new challenge. Helen and Jake sold the store in June 1988 with the intention of enjoying their retirement together. Life came to a sudden halt when Jake

had a heart attack and died on the golf course in fall of the same year. Helen’s determination to move forward was enabled by her faith in God and the support of family and friends. Helen moved to Abbotsford to be closer to Maryanne and Roland. Her family enjoyed many Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving dinners in her apartment common room. The family also loved playing games, especially Rook. Helen lived more than 30 years without Jake. She continued their pattern of travel, took up quilting, and embraced hospitality. Her family walked through the last years together, literally and figuratively, honoured to share the journey. Her legacy is one of love and strength.

Birth: June 21, 1927

Birthplace: Gnadenthal, Man.

Death: January 30, 2023

Parents: George & Maria Konrad

Married: Jake Wall, 1948 [d. 1988]

Family: children Bob (Hilda), Maryanne (Roland) Balzer, Pat (Reg) Esau, Charlotte (Shane) Culver; 10 grandchildren including Eric Balzer [d.]; 15 great-grandchildren; 3 sibling Church: Highland, Abbotsford, B.C.

Baptism: 1939

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