The Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC) began in 1902-1903 with the union of congregations from the Rosenorter Mennonites of Saskatchewan and the Bergthaler Mennonites of Manitoba. The conference first met in 1903 in Hochstadt, Manitoba, and was organized to promote "home missions." The Mennonites generally had large families and were constantly looking for land, and it was hoped that the conference would aid in the challenging task of keeping them united. The constitution, adopted at the second meeting of the conference in Eigenheim, Saskatchewan in 1904, strongly affirmed the autonomy of individual congregations: "The Conference has no authority to interfere in the internal matters of a congregation unless called to do so. It is not a legislative, but an advisory body. The union it promotes does not consist in agreeable forms and customs, but in unity of love, faith, and hope, and in connection with this a common work in the kingdom of God." Early leaders in the conference included David Toews (chairperson from 1914-1940, with the exception of 1936), John G. Rempel (secretary from 1930-1947), and J. J. Thiessen (vice-chairperson from 1941-1942 and chairperson from 1943-1959).
The Conference of Mennonites in Canada has come to include a significant number of new congregations made up of some families who arrived from the United States, along with many more recent immigrants from the Soviet Union. The latter first came to Canada in the 1920s, then in a further wave during the years following World War II, and finally in a smaller group of scattered families who left the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.
A series of three different name changes led to the present conference name. Known first as Die Konferenz der Mennoniten im Mittleren Kanada (Conference of Mennonites in Middle Canada), it became the General Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1932 (sessions at Laird, Saskatchewan, Canada). Restructuring in 1959 brought about some major changes, such as limiting the terms of offices, and giving the organization its present name. At the same time a varying set of committees, which had carried out tasks as they arose, was replaced by five boards: Missions, Education and Publications, Christian Service, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, and Finance. Beginning in the 1950s the first staff members (a part-time treasurer, then a general secretary, and soon also executive secretaries of other boards) took up responsibilities as a central office developed rapidly in the next decade and a half. In the congregations there was a strong move away from leadership by elders toward the promotion of a professional ministry.
These new directions created a project-oriented agenda. With it came rising budgets and new initiatives of ministry and mission. The Mennonite Pioneer Mission, established and maintained by the Bergthal Mennonites of Manitoba until 1958, was brought into the conference program. Ultimately it formed the core aspects of Native Ministries, as this work is called in 1998. Congregations were given loans to build new church buildings. Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) expanded its new campus at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, where the conference also had its offices. The Board of Education and Publication, meanwhile, published devotional materials, subsidized conference-related periodicals, and undertook to publish the Conference Bulletin and other promotional materials. From time to time certain key theological and other issues rose to the fore. In the beginning years the issues related to problems of assuming public office (government) and other civic responsibilities. Then the matter of conversion and the nature of becoming believers caught attention for a time. Eschatological questions had their turn also. In the 1960s there arose the seeming tension between faith and social action, particularly in the years when the Board of Christian Service drew attention to major social ills erupting in society at the time.
Representation in the delegate sessions and board tended to shift in these years from a predominantly clergy-oriented body to one with a growing lay member involvement; at the first conference session in 1903 there was one lay person present. By 1970 a large number of delegates were lay members, although ministers tended to dominate the executive committee and boards for some time to come. This was no doubt partly because ministers were more readily available, and perhaps better-trained to take up board and other responsibilities. Congregations were more likely to view ministers' attendance at meetings and annual sessions as part of their regular employment than would be true of farmers and the employers of urban workers and professionals.
In 1971 the constitution was revised again. The earlier five boards now became four: General Board, Congregational Resources, Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), and Mennonite Pioneer Missions (changed to Native Ministries the following year). Another result of the change was a marked reduction of staff, and the general board of the conference assumed responsibility for finances. The conference celebrated its 75th birthday at the Gretna, Man., sessions in 1978. That year the CMBC board reported a projection of changes and expansion which would allow the college's student body to rise to between 160 and 200. The following decade would see that goal attained as student enrollment stabilized around 180.
Additional issues, such as the place of women in the church, marital stability (divorce, marriage), a conference periodical, a new partnership with a growing number of Chinese and other Asian congregations, several Native churches, relating to the Umsiedler Mennonite churches of the Federal Republic of Germany (emigrants from the Soviet Union), and the development of an archival center, came to be important questions for the network of ministries in the conference in the 1980s.
A few new congregations have come into the conference from eastern Canada (Quebec and New Brunswick). Various other, notably urban, congregations have also joined in the last decade. One segment of the conference accepted a new inter-Mennonite affiliation in Ontario when the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario joined Mennonite Church (MC) congregations in Ontario to become the of Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (MCEC) in 1988. The MC congregations in MCEC became associate members of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and in 1995 sixty-eight of these congregations became full members of CMC. Provincial conferences have taken on sizable programs of their own, and reassessments of mutual relationships continue as this occurs. Joint sessions occurred for the first time with the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) in 1989. In the CMC Directory, 1998, there are 222 congregations with a total of over 35,000 members listed as belonging to the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
In 1999 the conference, together with the Mennonite Church (MC) and General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) completed a long process of integration and transformed into two national bodies -- Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.
Bulletin: Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 1965- (Winnipeg, four to six times annually; annually since 1971).
CMC Directory (1998): 12.
Conference of Mennonites in Canada Yearbook (Winnipeg, 1928-)
Ens, Adolf. Becoming a National Church: a History of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. Winnipeg, MB: CMU Press, 2004.
Friesen-Petkau, Irene. "Just when we were . . ." Winnipeg: History Archives Committee of the Conference of Mennonites In Canada, 1978.
Gerbrandt, Henry J. "A History of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada," in Call to Faithfulness, ed. Henry Poettcker and Rudy Regehr. Winnipeg: CMBC, 1972: 81-91.
Handbook of Information (1988): 100-103.
Mennonite World Handbook, (Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, Ill.: Mennonite World Conference, 1984): 131.
Peters, Jacob. "Organizational Change Within A Religious Denomination: A Case Study of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 1903-1978." Ph.D. diss., U. of Manitoba, 1987.
Regehr, Rudy A. and Margaret Franz, ed. Twenty-Five Years: A Time To Grow. Winnipeg: CMBC, 1972.
Reimer, Margaret Loewen, ed. One Quilt, Many Pieces. Waterloo, Ont.: Mennonite Publishing Service, 1983: 49-51.
Rempel, J. G. Fünfzig Jahre Konferenz Bestrebungen, 1902-1952: Konferenz der Mennoniten in Canada. Steinbach, 1952.
Totemak. Winnipeg, Native Ministries program, 1972-79, frequency varies; name changed to Intotemak (1980-).
Statements approved by the Conference
A Commitment to Christ's Way of Peace (Mennonite Central Committee, 1993)
Guidelines for building faithful relationships in the church (Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 1998)
Resolution on the Issue of Homosexuality (Conference of Mennonites in Canada, 1998)
Mennonite Church Canada (formerly Conference of Mennonites in Canada) website
See also General Conference Mennonite Church; Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia; Mennonite Church Alberta; Conference of Mennonites of Saskatchewan; Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba; Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario; Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada.
|Conference of Mennonites in Canada Executive 1|
|01||1903||Hochstadt, MB||Jacob Hoeppner||Benjamin Ewert|
|02||1904||Eigenheim, SK||Jacob Hoeppner||David Toews|
|03||1905||Winkler, MB||Jacob Hoeppner||Benjamin Ewert|
|04||1906||Eigenheim, SK||Henry H. Ewert||David Toews|
|05||1907||Herbert, SK||Henry H. Ewert||David Toews|
|06||1908||Drake, SK||Johann Gerbrandt||David Toews|
|07||1909||Edenburg, MB||Johann Gerbrandt||David Toews|
|08||1910||Eigenheim, SK||Johann Gerbrandt||David Toews|
|09||1911||Herbert, SK||Johann Gerbrandt||David Toews|
|10||1912||Winkler, MB||Henry H. Ewert||Benjamin Ewert|
|11||1913||Drake, SK||Henry H. Ewert||Benjamin Ewert|
|12||1914||Rosthern, SK||David Toews||N. F. Toews||Benjamin Ewert|
|13||1915||Herbert, SK||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||Benjamin Ewert|
|14||1916||Altona, MB||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||Nicolai W. Bahnmann|
|15||1917||Langham, SK||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||Nicolai W. Bahnmann|
|16||1918||Drake, SK||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||Nicolai W. Bahnmann|
|17||1919||Gretna, MB||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||H.H. Hamm|
|18||1920||Laird, SK||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||J. Regier|
|19||1921||Herbert, SK||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||J. Regier|
|20||1922||Winkler, MB||David Toews||Johann Gerbrandt||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|21||1923||Langham, SK||David Toews||Henry H. Ewert||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|22||1924||Drake, SK||David Toews||G. Buhler||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|23||1925||Eigenheim, SK||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|24||1926||Drake, SK||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|25||1927||Herbert, SK||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|26||1928||Rosthern, SK||David Toews||G. Buhler||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|27||1929||Drake, SK||David Toews||J.J. Klassen||Jacob Gerbrandt|
|28||1930||Winkler, MB||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|29||1931||Langham, SK||David Toews||Jacob H. Janzen||Johann G. Rempel|
|30||1932||Laird, SK||David Toews||Jacob H. Janzen||Johann G. Rempel|
|31||1933||Gnadenthal, MB||David Toews||Jacob H. Janzen||Johann G. Rempel|
|32||1934||Hague, SK||David Toews||Jacob H. Janzen||Johann G. Rempel|
|33||1935||Altona, MB||David Toews||Jacob H. Janzen||Johann G. Rempel|
|34||1936||Drake, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|35||1937||Rosemary, AB||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|36||1938||Eigenheim, SK||David Toews||J. J. Klassen||Johann G. Rempel|
|37||1939||Morden, MB||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|38||1940||Waldheim, SK||David Toews||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|39||1941||Laird, SK||Benjamin Ewert||Jacob J. Thiessen||Johann G. Rempel|
|40||1942||Winkler, MB||Benjamin Ewert||Jacob J. Thiessen||Johann G. Rempel|
|41||1943||Langham, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|42||1944||Winnipeg, MB||Jacob J. Thiessen||Benjamin Ewert||Johann G. Rempel|
|43||1945||Eigenheim, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||Johann G. Rempel|
|44||1946||Beamsville, ON||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||Johann G. Rempel|
|45||1947||Coaldale, AB||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||Johann G. Rempel|
|46||1948||Gnadenthal, MB||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||Johann G. Rempel|
|47||1949||Greendale, BC||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||H. T. Klaassen|
|48||1950||Rosthern, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||H. T. Klaassen|
|49||1951||Leamington, ON||Jacob J. Thiessen||Jacob Gerbrandt||H. T. Klaassen|
|50||1952||Gretna, MB||Jacob J. Thiessen||J. M. Pauls||H. T. Klaassen|
|51||1953||Drake, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||David Schulz||H. T. Klaassen|
|52||1954||Abbotsford, BC||Jacob J. Thiessen||David Schulz||H. T. Klaassen|
|53||1955||Didsbury, AB||Jacob J. Thiessen||David Schulz||P. R. Harder|
|54||1956||Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON||Jacob J. Thiessen||David Schulz||P. R. Harder|
|55||1957||Winkler, MB||Jacob J. Thiessen||David Schulz||P. R. Harder|
|56||1958||Saskatoon, SK||Jacob J. Thiessen||Henry Poettcker||P. R. Harder|
|57||1959||Clearbrook, BC||Jacob J. Thiessen||Henry Poettcker||Henry H. Epp|
|58||1960||Steinbach, MB||J. M. Pauls||Henry Poettcker||Henry H. Epp|
|59||1961||Calgary, AB||J. M. Pauls/G. G. Neufeld||G. G. Neufeld/David P. Neufeld||Henry H. Epp|
|60||1962||St. Catharines, ON||Paul Schroeder||J. J. Wichert||P. R. Harder|
|61||1963||Altona, MB||Paul Schroeder||H. P. Epp||P. R. Harder|
|62||1964||Rosthern, SK||Paul Schroeder||H. P. Epp||P. R. Harder|
|63||1965||Clearbrook, BC||H. P. Epp||H. T. Klaassen||R. H. Vogt|
|64||1966||Winnipeg, MB||H. P. Epp||H. T. Klaassen||R. H. Vogt|
|65||1967||Leamington, ON||H. P. Epp||P. G. Sawatzky||Herman Enns|
|66||1968||Calgary, AB||P. G. Sawatzky||Henry Poettcker||Herman Enns|
|67||1969||Saskatoon, SK||Edward Enns||Jacob F. Pauls||Herman Enns|
|68||1970||Winkler, MB||Edward Enns||Abe Neufeld||William Block|
|69||1971||Vancouver, BC||Edward Enns||Jacob Tilitzky||William Block|
|70||1972||Waterloo, ON||Jacob Tilitzky||Peter Retzlaff||Menno Epp|
|71||1973||Edmonton, AB||Jacob Tilitzky||Peter Retzlaff||Menno Epp|
|72||1974||Steinbach, MB||Jacob Tilitzky||Peter Retzlaff||Menno Epp|
|73||1975||Swift Current, SK||Jake Harms||Herman Enns||Menno Epp|
|74||1976||Clearbrook, BC||Jake Harms||Herman Enns||Lorne Buhr|
|75||1977||Toronto, ON||Jake Harms||Herman Enns/H. P. Epp||Lorne Buhr|
|76||1978||Gretna, MB||David P. Neufeld||Jake Fransen||Lorne Buhr|
|77||1979||Calgary, AB||David P. Neufeld||Jake Fransen||Helen Rempel|
|78||1980||Rosthern, SK||David P. Neufeld||Jake Fransen||Helen Rempel|
|79||1981||Vancouver, BC||Jake Fransen||Henry Funk||Helen Rempel|
|80||1982||St. Catharines, ON||Jake Fransen||Henry Funk||Jacob Wiebe|
|81||1983||Winnipeg, MB||Jake Fransen||Fred Enns||Jacob Wiebe|
|82||1984||Three Hills, AB||Jake Fransen||Fred Enns||Jacob Wiebe|
|83||1985||Regina, SK||Jake Fransen||Fred Enns||Kay Martens|
|84||1986||Waterloo, ON||Jake Fransen||Fred Enns||Kay Martens|
|85||1987||Clearbrook, BC||Walter Franz||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|86||1988||Winkler, MB||Walter Franz||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|87||1989||Normal, IL, USA||Walter Franz||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|88||1990||Edmonton, AB||Walter Franz||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|89||1991||Saskatoon, SK||Menno Epp||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|90||1992||Sioux Falls, ND, USA||Menno Epp||George Richert||Ruth Enns|
|91||1993||Waterloo, ON||Menno Epp||Gerd Bartel||Ruth Enns|
|92||1994||Clearbrook, BC||Menno Epp||Gerd Bartel||Mary Anne Loeppky|
|93||1995||Newton, KS, USA||Menno Epp||Gerd Bartel||Mary Anne Loeppky|
|94||1996||Calgary, AB||Menno Epp||Gerd Bartel||Mary Anne Loeppky|
|95||1997||Winnipeg, MB||Ron Sawatsky||Gerd Bartel||Mary Anne Loeppky|
|96||1998||Stratford, ON||Ron Sawatsky||Gerd Bartel||Pam Peters Pries|
|97||1999||St. Louis, Missouri, USA||Ron Sawatsky||Jake F. Pauls||Joy Kroeger|
Source: Ens, Adolf. Becoming a National Church: a History of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. Winnipeg, MB: CMU Press, 2004.
|Author(s)||John G. Rempel|
Cite This Article
Rempel, John G. and Lawrence Klippenstein. "Conference of Mennonites in Canada." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 5 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Conference_of_Mennonites_in_Canada&oldid=123624.
Rempel, John G. and Lawrence Klippenstein. (1990). Conference of Mennonites in Canada. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Conference_of_Mennonites_in_Canada&oldid=123624.
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