Canada Inland Mission (Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches)

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The Formation of Canada Inland Mission

Before 1945, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren (MB) Churches had existed as an unregistered entity and held conventions as the Northern District of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, beginning in 1910. This situation changed in 1945, when the Canadian MB Conference was formed. At the same time, the Canada Inland Mission (CIM) committee, which had also functioned loosely since the early 1940s, was officially established as the official evangelism arm of the conference. The Canada Inland Mission joined Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC), established one year earlier in 1944, as the two primary ministries of the Canadian conference.

This threefold organization was the result of a 1944 meeting in Herbert, Saskatchewan, where Henry S. Voth and Abraham H. Unruh were mandated to go on a deputation tour to the Canadian churches to explain the necessity of launching MBBC and CIM. The arguments were that MBBC was needed to train pastors and CIM was needed to send out pastors and missionaries trained at MBBC. It was noted with urgency that several young Mennonite Brethren church workers needed a mission like CIM to facilitate their work in evangelism.

Canada Inland Mission took a number of years to become an active mission. Initially the CIM committee consisted of Henry Warkentin, the elected CIM chairman, and the chairmen of the provincial mission conferences, also recently established. With no budget, the role of CIM in its early years was limited to scouting out new fields, gathering mission information and serving as a clearing house for mission workers.

In the years 1952-54, when the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches decentralized and divested itself of domestic missions to concentrate on foreign missions, the CIM mandate was clarified and given a $5,000 budget to become responsible to work among Canadian ethnic groups including Jews, Russians, Japanese and Native Canadians. CIM carried the mantle of outreach responsibility for these special ethnic groups spread among the different provinces through the decade of the 1950s.


In Manitoba the Canada Inland Mission name had already been used in the early 1940s by B. B. Janz and A. A. Kroeker as an umbrella for various mission projects, several years before CIM became an official mission in 1945. Under the Canada Inland Mission, Mennonite Brethren worked together with the United Church of Canada to supply workers for the United Church of Canada (UCC) work with Indigenous people on northern Manitoba reserves. A. A. Kroeker had made the connection with the United Church through his associations with W. C. Graham of United College and J. A. Cormie of the United Church. The working relationship between CIM and UCC was acknowledged by reciprocal fraternal greetings at both MB and UCC annual conferences. The United Church Year Books of 1943, 1994 and 1945 list the MB workers that served on United Church missions on reserves during the war years. Many of these men later became prominent MB leaders, including Willie Berg, William Neufeld, William A. Dueck, E. C. Brandt, John M. Schmidt, and Jacob A. Froese.

It was also common during these war years for home mission workers to think of themselves as serving under CIM even though it was only a loosely organized entity. In 1952 CIM became the umbrella for the work in Lindal and Snowflake in Manitoba under the leadership of Pete and Eva Loewen, and later Frank Friesen and Joe and Marie Wiebe. This work terminated in 1966.

In Winnipeg, CIM also worked among Jewish people under the leadership of Hugo Spitzer, H. K. Hiebert and Jacob H. Pankratz. The Winnipeg mission to the Jews dated back to 1918 when Hugo Spitzer, a Hebrew Christian and independent missionary to the Jews, started giving reports to the Northern District and eventually by 1929 the conference designated some funds to the Jewish work in Winnipeg. Upon Spitzer's retirement, the Manitoba conference appointed H. K. Hiebert as Jewish missionary in 1939 and in 1947 Jacob H. Pankratz from Alberta was appointed for a gospel witness to "Israel in Winnipeg" after apprenticing in Toronto. His greatest success was working with 45 Jewish boys in a wood working class. This was abruptly interrupted by a report of this work in the Israelite Press. Pankratz was replaced by George and Tina Konrad who after one year resigned for reasons he called Jewish spiritual blindness. It was in 1954 that this work was transferred to the Canada Inland Mission, but by 1956 the Winnipeg Jewish work was integrated with the Winnipeg City Mission.


In Saskatchewan CIM worked with the Russian people and Doukhobors near Blaine Lake north of Petrovka. From 1943 to 1955 the work was facilitated by the itinerant preaching of D. B. Wiens, with the first resident workers being Peter Esau, Abe Dueck and George Reimer. The church resulting from this work in Blaine Lake joined the Saskatchewan MB Conference in 1966.

British Columbia

In British Columbia (BC) the work of CIM focused on two ministries. The first one was among the Russians and Dukhobors in the Grand Forks area led by Jacob G. Thiessen of Vancouver, and later by Peter Schroeder and George Martens who had graduated from the Russian Bible School in Ontario. The other work was among the Japanese and Indians in Port Edward led by Harvey Enns, Anne Neufeld, Helen Dyck, and Jake and Elsie Bergen. These CIM ministries in BC were soon transferred to the West Coast Children’s Mission, the evangelism arm of the BC Conference of MB Churches, in 1948.


In Quebec the work of CIM was led by Henry Warkentin, the CIM chairman, who made his first investigative trip to that province in 1959. His research showed a dire need for missionaries among the French Canadians. When the CIM committee heard that the Mennonite Brethren Board of Foreign Missions was withdrawing its workers from French speaking Belgian Congo due to political uncertainties, a number of these missionaries were assigned to Quebec. The first to come to Quebec under CIM were Ernst and Lydia Dyck in 1961. Clyde and Elisabeth Shannon arrived in 1962. Others coming later included Ben and Anne Klassen, Henry and Helen Derksen, Ben Dyck, Réne and Elizabeth Hainaut, and Dan and Gladys Wolfe.

The CIM outreach strategies in Quebec included church planting and Bible School training. The first CIM church plant was in St-Jérôme under Ernst Dyck’s leadership. By 1964 this church was organized with newly baptized believers. By 1968 the St-Jérôme church had expanded to include Ste-Thérèse and by 1968 the St-Laurent church in Montreal was started. Other church plants included St-Eustache, Ste-Rose, Quebec City, and St-Donat. With the help of Christian Service workers, a church also emerged in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in the Waterloo-Knowlton area, called Victory Fellowship, where Pierre Gilbert was later the pastor.

Atlantic Provinces

By the year 1969 CIM work had also expanded into the Maritimes together with a Board of Missions and Service (BOMAS) Christian Service unit, led by John and Sophie Esau. The Walter Epps were involved in establishing the Mt. Edward Bible Fellowship in Dartmouth with Ike and Shirley Bergen following them. The ministry of CIM came to an end in the Maritimes with the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches Board of Evangelism assuming its duties in the early 1970s.

The End of Canada Inland Mission

By the late 1950s, the types of outreach ministries carried out by CIM were being adopted by the Mennonite Brethren provincial conferences. This left CIM with a diminished mandate. However, the nearly defunct CIM took on new life in 1959, with Quebec and the Maritimes as its last frontiers of operation.

By 1969, the work of CIM was completely integrated with the Canadian MB Conference Board of Evangelism (BOE), which came into existence in 1965 due to Canadian Conference restructuring. With this restructuring the provincial conferences assumed the work of Home Missions including the CIM special ethnic groups. The Board of Evangelism continued the work of CIM with a new focus on Quebec and the Maritimes under the leadership of Henry Warkentin, followed by Henry Brucks, Jake Riediger, and Nick Dyck among others. Even though the CIM committee no longer officially existed, the usage of the name CIM, lingered on for another decade and was used inter-changeably with the Canadian Board of Evangelism into the decade of the 1970s.


Lorenz, John H. The Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, KS: MB Publishing House, 1950. Available in full electronic text at:

Penner, Peter. No Longer at Arms Length – Mennonite Brethren Church Planting. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred Press. 1987. Available in full electronic text at:

Penner, Peter. Reaching the Otherwise Unreached. Winnipeg, MB: Christian Press, 1959.

Toews, J. A. A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, KS: MB Publishing House, 1975. Available in full electronic text at:

Toews, Paul & Rempel, Kevin. For Everything a Season. Winnipeg, MB: Christian Press, 2002.

Warkentin, Henry. Interview (15 March 2010).

Author(s) James R Nikkel
Date Published April 2010

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MLA style

Nikkel, James R. "Canada Inland Mission (Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2010. Web. 24 Jun 2024.

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Nikkel, James R. (April 2010). Canada Inland Mission (Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2024, from

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