Christian Mennonite Conference
The Chortitzer Mennonite Church in located in the East Reserve, Manitoba. When in 1890 the conservative members of the Bergthal Mennonite Church separated from the more progressive members in the West Reserve because of the question of higher education, much debated among the Mennonites in Manitoba, they organized a new group, electing Abram Doerksen as their bishop and also a number of elders. This newly formed group was called the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church because Bishop Doerksen resided in the village of Sommerfeld. Bishop Gerhard Wiebe, on the East Reserve, and the elders and church members of his group threw in their lot, as being one, with the new Sommerfeld Mennonites on the West Reserve. Because Bishop Gerhard Wiebe lived in the village of Chortitz, their congregation was known from then on as the Chortitz Mennonite Church.
Then Sunday schools, choirs, young people's societies, and similar organizations were outside the realm of their church activities. No spiritual fellowship with other Mennonite church groups or congregations was tolerated. Concerning civil and social activities, however, they took a more friendly and tolerant attitude toward their brethren. They also contributed to charity and public relief at home and abroad. Before the trek to Paraguay in June 1948, the Chortitz Mennonite Church had approximately 600 families with around 1,500 members, 12 preachers, 6 stations of worship, but only 4 church buildings, with one of them located in the village of Chortitz. A number of families from this district, some 1,700 souls all told, joined a Sommerfeld group from the West Reserve and immigrated to Paraguay in 1948. -- H. H. Hamm
Officially known as "Die Mennonitische Gemeinde zu Chortitz," this group came from Russia to Manitoba in 1874 and settled in the East Reserve. At that time they were known as "Bergthalers." The bishop, Gerhard Wiebe (1827-1900), lived near the small village of Chortitz and therefore his church came to be known as "the Chortitzer Church."
At the time of settlement in Manitoba this Mennonite group was very conservative, with strict rules forbidding harmony singing, evening services, Sunday schools, and other functions of similar nature. The German language was used in all church services. The administrative structure vested most of the control in the bishop (elder). The collective body of ministers kept strict control of the affairs of the conference.
In 1948 a large number of families, some 1,700 persons in all, immigrated to Paraguay. This opened the doors for changes in the conference as the more conservative element had left, with the more progressive families remaining.
Since that time the Chortitzer conference has undergone many changes. Under the tactful leadership of Bishop H. K. Schellenberg (b. 1914), who held that office from 1962 to 1983, English was adopted, first in the Sunday School, and then in the morning services. In 1987, most congregations had both an English and a Low German service.
Christian education became an important emphasis in each of the congregations. This education manifested itself in young people's programs, Sunday school, evening services, and Bible studies.
Missions has become an important thrust of this conference. In the late 1950s interest in missions began as John Funk, missionary to Indian peoples in Paraguay, conducted meetings in the Grunthal area. Since then a board of missions was set up with a hired executive secretary to conduct the mission outreach of the conference. Numerous members of the conference are found in different parts of the world, serving either directly under the Chortitzer conference missions, with other church conferences, or with faith missions.
In 1990 the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference consisted of some 2,400 baptized members attending services in 11 different congregations. These congregations were served by 18 preachers, some of them graduates of Bible schools. There was one bishop (Wilhelm Hildebrandt, 1936-1999). The individual congregations gained considerable local autonomy and showed distinct characteristics in their worship services. The bishop presided over the ministerial meetings and continued to function as the spiritual leader of the whole conference. He, or his assistant, did all the baptizing within the conference. The bishop also was responsible for communion in all of the congregations. Elections and ordinations (for life) of ministers and deacons were his responsibility. The ministers continued to itinerate in the Manitoba congregations, but on a limited basis only. The pastors were unpaid and therefore had to have a job or farm to provide their daily necessities. Only the congregation in Prespatou, BC, operated with a full-time, fully paid pastor. The conference's official publication was the CMC Chronicle. -- Cornelius J. Martens
On 18 April 2015 the conference voted to change its name to Christian Mennonite Conference. The 60 delegates voted by majority for the new name over two other options: Evangelical Anabaptist Conference and Gospel Mennonite Conference.
In 2010 the following congregations were members of the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference:
|Callsbeck Fellowship Chapel||Winnipeg||Manitoba|
|Christian Faith Church||Winkler||Manitoba|
|Evangelical Mission||Fort St. John||British Columbia|
|Grunthal Chortitzer Mennonite Church||Grunthal||Manitoba|
|Mitchell Chortitzer Mennonite Church||Mitchell||Manitoba|
|New Life Mission Church||Edberg||Alberta|
|Niverville Chortitzer Mennonite Church||Niverville||Manitoba|
|Osler Mission Chapel||Osler||Saskatchewan|
|Prespatou Mennonite Church||Prespatou||British Columbia|
|Randolph Chortitzer Mennonite Church||Randolph (Chortitz)||Manitoba|
|Rosengard Chortitzer Mennonite Church||R.M. of Hanover||Manitoba|
|Silberfeld Mennonite Church||New Bothwell||Manitoba|
|Steinbach Chortitzer Mennonite Church||Steinbach||Manitoba|
|Two Hills Mennonite Church||Two Hills||Alberta|
|Weidenfeld Chortitzer Mennonite Church||R.M. of Hanover||Manitoba|
|Zion Mennonite Church||Schanzenfeld||Manitoba|
"The Chortitzer Church: Its Roots, Spirituality and the Pioneering Experience." Preservings (December 1997): 2-7.
Doerksen, Jacob K. "Chortitz Church Centennial." Preservings (December 1997): 8-9.
Dueck, Gustav. Chortitzer Mennonite Conference, 1874-1990. Steinbach, MB: Chortitzer Mennonite Conference, 2004.
Mennonite World Handbook (MWH), ed. Paul N. Kraybill. Lombard, Ill.: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 313-14.
Mennonite World Handbook. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, Ill.: MWC, 1984: 130.
Mennonite World Handbook; ed. Diether Götz Lichdi. Carol Stream, Ill.: MWC, 1990: 403.
Reimer, Margaret Loewen. One Quilt, Many Pieces. Waterloo, Ont.: Mennonite Publishing Service, 1983: 35.
Yoder, Kelli. "Small Canadian Conference Puts 'Christian' First." Mennonite World Review. 4 May 2015. Web. 4 May 2015. http://mennoworld.org/2015/05/04/news/small-canadian-conference-puts-christian-first/.
Conference Office: 478 Henry Street, Steinbach, MB R5G OJ1
Conference website: Chortitzer Mennonite Conference
Chortitzer Mennonite Conference Bishops
|Martin C. Friesen||1925-1927|
|Peter S. Wiebe||1932-1961|
|Henry K. Schellenberg||1961-1983|
|Wilhelm F. "Bill" Hildebrandt||1983-1999|
|Author(s)||H. H. Hamm|
|Cornelius J. Martens|
|Date Published||May 2015|
Cite This Article
Hamm, H. H. and Cornelius J. Martens. "Christian Mennonite Conference." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2015. Web. 21 Jan 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Mennonite_Conference&oldid=141070.
Hamm, H. H. and Cornelius J. Martens. (May 2015). Christian Mennonite Conference. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 January 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Mennonite_Conference&oldid=141070.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 566-567; vol. 5, pp. 142-143. All rights reserved.
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