Asked to repent, LGBTQ-welcoming church withdraws

British Columbia MB conference recommends its release

Artisan Church holds a worship service in 2019 in Vancouver, B.C. — Artisan Church Artisan Church holds a worship service in 2019 in Vancouver, B.C. — Artisan Church

The British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is recommending that Artisan Church in Vancouver be released from membership.

The announcement is included in a list of recommendations to the Conference for its April 30 annual convention.

The decision follows the church’s adoption of what it calls a “Milestone” statement” on LGBTQ welcome and inclusion.

In the eight-page document, called the “Milestone” statement, the church indicated it would “practice full inclusion” at “every level of leadership” for LGBTQ people, would also “celebrate LGBTQ covenantal marriages” and will have someone on staff to perform those marriages.

In a statement about the recommendation to release Artisan, BCMB conference minister Rob Thiessen noted leaders from BCMB have met with Artisan pastoral staff and their leadership team over the past five years “encouraging them to teach and develop a ministry response to LGBTQ issues from within the theological framework of our MB Confession of Faith.”

After reviewing the church’s statement on LGBTQ welcome and inclusion, the BCMB Pastoral Ministries Committee, Executive Board and the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches National Faith and Life director agreed the church’s stated commitment to celebrate and perform gay marriages places them in conflict with the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.

“BCMB and the wider CCMBC community are deeply saddened to see Artisan choose this path,” the statement goes on to say.

“We have expressed to them that although we share their deep desire to reach the LGTBQ community, we do not believe that their approach is in line with the gospel and the teachings of Scripture . . . Our prayer remains that they would repent of this decision.”

Since releasing its “Milestone” statement about welcoming and including LGBTQ people, Artisan has requested the withdrawal of its membership from BCMB. Their pastor, Nelson Boschman, has also surrendered his license as a BCMB pastor.

Two people disappointed by the recommendation are James and Janet Toews, former pastor couple at the Neighbourhood MB Church in Nanaimo.

On Feb. 21 they sent a letter to the BC Mennonite Brethren pastoral ministries committee, and copied to other MB pastors in B.C. and to national Mennonite Brethren conference leadership, asking for a postponement of a decision about Artisan in April in favor of a lengthier conversation about LGBTQ welcome and inclusion.

“We had hoped the convention would be a time to keep talking about this issue, not to vote to release Artisan from the conference,” said Janet Toews about the decision to ask for a vote for Artisan to be released.

James Toews added: “We hoped they would have said ‘we don’t want to let you go, let’s keep talking about this.’ ”

The couple expressed the hope delegates to the convention might vote against the recommendation in order to keep the conversation going.

The National Faith and Life Team of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren conference met March 4 to develop a statement about LGBTQ welcome and inclusion. By press time it had not yet released that statement.

This is an update to the March 12 article: Canadian Mennonite Brethren talking about LGBTQ inclusion

John Longhurst

John Longhurst was formerly Communications Manager at MDS Canada.

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