EMMC withdraws from MCC Canada

Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference

A decision by Mennonite Central Committee Canada to no longer require all staff to be celibate outside of heterosexual marriage has prompted the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference to withdraw as an official supporting member of that organization.

The small conference, with 23 mostly rural Canadian congregations in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and four churches in Belize and Mexico, announced its decision on April 11.

The conference made the decision because of the lack of congruence between MCC Canada’s new position on marriage and the denomination’s Confession of Faith, which defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman, said interim executive director Terry Hiebert.

The decision means the EMMC will no longer be involved in governance or send representatives to the MCC Canada board or to provincial MCC organizations in Canada.

“It’s no secret the conference has had some disconnects with MCC over the years,” Hiebert said, noting the denomination has been able to live with those tensions in the past. But the change over its hiring practices related to marriage “shows them heading in a different direction,” than the conference, he added.

EMMC’s General Council passed a motion to withdraw from MCC Canada last November, but implementation was delayed to have further discussions with MCC Canada. The decision was announced to members of the denomination May 5.

Hiebert emphasized that individual churches and members are still welcome to support MCC, including donating or volunteering. However, if members decide to be part of an MCC board or be a delegate at any level of MCC, “we only ask that they indicate they are not speaking or acting on behalf of the conference,” he said.

For Hiebert, the decision is part of a bigger conversation at the EMMC about which organizations it officially partners with. “We see a need to develop a policy that helps us align our beliefs with our affiliations,” he said.

As for MCC Canada, “they do a lot of good work and we wish them well,” he said. “We are simply saying we want to officially work with organizations that share our values.”

The decision that prompted the EMMC to leave was made because MCC Canada needs to be in compliance with Canadian labor laws and human rights legislation that prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, said MCC Canada board chair Ron Ratzlaff.

“We made the decision based on legal counsel,” he said of the decision, made at the September board meeting.

Prior to that meeting, MCC Canada had two codes of conduct, Ratzlaff noted. The Standard Code, which required LGBTQ people to be celibate outside of heterosexual marriage, only applied to senior staff positions. The Basic Code, which doesn’t include that requirement, applied to all other staff.

Now the Basic Code is the only code that will apply to all MCC Canada staff and board members, he said.

Ratzlaff emphasized that everyone who works for MCC Canada or serves on its board must still support the mission and core values of MCC and be committed to Christian faith, part of a church or other Christian community and committed to peace and nonviolence. But anyone can now apply for any position at MCC Canada, including those who support same-sex marriage or are members of the LGBTQ community.

The change only applies to MCC Canada staff and board members. The Standard Code will continue to be applied by MCC U.S. for its staff and also to North American staff who serve outside of the U.S. and Canada.

MCC Canada wants to “continue to be in discussion and fellowship” with the churches and people who are part of the EMMC, Ratzlaff said, adding the door is always open for them to become formally re-involved with MCC Canada again.

“We welcome them and all who want to support and be involved in our mission to meet basic human needs around the world,” he said.

John Longhurst

John Longhurst was formerly Communications Manager at MDS Canada.

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