Manitoba MB church suspended over LGBTQ stance

Jubilee Mennonite Church of Winnipeg, Man., issued a welcoming statement in June. — John Longhurst/AW Jubilee Mennonite Church of Winnipeg, Man., issued a welcoming statement in June. — John Longhurst/AW

The Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba has suspended Jubilee Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Man., over the congregation’s stance on LGBTQ inclusion.

In a letter from conference moderator Dave Enns dated Sept. 29, the congregation — founded in 1995 as a dual-conference congregation belonging to both MBCM and Mennonite Church Manitoba — was notified its statement of ­inclusion fails to adhere to the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches’ Confession of Faith by not upholding the definition of marriage as exclusive to a man and woman for life.

Since Jubilee leadership “has communicated with clarity that the church lacks the will to adjust this statement to find harmony with our shared confession,” its membership was suspended as of Oct. 3, in accordance with the conference’s constitution, Enns stated.

For Jubilee pastor Ken Warkentin, the decision was disappointing.

“I feel terrible. I am sad, I am disappointed, and I am heart­broken,” he said, noting that Jubilee has benefited over the years from support from the MBCM.

At the same time, Warkentin feels his church did “a very good job of prayerful discernment over a difficult issue. Jubilee continues to honor God and welcome our neighbors and strangers alike. My faith has been rekindled and sharpened through our reflections, prayers and learning. This congregation inspires me.”

Cam Priebe, executive director of the MBCM, said he was unable to comment about the decision at this time.

Jubilee’s path to this point began in 2021, when the church decided to explore whether to welcome and affirm members of the LGBTQ community.

After more than a year of discussion, study and prayer, the congregation issued a statement in June affirming “all people are made in the image of God and are equally loved by God,” and that everyone is welcome to join “regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, social or economic status or ability.”

Through membership, everyone is welcome to participate in the full life of the church, including communion, baptism and marriage, the statement went on to say.

During the process leading to the decision, Warkentin, who is serving as interim minister, conducted interviews with almost everyone in the 50-person congregation.

As a result of those individual meetings, along with congregational gatherings, “it was clear the church wanted to make a statement” of welcome for LGBTQ people, he said. At the meeting where the statement was approved, “there wasn’t a single voice against it,” he said.

After making its decision, the congregation informed leaders of both conferences. While MBCM expressed reservations, Michael Pahl, executive minister of MC Manitoba, was more welcoming.

Pahl said MC Manitoba, which is a part of Mennonite Church Canada, is “committed to creating space for congregations to discern how the Spirit is leading them with regard to LGBTQ+ inclusion. . . . This ­process leads to greater awareness of the challenges faced by our LGBTQ+ siblings and neighbors and a greater compassion for these beloved children of God.”

With Jubilee’s announcement, 10 of 37 congregations in the conference are now “fully affirming,” he said. 

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