Artisan Church, the Mennonite Brethren congregation in Vancouver, B.C., that has adopted a welcoming and affirming stance toward LGBTQ people, has been voted out of the British Columbia MB conference.
The vote was taken May 1 during a convention held online due to pandemic restrictions.
The vote came as a result of a request from Artisan to leave the provincial conference due to its stance of permitting gay marriage.
The final tally of the vote to allow the church to leave was not released.
Since a request by Anabaptist World to cover the convention was denied by BCMB, notes were provided by some of the delegates in attendance.
According to those participants, the general tone of the event was hard to gauge due to it being held by Zoom, but a number of delegates expressed frustration over the process and argued for more time and conversation before a vote was taken.
Some also took issue with the conference’s background explanation about Artisan, suggesting it was too harsh, one-sided, accusatory and judgmental. One person said it contained inaccuracies, while another said she was grieved by its tone.
When asked about the backgrounder, BCMB executive director Rob Thiessen replied he felt it was necessary to provide context, and because Artisan’s decision was disappointing.
It was intended to be redemptive and leave the door open for a change of attitude on the part of Artisan, he said, and to underscore how important the issue is for BCMB.
One delegate suggested Artisan will do fine without the BCMB, but the conference will be the worse off since it won’t be able to learn from Artisan.
Another suggested Artisan is not the only church dealing with this topic; the issue will keep coming up, she said.
A delegate asked for more time before making the decision, suggesting something as major as this called for fasting and prayer. Others wondered if it might be possible to examine changes to the Confession of Faith on the issue of marriage.
At least two delegates spoke in favor of the resolution, with one calling for the removal of “the offending member” and another indicating the issue of gay marriage is settled according to the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.
When the time for the discussion reached its time limit, a motion was made to grant more time to talk about it. It was defeated.
After the vote, Artisan moderator Peter Mogan expressed gratitude to BCMB for its support in planting the church and for its prayers and financial support as it reached out to younger people, especially those who have become disaffected with Christianity.
At the end of the discussion, BCMB moderator Sharon Simpson said the conference would conduct a review of the process that led to Artisan’s removal. Her comments prompted questions about timeline, reporting and how to ensure such a review would be independent.