Chortitzer Mennonite Conference
The Chortitz 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 emigrated to Paraguay in 1948. -- HHH
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, emigrated 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. -- CJM
In 2010 the following congregations were members of the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference:
"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.
Conference Office: 478 Henry Street, Steinbach, MB R5G OJ1
Conference website: Chortitzer Mennonite Conference
Chortitzer Mennonite Conference Bishops
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 566-567; vol. 5, pp. 142-143. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
To cite this page:
MLA style: Hamm, H. H. and Cornelius J. Martens. "Chortitzer Mennonite Conference." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C467ME.html.
APA style: Hamm, H. H. and Cornelius J. Martens. (July 2010). Chortitzer Mennonite Conference. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C467ME.html.