Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC)
The Rudnerweide Mennonite Church was a Mennonite branch found chiefly in Manitoba. A schism occurred in the Sommerfeld Mennonite congregation in southern Manitoba in 1937, the more progressive members advocating a more active, spiritual church life, and the more conservative section strongly opposed to this movement. As a result a new more active congregation was organized, composed of former members of the Sommerfeld church, with four of the twelve Sommerfeld ministers, Isaac A. Hoeppner, George Froese, Peter S. Zacharias, and William H. Falk, as ministers. Of these, William H. Falk, of Schoental, was chosen as elder or bishop. This congregation was from the beginning interested in home and foreign missions, as well as education and Bible schools. The Rudnerweide Mennonites stressed true conversion, a clean manner of life, and good fellowship in the church. They adhered to the same tenets of faith and used the same catechism as the original group, but held evangelistic gatherings and Bible and prayer meetings, as well as taking part in Sunday school work, young people's endeavor, and choir practice. Their elected ministers were free to deliver their sermons directly from a Bible text, instead of merely reading sermons handed down from the past as was the case in the mother Sommerfeld church. Fourteen foreign missionaries had been sent out by this congregation by the 1950s and were supported by it.
This congregational church group had not yet joined any of the existing conferences in 1958. It had in Manitoba about 600 families with 3,200 souls and 1,200 members, served by 20 ministers in 14 meetinghouses. The total baptized membership in 1958 was 1,700, with 500 scattered throughout Western Canada, not attached to any local meeting. It owned ten meetinghouses and held Sunday services also at a number of smaller stations. Twenty ministers served in circuit at all the stations of the congregation in Manitoba. In 1954 Jacob H. Friesen was elected as elder. The main meeting places, all in Manitoba, were located as follows:
The Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference was formed on 1 July 1959 from the Rudnerweider Mennonite Church, which had been organized in 1937. There were a number of factors leading to this reorganization. While the centralized ministry had its strengths, many felt that a more localized leadership would be more effective. The growing diversity in the church made it difficult for all ministers functioning in the circuit to relate well to every community. Increasing urbanization, higher education, the shift to the English language, and new vocational interests among members all contributed to the call for change.
The new conference organization allowed for a greater degree of localization. Local congregations were now free to call their own ministers, function as autonomous groups, and more readily develop their own identities. However, the annual conventions tied these local congregations together in spirit and purpose as did the various conference boards made up of members from the various regions.
The change was difficult for some of the older ministers as well as some rural groups less affected by change in the larger society. The Board of Ministers and Deacons found itself quite occupied in helping congregations move to the new system and in wrestling with ethical and theological issues brought on by the changing context.
The new Board of Missions continued sponsoring a large slate of missionaries serving under various faith missions. However, in the early 1960s when the Western Gospel Mission dissolved, it inherited three mission stations, two in Manitoba and one in Saskatchewan. Then in the mid-1960s new mission opportunities arose farther afield.
In southern Ontario, conference evangelist John D. Friesen and others discovered a spiritual need among Mennonite immigrants returning to Canada from Mexico. By the mid-1980s EMMC efforts had resulted in at least six church centers in the Aylmer, Leamington and Kitchener areas. Also by this time the Aylmer Bible School, established to meet the unique needs of these congregations, had been in operation for about a decade.
In Central America, a new work center was begun in Belize. By the early 1980s it had become largely autonomous. Developments here included ministries in the fields of education, medical care, and German and Spanish church ministries. In South America a German and Spanish ministry in the rural area of Chorovi, near Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was begun in the late 1960s. In later years the thrust of the work shifted to education and church planting concerns in Pedro Dias, a suburb of Santa Cruz. In other developments new ministries were opened in Seminole, Texas and a few locations in Mexico, including Santa Rita and Nuevo Ideál.
The Board of Education and Publication was the most aggressive of the new conference boards in the early 1960s. It actively promoted (summer) vacation Bible schools, Sunday schools, youth and music ministries and publication efforts. By 1964 the English paper, the EMMC Recorder, had replaced Der Leitstern as the official conference paper. The most difficult issue the board faced was solidifying support for Bible school education. In 1972 this board gave up its responsibility for radio ministries when a new Board of Radio and Evangelism was formed. "The Gospel Message," a Low German radio broadcast, was still receiving popular support in 1986.
The Board of Christian Service promoted Christian service ministries, including that of Mennonite Central Committee, until it was merged with the Mission Board in 1970 to create the Board of Missions and Service. The Board of Business and Administration was responsible for properties and financial transactions. In 1990 the membership of EMMC was 3,470 in 24 independent congregations and nine mission stations.
In 2010 the following congregations were members of the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference:
Heppner, Jack. Search for Renewal: The Story of the Rudnerweider/EMMC, 1937-1987. Winnipeg: Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference, 1987.
Mennonite World Handbook, ed. Paul N. Kraybill. Lombard, Ill.: Mennonite World Conference (MWC), 1978: 319-320.
Mennonite World Handbook. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, Ill.: MWC, 1984: 50, 133.
Mennonite World Handbook, ed. Diether Götz Lichdi. Carol Stream, Ill.: MWC, 1990: 412.
Reimer, Margaret Loewen, ed. One Quilt, Many Pieces. Waterloo, Ont.: Mennonite Publishing Service, 1983: 45.
Address: 757 St. Anne’s Road, Winnipeg, MB R2N 4G6
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 375-376; vol. 5, pp. 280-281. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Hamm, H. H., G. H. Penner and Jack Heppner. "Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E9365ME.html.
APA style: Hamm, H. H., G. H. Penner and Jack Heppner. (July 2010). Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E9365ME.html.