The Mennonite Conference of Ontario (Mennonite Church), formerly known as the Canada Conference, was organized about 1820 soon after the settlements of Mennonites began in the three main areas of Ontario (York, Waterloo, Niagara). It included the congregations in western New York and in eastern Michigan as these were organized. The records of 1831 show that the gatherings were held annually in October. "Die grosse Zusammenkunft" followed a three-year cycle in the areas mentioned. From about 1840 the conference was held on the last Friday of May. In 1889 this became the occasion of dispute and contributed to a division into two conferences, the Old Order (Wisler) Conference and the Ontario Mennonite (MC) Conference.
In the earlier years the conference session was a gathering of bishops, ministers, and deacons. It was the practice to hold communion at the place of conference on the Sunday following, with provision for public gatherings on contiguous days. These conferences were concerned with encouraging order in the churches, temperate living, restraint from forms of worldliness, and godliness in conduct and witness. Council meetings known as semiannual conferences were arranged in each of the three districts. In 1847 the conference authorized the holding of prayer meetings with the caution that the spirit of love and good-will be evident. During the first half of the 20th century two days were devoted annually to the church conference. Bishop district meetings for counsel on matters of local interest and autumn ministers' inspirational sessions have in the last decade taken the place of semiannual conferences. By 1954 the conference session had become a three-day period. Questions to be considered in open session were arranged in a private session preceding. The year's work of the executive committee was reported for ratification. After 1949 lay delegates were included in the conference membership. A conference charter was adopted in 1909. In 1951 the conference was incorporated and could now hold the properties in connection with its institutions. The Finance Committee consisted of the treasurers of the various organizations. The deacons of the conference composed the Welfare Board. They met twice a year and aimed to equalize the burdens of the congregations for all major needs, a fund was perpetuated by annual congregational offerings. Child Welfare work was a part of this organization. The Braeside Home Association (later Fairview Mennonite Home) consisted of representatives from all organized churches of the conference and was responsible for the care of the aged. The Association operated through an executive committee of three and a management committee of seven, who met monthly. Crowded conditions by 1955 led to the erection of an enlarged new building. The outreach of the Conference was made the responsibility of the Mennonite Mission Board of Ontario, organized in 1929. Her teaching program has advanced through the Sunday schools and their conference, established in 1890; through the Ontario Mennonite Bible School since 1907, and through young people's Bible meetings and summer Bible schools of later date.
A major schism affecting the unity of the Conference was experienced as early as 1847, when Bishop Jacob Gross of the Twenty (Vineland) and a number of adherents withdrew to join the Evangelical Association. It was at this time also that Daniel Hoch of the same congregation separated with some following to help form the Ohio-Canada West Conference of Mennonites. This movement caused loss in some twelve congregations of the Conference. Another movement in 1872-1874 led to the organization of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ group. The division of 1889 gave rise to the branch known as the Old Order (Wisler) Mennonites of Ontario. In 1924 differences within the First Mennonite Church of Kitchener led to the organization of the Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, which later joined the General Conference Mennonites.
The bishops who served before the division of 1889 were, in the Waterloo area, Benjamin Eby (ord. 1812), Henry Shantz (1842), Joseph Hagey (1851), Abraham Martin (1867), Amos Cressman (1875), Elias Weber (1879), and Daniel Wismer (1887); in the Markham area, Abraham Grove (1808), Jacob Grove (1837), and Christian Reesor (1867); in the Niagara area, Jacob Moyer (1805), Jacob Gross (1834), Jacob Krehbiel (1839), Dilman Moyer (1850), John Lapp (1862), and Christian Gayman (1875). The 1957 conference body consisted of 47 ministers, 30 deacons, and 42 lay delegates.
The membership of the 42 churches in 1957 totaled 3,928. -- Joseph C. Fretz
Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec (Mennonite Church) was formerly known as the Mennonite Conference of Ontario. The rediscovery in 1985 of annotations in the Bishop Jacob Moyer Bible indicated that annual meetings of Ontario Mennonite ministers began in 1810, placing the conference's formation earlier than previously thought.
Conference missions work expanded into Quebec in 1956 when Harold and Pauline Reesor and Tilman and Janet Martin began study and outreach in that province. In 1987 there were about 140 members in five congregations in Quebec. The growth of this work led to a change in the conference name in 1982. In 1987 the Hmong and Spanish languages, in addition to the French language used by Quebec congregations, were spoken in congregations affiliated with the conference.
Leadership style changed dramatically in the 1970s as ordained men took a less dominant role in conference organization. The first lay moderator of conference was elected in 1976; by 1983 only two ministers were part of the executive committee. In 1973 Doris Gascho became the first woman to serve as congregational chairperson. In 1987 there were 12 licensed or ordained women ministers in the conference.
Formal cooperation with the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference and the Conference of United Mennonite Churches in Ontario increased through the formation of the Inter-Mennonite Conference (Ontario) in 1973. Merger of these conferences into the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada was approved in 1987 and implemented in 1988.
In 1960 six ordained men, led by Bishops Curtis Cressman and Moses Roth, withdrew from conference and together with some members of Wilmot Township area congregations, formed the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario.
In 1986 the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec had 47 congregations with 5,110 members. -- Sam Steiner
Good, E. Reginald. "Jacob Moyer's Mennonite Church Records: An Interpretive Sketch." Mennogespräch 3 (1985): 1-3.
Yearbook (Inter-Mennonite Conference [Ontario]): 13 (1986).
Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec Collection and Inter-Mennonite Conference (Ontario) Collection, both in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College.
Mennonite Yearbook & Directory, 1986-87, ed. James E. Horsch. Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Mennonite Publishing House, 1987: 52-54.
|Author(s)||Joseph C. Fretz|
Cite This Article
Fretz, Joseph C. and Sam Steiner. "Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 28 Jul 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Conference_of_Ontario_and_Quebec&oldid=105363.
Fretz, Joseph C. and Sam Steiner. (1990). Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Conference_of_Ontario_and_Quebec&oldid=105363.
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