Difference between revisions of "General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches"
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Toews, John A. <em>A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church. </em>Fresno, Calif.: Board of Christian Literature, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1975.
Toews, John A. <em>A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church. </em>Fresno, Calif.: Board of Christian Literature, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1975.
Toews, John B. <em>Perilous Journey: The Mennonite Brethren in Russia, 1860-1910.</em> Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1988. Available
Toews, John B. <em>Perilous Journey: The Mennonite Brethren in Russia, 1860-1910.</em> Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1988. Available https://archive.org/details/AHistoryOfTheMennoniteBrethrenChurch.
Wiebe, Katie Funk. <em>Who are the Mennonite</em> <em>Brethren? </em>Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1984.
Wiebe, Katie Funk. <em>Who are the Mennonite</em> <em>Brethren? </em>Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1984.
Revision as of 01:36, 9 March 2019
- 1 The Early Years of the Conference
- 2 The Development of the Conference in the First Half of the Twentieth Century
- 3 The Conference in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century
- 4 The Final Decades of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches
- 5 General Conference Legacy
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 Additional Information
- 8 Cite This Article
The Early Years of the Conference
When Mennonite Brethren from Russia settled in the prairie states of the United States from 1874-1880, they immediately felt the need of fellowship with one another and of a closer relationship among the several congregations. On 28-30 September 1878, eleven representatives from three Nebraska congregations and one in Kansas met near Henderson, Nebraska to discuss matters of common concern. This meeting was, however, not fully representative of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) churches and was later not recognized as an MB conference.
On 18-20 October 1879, 22 delegates from Mennonite Brethren churches in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Dakota convened in the Henderson Mennonite Brethren Church and organized and conducted the first Mennonite Brethren Conference. The purpose in effecting this conference was to promote spiritual fellowship among the churches, to define and establish a united position on points of doctrine and practice, and to unite themselves for more effective mission effort and other activities.
From 1879 to 1909 this General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church convened every fall, holding its meetings in one of the larger churches of the constituency. The conference Sunday was devoted to a mission festival; the evenings were used for evangelistic sermons or Bible addresses. During the conference a communion service was observed. The conference organized with a chairman, an assistant, secretaries, and the required committees. Besides the delegates many visitors attended and the conference became an occasion for large gatherings. Beginning with 1883 the minutes and reports were printed in the form of an annual yearbook.
Home missions occupied an important place on the conference program and in its deliberations. The home missions work, as arranged for by the conference and directed by its Home Mission Committee, consisted of evangelistic meetings in all the churches as well as in unchurched communities.
Beginning in 1884, the conference published the Zionsbote as its church organ; in 1907 it transferred its publishing house, originally established in Medford, Oklahoma, to McPherson, Kansas. The Publishing House had been started as a private enterprise by John F. Harms in Hillsboro, Kansas. Later it was transferred to Medford, Oklahoma, after which it was taken over as a conference-operated program and moved to McPherson, Kansas for several years. From there it was moved back to Hillsboro.
The need for an Mennonite Brethren school was expressed as early as 1883 and repeatedly mentioned in the following years. In 1898 a Conference Educational Committee was elected and a German Department School was opened in conjunction with McPherson College under the direction and instruction of J. F. Duerksen.
The desire to do foreign mission work was keenly felt in the conference from its beginning and financial support of missions with which the church was acquainted began in 1884. In 1889 the conference appointed a Foreign Missions Committee which was instructed to begin work among the Native Americans and find suitable mission workers. This came to fruition in 1894, when Heinrich Kohfeld opened the first Mennonite Brethren mission among the Comanche Indians in southern Oklahoma.
The conference has had many devout and efficient leaders, devoted and successful evangelists, and many other useful workers. The most outstanding conference leaders in early years were Abraham Schellenberg, Johann J. Regier, Cornelius P. Wedel, Heinrich Voth, Johann Foth, John F. Harms, and David Dyck.
To care for the mission work opened in India in 1899, the conference was incorporated under the state laws of Kansas in 1900. In order to include all conference activities and to do all the work more efficiently, the conference adopted a constitution in 1908.
The conference adhered to the doctrinal position held by the Mennonite Brethren in Russia, and in 1902 formally adopted the Glaubensbekenntnis der Vereinigten Christlichen Taufgesinnten Mennoniten Brüdergemeinden in Russland of 1902.
The Development of the Conference in the First Half of the Twentieth Century
By 1909 the constituency of the Mennonite Brethren Conference had spread over a large area in the United States and extended into Canada. Since it now became too difficult and too expensive for the conference to convene annually and have a fair representation of delegates from all the churches, it was divided into district conferences, each of which would hold an annual conference, do its own home mission work, and regulate the affairs of its churches. The Mennonite Brethren General Conference has since 1909 met only once every three years to provide for the activities that concern the entire church. The four district conferences at that time were (1) the Canadian, formerly known as the Northern, comprising all the Mennonite Brethren churches in Canada; (2) the Central, including those in Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana; (3) the Southern, representing those in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas; (4) the Pacific, comprising those in California, Oregon and Washington. The Mennonite Brethren General Conference through its respective boards submitted reports of its activities to the district conferences. In 1948 the conference of MB churches in Paraguay and Brazil was received into the General Conference as a district conference.
Foreign missions have since 1909 had an important place in conference activities, have received the wholehearted support of the constituency, and have a record of expansion and growth. In addition to the mission to the Comanche Indians and the one in southern India, the conference, in the first half of the twentieth century, worked in South China, West China, the Belgian Congo, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Ecuador and Europe. From the beginning of its foreign mission enterprise until 1954, the Conference sent out 228 missionaries. The conference has also done mission work among Russians living in Canada and in North Dakota.
The conference expanded its publication efforts and in 1913 erected in Hillsboro, Kansas a new publishing house. The conference continued to produce the German periodical, Zionsbote, and in 1951 the English paper, Christian Leader, became an official organ of the General Conference. Much material for Sunday schools was also published.
A city mission under the direction of the Conference City Mission Committee was begun in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1910, and among the Jews in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1948. All city mission work except the above-named stations was done through the boards of the several district conferences that operated under the General Conference. This city mission work grew to be quite extensive.
An awareness of the need for higher education and for trained workers in congregations and mission work constantly increased, and in 1933 the conference took over Tabor College, Hillsboro, as a conference school. It operated this institution by its educational board.
With the after effects of the two world wars the need for extensive relief arose. The conference, through its General Welfare and Public Relations Committee, endeavored to do its share in alleviating the suffering as well as in rehabilitating displaced Mennonites and other suffering people. The conference worked closely with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
Among the leaders who rendered valuable service to the conference in the first half of the century were Abraham Schellenberg, Heinrich Voth, John F. Harms, M. M. Just, N. N. Hiebert, Abraham L. Schellenberg, H. W. Lohrenz, Heinrich S. Voth, P. C. Hiebert, A. E. Janzen, P. H. Berg, P. R. Lange, H. D. Wiebe, B. B. Janz, A. H. Unruh, and Bernhard J. Braun.
At the 1936 conference a thorough revision of the constitution was accepted. Its new provisions covered all phases of conference work. The Committee of Reference and Counsel had the general oversight of the church and took care of its spiritual welfare; the Board of Trustees held in custody and managed the property and funds; the boards for foreign mission, city missions, publication, education, general welfare and public relations, Sunday school, youth, executed the work entrusted to them. -- John H. Lohrenz (1955)
The Conference in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century
Merger with the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren
A number of significant developments have taken place with respect to the Mennonite Brethren Church in North America since the middle of the 20th century. One of these was the merger with the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Conference (KMB) in 1960. This marked the culmination of a series of contacts and cooperative activities almost since the beginning of both groups' North American experience. The earliest merger proposals were already discussed in the 1870s, and there had been cooperative efforts, especially in education. Between 1949 and 1960 the merger issue was a constant agenda item. A particular problem that had to be resolved was the nature of the KMB missions program, which was carried on under the auspices of a number of mission boards. Other concerns such as the relatively small size of the KMB conference were, no doubt, also factors. Nevertheless, in 1957 the churches of the KMB conference decided by a two-thirds majority to merge with the Mennonite Brethren Conference and the formal merger ceremony took place in Reedley, California on 14 November 1960 at the occasion of the centennial general conference sessions of the MB church. The KMB membership at the time was 1,648 and the conference was supporting 31 missionaries in nine countries. The merger brought six black congregations from North Carolina into the new MB conference, as well as a significant number of members who had left Hutterite communities in South Dakota and other areas to join the KMB.
Reorganization of the Conference
With the rapid growth in membership of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren churches in the years after World War II, there followed an increasing trend toward a greater degree of independence on the part of the Canadian churches. Indeed, by 1951 the membership of the Canadian District had already exceeded that of the other three districts combined. At the general conference sessions in Hillsboro, Kansas in 1954, the issue of independence came to a head and the concept of "area conferences" emerged. Each area (United States and Canada) took on major responsibility in such matters as higher education, church schools, youth work and home missions. The Canadian Conference withdrew its support of Tabor College. In 1981 further significant constitutional changes were effected. In 1993 the work of the general conference was carried on by five boards: Board of Faith and Life, Board of Missions and Services, Board of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Board of Resource Ministries, and Board of Trustees.
One of the most significant changes has taken place in the area of education and the training of church leaders. Whereas various undergraduate theological programs largely met the needs for the training of church leaders in earlier years, the demand for graduate training increased at the same time that most churches moved to full-time pastoral ministries, and in many cases to the employment of two or more salaried full-time staff in leadership positions. Seminary education had begun at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas (1944) and was moved to Fresno, California (1955), where the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (MBBS) was begun, but without the support of the Canadian constituency. In Canada, where ministerial preparation had largely been done at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, a Bachelor of Divinity program was begun in 1961. This program was phased out in 1971 and a study commission was appointed to study the alternatives for higher theological education in Canada. This resulted in the decision for a seminary sponsored jointly by United States and Canadian Mennonite Brethren, to be located at Fresno. This became a reality in 1975. Since that time many pastors and church workers have been trained at MBBS in Fresno, although undergraduate schools also continue the training of church leaders, especially in Canada, where the lay ministry and multiple ministry remained operative in many churches for a longer period of time. The seminary, together with the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Tabor College, Fresno Pacific College, and the Board of Christian Literature jointly publish the journal Direction, a successor to the Voice and the Journal of Church and Society. The Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Fresno houses the archives of the North American conference, whereas the main archives for the Canadian and United States conferences are housed at Winnipeg and Hillsboro, respectively. A Historical Commission appointed by the seminary board directs the work of the center in Fresno and works cooperatively with the other two centers.
The work of the Board of Missions and Services has continued to expand. At the general conference sessions in Reedley in 1984 one hundred years of foreign missions was celebrated. At that time the conference was supporting 137 missionaries in 23 countries with a budget of over five million dollars. Whereas earlier most of the administrative work was centered in Hillsboro, various factors made it desirable to create two national offices, one of which is located in Winnipeg. The offices of the general secretary of the mission board as well as a number of other offices are also located in Winnipeg.
In the area of publications, much of the work was done independently by the two national conferences, each having its own periodicals. As of 1998, the U.S. Conference was still publishing Christian Leader as its official organ, while the Canadian Conference has since 1962 published Mennonite Brethren Herald as its official paper. The Board of Christian Literature has published quite a number of significant books and pamphlets of special interest and value for Mennonite Brethren. Included among these are John A. Toews, A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church (1975), and Peter M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1978), translated from German (1911). Kindred Press was the official Mennonite Brethren publishing agency, with offices in both Hillsboro, Kansas and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Important changes have also taken place in the area of church music. In 1963 the compilation of a new hymnal for the use of both the United States and Canadian conferences was authorized and the result was the publication in 1971 of the Worship Hymnal (Board of Christian Literature). This hymnal has been used very extensively, although some churches have also made extensive use of other hymnals and song books. As rapid changes continued to take place in music in subsequent decades, a further step was taken with the publication of Sing Alleluia, a supplement to the earlier hymnal, in 1985.
The Board of Christian Education has been particularly involved with the production and use of Sunday School literature for the churches. This is an issue on which unanimity has been impossible to achieve. Full participation with other Mennonite conferences in the production of materials such as the Foundation Series has not been possible, although there has been some cooperation in that venture. There has also been some cooperation with other publishers, such as Scripture Press, but in general there is wide divergence in the type of material that is used by the Mennonite Brethren congregations.
The Mennonite Brethren Church has continued to struggle over the years with the issues of nationalism, regionalism, and fragmentation. Although a cooperative seminary program has helped to counteract some of the tendencies, there have been many forces which have threatened the unity of the conference. Theological diversity has developed not only because of the continued training of young people and church workers in a variety of North American institutions but also because of the influence of the mass media and the forces of general acculturation. Mennonite Brethren are no longer primarily a people of the land but are largely urbanized, are represented in virtually every profession and are scattered geographically throughout North America. Consensus on many issues, whether related to ethics, theology, or worship style, is difficult or impossible to achieve. A revision of the Mennonite Brethren confession of faith was completed in 1976, but the long process demonstrated an increasing divergence on many issues.
In 1982 a profile of church members was conducted in an effort to update the findings of the Kauffman and Harder study of 1972 (Anabaptists Four Centuries Later, 1975). The findings, which were published in Direction (Fall 1984), revealed a number of trends, some of which were quite disconcerting. Although Mennonite Brethren in North America were strong in their affirmation of the Christian faith, there was a great disparity between faith and practice. The discipleship and peace emphases appeared to be eroding and the study revealed that this was particularly true among leaders. Fewer than half of the respondents agreed that Christians should actively promote the peace position. Loyalty to the local congregation appeared to be weakening affirmations of denominational identity. There was an increasing trend toward an individualistic and pietistic view of Christianity and an erosion of the corporate and sectarian views.
While many have felt that the Mennonite Brethren Church faces a crisis in terms of its own identity, significant steps have been taken to reaffirm the church's historic identity and awaken a new sense of mission in the world today. The Board of Reference and Counsel in particular faces the serious challenge of seeking to create a vision for the church's task. More positive indicators are the strong evangelistic emphases evident in many churches; these have resulted in significant growth. Old ethnic and cultural barriers have been broken in many places and the influx of members from many different backgrounds, including Chinese, French Canadian, Spanish, and Vietnamese, portend a bright future for the church if it can realize a new sense of its distinctive mission within the North American environment. As of 1990, 317 churches with a total membership of 43,452 belonged to the conference. -- Abe J. Dueck (1990)
The Final Decades of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches
The forces that threatened the fragmentation of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren (MB) Churches, and the counter-active attempts to bring more cohesion and unity at various levels continued to the end of the twentieth century. Eventually the former grew to the extent that the various agencies and ministries at the General Conference level were either dissolved or taken over by the two respective national conferences. Structural changes and confessional issues were the predominant challenges during the last two decades of the twentieth century. There were a number of significant accomplishments before the era of the General Conference ended in 2002.
In 1987 the Board of Reference and Council (BORAC) introduced a Vision Statement which was a response to the ambiguity about MB identity and the gap between belief and practice that had become evident in the 1982 MB Profile Study and the 1986 BORAC Visions/Goals Study. These studies showed “serious erosion, fragmentation and weakening of the General Conference,” a growing conformity to North American culture, and a declining spirituality in the churches. Leaders were confident that by the end of the century the Conference would be characterized “by strong local churches and ministries, with a re-organized conference structure.” The central issues were: “What does it mean to be Mennonite Brethren,” and “What are the bonds that hold us together” (1987 Yearbook, 59-60). In 1990 a lengthy Vision Statement was presented and adopted by the Conference. It addressed issues of ethical faithfulness, confessional integrity, missionary engagement, and structural coherence. It expressed confidence that a new era was about to dawn for the MB Church. Specific steps were taken to deal with the various concerns.
One difficult issue that was already addressed in 1987 was the orientation of pastors from other denominations who had recently joined the Conference. It was felt that their lack of knowledge and commitment to the MB Church was one of the factors that led to fragmentation and disunity. Hence resolutions were adopted to ask such pastors to attend orientation sessions and participate in other events that would integrate them (1987 Yearbook, 48; 86).
Confession of Faith
Foremost among the theological developments in this era was the revision of the Confession of Faith. The latest revision of the Confession had been completed in 1976, but various issues continued to surface. In 1987 the Board of Reference and Counsel (BORAC) initiated a process to study the Confession of Faith and to convene two study conferences. From 1987 to 1990 the Board focused on an examination and revision of Articles XV (Peace and Nonresistance) and X (The Lord’s Supper). Revised Article XV was adopted by the 1990 convention after considerable debate. The Board also suggested an ongoing process of revision based on the understanding that the Confession was a dynamic document which should always be subject to updating.
At the 1993 convention, the revised Article IX on Baptism and Article X on the Lord’s Supper, were presented and accepted by the Conference. The Board again recommended a more comprehensive rewrite of the entire Confession. Several study conferences (1992 and 1994) and a leadership consultation (1998) grappled with many controversial confessional issues. After considerable debate the remaining revised articles were all accepted by 1999. A Sidewalk, Digest, and Liturgical version were also produced. The two national conferences agreed to continue to share a single Confession of Faith after 2002, but decided to deal with faith and life issues on a national basis with provisions for common actions thereafter.
Women in Leadership
In the 1990s the issue of women in leadership became the most divisive issue facing the North American MBs in many decades, although it had emerged for public discussion at least as early as 1973. The issue had much broader implications, of course, because it involved or appeared to relate to divergent perspectives on the authority, inspiration, and interpretation of the Scriptures. It was embedded in much broader cultural realities and shifts which created much turmoil in the entire evangelical community.
In 1981 the Conference had encouraged the involvement of women in all ministries except the senior pastoral ministry. As women became more and more active and as it became more and more difficult to make clear theological distinctions between various leadership roles, BORAC was forced to reexamine the MB position. It issued a more affirming statement about women’s ministry in 1987, although it refrained from endorsing senior pastoral roles for women. A study conference was held in Normal, Illinois in 1989, and in 1992 the book, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Women in Ministry in the Church (Kindred), was published. While the authors of most of the chapters moved in the direction of affirming women for all ministries, others were reluctant to take the final step.
In the meantime, some congregations were beginning to challenge the restricted position. In particular, River East MB Church in Winnipeg took action to appoint a women pastor in 1990 and the Conference was unable to resolve the issue in a way that was acceptable to all. In 1993 BORAC took the bold step to present a resolution which would allow “diversity of conviction and practice in the appointment of women to pastoral leadership in ways that are consistent with the governance patterns of the local congregation” (1993 Yearbook, 35). The resolution failed to receive the required 2/3 majority vote. Thus the issue remained unresolved and left many on both sides dissatisfied and uncertain about the future. The disagreement on this issue appeared to reflect a deepening rift in the MB community which affected many other areas of conference life. In 1999 a resolution was passed to try to soften the negative implications of the resolution somewhat and to affirm the giftedness of women despite the fact that the 1981 resolution was still in effect.
Conference Structure, Unity, and Divestiture
During the 1980s a process began which, ironically, resulted in the eventual demise of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Many of the actions taken were actually intended to strengthen it and bring about a greater sense of identity. In 1987 a Task Force was established to review the organizational structure and move to appoint the first full-time staff position. In 1990 a restructuring proposal was implemented which was intended to address some of the issues, but it failed to come to terms with the growing dissatisfaction that threatened the very basis of a North American conference structure. The 1995 convention in Fresno highlighted the deep divide that had become established. A forum of young leaders became the focus of some of the frustrations. These individuals wanted more time for worship, more emphasis on relationships, and less emphasis on institutions and structures. But additional stresses came because of congregational “localism” and national differences.
In 1996 the Conference Executive sponsored a retreat at ECCO (Episcopal Conference Center in Oakhurst) in California. A group of 35 selected individuals, representing a wide range in terms of age and geography, gathered to try to chart the future direction of the Conference. While there was a recognition of many of the positive contributions of the Conference, some of the problems that were identified included the clumsy structure, a slow process, a lack of generational, ethnic, and global representation, and financial inefficiencies. The perception that grew out of these meetings was that structural changes could resolve the issues.
At the convention in Waterloo, Ontario in 1997, the Executive Council brought a recommendation to eliminate the bi-national Conference. This provoked considerable debate, both in the press and at the convention. Some feared that it would erode theological unity, particularly on some of the Anabaptist values of the MB Church. Others questioned whether the valued ministries would be protected and whether it would really lead to more internationalization.
The outcome was that a new task force was established to engage in a “no-holds-barred” review of all levels of conference structure and ministries. Two years later this Task Force brought a recommendation that the ministries of the General Conference be divested and transferred to the national conferences. Although considerable concern and opposition remained throughout this process, the recommendation was accepted by a 76% majority. Most of the opposition appeared to come from the United States delegates. The United States churches had a much stronger stake in these issues because their national conference was much weaker and had a much shorter history than the Canadian Conference.
The result of divestiture left three former General Conference ministries sponsored jointly by the two national conferences. The three bi-national agencies that remained were Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, and the Historical Commission. The Seminary proved to be the most difficult agency to regulate on a bi-national basis.
The negotiations for the future of the Seminary were difficult for a number of reasons. The funding formula appeared unfair, particularly to Canadians, because of the low value of the Canadian dollar. Furthermore, Canadian students often opted to pursue their studies at Canadian institutions because of the convenience of studying close to home. There was also concern about the fact that fewer graduates were choosing to enter the pastoral ministry. In partial response to these issues the seminary had begun a teaching center at ACTS (Associated Canadian Theological Schools) in Langley, British Columbia.
The negotiating teams concerning the seminary met five times to try to resolve the structural, financial, and accountability issues. Regional councils were established to take primary responsibility for the governance of regional teaching centers, which by this time also included Winnipeg. Essentially the concept involved a single seminary at three or more locations. Although the seminary has continued to function as a bi-national institution until 2010, negotiations are underway which may result in a new arrangement in the future.
Internationalization and ICOMB
One of the somewhat parallel developments that related to the discussions concerning the General Conference structure was the process of internationalization. In 1948 a decision was made to include South America as an area conference within the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America. In 1963 the official name became General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, in order to indicate the international character and presence of the Mennonite Brethren Church. But the reality was that the Conference could not function in a way that would truly be globally inclusive. In 1990 the Executive recommended that the name be changed to "Mennonite Brethren Church of North America" to reflect the reality, and in 1995 a notice of motion recommended a change to "The Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches." No action was taken on either recommendation. The interest in promoting a more global awareness and cooperation remained, however. An international consultation on Mennonite Brethren Mission was held in Curitiba, Brazil in 1988 and a call was issued at that event for leaders to meet in 1990 in connection with the Mennonite World Conference in Winnipeg. The result of the 1990 meeting was that a body named the International Committee of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB, later International Community of Mennonite Brethren) was established. The birth, growth, and further potential of this organization became a factor in the discussions relating to the dissolution of the General Conference.
General Conference Legacy
Although the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches no longer remains, some of the ministries remain. In addition to the three ministries operated jointly (MBMSI, MBBS, and the Historical Commission), Kindred Publications, although a Canadian Conference agency, has functioned on a more limited basis in the USA. The Direction journal is sponsored by the Mennonite Brethren schools of both countries together with the executives of the two conferences. The Christian Leader and the Mennonite Brethren Herald work cooperatively in the publication of many articles and news items. The chief officers and chairs of the three jointly sponsored ministries meet together with the two national moderators and executive officers on an annual basis to discuss issues affecting the ministries and other matters of common concern. Provision was also made for the two national conferences to meet together periodically for fellowship and discussion. The first major gathering of this nature is scheduled to take place in July 2010 in British Columbia to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Mennonite Brethren Church. A strong international representation is expected. Earlier in the same year (May 2010) ICOMB is sponsoring a celebration in Germany.
Over a hundred years of history of a common North American General Conference structure is therefore not easily or suddenly erased. The forces of change continue, but the common culture and experiences of Mennonite Brethren in the United States and Canada will live on in the memories, aspirations, and ministries for many years to come. -- Abe J. Dueck (2009)
Direction 14, no. 2 (Fall, 1985), a profile of MB church members.
Dueck, Abe J. and David Giesbrecht, eds. We Recommend. . . .(Part III, 1978-2002): Recommendations, Study Papers, and other Leadership Resources. Winnipeg, MB: Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission, 2004.
General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Executive Report: The Final Chapter (2002). Winnipeg, MB: Kindred Productions, 2003.
Giesbrecht, Herbert. The Mennonite Brethren Church: A Bibliographic Guide. Fresno, Calif.: Board of Christian Literature, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1983.
Janzen, A. E. and Herbert Giesbrecht. We Recommend: Recommendations and Resolutions of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches. Fresno, Calif. : Board of Christian Literature of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1978.
Kyle, Richard G. From Sect to Denomination. 1985.
Mennonite World Handbook (MWH) (1978): 337-43; MWH (1984): 140; MWH (1990): 412.
Neufeld, Laura. “A Divided People: The Dissolution of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1990-2002).” Mennonite Quarterly Review (October 2007): 485-513.
Penner, Peter. No Longer at Arm's Length: A History of Mennonite Brethren Home Missions in Canada. Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1987.
Plett, C. F. The Story of the Krimmer Mennonite Church. Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1985.
Toews, John A. A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church. Fresno, Calif.: Board of Christian Literature, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1975.
Toews, John B. Perilous Journey: The Mennonite Brethren in Russia, 1860-1910. Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1988. Available in full electronic text at: https://archive.org/details/AHistoryOfTheMennoniteBrethrenChurch.
Wiebe, Katie Funk. Who are the Mennonite Brethren? Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1984.
Yearbook of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches.
Convention Locations and Members of the Conference Executive
|General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches / formerly General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Church of North America|
|Date of Convention||Number||Meeting Place||Executive|
|28-29 September 1878||Unofficial||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Peter Regier|
|18-21 October 1879||1||York County, Nebraska||Johann J. Regier|
|18 October 1880||2||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|10 October 1881||3||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|23 October 1882||4||Reno County, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|12 November 1883||5||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|27 October 1884||6||Gnadenau, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|19 October 1885||7||Cottonwood County, Minnesota||Abraham Schellenberg|
|1 November 1886||8||Turner County, Dakota||Johann J. Regier|
|2-4 October 1887||9||York County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|12-13 October 1888||10||Reno County, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|7-8 October 1889||11||Cottonwood County, Minnesota||Abraham Schellenberg|
|19-20 October 1890||12||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|12-13 October 1891||13||Turner County, South Dakota||Cornelius P. Wedel|
|31 October - 2 November 1892||14||Alexanderwohl, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|20-21 November 1893||15||Cottonwood County, Minnesota||Cornelius P. Wedel|
|8-10 October 1894||16||Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|28-29 October 1895||17||Parker, South Dakota||Abraham Schellenberg|
|22-24 October 1896||18||Ebenfeld, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|11-12 October 1897||19||Cottonwood County, Minnesota||Abraham Schellenberg|
|31 October - 1 November 1898||20||Winkler, Manitoba||Abraham Schellenberg|
|16-19 October 1899||21||York & Hamilton County, Nebraska||Abraham Schellenberg|
|22-25 October 1900||22||Reno County, Kansas||Abraham Schellenberg|
|24-25 October 1901||23||Cottonwood County, Minnesota||Heinrich Voth|
|10-12 November 1902||24||Washita County, Oklahoma||Heinrich Voth|
|26-28 October 1903||25||York & Hamilton County, Nebraska||Heinrich Voth|
|14-16 November 1904||26||Winkler, Manitoba||Heinrich Voth|
|13-15 November 1905||27||Ebenfeld, Kansas||Heinrich Voth|
|29-31 October 1906||28||Bingham Lake, Minnesota||Heinrich Voth|
|10-12 November 1907||29||Dalmeny, Saskatchewan||Heinrich Voth|
|9-11 November 1908||30||Sued-Hoffnungsfeld, Oklahoma||Heinrich Voth|
|22-24 November 1909||31||Henderson, Nebraska||Heinrich Voth|
|28-30 October 1912||32||Hillsboro, Kansas||Heinrich Voth|
|From this point down conference officers are listed with the conference at which they were elected.|
|30 October - 3 November 1915||33||Winkler, Manitoba||M. M. Just||William J. Bestvater|
|3-5 November 1919||34||Mountain Lake, Minnesota||H. W. Lohrenz||J. F. Duerksen|
|19-27 November 1921||35||Reedley, California||H. W. Lohrenz||Henry H. Flaming||John H. Richert|
|15-19 November 1924||36||Corn, Oklahoma||N. N. Hiebert||Henry S. Voth||August A. Schroeter|
|30 October - 2 November 1927||37||Henderson, Nebraska||H. W. Lohrenz||Henry S. Voth|
|30 May - 4 June 1930||38||Hepburn, Saskatchewan||William J. Bestvater||Peter R. Lange||August A. Schroeter|
|21-25 October 1933||39||Hillsboro, Kansas||Peter R. Lange||Henry S. Voth||Peter H. Berg|
|21-26 November 1936||40||Reedley, California||Peter C. Grunau||Sam S. Schneider||J. D. Wiebe|
|21-25 October 1939||41||Corn, Oklahoma||George B. Huebert||Henry S. Voth||August A. Schroeter|
|26-30 May 1943||42||Buhler, Kansas||H. W. Lohrenz||George B. Huebert||Orlando Harms|
|24-29 November 1945||43||Dinuba, California||Henry D. Wiebe||Henry S. Voth||Orlando Harms|
|28 August - 2 September 1948||44||Mountain Lake, Minnesota||Bernhard J. Braun||John B. Toews||H. R. Wiens|
|21-26 July 1951||45||Winkler, Manitoba||Bernhard J. Braun||H. H. Janzen||H. R. Wiens|
|23-28 October 1954||46||Hillsboro, Kansas||H. H. Janzen||Dan E. Friesen||H. R. Wiens|
|20-23 October 1957||47||Yarrow, British Columbia||Dan E. Friesen||D. J. Pankratz||Joel Wiebe|
|12-16 November 1960||48||Reedley, California||Dan E. Friesen||Frank C. Peters||Henry H. Dick|
|3-7 August 1963||49||Winnipeg, Manitoba||Frank C. Peters||Waldo Hiebert||Henry H. Dick|
|25-29 November 1966||50||Corn, Oklahoma||Frank C. Peters||Marvin Hein||Henry H. Voth|
|23-26 August 1969||51||Vancouver, British Columbia||Marvin Hein||John A. Toews||Henry H. Voth|
|11-14 November 1972||52||Reedley, California||Marvin Hein||Harvey Gossen||Cornelius J. Rempel|
|9-12 August 1975||53||Winnipeg, Manitoba||John A. Toews||Henry H. Dick||Cornelius J. Rempel|
|3-6 August 1978||54||Buhler, Kansas||John A. Toews||Henry H. Dick||Nick Rempel|
|7-11 August 1981||55||St. Catharines, Ontario||Henry H. Dick||Herb Brandt||Nick Rempel|
|12-16 October 1984||56||Reedly, California||Herb Brandt||Edmund Janzen||Bill Wiebe|
|7-11 August 1987||57||Abbotsford, British Columbia||Herb Brandt||Edmund Janzen||Roland Reimer|
|28 September - 2 October 1990||58||Hillsboro, Kansas||Edmund Janzen||Harry Heidebrecht||Roland Reimer|
|7-11 July 1993||59||Winnipeg, Manitoba||Edmund Janzen||Harry Heidebrecht||John E. Toews|
|6-9 July 1995||60||Fresno, California||Ed Boschman||Larry Martens||Valerie Rempel|
|10-12 July 1997||61||Waterloo, Ontario||Ed Boschman||Herb Kopp||Valerie Rempel|
|8-10 July 1999||62||Wichita, Kansas||Herb Koop||Lyndon Vix||Hildegard Bandsmer|
|25-27 July 2002||63||Abbotsford, British Columbia|
|Author(s)||John H. Lohrenz|
|Abe J. Dueck|
|Date Published||December 2009|
Cite This Article
Lohrenz, John H. and Abe J. Dueck. "General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2009. Web. 3 Jul 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=General_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Churches&oldid=163394.
Lohrenz, John H. and Abe J. Dueck. (December 2009). General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 July 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=General_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Churches&oldid=163394.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 672-673; Vol. 5, pp. 557-559. All rights reserved.
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