Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches
In 1924 a small group of immigrants, members of the Mennonite Brethren and Evangelical Mennonite groups from Molotschna, South Russia, arrived in Waterloo, Ontario. They settled in six communities, Kitchener, Hespeler, New Hamburg, Essex County, Port Rowan, and Vineland. On 24 May 1925 these two closely connected faiths amalgamated under the name "Molotschna Mennonite Brethren Church." J. P. Friesen, J. W. Reimer, and J. P. Wiens were instrumental in bringing about this union. Only baptism by immersion was practiced, but other forms of baptism were accepted for transfer members, provided the candidate in question had experienced regeneration.
At first all major transactions of the five affiliated congregations were carried out in Kitchener, even to the extent of having a large annual business session at that church. This arrangement continued until 31 January 1932, when five of these churches united to form a conference, which was registered on 8 July 1932, with the Provincial Government in Toronto as "The Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches." These churches, now autonomous, were as follows: Kitchener 144, Leamington (formerly Essex County) 50, New Hamburg 37, Hespeler (now Cambridge) 29, and Vineland 27, making a total membership of 287.
The conference showed steady growth and Port Rowan with 33 members was admitted in 1933, Niagara with 48 in 1937, and St. Catharines with 65 members in 1943. In 1952, because of the diminishing size of Hespeler and New Hamburg congregations, and their proximity to Kitchener, they were dissolved, and the members were accepted into the Kitchener church.
The need of belonging to a greater organization was recognized, and on 25 October 1939, the Conference was accepted as a member of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches of North America as the Ontario District Conference. On 29 June 1946 a change of status took place when the Conference joined the Northern District Conference to form the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
The Conference has enjoyed the moderatorship of H. H. Janzen 1932-46, I. H. Tiessen 1946-54, and I. T. Ewert. In August 1955 the Conference noted the following memberships: Kitchener 393, Leamington 181, Port Rowan 123, St. Catharines 399, Vineland 264, and Virgil (formerly Niagara) 483, making a total of 1,843 members. These churches are all located in Southern Ontario not more than 235 miles apart. Since the aims of the Ontario Conference are chiefly directed toward missions, permanent mission stations have been established at Coldwater and Stoney Creek, and a daily vacation Bible school program is actively supported. Services in all six churches are conducted primarily in German, and mission Sunday schools are operated from each center for the benefit of English-speaking children in the surrounding districts.
The Conference sponsored numerous annual conventions, although it convened semiannually for regular business.
In 1944-1947 the Conference owned and operated the Bethesda Home for the Mentally Ill. The institution grew beyond the scope of a small conference; therefore in 1947 the Canadian Conference assumed the responsibility for the project. In 1947 the Conference undertook to administer and finance the Eden Bible and Eden High School at Niagara-on-the-Lake. This school was divided in 1955 and the Bible school moved to Kitchener, while the high school continued at Niagara as Eden Christian College. -- J. A. Kurtz
The conference was founded 20 November 1932, by five Ontario Mennonite Brethren congregations, with a membership of 287. In 1996 there were 24 congregations with a membership of 4,019 and contributions of $739,000 to support conference ventures. The conference has been a member of the North American and Canadian conferences of Mennonite Brethren churches since 1939 and 1945 respectively. The conference supported a denominational high school and Eden Christian College (founded in 1945, now part of the public school system). The Ontario Mennonite Brethren Bible School (founded 1944) was discontinued in 1964. Ontario students attending Mennonite Brethren Bible schools in western Canada are subsidized by the conference. An active church extension program has resulted in the formation of five new congregations. One senior home was opened in 1969, and The Bethesda Home for the mentally handicapped opened in 1944. -- Ed Boldt
In 2015 the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches had 32 congregations with 4,143 members and an average weekly attendance of 5,422. The following congregations were members of the conference:
Boldt, Ed. "The Baptism Issue: An Episode in the History of the Ontario Mennonite Brethren Churches." Mennonite Historian 13, no. 2 (1987): 1-2.
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Yearbook (1996): 85, 199.
Dueck, Henry H., ed. He Leadeth: History of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ontario 1924-57. Kitchener, 1957.
Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Year Book (1987).
Toews, John A. History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, ed. A.J. Klassen. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Board of Literature and Publication, 1975: 171-174, 205, 208, 211, 238, 265-68.
When Your Children Shall Ask: A History of the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 1957-82. Kitchener, 1982.
|Author(s)||J. A. Kurtz|
|Date Published||June 2010|
Cite This Article
Kurtz, J. A. and Ed Boldt. "Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2010. Web. 20 Jan 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ontario_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Churches&oldid=147291.
Kurtz, J. A. and Ed Boldt. (June 2010). Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ontario_Conference_of_Mennonite_Brethren_Churches&oldid=147291.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 65-66; vol. 5, p. 658. All rights reserved.
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