General News News Releases

150th Anniversary Commemorated Of Mennonite Denominations With Joint Gathering & Worship Service

Events commemorate the establishment of Mennonite Brethren Conference and the General Conference Mennonite Church
For release May 27, 2010

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of two major Anabaptist bodies, the Mennonite Brethren Church in the Ukraine, and the General Conference Mennonite Church in the USA. To help celebrate this important landmark, CMU will host an all day story-telling session on June 5, 2010 on campus, followed by an evening worship service, open to all, at Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue Church.
The stories of these two churches began in 1860, when two renewal movements, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, led to the formation of two different Mennonite denominations. In that year, one group seeking emphasis on discipline, prayer, and Bible study left the larger Mennonite church in the Ukraine to form the Mennonite Brethren Church. Simultaneously in North America, congregations in Iowa invited other Mennonites to join together to pursue common goals in mission work, service, and higher education, thereby forming the General Conference Mennonite Church, which later merged with the Mennonite Church to form Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.
“The dynamics and influences within these origins, together with later migrations and events, shaped the minds and hearts of these two denominations in ways that are still present today,” says Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) President Gerald Gerbrandt. “We are delighted to present an opportunity to share and learn from the two stories in a way that we hope appeals to both church leaders and laypeople.”

“In this 150th Anniversary year, it is appropriate to reflect on what these two churches experienced and learned with and from ‘the other’,” says Gerbrandt. “Through the conference and worship service, CMU aims to foster better understanding of the Mennonite denominations, the forces that influenced them, and their continuing impact on current tendencies and emphases. Lastly, we wish to worship God together, celebrating the past, looking into the future.”

Known as peace churches for their commitment to nonviolence, the Mennonite churches worldwide have approximately 1.5 million baptized members in 51 countries on six continents. Both the Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite Church Canada, along with Mennonite Church USA, are member churches of a broader Mennonite World Conference. Together, these three churches account for 33% of the number of Mennonites worldwide.

The host of the 150th Anniversary Celebration, Canadian Mennonite University, is an accredited Christian university offering undergraduate degrees in the arts, science, music, theology, and church ministries, as well as master degrees in theological studies and Christian ministry. CMU is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, CMU has over 1,800 students at its Shaftesbury Campus in Southwest Winnipeg, at Menno Simons College in downtown Winnipeg, and enrolled through Outtatown, CMU’s eight-month adventure and discipleship program that offers students an enriching learning experience in Western Canada, South Africa, and Guatemala.

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For further information regarding the 150th Anniversary Celebration, contact:
Diane Hiebert, Executive Assistant to CMU President G. Gerbrandt
Tel. 204.487.3300 ext 665

For general information relating to CMU, contact:
Nadine Kampen, Communications and Marketing Director
Tel. 204.487.3300 ext. 621 | Toll free 877.231.4570
Canadian Mennonite University | 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3P 2N2

Attachments follow:



Celebrating 150 Years – Worshipping Together
Portage Avenue Church
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm,
Saturday, June 5, 2010

Worship Leader: Christine Longhurst

Congregational Singing: Rudy Schellenberg

Stories within the Story: Janet Plenert and Ken Reddig will share a story from their larger story which represents a core aspect of their identity

Litany of Celebration: Gerry Ediger

Special Oratorio Choir Choral Music: Conducted by George Wiebe and Bill Baerg

Sermon: Gerald Gerbrandt

Birthday Cake: Following the service

500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg MB
9:00 am to 3:30 pm, Saturday, June 5, 2010

Registration Fee: $20.00
(Fee covers lunch, coffee, and materials)
To register, contact Diane Hiebert: 204.487.3300

The two stories will be reviewed with the goal of communally learning together about the stories and from the stories.

9:00 – 9:15 am : Registration and coffee

9:15 – 10:35 am: Session #1: Stories of Founding and Settling in Manitoba, 1860 -1930
This session of sharing stories focuses on the two stories from their origin in 1860 until roughly 1930 when both groups had become established in Manitoba. The stories will consider influences behind the two movements as well as dynamics around the origins, early developments, and background factors.
• The Mennonite Brethren Story – Abe Dueck
Respondent – Sheila Klassen-Wiebe
• The General Conference Story – Helmut Harder
Respondent – Connie Epp

10:35 – 11:00 – Break

11:00 am – 12:00 Noon: Session #2: Workshops
These workshops focus on topics relating to the interaction of the two stories. In some cases, interaction may have been in the events themselves; in some cases, the workshop will bring about the interaction by considering parallel developments within the two stories.

Workshop Options:
1) Confessing Our Faith – Karl Koop & Doug Heidebrecht
Both the Mennonite Brethren and the General Conference adopted their confessions of faith in the 1990s. This workshop reviews these confessions, tracing their backgrounds and observing differences and similarities between them.

2) Exploring Stereotypes – Terry Schellenberg & Don Peters
Over the decades, each group has developed stereotypical ways of imagining and speaking of the other. This workshop considers a number of such stereotypes, examining them for how they reflect reality and for how they mislead.

3) Marriage across the MB-GC Divide – Delmar Epp (moderator); John & Hedy Martens
A few couples who married across the divide will share stories of their experiences in their families and in congregations.

4) Worshipping and Working Together – Adolf Ens & Herta Janzen
Although Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Mennonites retained distinct identities, at many points and times they have interacted with each other. Examples include worshipping together in rural communities between the wars; studying together at the MCI; and working together in MCC.

5) Periodicals as Windows – Harold Jantz & Byron Rempel-Burkholder
This workshop considers how periodicals serve as windows into the soul and heart of the two groups. Particular attention will be given to the Mennonite Reporter, the Canadian Mennonite, and Rejoice.

6) Worship in the Two Stories – Christine Longhurst & Rudy Schellenberg
This workshop reflects on the worship styles of the two groups, both today and over the past decade or two.

12:00 noon – 1:00 pm – Lunch

1:15 – 2:30 pm: Session #3: Observations from the CMU Story
CMU has brought the two stories into conversation with each other in a special way. After ten years of cooperation in CMU, it is appropriate to reflect on how the other has been experienced, and what each may learn from the other.
• Student panel discussion – Students will share of their impressions of the other and of the MB-GC dynamic at CMU
• Faculty panel discussion – CMU faculty will share what they have learned from the other through working together at CMU

2:30 – 3:30 pm: Session # 4: Gleanings from the Day
The two denominational General Secretaries, David Wiebe and Jack Suderman, will each share their observations as to what they have heard during the day, and then lead the group in discussion for the rest of the time.

3:30 – 3:45 – Closing coffee