For the first time in its history, the Anglican Church of Canada will enter into a bilateral ecumenical dialogue with Mennonite Church Canada (MCC) following a motion passed at General Synod, July 12.
The motion’s mover, Bruce Myers, coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Quebec and former co-ordinator of ecumenical relations for the national church, explained that as the Anglican church’s relationship to mainstream society changes, it could benefit from talking to a church that has always had a fraught relationship with the mainstream.
“Mennonites have often existed as a church on the margins, both historically and in the contemporary Canadian context,” he noted. “As the Anglican Church of Canada enters a new stage of its life, some of us have been asking if there is something we can learn from our Mennonite sisters and brothers, about living faithfully as disciples of Jesus on the margins of society.”
Myers said the bilateral dialogue would be based on a new approach to ecumenism based not on an attempt to minimize differences, but to receive it as a “gift.”
This “receptive ecumenism” is a way for churches to learn from the differences in each other’s theology and lived experience, without feeling the need to push toward reunion or a full communion relationship.
Earlier in the day, synod had heard from Willard Metzger, executive director of MCC, who had just flown into Toronto after the close of his own church’s biennial assembly in Saskatoon.
Commenting on the Anglican church’s vote on the solemnization of same-sex marriage, Metzger noted that his own church is wrestling with similar questions, and shared his excitement over the possibility of an Anglican-Mennonite dialogue.
“Many of our Mennonite people are finding richness in the liturgical services that are in many of your Anglican parishes,” said Metzger, adding that in Winnipeg, a city with one of the largest Mennonite populations in Canada, the term “Manglican” has been coined to describe those who identify and participate in both religious traditions.
Metzger went on to note that in his experience, many Christians in post-Christendom Canada are finding that they can “comfortably belong to many different expressions of Christian faith at the same time.”
Following the passing of the motion, Myers said he had “only heard positive echoes about where the conversations could go,” and added that the dialogue—which has a six-year mandate—will likely hold its first face-to-face meeting in 2017.