Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference

From Anabaptistwiki

The Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference is a Canadian Old Order Mennonite group established in 1939, although the church has its roots in an earlier division from the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario. The primary reason for the division at the time included usage of telephones and automobiles. Markhams, as they are nicknamed, are the most progressive of Old Older groups. Although they utilize considerable technology on their farms and otherwise, they still worship and design their meetinghouses in the same way as other Old Order groups, and they similarly adhere to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632). The Markhams are known also as "Black Car Mennonites", have electricity and modern appliances in their homes, and use computers and cellphones, although internet usage is monitored. Mennonite plain clothes are still worn in church services, but it is less common for men to wear traditional clothing in public. Women wear the white cap head covering and dresses. Children attend private church run schools, administered usually with the Old Order Mennonite Church.

History

In the early 20th century, some of the Old Order Mennonites in Ontario and Pennsylvania began to use automobiles instead of horses and buggies, which resulted in a great deal of tension within the Old Order congregations. Because of this, "The Old Orders of Waterloo had ceased to affiliate with Markham in 1930 because of the automobile issue."[1]

From 1931 the MWMC had been known as the Markham Mennonite Conference. When a significant group of Old Order Mennonites from the Waterloo County area of Ontario joined with the Markham church in the 1930s, the new MWMC church was formed in 1939.[2]

The Old Order Mennonite Conference of Ontario had its roots in a division within the Mennonite Conference of Ontario in 1889 over such issues as the use of Protestant Sunday School methods, evangelistic meetings, church order, etc.[3] According to the MWMC, "In 1889, the Mennonite Conference of Ontario divided on issues of assimilation to the larger Protestant society".[4]A similar division occurred in 1893 in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which resulted in the formation of the Weaverland Old Order Mennonite Conference.[5]

In 2003, MWMC layman Donald Martin (ordained Deacon in 2004) published a book entitled "Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, and Brotherhood" (Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario). His book is a detailed study of the history of most of the Old Order groups in Ontario, including the MWMC, the Old Order Mennonite Conference, the David Martin Mennonites, and the Orthodox Mennonites. This book also contains a primer on basic Old Order Mennonite beliefs. A more detailed study of Old Order Mennonite beliefs was published by the same author in 2007 called "Distinctive Teachings of the Old Order People" (Vineyard Publications, Wallenstein, Ontario). It explains Old Order Mennonite beliefs on issues such as 'Salvation', 'Discipleship', 'The Church', and 'Separation from the World'.

Doctrine and Practice

The MWMC "Statement of Faith",[6] in brief indicates that "The Word of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, is the basis for the faith and practice of the Church. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ; the Apostolic Confession of Faith and the Dordrecht Eighteen Articles of Faith are taught and supported." Of the three historic creeds then, the MWMC supports the Apostles' Creed, but does not use the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The full text of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith of 1632 is reprinted in the church's booklet "Origin and Doctrine of the Mennonites" (shared by the Old Order Mennonite Church), published in 1999. Within this booklet, the text of one of the writings of Menno Simons clarifies the MWMC belief rejecting the orthodox view of the Trinity as three "Persons": "And thus we believe and confess ... that these three names, operations and powers, namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one incomprehensible, indescribable, almighty, holy, only, eternal and sovereign God,".[7] Simons continues, "And although they are three, yet in godliness, will, power and operation they are one, and can no more be separated from each other than the sun, brightness, and warmth;".[8] This view is re-affirmed in the first article of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, "Of God and the Creation of All Things", where it states, "Therefore we ... believe ... according to Holy Scripture, in one eternal, Almighty, and incomprehensible God - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,".[9]

The MWMC regards salvation as "a life process that (calls) for perseverance to the end."[10] In his second book, Deacon Donald Martin states clearly that, for Anabaptists, "obedience and discipleship (are) also part of one's salvation".[11] Martin reminds the reader that, "The Sixth Article (of the Dordrecht Confession) states that we become justified children of God ... after we have repented and amended our lives."[12]

The MWMC Conference Report and General Recommendations briefly spells out the agreed upon expectations for membership in the church. Articles include the "Holy Life", "Courtship and Marriage", "Nonresistance", "Separation from the State", "Types and Places of Employment", "Uniformity Within the Church" and "Nonconformity to the world".[13]

The MWMC has its own parochial school system, which began in 1973. It shares some of its schools with the Old Order Mennonite Church in Ontario.

Summary

Today (2018), one may question the validity of including the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference in the category of "Old Order Mennonites". Indeed, many of their present members, especially among the younger generations, do not identify with their conference roots. That said, although very progressive, certainly regarding technology, in comparison with their buggy driving cousins, they do maintain certain Old Order distinctives. For example, their meetinghouses and services are largely identical with Old Order Mennonites, although their services are in English. The use a similar hymn book, sung without notes in unison, although in English. Further, they continue to use the 1632 Confession of all Old Order groups. While these practices and beliefs remain, the rightful place of the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference is within Old Order circles.

See Also

Progressive Old Order Mennonite Groups
Old Order Mennonite Groups in Ontario
Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

References

  1. Martin, Donald. Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood; Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, 2003; p.236
  2. Martin, Donald. Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood; Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, 2003; pp.231-241.
  3. Wenger, John C. (1956). Old Order Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 January 2018, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O544.html
  4. Record of Ordinations leading to and including the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference 1891-2010.
  5. Landis, Ira D. and Richard D. Thiessen. (October 2010). Weaverland Mennonite Conference. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 January 2018
  6. Markham Waterloo Mennonite Conference Report and General Recommendations, January 2010, edited 2011
  7. Origin and Doctrine of the Mennonites, Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference, 1999, p. 51.
  8. Origin and Doctrine of the Mennonites, Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference, 1999, p. 51.
  9. Origin and Doctrine of the Mennonites, Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference, 1999, p. 106.
  10. Martin, Donald. Distinctive Teachings of the Old Order People; Vineyard Publications, Wallenstein, Ontario, 2007; p. 33.
  11. Martin, Donald. Distinctive Teachings of the Old Order People; Vineyard Publications, Wallenstein, Ontario, 2007; p. 30.
  12. Martin, Donald. Distinctive Teachings of the Old Order People; Vineyard Publications, Wallenstein, Ontario, 2007; pp. 33-34
  13. Markham Waterloo Mennonite Conference Report and General Recommendations, January 2010, edited 2011. It is also expected that members primarily drive black vehicles. Members cautiously use technologies like mobile phones, computers, and the Internet, but do not own televisions or radios.