Conference of Mennonites in Canada

Classification scheme: 

Title: Conference of Mennonites in Canada fonds

Dates of creation: 1936-1999; 1959-1991 predominant

Physical description: 1.6 m of textual records

Administrative history: The Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC) began in 1902-1903 with the union of congregations from the Rosenorter Mennonites of Saskatchewan and the Bergthaler Mennonites of Manitoba.  The conference first met in 1903 in Hochstadt, Man., and was organized to promote "home missions." The Mennonites generally had large families and were constantly looking for land, and it was hoped that the conference would aid in the challenging task of keeping them united. The constitution, adopted at the second meeting of the conference in Eigenheim, Sask., in 1904, strongly affirmed the autonomy of individual congregations: "The Conference has no authority to interfere in the internal matters of a congregation unless called to do so. It is not a legislative, but an advisory body. The union it promotes does not consist in agreeable forms and customs, but in unity of love, faith, and hope, and in connection with this a common work in the kingdom of God."  Early leaders in the conference included David Toews (chairperson from 1914-1940, with the exception of 1936), John G. Rempel (secretary from 1930-1947), and J.J. Thiessen (vice-chairperson from 1941-1942 and chairperson from 1943-1959).

A series of three different name changes led to the last conference name. Known first as "Die Konferenz der Mennoniten im Mittleren Kanada" (Conference of Mennonites in Middle Canada), it became the General Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1932 (sessions at Laird, Sask.). Restructuring in 1959 brought about some major changes, such as limiting the terms of offices, and giving the organization its present name. At the same time a varying set of committees, which had carried out tasks as they arose, was replaced by five boards: Missions, Education and Publications, Christian Service, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, and Finance. Beginning in the 1950s the first staff members (a part-time treasurer, then a general secretary, and soon also executive secretaries of other boards) took up responsibilities as a central office developed rapidly in the next decade and a half. In the congregations there was a strong move away from leadership by elders toward the promotion of a professional ministry.

These new directions created a project-oriented agenda. With it came rising budgets and new initiatives of ministry and mission. The Mennonite Pioneer Mission, established and maintained by the Bergthal Mennonites of Manitoba until 1958, was brought into the conference program. Ultimately it formed the core aspects of Native Ministries, as this work is called in 1998. Congregations were given loans to build new church buildings. Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) expanded its new campus at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, where the conference also had its offices. The Board of Education and Publication, meanwhile, published devotional materials, subsidized conference-related periodicals, and undertook to publish the Conference Bulletin and other promotional materials.

In 1971 the constitution was revised again. The earlier five boards now became four: General Board, Congregational Resources, Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), and Mennonite Pioneer Missions (changed to Native Ministries the following year). Another result of the change was a marked reduction of staff, and the general board of the conference assumed responsibility for finances. The conference celebrated its 75th birthday at the Gretna, Man., sessions in 1978.

One segment of the conference accepted a new inter-Mennonite affiliation in Ontario when the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario joined Mennonite Church (MC) congregations in Ontario to become the of Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (MCEC) in 1988. The MC congregations in MCEC became associate members of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, and in 1995 sixty-eight of these congregations became full members of CMC.

In 1999 the conference, together with the Mennonite Church (MC) and General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) completed a long process of integration and transformed into two national bodies -- Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

Custodial history: The materials were donated to the Archives by various individuals that served in conference positions. These have included the Herman Enns estate, J.K. Klassen, J.J. Wichert estate, and Sam Steiner.

Scope and Content: The fonds consists of meeting minutes, reports and correspondence, as well as the materials distributed to annual meeting delegates.

Notes: The original description was created by Sam Steiner in June 2004.

File list:

Series 1: Annual & Special Delegate Meetings

Scope and content: report book, minutes, financial, and other delegate materials circulated at meeting; not all included each year; a nearly complete set of annual report books and issues of the conference newsletter, the Bulletinare cataloged in the Library.

1959-1969, 1971-1974, 1976-1978, 1982, 1986, 1989-1991, 1993, 1995, 1997-1999

Series 2: Executive Office / Executive Committee/ Council of Boards / General Board Minutes & Correspondence (includes Council of Boards reports)

1960 (J.J. Wichert files), partial 
1961/62 (J.J. Wichert files)
1963 (J.J. Wichert files), partial 
1966/67 (Herman Enns files) 
1967 Council of Boards 
1967/68 (Herman Enns files)
1968 Council of Boards 
1968/69 (Herman Enns files)
1969 Council of Boards 
1970 Council of Boards
1970/71 (J.K. Klassen files) 
1971 Council of Boards 
1972 Council of Boards (minutes only; no reports) 
1975 Council of Boards 
1976 Council of Boards
1977 Council of Boards
1991 Council of Boards

Series 3: Canadian Mennonite Bible College

  1. CMBC Board Minutes (incomplete) 
  2. Publicity materials, 1950s-1970s

Series 4: Mennonite Pioneer Mission/Native Ministries

  1. Board Minutes & Correspondence 
    1968-1971, 1973, 1978
  2. Publicity material
  3. "Report of a survey of Greater Winnipeg for the Mennonite Pioneer Mission Board" by H.T. Klassen, 1958

Series 5: Board of Missions

  1. Board Minutes & Correspondence 
    1958, 1960-1961
    July-Dec 1962 Custodial history: From the files of J.J. Wichert.
  2. Radio Committee, 1960-1966

Series 6: Board of Education and Publication

  1. Minutes & Correspondence
    January 1960
    1962-1968, 1969 (partial) 
  2. Christian Education Conference, August 26-28, 1964 (papers, etc.)
  3. Literature Committee minutes, correspondence
    1964-1966 (Herman Enns files)
  4. Gesangbuchkomission = Gesangbuch Revision Committee
    Custodial history: From the files of J.J. Wichert. 
    Note: Handwritten drafts and most typewritten drafts of the hymnal indexes were not kept.
  5. Film news : [catalogue, 19--] / Faith and Life Film Library
  6. Copy of draft of J. Wichert's Katechismus-Lektionen presented at Didsbury, Alberta in July 1955. - This was Wichert's copy, donated to the Archives by Lydia Wichert c. 2010.
  7. Student Services Committee
    Minutes and correspondence, 1963-1965
    Student Surveys, 1963/1964-1964/1965 (General Conference Mennonite Church), 1964/1965 (Mennonite Brethren Student Services)
    Note: These files were received by the Archives in 2024 from the estate of Aaron Klassen, a committee member.

Series 7: Board of Christian Service

  1. Minutes & Correspondence
    1960, 1965-1971 (incomplete)

Series 8: Congregational Resources Board

  1. Minutes & Correspondence
  2. Resource Centre
    "Peace shelf: a bibliography", 1991

Series 9: Board of Finance / Finance Committee

  1. Minutes & Correspondence 
    January 1960, 1967-1973
  2. Annual financial statements
    1965, 1974

Series 10: Canadian Women in Mission

  1. Minutes, 1978
  2. Annual meeting, 1986

Series 11: Committee on the Ministry

  1. Minutes 
    1966, 1969
  2. Women in Leadership Ministries (packet), 1990

Series 12: Canadian Mennonite Youth Council

  1. Minutes, correspondence 

Series 13: Ad hoc Committees as Appointed

  1. Structures Committee, 1989-1993
  2. Consultation on Higher Education, 1992

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Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6

Phone: 519-885-0220 x24238