© Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
(Last updated 24 March 2009
The Missions Committee grew out of a combination of several different outreach programs such as Itinerant Ministry, Home Missions, Foreign Missions, Prison and Hospital Chaplaincy and Radio Missions.
Itinerant Ministry (Reisepredigerarbeit) began in 1923 with J.P. Klassen and Franz F. Enns. Their jobs were to gather the immigrants, help with the organization of groups and ordain leadership. Wherever they went they preached, baptized, served communion, counseled, comforted and admonished. In general, the itinerant ministers followed the Home Mission Board directive.
The need to do home mission work better in Manitoba was an important reason for forming the Manitoba conference. Home Missions (Innere Missionsarbeit) began in 1947 with Benjamin Ewert as Director. It was a project of cooperation with the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and the General Conference Mission Boards often paying the mission workers or giving financial assistance for buildings.
During the 1950s Home Missions focused on bringing Mennonites in Manitoba together, while Itinerant Ministry shifted to meeting the needs of specific groups, eg. those without a minister, young men in bush camps, people in prisons and hospitals. David Schulz gave the final documented report on Itinerant Ministry for the Missions Committee at the conference sessions in Morden in 1959.
At times Winnipeg was identified as a mission station for all Manitoba churches but the monetary and moral support for church work in the city did not keep pace with the growth of the Mennonite population and the accompanying needs. In 1948 the Manitoba Conference appointed Jacob Toews as city missionary. Several churches in Winnipeg begun as Sunday Schools, grew into large communities.
In1959 the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba delegates urged the Missions Committee to minister to Mennonite individuals and families moving into towns. At the 1960 annual sessions delegates voted to expand mission work to non-Mennonites. The Missions Committee established three mission stations in 1961 -- Oak Point, The Pas and Thompson. These stations drew both Mennonites and non-Mennonites. Oak Point was terminated in 1977 and The Pas in 1968.
The Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba provided ongoing support for Foreign Missions (Äussere Mission) through the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. In 1946 Manitoba's first overseas missionary, Bergthaler Anne Penner, went to India. The Bergthaler's Mennonite Pioneer Mission became a part of the Canadian Conference Mission Board and in 1975 changed its name to Native Ministries. It was through this program that the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba could respond to Native injustices. The Manitoba Conference's role was to provide Board representation, finances, workers, prayer and to give understanding and encouragement, particularly to workers in Manitoba.
Part of the Missions Committee's responsibilities was the Radio Mission. Early in the 1950s a Conference delegate expressed the wish to do a trial run of German radio broadcasts. The missions committee explored this idea and eventually the Mennonite Radio Mission was formed. In 1969 it was renamed Faith and Life Communications and had its own committee that supervised the work.
This freed the Missions Committee for other outreach. At the annual Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba sessions in Altona in 1960 the Missions Committee announced its plan to expand the hospital visitation work. In 1962 H.T. Klassen began half-time work visiting Mennonite patients in Winnipeg hospitals. In 1966 he moved to full-time and began visiting congregations in the hopes of connecting with more rural patients. Several congregations took turns holding monthly services in the Brandon and Selkirk Mental Hospitals.
Hospital Chaplaincy went from a largely salaried ministry in the 1970s to a combination of salaried and volunteer ministry in the 1990s. In 1991 it was transferred from the Outreach Ministries Commission to the Pastoral Leadership Commission.
Prison Chaplaincy began in 1959 with the appointment of C.H. Friesen. He stayed into the 1970's. Initially he only visited 11 Mennonite Prisoners. By 1963 he was visiting 40 men from Mennonite homes (out of 57 prisoners visited). Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba congregations took turns conducting morning services at Stony Mountain on the second Sunday of each month. In 1973 the Conference Prison Chaplaincy ended when Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba became involved in prison ministry with its Open Circle program.
From 1986-1989 David Wiebe was hired as full-time Evangelism and Church Growth director. He said the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba needed a greater spirit of inclusiveness, skills in relating to "outsiders", encouragement to share the faith at one's work place and more vision and confidence to draw from Anabaptist experience in evangelism were needed. Such an evangelism was the Living in Faithful Evangelism (LIFE) process which 23 Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba congregations entered into in the early 1990's. The program brought a greater awareness and knowledge of the communities surrounding the participating congregations. This process placed responsibility for evangelism within the congregation rather than lodging it with a provincial committee or a staff person.
The Missions and Evangelism Committee changed its name a couple of times in recent years:
1990-1999 Outreach Ministries Commission.
2000- Evangelism and Service Ministries
People involved with the Missions Committee over the
Innere Mission leaders
1947-1949 Benjamin Ewert
1950-1956 G.G. Neufeld
1958 B.P. Wiebe
1959-1964 Groening, George
1965-1966 P.G. Dueck
1966-1967 P.G. Dueck
1967-1968 P.G. Dueck
1968-1969 P.G. Dueck
Missions and Service Committee
1970-1973 Clarence Epp
1974-1975 Frank Dyck
Missions and Evangelism
1976-1980 Jim Penner
1981-1982 David Wiebe
1983-1984 Abe Hiebert
1985-1986 John B. Wiebe
1987-1990 Albert Durksen
Outreach Ministries Commission
1989-1990 Albert Durksen
1990-1991 Helga Froese and Norman Voth
1991-1992 Norman Voth
1992-1993 Norman Voth and John B. Wiebe
1994-1999 John B. Wiebe
Evangelism and Service Ministries
2001- Norm Voth
This series consists mainly of minutes and correspondence produced by members of the Missions Committee.
Inventory file lists available.
Material in English, some German.
There are no restrictions on access.