Canadian MBs find unity on atonement
Theological study brings more clarity on key doctrineBy Tim Huber Mennonite Weekly Review
A Canadian Mennonite Brethren Bible study conference waded into a potentially divisive issue and found a denomination remarkably unified.
MB leaders from across Canada met in Kitchener, Ont., Oct. 27-29 for a biennial event seeking Bible-based clarity and meaning for contemporary times. Under the title “The Mystery of the Cross,” the topic was Jesus’ atonement and how MBs understand it and tell it to others.
Brian Cooper, chair of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches’ Board of Faith and Life, which convened the meeting, said the denomination has found different segments of the church say things in different ways.
“There’s sort of a harmonious diversity of opinion on atonement theory that was a significant development that came out of the conference,” said Cooper, who is also associate dean of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary-ACTS in Langley, B.C.
At issue is whether there is one correct doctrine of the atonement — which describes how Christ’s death enables forgiveness of sin — or several.
Penal substitution focuses on the death of Christ as a substitute for the punishment all humans deserve. Other models include Christus Victor, which focuses on Jesus’ triumph over the powers of darkness; and “moral influence,” which focuses on Christ’s death as the greatest example of an obedient life and teaching, which Christians are called to emulate.
Cooper said the conference was not intended to produce a definitive statement on the atonement but as a process within the Canadian MB church family.
The conference was attended by 159 delegates who met in plenary sessions, workshops and Bible study groups.
Willy Reimer, executive director of the Canadian conference, said some clarity was gained. But, to a greater degree, unity was gained, which comforted those who worried that the church’s theology was drifting from a scriptural foundation.
“I feel less that we drifted, more that we haven’t restated what [the scriptural foundation] is,” Reimer said. “I think it gave people a significant amount of comfort that we all agree the atonement was substitutionary.
Comment on the article Canadian MBs find unity on atonement
Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.