The Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC) began as a division within the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church in southern Manitoba in 1937. Initially known as the Rudnerweider Mennonite Church, the group adopted its current name in 1959 to signal its evangelical identity and its interest in missionary activity. Through the evangelistic activity of its ministers during the late 1930s among Old Colony Mennonites north of Saskatoon, several small congregations were organized in Saskatchewan during the mid-1940s. By the middle of the 1960s, the denomination had organized six congregations in the province, located in Hague, Warman, Hepburn, Saskatoon, Wynyard, and Blumenhof. One of the more prominent leaders emerging out of Saskatchewan was John D. Friesen who, as a young man, was elected to serve as a minister in the first EMMC congregation in this province, and who became both a popular conference evangelist as well as the primary voice of an international Low-German radio ministry called Die Evangelische Botshaft (“The Gospel Message”), based in Saskatoon.
Like most other Mennonite groups in western Canada, the EMMC have faced many challenges: language transition; remaining a peace witness during times of war; internal reorganization; urbanization; and a transition towards a more professionalized ministry. Despite its aggressive emphasis on evangelism and missions, which has facilitated international expansion in countries such as Bolivia, Belize and Mexico, the group only managed to hold its own in Saskatchewan during the last three decades of the 20th century. While the majority of its approximately 4,100 Canadian members are located in Manitoba, membership within the six Saskatchewan congregations numbers nearly 400, which represents approximately 9% of the denomination’s membership in Canada. In 1995, the Saskatchewan EMMC congregations joined with the Mennonite Brethren in the sponsorship of Bethany College in Hepburn.
Bruce L. Guenther