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What's to be done about John Howard Yoder?

July 17, 2013

 

[Updated January 31, 2018]  

In early June of 2013, responding to a book review written in The Mennonite, a publication of Mennonite Church USA, I created a Facebook note about renowned Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuses and what I thought the church needed to do to work towards accountability and healing.  A lively discussion ensued across the wider Mennonite church, as Yoder was reported to have sexually assaulted women around the world and was acclaimed for his writings around the world.

 


Somehow the small fires of courageous complaint, exposure, and protest about Yoder's activities coming from Mennonite women through out the 70's, 80's and 90's were extinguished, the complaints were neutralized and 'business as usual' ensued. Yoder was too much of a poster boy for Mennonite peace theology. Who cared if he crossed a few boundaries with Mennonite sisters?  

 

This essay was first published in July of 2013 on Our Stories Untold where I was editor. It lit yet another fire and I fully expected it to be ignored like all the other attempts to bring attention to the travesty of JHY. This timeThe Mennonite World Review published it as well. And this time the internet's microphone was available.

 

In 2015 Mennonite Church USA, Sara Wenger Shenk, Ervin Stutzman and other concerned Mennonite leader advocates, commissioned historian Rachel Waltner Goossen to research and write the Yoder saga. Her findings were published for Mennonite Quarterly Review 89 (January) in an extensive article called ’Defanging the Beast’: Mennonite Responses to John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Abuse.” It rekindled the biggest blazing fire to date. Her research substantiated claims about Yoder that Mennonite women survivors had been making for decades. Waltner Goossen concludes that more than 100 women experienced sexual violations by Yoder. My educated guess, today in 2018, is that Yoder violated over 1,000 Mennonite women around the world. He was a repeat offender with a 'surprise attack' M.O. Repeat sex offenders tend not to stop offending till they are in the grave or in a prison cell.

 

Here's what I wrote in 2013 and the comments it generated. It is interesting that I don't mention contacting an attorney or reporting to law enforcement. Much has changed since 2013. Has it begun to sink in that sexual violence is not a sin to forgive but a crime to report? 

 

The life altering pain and suffering caused by sexual violation is something we must cease to accept. It is a human problem; therefore I live with hope that humans can fix it.    B. Graber

 

I remember the Sunday morning two MYF (Mennonite Youth Fellowship) friends who were dating got up in front of the congregation to publicly confess their sins. They were pregnant out of wedlock.  Meanwhile John Howard Yoder, the most acclaimed Mennonite peace theologian and symbol of male power in the church, sexually assaulted and harassed untold numbers of women of the church over decades, and never publicly confessed. 

 

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and other Mennonite church agencies that hired Yoder, were unable or unwilling to publicly censure him.  Years of institutional silence ensued while files of complaint letters accumulated. In 1984, AMBS announced that Yoder “had resigned in order to teach full time at Notre Dame.” But no mention of JHY’s known sexually deviant behavior was made and students were left to wonder why their brilliant professor suddenly flew the coop. Since that time, the church at large—now Mennonite Church USA, successor to two denominations that existed before Yoder’s death in 1997–has not explained or acknowledged its decades of apparent complicity. Quite the opposite.

 

After public exposure of his abuses in 1992, followed by a highly secretive disciplinary process, he was declared reconciled with the church and encouraged to return to teaching and writing. The promise of a public statement of apology to the victims whose lives he upended, and the wider ecumenical community whose trust he betrayed, somehow never materialized. And no one seems to know why. Today John Howard Yoder continues to be lauded, his books roll off the presses, and there’s pressure from all sides to go back to business as usual. I wonder if the same would be true if he’d been accused of assault with a deadly weapon, busted for selling drugs or accused of grand theft.

 

I am a survivor of sexual abuse by men of the Mennonite Church, though not JHY. And I have walked through hell and back with many of the church’s soul-scarred women and men, including victims of JHY.  Over the decade of 1982 to1992 I happened to encounter three women across three states that did not know one another; and each one told me a despicable story of life altering, traumatic encounters with John Howard Yoder.  Today many more stories have been documented. See Ruth Krall’s “The Elephant in God’s Living Room," Volume 3 at ruthkrall.com and 1992 articles in The Elkhart Truth by Tom Price. Also Rachel Goosen's 

 

A long time friend, after reading my recent rant about glowing reviews of JHY’s books in our church’s periodical “The Mennonite” asked me, “So what needs to be done? It feels like we are stuck…is it possible to move forward?”  I too would like to see us move forward. But we can’t cry “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”  There is no peace for many women who lost, along with their families, years of normal, healthy, joyous living for having been sexually abused by male leaders of the Mennonite Church.  And JHY remains a symbol of those widespread wounds like no other churchman.

 

I don’t pretend that my limited perspective could possibly encompass the whole, but in the interest of encouraging further discernment and discussion, I offer the following practical suggestions for moving toward justice, peace and healing:

  1. Let’s all be clear and truthful about what actually happened in the case of JHY. People still ask me what he actually did that was so bad.  Words like “inappropriate”,  “dalliances”, “crossed boundaries”, “improprieties”, and “sexual advances” to describe Yoder’s actions are highly misleading because they are far too mild, lack specificity, and leave everyone asking ,”So what did the women do to encourage him?” and “Why didn’t they protest?”  The actions of JHY reported to me and now documented by others were sexually abusive assaults, sudden acts of aggression. They were obscene and persistent sexual harassments.  Yoder’s actions were clear perpetrations of sexualized violence, some of them criminal. Women don’t write letters of complaint to powerful institutions about mere 'liaisons' with powerful men. They usually don’t bother to write complaint letters about 'improprieties.'  An impropriety is a sexist joke. Let’s all agree to stop the whitewashing.
     

  2. For Mennonite church leaders:  Pledge to make the ending of  sexual abuses of power by our church leaders a clearly and broadly articulated priority. Create at least one setting for public acknowledgement and confession for the years of silent complicity and ongoing harm.  This could take place through an open letter in The Mennonite, signed by any involved or their representatives; and it could happen through a public ceremony of confession at a national (and international) church conference. This festering wound cannot close and the Spirit will not breathe freely through our church until this dirty business is simply and sincerely acknowledged without excuses.  If it ends in legal action, which is highly unlikely, so be it. Let the debt be paid. See the story of how a church in Virginia dealt with this dilemma here.  (The outcome might surprise you.)
     

  3. For journalists and book reviewers: When you discuss JHY’s work, have the courage to acknowledge the history of accusations, at least every once in awhile. It could be the simplest of statements: “In troubling contrast to his work, we now know that John Howard Yoder’s life was seriously flawed by acts of sexual violence against women. Though he left a legacy of harm, ironically his writings continue to inspire and attract new readers.”  If this has ever happened in a JHY book review, please forward on to me.
     

  4. For scholars of JHY’s works: Welcome, encourage and make efforts to include analysis of the astoundingly ironic disconnect between Yoder’s orthodoxy  (right belief) and his severe lack of orthopraxy (right action) in the discourses you initiate. Stop barring, marginalizing and shunning anyone who suggests this might be a worthy and beneficial scholarly endeavor. Visit ruthkrall.com
     

  5. For Mennonite men: Sexualized violence is a men’s issue. Create safe and appropriate invitations for women in your church and in your circle of friends to talk about their experiences of sexual violation by men and the impact it has had on their lives. Practice deep listening. Perhaps this kind of event has occurred in some Mennonite Church congregations. If so, I would love to hear about them. Challenge your male friends who don’t get it and go to the police or social services about the friends you know or suspect are abusing. Don’t expect them to be able to be truthful with you. If you are or have ever been caught up in perpetrating sexualized violence, get serious about seeking help and set up strict systems of accountability for yourself.
     

  6. For Mennonite educators: Sexualized violence is a peace and justice issue. Make the topics of childhood sexual abuse, multi-generational incest, sexual abuse of power, and sexualized violence against women central to your curriculums and conferences. Encourage discussion of the contradictions and ponder the reasons for the church’s historical silence. Invite leaders involved in the disciplinary process with Yoder to discuss what they might have done differently today. Model the creation of safe spaces to talk about sexual violation and the impact it has had.
     

  7. For Mennonite pastors and bishops: No more secrecy and silence. If you don’t believe it could happen in your church take a look at the work of Dr. Anna C. Salter interviewing a youth pastor. Make sexual abuse a sermon topic. Assume you have both predators and victims in your pews each Sunday. Create safe spaces for people to come forward and name names. Act on your suspicions. Err on the side of protecting young people, women and children. Believe the victims and report to authorities or independent outside agencies those named on their behalf.  Stop covering up potential crimes in a naive belief that the church is equipped to handle these things on its own. Vet and choose  lawyers carefully. Your silence is not an act of love, but of collusion.  Don’t praise or give a microphone to perpetrators publicly. Include them but hold them accountable and create strict boundaries. And if they refuse to cooperate and attempt to return to church property, don’t hesitate to take out a restraining order. Make your church safe by setting up policies (beyond the cookie cutter insurance company ones) with trainings and resources from organizations like G.R.A.C.E., National Child Protection Training Center, Samaritan Counseling Center’s Safe Church training program, Faith Trust Institute, and Dove’s Nest. Have local child protection and law enforcement professionals review your policies regularly.
     

  8. For survivors of sexual abuse:  Whatever your gender, break the silence. Dare to tell your secret. Though it takes courage, you will watch the shame and fear begin to fall away.

    Call me naive. Say these things will never happen. I’ll hold out hope for the good people of the Mennonite Church and the power of Spirit-led healing and reconciliation till the day I die.

 

 

54 comments

 

RUTH KRALL says:

Jul 17, 2013

 

Barb

Thank You. I would also add my website to the list of resources. Volume three of the Elephants in God’s Living Room is devoted to the John Yoder and Mennonite Church issue. I got permission from the Elkhart Truth to reprint the six newspaper articles from the summer of 1992 and I got permission from the Gospel Evangel editors to reprint the 1992 and 1996 church announcements. They can be found in the appendix section. You can find this volume at http://www.ruthkrall.com

Ruth

SYLVIA says:

Jul 17, 2013

 

Barbara,
Thanks for your powerful piece. It provides much food for thought and action. As a Mennonite pastor i have often been called a straight shooter, brash, hard nosed, etc. et.al. because I learned early on to call out those who trespassed into my sexual boundaries. I like all your creative suggestions, but particulalrly the one about a time of confession at an international coference. This problem is systemic in our global church, be cause paternalism still strangle holds people, men and women, to speak their truth. Isn’t World conference coming up soon? We might have enough time to organise an international workshop on this topic and bring your creative ideas to the frontal lobes of peoples’ brains.
I have not yet uploaded lists, or been able to translate my site into englisj, but keep your eyes on http://www.klauserconsulting.com

Be blessed today and always,
Sylvia

 

JONATHAN SWARTZ says:

Jul 17, 2013

Thank you for this Barbra.

KATHIE WEAVER KURTZ says:

Jul 29, 2013

Barb, a well-written piece. Thanks for taking the effort to make these clear, concrete suggestions.

CORINNE says:

Jul 17, 2013

Thanks for this, Barb. I had the same appalled thought reading Houser’s review in The Mennonite, and then was very pleased to see your letter pushing back. I think all of the action points are spot-on; I find the call for scholars and writer to acknowledge JHY’s disparate histories particularly powerful. I think that when Mennonites have the courage to represent the complexity of JHY in their writing about him, especially academic writing which makes it to non-Menno realms, a much more accurate portrait of the human side of the Mennonite Church will be presented. That is integrity

 

BERT NEWTON says:

Jul 17, 2013

Thanks Barbara. You suggestion #1 was clarifying. I had only a few months ago heard about JHY’s sexual misconduct, but I didn’t know the nature of it. I was told that a group of survivors was very angry, so I assumed it must have been assaultive behavior. Your clarification confirms and clarifies this for me. Your suggestion #2 should be put into effect immediately! (And also the rest of your suggestions.) This should not be swept under the rug. I feel that those who let the complaint letters pile up for years without taking action should be called to account publicly for their actions; not that they can’t be forgiven, but we need to understand how this happens so that it cannot continue! This sort of behavior is unacceptable! Thanks for your help, Barbara

 

 

JEANINE UNDERWOOD says:

Jul 17, 2013

Thank you Barbara! I love your ideas and I sincerely hope with you that we will see these steps happening in the near future. I especially like number 7! I know that sharing my story of abuse was and still is the foundation of my healing.

Thank you for being willing to stand for and with so many hurting women.

 

JOYCE says:

Jul 18, 2013

If these things were to come to pass, all of them, then Mennonite praxis would become whole–following after Jesus and living as peacemakers. It’s thrilling to imagine the salvations that would occur one at a time, a real feeding of the five thousand.
Thank you, Barbra, for this coherent list of actions.

 

 

DARRIN SNYDER BELOUSEK says:

Jul 18, 2013

Thank you, Barbra and Ruth both, for this challenge to church. Count me first under #4. I am not a scholar of Yoder strictly speaking, but have utilized his writings to a significant extent. And I have just added a paragraph to the preface of my next book identifying this issue. May others follow suit.

 

 

JAN ANDREWS says:

Jul 18, 2013

Thanks, Darrin.

 

 

KATE DAVIS says:

Jul 18, 2013

Thank you for writing this! I wrote about my experience of discussing JHY’s work in a seminary classroom here: http://purelybeloved.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/rape-and-the-church/
We are all situated, and that particularity influences our theology. There is so much work that needs to be done to show the ways that JHY’s sexual violence — and the first step to doing so is to acknowledge that these events happened and matter. Thank you for your call to all of us.

 

RAY TIMMERMANS says:

Jul 18, 2013

Why were no criminal complaints ever filed? It makes one wonder as to the veracity of the claim when one hears about them only 30 years later.

 

 

RUTH KRALL says:

Jul 18, 2013

I think we need to understand the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s to answer this question. Women did not report because they were not believed. The FBI annual crime statistics manual reported that (1) rape and sexual violence was the most under-reported crime in the nation and (2) that many police departments simply unfounded the reports they did get.

In addition, the laws about rape only began to change in 1983 when the State of Michigan updated its law code. Only last year did the feds update their definitions of rape.

Sexual harassment began to be investigated in the late 1980s and the law codes followed suit but many states did not have laws in place until the 1990s.

In addition, most Mennonites of the generations we are talking about were taught it was a sin to go to the civil authorities so there were strong cultural prohibitions against any civil or legal procedures inside the body of Christ against a brother or a sister in the church.

This is a similar question that Roman Catholics have been struggling with since 1984. Why did priest-raped children not report the rapes to the police. One good resource is Attorney Jeff Anderson’s web page discussion of this issue. Another is Michael D’Antonio’s new book “Mortal Sins” and a third is Ray Mouton’s novel “In God’s House.”

My 1990 Ph.D. dissertation, Rape’s Power to Dismember Women’s Lives: Personal Realities and Cultural Forms [Claremont} addresses these kinds of issues in much more detail. So too does the Elephants, Volume One – which deals with theoretical issues.

Ruth Krall

 

HILARY SCARSELLA says:

Jul 18, 2013

Thank you, Barbra, for your wise words. I learned that JHY had been sexually abusive while I was a student at AMBS. I am dearly grateful for the support I was given by AMBS to study theological issues related to abuse, and at the same time I am disappointed in the conversation that was had (or, rather, not had) about JHY. Though it was in the context of the classroom that I was first informed that JHY had been abusive, it felt to me that conversation on this topic was highly discouraged. At one point, I remember being told that one reason students were discouraged from studying/discussing the matter was in order to respect the privacy and wishes of the victims. It was said that in order to avoid re-victimization the women who had been victimized did not want their personal experiences of trauma being discussed by the wider church. Thanks to your article and conversation with others, I know now that this is entirely false. And while it may or may not have been intentional, I can’t help but feel upset at being misled. My own experience in learning about this story supports the need for every one of the seven steps you outlined so well. I hope and trust that we are at a point where we (the collective church) can heed your suggestions and move together toward healing.

 

RICHARD A. KAUFFMAN says:

Jul 18, 2013

As someone who knows a little about this case (I worked at AMBS for 11 years), I would plead that you not be too hard on the people who tried to discipline JHY. Although he wrote about church discipline, he was extremely difficult to discipline because of his brilliance and manipulative maneuvers. I think it is arguably the case that the effort to discipline Yoder resulted in the untimely and premature death of one person. What maybe should be pursued as much or more are the enablers of John’s behavior, and there were a few of those. There were people in the Mennonite church who couldn’t believe that AMBS discouraged other institutions from using John while he was being disciplined. And one of John’s ethicist friends, a non-Mennonite, excused John’s actions after his death by referring to them as pecadillos and said that that was just what was happening in the 60s and 70s, it wasn’t anything unique. (If you guessed this person was Stanley Hauerwas you would be WRONG.) And I know some other non-Mennonite academics were critical of the Mennonite church and AMBS, thinking Mennonites were being too hard on Yoder. As to the question of the continued reading and studying of John’s work, I have always felt as though the test of the authenticity of his writings isn’t whether he lived out the teachings of Jesus and the NT entirely, but whether in fact John’s teachings are faithful to Jesus.

 

 

SYLVIA says:

Jul 19, 2013

Richard,
Thanks for your comment, though i wished more people of the AMBS cmmunity had the intestinal fortitude to come forward, come clean, nd so help the women processes their expeience. I have heard that very loud non-Mennonite use the very same words when i asked him about the issue. I just about forgot that i claim to be pacifist, especially since none more than he gained much his academic standing from JHY’s awkward brilliance.
After thinking about this isuue of violemce against women in the greater context of our non-existent sexual ethic, i believe we’re wtuck with thequestion of homosexuality because we have not worked on the sexual violence of JHY question. How can we live with ourslves and kep harping on about church discipline when we can’t use the process where it counts?
Sylvia
I will re-read his work on discipline anew and with different glasses, and i wonder whether he wrote most about it when he was actually under discipline himself?!?

 

 

ROSS BENDER says:

Aug 3, 2013

This is in response to Richard A. Kauffman’s comment that “I think it is arguably the case that the effort to discipline Yoder resulted in the untimely and premature death of one person.”

Richard, I would like to know who you are referring to. Marlin Miller? I wish you would be more explicit about “the enablers” and your own experience over the years at AMBS. It would be nice if you would add to the conversation online at The Mennonite, perhaps naming a few names rather than being somewhat coy.

Disclosure: I was a student at AMBS from Jan. 1984 – May 1985, and Richard was the moderator of a seminar I was part of.

Ross Bender
Philadelphia, PA

 

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Sep 20, 2013

Would like to make contact, Ross, but don’t have an email for you. Would you care to send to me at barbragraber@gmail.com? Have appreciated your writings at rossbender.org.

 

 

KARL says:

Feb 9, 2015

>>> he was extremely difficult to discipline because of his brilliance and manipulative maneuvers

You are ==exactly== describing an Alpha Male personality.

Is there any indication that Yoder used physical coercion to get his way? If not, then we are dealing with a personality who…. knew how to game the female psyche.

Standing by for Team WhiteProgressiveFeminist melts down with angry denials that women are not the same as men……

 

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Feb 9, 2015

Yes, Karl, I have a first hand report of sudden, unexpected, physically aggressive sexual assault by Yoder. It appears his m.o. was to skillfully and carefully groom the woman until she trusted him, then suddenly sexualize what she thought was a special mentoring relationship with a man of God. I wouldn’t exactly call this “gaming the female psyche.” I’d call it sexual violation and abuse of power. You don’t have to “game” anyone once you have their trust, especially from a position of power and prestige. BG

 

SPEEDYK says:

Jul 18, 2013

How long will it take for people to stop believing in outside authorities (who gave themselves that authority*) and instead concentrate on and nurture a relationship with their god-given internal compass, which does not deceive or abuse nor counsel doing so to others? Any time there is hurt to oneself or others, the path is wrong.

After the way the Mennonite Church discarded and cheated and abused longtime workers at the Mennonite Publishing House, and the way the JHY scandal was let run, not to mention things yet unearthed, how can people have one iota of belief in this institution?

*How can anyone just take it as true that someone is speaking for god because they say so? Would you believe me if I wrote here that I am writing this from God’s office? If so, God commands you to stop hurting others, to examine yourself before others, to take every fault you find and see if you are committing it, to spare every life possible, including spiders in your house and flies on your nose, to feel absolute love and gratitude for every second you are here, aware on this earth as a witness to the ever-changing universe, and value the deepening of that over acquiring money.

 

ANDY ROWELL says:

Jul 19, 2013

Some other links on this issue:
DECEMBER 30, 2010
Word and Deed: The Strange Case of John Howard Yoder
Ted Grimsrud. Thinking Pacifism
http://thinkingpacifism.net/2010/12/30/word-and-deed-the-strange-case-of-john-howard-yoder/

YODERIANS AREN’T ALL SEXY BEASTS . . . SOME ARE JUST BEASTS
by The Amish Jihadist on Thursday, May 24, 2012 The Other Journal
http://theotherjournal.com/amishjihadi/2012/05/24/yoderians-arent-all-sexy-beasts-some-are-just-beasts/

John Howard Yoder and Sex: Wrestling with the Contradictions
May 24, 2012 Andy Alexis-Baker Jesus Radicals
http://www.jesusradicals.com/john-howard-yoder-and-sex-wrestling-with-the-contradictions/

 

ELLSWORTH BRAND says:

Jul 25, 2013

The author, Barbra Graber, urges transparency and coming clean, as she charges John Howard Yoder with sexual assault. I don’t doubt the charge, but–in the interest of transparency and coming clean–what did he do? We know that Anthony Weiner exposed his genitals to women via Twitter. Being unfamiliar with Mennonites and their institutions in the 1970’s and ’80’s, I don’t know what JHY did. Why does no one say what he did? Please be sure, I do not doubt for a moment the truth of what the women told who said they were sexually abused. I just have no idea what they told. This is not purient interest on my part; when my friends said GW Bush should be impeached for war crimes, I wanted to know what he had done–not just hearing that “he violated just war standards. Though I did not doubt that he had done this. Charges like these can’t be abstract.

 

The author, Barbra Gaber, says that AMBS hired John Howard Yoder. If my reading of the history of AMBS is correct, that entity did not exist when John Yoder was hired by Mennonite Biblical Seminary. And AMBS could not legally hire anyone until well after John Howard Yoder was fired by one seminary or another of the two that eventually became, formally and legally, AMBS. Whether AMBS or a seminary or the churches or other institutions including Notre Dame–perhaps especially Notre Dame- were complicit in Yoder’s sexual assaults–a devastating charge–is consequential. The lawsuit will involve endless depositions.

John Yoder is dead.

 

 

RUTH KRALL says:

Jul 26, 2013

From the middle of the 1960’s John Yoder taught for Goshen College Biblical Seminary (GCBS). The Mennonite Biblical Seminary (MBS) moved to Elkhart, IN from the Chicago area and built a new seminary complex in Elkhart. GCBS and MBS then combined courses. In 1970 GCBS became Goshen Biblical Seminary (GBS). AMBS formed and became the umbrealla organization for GBS and MBS. John became the first President of the newly configured GBS seminary and the first co-coordinator of AMBS (with Erland Waltner of MBS. Once the Mennonite General Conference Church and the Old Mennonite Church merged, the seminary was re-incorporated into one seminary. More recently the name has changed to Anabaptist Mennonite Seminary.

 

Each seminary kept a board of over seers and it is my impression that there was a combined guidance committee for AMBS. Stanley Hauerwas (Hannah’s CHild) puts the beginning of abuse by JHY in the 1960s. Tom Price places it just before or during 1970. As far as we know, it continued until John’s death.

 

The best resource for knowing the complaints about JHY is a series of Tom Price articles in the Elkhart Truth. Ted Grimsrud and I both have posted these artilces on our respective website pages. Mine are found in the appendices section of The Elephants in God’s Living Room: The Mennonite Church and John Howard Yoder.

 

A Google search engine can point the way or you can click on our links at this web page.

Ruth Krall, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Goshen College

 

WHAT’S TO BE DONE ABOUT JOHN HOWARD YODER? (GUESTPOST) | THINKING PACIFISM says:

Jul 31, 2013

[…] of Barbra's essay has been revised from what she recently posted on Rachel Halder’s website Our Stories Untold and at Young Anabaptist Radicals. Each of those postings has a lively set of comments. — Ted […]

 

 

JULIE TORRANCE-PERKS says:

Sep 6, 2013

I am writing on behalf of the Sexual Misconduct and Abuse Resource and Response Team (SMARRT) that is housed within MCC Ontario. SMARRT is an initiative of the wider church; our team has representation from MCEC, MB and BIC conferences. Our mandate is to resource and educate congregations/Mennonite agencies on matters related to sexual abuse prevention. The team is also available to respond and investigate when there is an allegation of sexual misconduct or abuse within the church.

 

I would like to respond to Barbra’s comment that we need to ” . . . create safe and appropriate invitations for women in [our] church and in [our] circle of friends to talk about their experiences of sexual violation by men and the impact it has had on their lives.” Barbra then noted, “Perhaps this kind of event has occurred in some Mennonite Church congregations. If so, I would love to hear about them.” We have taken one step towards doing just this in my home church, Waterloo North Mennonite Church (WNMC). On behalf of the SMARRT team, I was introducing to WNMC a new safe place children’s Sunday School curriculum, “Circle of Grace” that the SMARRT team has endorsed and is circulating. Waterloo North ministry team decided to run a 4-week theme on sexuality during worship and Adult S.S. during the introduction of the curriculum in children’s Sunday School. During adult S.S., we introduced the Circle of Grace curriculum to adults and in one session, had a survivor of childhood sexual abuse speak about her experience. Of course, measures were taken to make it a safe place for her to do so, and the response to her sharing was very meaningful.

 

As Barbara notes, it will be important for more of this type of sharing to happen and for churches to provide the supports and structure to make this possible. In addition, it is equally important to PREVENT this from happening to our girls/young women now. If you would like more information about the “Circle of Grace” safe place program or other information about resourcing your congregation, please contact the SMARRT team at MCC Ontario.

Julie Torrance-Perks
Kitchener, Ontario

 

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Sep 20, 2013

This is such incredibly good news Julie! I apologize for the late response to you. Things were pretty crazy for awhile when this article first posted and I’ve not kept up. It is indeed good to know about what you have to offer and will pass along the resource to others. THANK YOU for doing your part in your corner at WNMC to help protect children and vulnerable populations in our churches. I would love to meet you one day……

 

REFLECTIONS FROM A CHAGRINED “YODERIAN” (PART ONE) | THINKING PACIFISM says:

Aug 3, 2013

[…] manifesto was initially posted on the website Our Stories Untold and then on Young Anabaptist Radicals. The attention it attracted witnesses to the strong interest […]

 

CAN SUBORDINATION EVER BE REVOLUTIONARY? REFLECTIONS ON JOHN HOWARD YODER | THE FEMONITE: MUSINGS FROM A MENNONITE FEMINIST says:

Aug 9, 2013

[…] up a lot these days, and not just in relationship to his scholarly works. Prompted by a brave letter to the editor by Barbra Graber, Mennonite Church USA executives, as well as leaders at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, are […]

 

ROSS BENDER says:

Aug 11, 2013

From this week’s New Yorker, a link to “The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia: The Perpetrators Were Caught, But the Crimes Continue”

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/08/weekend-reading-rape-in-a-mennonite-community-lions-social-lives.html

http://www.vice.com/read/the-ghost-rapes-of-bolivia-000300-v20n8?Contentpage=-1

 

CAROL ANN WEAVER says:

Aug 23, 2013

Thanks Barb for laying out not only the situation but ways to confront/deal with/heal this and similar situations. By now Sara Wenger Shenk’s article about JHY appeared in the August 19, 2013 Canadian Mennonite, http://www.canadianmennonite.org/articles/revisiting-legacy-john-howard-yoder#comment-933 where your fine writings are alluded to. Bravo and enormous thanks to you for articulating all of this is such clearly written, informative ways. This is indeed a timely discussion! Keep pluggin’ on, by friend!

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Sep 20, 2013

Thanks so much dear friend for your words of congratulations and encouragement. As an early mentor to me you helped plant the seeds of so much good in me and for that I thank you

 

HIRO KATANO says:

Aug 31, 2013

Greetings from Sapporo, Japan. I am a Mennonite, an AMBS graduate (MAPS, 1997), and a board member of Mennonite Peace Missions Center, who is in charge of Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI). As I have been involved with studying and promoting the peace theology and practice from Mennonite perspectives, I affirm your effort to establish and maintain the web site. I would be glad if you could keep in mind that there are people of good will who pray for empowerment and genuine healing even across the Pacific Ocean. Grace and peace to you all.

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Sep 4, 2013

Dear Hiro it is so very good to hear from a fellow Mennonite across the Pacific. Thank you for your affirmation and know that we share in your prayers. We hope you will stay in touch with us. Grace and peace and genuine healing to you as well.

 

JOHN HOWARD YODER AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE | PHLOEM AND XYLEM says:

Sep 4, 2013

[…] harassed women.  The first essay I saw addressing this was written on July 17 by Barbara Graber, “What’s to be done about John Howard Yoder?”  It’s powerful, and goes into more detail than I will […]

 

THE POLITICS OF JOHN HOWARD YODER: 41 YEARS OF TIPTOEING AROUND POWER » YOUNG ANABAPTIST RADICALS says:

Sep 10, 2013

[…] Women in Learship Project’s timeline and annotated bibliography) led by Barbra Graber’s July 17 article on Our Stories Untold. Many of these pieces have been in conversation with Dr. Ruth Krall’s important book, The […]

 

COLLEEN KLIEWER says:

Sep 16, 2013

Amen sister. It feels so good to hear these way over-due words. I have left the church because of their denial and minimization of abuse.

 

 

BARBRA GRABER says:

Sep 20, 2013

Thanks for your words, Colleen. I hope you find some sense of re-connection to the church you left here at OurStoriesUntold.com as it is our mission to give you voice, inspiration, friendship, and solidarity in seeking justice and an end to sexualized violence in the Mennonite Church. If you have a story to tell anonymously or otherwise we would welcome giving you that platform here. Hope you stay in touch.

 

 

ROSS BENDER says:

Oct 11, 2013

Finally, the story makes the New York Times:

“A Theologian’s Influence, and Stained Past, Lives On”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/12/us/john-howard-yoders-dark-past-and-influence-lives-on-for-mennonites.html?_r=0

 

 

RICHARD KAUFFMAN says:

Oct 14, 2013

There was a major error in this NYT article and, IMO, significant omission. The error: JHY didn’t leave AMBS for Notre Dame. His primary teaching post had been at UND for some years before 1984. He kept teaching part-time at AMBS until 1984 out of loyalty to Mennonites. The omission: nothing is said about the great efforts that were made prior to 1984 by AMBS to discipline Yoder and to rein in his escapades. Because those efforts were unsuccessful, John left AMBS in the spring of 1984 by mutual agreement.

 

RUTH KRALL says:

Oct 15, 2013

Richard: I encourage you to write to Mr. Oppenheimer. I did because that error seems harsh to me. If enough of us correct this error – then he will be forced to publish a correction. I actually gave him documentation for my concerns.

Ruth Krall

 

RICHARD KAUFFMAN says:

Oct 16, 2013

Ruth, thanks. I already did write him, but haven’t gotten a response. I know Mark personally. He’s a great writer, but I just think he missed it on several points in this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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