The chair of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary board of directors on Sept. 20 offered additional information about concerns raised about the appointment of David Boshart as president.
After announcing Boshart as its candidate of choice, the search committee heard both affirmations and concerns and entered a time of “extended discernment” in early July.
AMBS announced Boshart’s appointment Sept. 10, and he will begin serving Jan. 1. He was the unanimous choice of the search committee and received unanimous support from teaching faculty.
In an email to “friends of AMBS,” board chair Bruce Baergen said the board looked into two areas of constituent concern: his “preparedness” to lead AMBS in being inclusive for LGBTQ students and employees, and his commitment to improving policies and training for preventing and responding to sexualized violence.
The concern about inclusivity was tied to Boshart’s involvement with Mennonite Church USA polity and decision-making based on his leadership roles as conference minister of Central Plains Mennonite Conference and MC USA moderator.
“Some constituents have expressed that his candidacy (now appointment) symbolizes the hurt caused to LGBTQ+ communities in the church through processes that have excluded them,” Baergen wrote. “We, and David, recognize this deep pain. Constituents have also questioned whether AMBS’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion will continue under David’s leadership.”
Baergen cited the search committee’s confidence in Boshart’s commitment to “undo systemic violence and oppression,” including his support for the seminary’s policies to be “a safe and inclusive place for LGBTQ+ students and employees.”
Concerns about Boshart’s perspective on sexualized violence were based on an anonymous letter the search committee received the evening before Boshart’s June 17-18 candidate visit to AMBS. It alleged Boshart did not act on a report of sexual assault that was brought to him when he served in a staff role in another setting in the late 1980s.
“Speaking to the campus community, David noted that while he did not remember the incident, he believed the letter writer and named deep regret for his own apparent failure to act,” Baergen wrote. “He supported the use of a third party to revisit the incident. During the extended discernment period, a subgroup of the search committee worked with an outside consultant to do so in a confidential process.
“The search committee and AMBS teaching faculty both expressed appreciation for David’s yieldedness to the extended discernment process as well as his nondefensive posture and willingness to be vulnerable.”
Based on additional feedback from constituents and members of the AMBS community received during the extended discernment period, Baergen said the search committee gained further confidence in Boshart’s “integrity and alignment with AMBS’s commitments in the two areas of inquiry.”
Baergen noted Boshart and the AMBS board had expressed affirmation of and commitment to the values and actions outlined in a “Statement of Renewed Institutional Commitment Regarding Sexualized Violence Prevention, Reporting and Response” released in June by the seminary’s Administrative Cabinet, and the seminary’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures.
Boshart, of Wellman, Iowa, completed a two-year term as moderator of MC USA in July.