With increasing awareness of sexual abuse within Mennonite Church USA, the delegate body passed the Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse in July 2015. Behind this statement are too many situations that serve as stark reminders that leaders within our congregations and church institutions are humans who are capable of abusing their power and committing sexual abuse.
Our denomination, like many institutions, does not have a positive history of responding well to instances where those in leadership have committed sexual abuse, sexual assault and other sexual crimes. However, in passing this statement, we as a church have committed to changing that.
To begin, the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention is assessing the processes the church has in place to respond when victims report sexual abuse perpetrated by persons in positions of leadership.
In the meantime, the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention has named Linda Gehman Peachey and Regina Shands Stoltzfus to receive any complaints about sexual abuse or misconduct by leaders within Mennonite Church USA and its congregations and institutions (additional persons will be named including a representative outside of Mennonite Church USA). In addition to this, area conferences should also be contacted to file a complaint against an individual who is a credentialed pastor or leader, even if they are not currently serving in a pastoral role. It is also important to note that when sexual abuse or sexual assault has occurred, victims are encouraged to seek assistance through speaking with the police, a therapist or local sexual assault crisis centers.
Sexual abuse healing and prevention is a complex matter. The rights and experience of victims must be given priority as we develop processes to respond justly and appropriately to any complaints brought forward.
It is vital that the church deals with situations of sexual abuse, assault and other sexual crimes in a transparent manner. The Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention is taking this seriously. We will seek to implement policies that limit the possibility of others being victimized. It is important that those who perpetrate sexual violence be held accountable and that they receive qualified help in addressing their issues.
Please pray for the panel as we continue to work on the prevention of sexual abuse across Mennonite Church USA.
The Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention
Regina Shands Stoltzfus
Contact Regina at: 574-535-7760
Contact Linda at: 717-299-5481