ELKHART, Ind. — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is taking steps to acknowledge responsibility for the harm inflicted by theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual exploitation of women and for seminary leaders’ prolonged failure to intervene effectively.
The acknowledgement comes from the AMBS board of directors, president and administrative cabinet.
Yoder — who died in 1997 and was Mennonites’ most widely recognized theologian — was employed at AMBS in the 1970s and 1980s.
A historical account of Mennonite institutional responses to Yoder’s abuses will be published in the January issue of Mennonite Quarterly Review.
To contribute to the larger church discernment process and to own the seminary’s responsibility, the AMBS board at its Oct. 23-25 meeting approved a statement acknowledging the pain suffered by women victimized by Yoder.
The statement laments a lack of transparency about how leaders responded at the time and a lack of public “regret for what went so horribly wrong.”
“We commit to an ongoing, transparent process of institutional accountability which the president along with the board chair initiated, including work with the historian who will provide a scholarly analysis of what transpired,” reads the statement. “We will respond more fully once the historical account is published.”
Seminary leaders are planning AMBS-based gatherings, including a service of lament, confession and hope, for March 21-22. All AMBS alumni, current and former faculty, board members, administrators, staff and their families are invited to participate.
Saturday evening will be an opportunity for alumni to visit and reconnect informally. Sunday morning, March 22, will be an intimate gathering of truth-telling, reflection and prayer for those who were victimized and those who are bearing witness to the experience of others who were victimized.
A Sunday afternoon service of lament, confession and hope for all AMBS-affiliated participants and families will focus on sadness for what occurred, confession of the institution’s slowness to respond adequately to the complaints of women, a pledge to work for prevention of predatory behavior and a hope-filled resolve to pursue ongoing healing.
AMBS administrators, faculty and alumni are planning these events. More information will be available in late January.
The AMBS board and administration are committed to cover costs for travel and lodging for Saturday and Sunday evening for anyone victimized by Yoder who submits expenses either personally or through a friend.