Earlier this year I wrote about the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder. Yoder spent decades sexually abusing women at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He had enough power to effectively shut down the seminary’s investigation of his victims’ complaints. One of his victims, Carolyn Holderread Heggen, worked tirelessly to overcome the official silence and organize a victims’ movement. Last year, the women created a liturgy of truth and reconciliation that culminated in a eucharistic meal served by seminary leaders. It was a lovely symbol, but it was not the justice that the victims were rightly demanding.
Now, finally, justice has come. This is what I’m talking about:
The Mennonite Quarterly Review will devote its January 2015 issue to the topic of sexual abuse within the Mennonite Church, with a focus on the events surrounding John Howard Yoder. The church is releasing an e-book along with the print edition. Interested readers will be able to order it through the church’s online store as well as Amazon and other mainstream outlets.
The AMBS board met in October and approved this statement.
As an AMBS Board, we lament the terrible abuse many women suffered from John Howard Yoder. We also lament that there has not been transparency about how the seminary’s leadership responded at that time or any institutional public acknowledgement of 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. We will respond more fully once the historical account is published. We also support the planning of an AMBS-based service of lament, acknowledgement and hope in March 2015.
Finally, and most importantly, AMBS leaders are planning a weekend of healing events for the primary victims and the community on March 21-22, 2015. The schedule will include “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” and a service of “Lament, Confession, and Hope” for Yoder’s victims, members of the AMBS community, and their families. The AMBS board is committed to cover costs for travel and lodging for anyone victimized by Yoder.
For full details from the Mennonite Church, read the original press release.
For updates on this important story, please visit (and subscribe to) the blog “Our Stories Untold.”