AMBS Response to Victims of John H. Yoder Abuse

Reunion, Listening, Confessing
March 21-22, 2015

On March 21-22. 2015, AMBS invited all former students, employees and board members, along with friends and family chosen by women who John Howard Yoder violated, to join the current seminary community for Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon events. There was also a Sunday morning gathering with a more limited invitation.

March 21: Alumni reunion dinner, opportunity to meet current faculty and Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president.

March 22: Services to acknowledge the experiences of women who were sexually violated by John Howard Yoder while at AMBS and for former and current AMBS leaders to apologize and join in shared lament, confession and commitment.

Collection of materials

This area provides a public record this institutional response to Yoder abuse,  including statements, video recordings and media from the Service of Lament, Confession and Committment on March 22.

Statements presented at the Service of Lament, Confession, and Commitment on March 22:

Excerpts from the Service of Lament, Confession, and Commitment on March 22:

News articles on the Service of Lament, Confession, and Commitment on March 22:

Related news items

Gathering details

Programs for worship services on the morning and afternoon of March 22

CAMPUS TOUR • 4:30 pm, Meet in Lambright Cente foyer 

DINNER • 6 pm, Lambright Center
All who have studied or worked at AMBS are invited to a simple dinner.
Registration required $10 per person suggested donation To register: By March 12, send an email message to Janeen Bertsche Johnson.

Indicate:

  • The name of each person coming 
  • The years each person was part of the seminary community
  • Any special dietary requests

If you cannot register by email, you may call 574.296.6216. Leave a message with your phone number and someone will return your call. 

MEET FACULTY • Following the meal, there will be opportunity for conversation with current AMBS faculty and administrators in the Waltner Hall Lounge. Dessert will be served. 

FIRESIDE CHAT • With Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president

HONORING THE WOMEN’S TRUTH • 9:30–11 or 11:30 am, Chapel of the Sermon on the Mount

An intimate gathering of truth-telling, reflection and prayer for those who were victimized by John Howard Yoder while they were at AMBS and those bearing witness to their experience.

This session is open only to women harmed by Yoder’s actions and the seminary’s inadequate response, along with their family members and supporters, and to members of the current and former faculty, administration and board who will listen and receive their stories.

Those who wish to tell their stories are invited to speak in this service or to submit in advance what they wish to share. Women who cannot be present or want to remain anonymous may submit their experiences—as narrative, poem, image or drawing—to Rebecca Slough, AMBS dean, by email, [email protected], or by mail, 3003 Benham Avenue, Elkhart, IN 46517. Please indicate to Rebecca whether you wish your sharing to be anonymous or not.

In the interval between the two scheduled events, the AMBS lounge, gallery and library will be open to provide space as needed for participants to rest or connect with others. Several chain restaurants are within close walking distance of the campus. A one-mile walking path around the campus perimeter is available if weather permits outdoor activity.

See also the document outlining the goals for the Honoring the Women's Truth and the Service of Lament, Confession and Commitment services, established by the AMBS planning committee.

SERVICE OF LAMENT, CONFESSION AND COMMITMENT • 2:30–4 pm, Chapel of the Sermon on the Mount

A worship service for those victimized and their supporters, and for members of the AMBS community including alumni, former and current board members and former and current employees.

In this time of worship, AMBS administrators and board members will express sorrow for the harm done while Yoder was a member of the faculty. They also will confess and apologize for AMBS’s inadequate responses and express commitment to ongoing transparency and to fostering healing. This session will give priority seating to women, and to past and present employees and board members. Closed-circuit viewing of the service will be available if chapel space is inadequate for other participants.

AMBS as an institution, along with other institutions and individuals will be contributing to a fund to be established by MC USA to recompense at least in small measure some of the material costs women undertook on their road to healing. Opportunity will be given to those who wish to contribute to this fund in the chapel foyer following the worship service.

See also the document outlining the goals for the Honoring the Women's Truth and the Service of Lament, Confession and Commitment services, established by the AMBS planning committee.

Travel and lodging assistance: The AMBS board and administration offered to cover costs for travel and lodging for Saturday and/or Sunday evening for anyone victimized by Yoder who submits expenses either personally or through a friend. Requests for assistance for travel and lodging by or on behalf of women harmed by Yoder were directed to [email protected] or 574.296.6244. Receipts and documentation were requested following the event. 

Media: Media representatives were present at only the Sunday afternoon worship service. Space was designated for reporters and photographers and clear instructions provided that only speakers at the pulpit may be photographed. Media contact: Mary E. Klassen, director of communications

Care and Prevention Fund

The Discernment Group of Mennonite Church USA established a Care and Prevention Fund. The purpose of the fund is threefold: 1) to recompense, at least in some small measure, the material costs that persons victimized by John Howard Yoder (or another credentialed leader of Mennonite Church USA) undertook on their road to healing; 2) to provide tangible care for persons who have experienced sexual abuse; 3) to assist in prevention of sexual abuse.

Contributions to the Care and Prevention Fund will be divided between victims of sexual abuse and several ministries: Sister Care, Dove’s Nest, and the Women in Leadership Project. Checks were to be written to “Mennonite Church USA” with “Care and Prevention Fund” written in the memo line, and mailed to Mennonite Church USA, 718 N. Main Street, Newton, Kansas 67114-1703. Contributions to the fund were received through August 31, 2015. Visit www.mennoniteusa.org/showing-care-for-victims-of-sexual-abuse/ for a fuller description of the fund.

Background on John Howard Yoder's sexual violations

Over the last year, Rachel Waltner Goossen carefully researched John Howard Yoder's sexual violations during the time he was a faculty member of AMBS and AMBS's institutional response, then summarized her findings for publication. Excerpts of her work have been published by several Mennonite publications, including The Mennonite, 1.2.2015, "Failure to Bind and Loose: Responses to Yoder's Sexual Abuse." Waltner Goossen's full document is published in Mennonite Quarterly Review, volume 89, January 2015. Waltner Goossen's work was requested by a discernment committee comprising Ervin Stutzman, Sara Wenger Shenk, Chuck Neufeld, Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Ted Koontz and Linda Gehman Peachey, with Carolyn Holderread Heggen serving as an adviser.


Statement on behalf of Mennonite Church USA

Mennonite Church USA Statement of Lament • These statements were sent to AMBS, but were not part of the March 22 service.