Seminary announces service to acknowledge harm from Yoder actions

Published: December 5, 2014

Mary E. Klassen

The Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary board of directors along with the president and administrative cabinet are taking steps to acknowledge institutional responsibility for the harm inflicted by John Howard Yoder’s sexual exploitation of women while employed at the seminary in the 1970s and 1980s, and for seminary leaders’ prolonged failure to intervene effectively.

An extensive historical account of Mennonite Church institutional responses to Yoder’s abuses will be published in the January 2015 issue of Mennonite Quarterly Review. With a desire to contribute to the larger church discernment process and to own the specific responsibility of the seminary, the AMBS board in their October 23–25 meeting approved a statement acknowledging the pain suffered by women who were victimized by Yoder:

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.

Seminary leaders are planning AMBS-based gatherings, including a Service of Lament, Confession and Hope for the weekend of March 21–22, 2015. All AMBS alumni/alumnae, present 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. A group of AMBS administrators, faculty and alumni/alumnae are planning these events. More information will be available in late January 2015.

The AMBS board and administration is committed to cover costs for travel and Saturday and/or Sunday evening lodging for anyone victimized by Yoder who submits expenses either personally or through a friend.

As more details are available they will be added to a web page for the March 21-22 events.

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