To MC USA Executive Board: Don’t feed your climate of abuse. You need experts, not enablers.

Into Account calls on Mennonite Church USA to remove Virginia Mennonite Conference Minister Clyde Kratz from the search committee for the new Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, and to replace him with a member MC USA Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention.

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At the delegate assembly at the MC USA biennial convention in Kansas City in 2015, delegates resolved that MC USA institutions do the following:

“Give attention to systems that create and sustain institutionalized sexual violence (ranging from the mainstream entertainment industry to pornography and prostitution) by feeding a climate that condones or excuses violence against women and children.”

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The appointment of Kratz to this committee with a critical role in shaping the future of MC USA utterly fails to fulfill this mandate from delegates.

In 2013, when Kratz was appointed conference minister, he chose not to read former VMC pastor Duane Yoder’s “sealed” files on his history of sexual misconduct (see details from those files here). Kratz continued this policy of ignoring pastoral sexual misconduct, despite the MC USA resolution quoted above. He continued to protect Yoder through all of 2016, until multiple disclosures of Yoder’s misconduct forced him and other VMC leaders to suspend Yoder’s credentials in February 2017. Kratz has repeatedly failed to challenge the systems that “create and sustain institutionalized sexual violence” in Virginia Mennonite Conference.

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While Yoder has left his position at Lindale Mennonite Church, in Linville, Virginia, Virginia Mennonite Conference has yet to permanently remove his pastoral credentials. Into Account published an assessment of events related to Yoder’s misconduct and Kratz’s negligence. On May 8, a survivor whose report against Yoder was detailed in his “sealed” file published an account of her experience on the blog Our Stories Untold.

If the culture of cover-up, boundary violations, and patriarchal abuse in MC USA is ever to transform, there must be true accountability and consequences for the enablement of sexualized violence. While we commend MC USA’s recent efforts to implement more training on “Healthy Boundaries,” the appointment of a leader like Kratz to a search committee of this importance simultaneously communicates that denominational leaders do not place any great value on the content of those trainings.

MC USA needs the input of a member of the MC USA Sexual Abuse Prevention Panel on the search committee to ensure the new Executive Director is prepared to change the culture, theology, and responses of MC USA regarding sexualized violence.

We call on the Executive Board to imagine what positive change could happen in their denomination if the next Executive Director of MC USA were an individual with a history of integrity and transparency in relation to sexualized violence and abuse.

To do anything less makes a mockery of the denomination’s commitment to the “Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse” resolution, sending a clear message to other MC USA conference ministers that there are no consequences for protecting predator pastors in their conferences. On the contrary, Kratz’s appointment suggests that such behavior will be rewarded.

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