MC Eastern Canada apologizes for causing pain to abuse survivors

May 8, 2019 | News | Volume 23 Issue 10
Canadian Mennonite

Mennonite Church Eastern Canada recently offered a public apology acknowledging missteps in how it handled a case of reported sexual misconduct that dates back more than 30 years. 

In the mid-1990s, the regional church began investigating complaints against Dalton Jantzi, an ordained minister, concerning allegations of misconduct dating back to 1981. The complaints were investigated and deemed legitimate by MC Eastern Canada, leading to a probation period and an accountability structure set up for Jantzi, who admitted responsibility.

MC Eastern Canada’s Leadership Commission put ongoing limitations on his ministry, which Jantzi contested. In October 2001, the regional church terminated his ministerial credentials. (To read previous reports on this case, visit canadianmennonite.org/jantzi-termination.)

An MC Eastern Canada news release, issued March 27, states:

“In November 2018, a survivor of sexual misconduct perpetrated in the 1980s by formerly ordained MC Eastern Canada minister Dalton Jantzi contacted Marilyn Rudy-Froese, MC Eastern Canada church leadership minister. Along with a volunteer from Mennonite Abuse Prevention List (MAP), they requested clarification regarding the status of Jantzi’s ministerial credential and his engagement in ministry.

“Upon receiving these concerns, MC Eastern Canada conducted a thorough review of past disciplinary actions related to Jantzi. This review concluded that MC Eastern Canada failed to communicate adequately to the entire constituency the termination of Jantzi’s ministerial credential on Oct. 12, 2001. Further, it came to our attention that a listing of ordination anniversaries in the Discernment Documents for the 2015 annual delegate meeting incorrectly included Jantzi. We regret that this error went unnoticed.”

A correction was included in MC Eastern Canada’s 2019 annual report and Rudy-Froese issued a verbal apology at the regional church’s annual gathering on April 27.

The news release continues: “We recognize that these failures caused further pain to those hurt by Jantzi’s sexual misconduct, and confusion within the broader church regarding Jantzi’s credential.

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“MC Eastern Canada apologizes for these failures and for the further pain they have caused. In the spirit of transparency, a summary overview of actions taken in regard to Jantzi’s credential is available for review from MC Eastern Canada.

“The courage of victims who come forward to tell their stories helps us as a church to learn and move forward in addressing clergy sexual misconduct and to facilitate healing and recovery. We are committed to learning from past mistakes, and finding a just and redemptive path forward.

“We are committed to investigate any allegation of ministerial misconduct immediately, will transparently report to our constituency any disciplinary actions and sanctions regarding ministerial misconduct, and will proactively promote awareness and educational initiatives, so that persons of all ages can safely participate in the activities of our faith communities.”

Both Jantzi and the survivor were contacted but neither wished to comment on the apology.

While no longer serving in an official ministerial position, Jantzi has been a long-time participant in the life of Danforth Mennonite Church, in Toronto, and has served as a volunteer in several community organizations.

In a statement on behalf of the Danforth Mennonite Church Council, Pastor Tim Reimer wrote: “When Dalton and Carol began attending in 1995, Danforth put in place its own accountability committee, in addition to the reporting structures put in place by MC Eastern Canada. For the first five years, Dalton took part in no church activities except attending Sunday worship. Danforth’s accountability committee met for a few years after this, and the pastor and caring team stayed in contact with him beyond this. As trust grew, and relationships developed, the congregation gradually invited him to use his gifts in more and more contexts. . . .

“We would therefore offer as fuller context to MC Eastern Canada’s statement, the acknowledgement of Dalton’s compliance with stipulations, and Danforth’s decades-long journey of learning how to be both vigilant and rehabilitative. ”

However, MAP claims that “[f]urther serious details about his abuse, as well as additional victims, have been reported to the MAP List. Our understanding is that there were also uninvestigated complaints against Jantzi from the low-income housing unit where he worked.. . . We’ve heard he has now resigned from the board of one organization as part of the fallout from our post.” (See more at bit.ly/2UVBi4c.) 

MC Eastern Canada urges survivors of clergy sexual misconduct to contact Marilyn Rudy-Froese to share their story or concern by phone toll-free at 1-855-476-2500, ext. 704, or by email to mrudyfroese@mcec.ca. For more information, see also “Reporting sexual misconduct by church leaders” at bit.ly/2vySkuK.

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Comments

A pastoral sexual assault or abuse case is a very serious matter.

Do not report to the church, the university or any place of business. You must report directly to the police or the investigation will be compromised.

Child sexual assault and abuse cases never close. Predatory behaviour needs to be recognized. Find a friend, find your courage and come forward.

The 'Church Too' movement, police and the courts are taking a very different view of this behaviour in 2019.

I don't think you realize that your apology sounds very shallow to survivors of sexual abuse.

You did not even mention that in all cases of sexual abuse, first of all police must be notified. The church should always come after notification to police. Survivors have seen so much cover up by churches and mission organizations that apologies hold no weight without police notification.

Don't condemn survivors if they don't receive your apology. Don't blame them for being unforgiving or bitter. You have committed a crime if you do not report to the police, and a sin in not seeking justice for the victims.

Jantzi's pastor at Danforth Mennonite Church, Tim Reimer, may not believe that Jantzi is at risk of reoffending, but as a church leader, he is legally and professionally responsible for protecting the vulnerable.

Jantzi has worked with a local community centre affiliated with Danforth Mennonite, as well as a local hospice that serves both children and adults. He has volunteered in these settings with people who were not aware of his history.

The MAP List has recommended to Mennonite Church USA that instead of relying on the judgment of a few individuals who likely have conflicts of interest, the church should make critical information from misconduct files available to the public.

Read more at Women in Theology: https://womenintheology.org/2019/02/26/opening-church-files-on-sexual-ab...

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