Mennonite Church Canada and MC U.S.A. are collaborating to create a centralized, comprehensive guidebook for regional churches, conferences and congregations that addresses prevention of abuse by lay and credentialled leaders, as well as leadership accountability. The prevention and accountability project is expected to be completed in early 2023.
The new resource will incorporate, and build on, existing procedures and policies used by both church bodies, such as the “Ministerial Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure” and “Prevention and Response: Sexual Abuse and Non-Credentialed Individuals.”
Both national church bodies plan to submit the completed policy guide to their delegate assemblies in 2023.
“Trust is foundational in Christian community,” says Doug Klassen, MC Canada’s executive minister. “Current and well-articulated policy is critically important for guiding how church leaders and congregants relate to each other. I am so thankful for those willing to contribute to the project.”
For MC U.S.A., if the policy is affirmed, it will be the first prevention and accountability policy to be affirmed by delegates, an important step in ensuring its consistent use and acceptance, says Michael Danner, MC U.S.A.’s associate executive director of church vitality. “It’s our responsibility, as a denomination, to ensure that our congregations and conferences have the resources they need as they engage in the prevention of abuse by lay and credentialled leaders and in holding transgressors accountable,” he says.
Work on the prevention and accountability project began in the summer of 2021, when the Joint Executive Committee of MC Canada and MC U.S.A. endorsed the project at its meeting in May of that year.
A binational, volunteer reference team was formed to work on the project. Reference team members are:
- Doug Klassen, executive minister of MC Canada, Winnipeg.
- Heather Klassen, celebrant and chair of the board of trustees of Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary.
- Carol Penner, assistant professor of theological studies, Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.
- Marilyn Rudy-Froese, church leadership minister at MC Eastern Canada, Kitchener, Ont.
- Dick Barrett, conference minister, Ohio Conference of MC U.S.A., Kidron, Ohio.
- Michael Danner, associate executive director of MC U.S.A.
- Susannah Larry, assistant professor of biblical studies, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.
- Kathy Neufeld Dunn, associate conference minister, Western District Conference of MC U.S.A., North Newton, Kan.
The team initially met with Nancy Kauffman, former MC U.S.A. denominational minister (2009-2018) who, along with Terry Shue and Karen Martens Zimmerly, former denominational minister of MC Canada, developed the 2016 “Ministerial Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure.”
The reference team then created an outline for the project centred on four broad topics: introduction, theology, prevention and accountability.
Team members are working in pairs to develop their respective content sections. As part of the research phase, the team has begun reaching out to conference ministers and pastors to learn about their experiences using the existing documents.
Those experiences are helping to guide the project, says Danner. The reference team also plans to share its completed work with conferences and congregations for feedback throughout 2022.
To contribute to the funding of this project, Canadian donors can send cheques to Mennonite Church Canada, 600 Shaftesbury Boulevard, Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4, noting “EB-prevention and accountability project” in the memo line.
For more information
• Safe Church policies—These include Mennonite Church Canada, regional church, ecumenical and other resources.
• Sexual Violence resources—These include a wide range of resources on identifying and responding to sexual violence in home and congregational settings.
• Dove’s Nest, a nonprofit organization that empowers and equips faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches and communities.
• Mennonite Abuse Prevention (MAP) MAP is an independent nonprofit that posts publicly available and previously circulated documents relevant to sexual abuse among Anabaptists for educational purposes, with the intention of promoting public health and safety. MAP is not affiliated with Mennonite Church U.S.A. or its agencies.
—MC Canada / MC U.S.A.
FAQs: MC Canada sexual misconduct policy