Elizabeth Soto Albrecht and Ervin Stutzman shared these words of lament with the Delegate Assembly at Kansas City on July 3, 2015.
We believe the resolution before us represents a long step in the right direction, an acknowledgement of God’s call to let God’s healing and hope flow through our dear Church in a deeper way.
In many Psalms, the writer and the praying community cry out to God. Psalm 5:2 says “Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” We recognize that for many decades our sisters and their families have cried out for justice or simply for the abuse to stop. Victims cried, not knowing if there would ever be a communal response to their pain. Today as we discern, discuss and deliberate, we will have the opportunity to pass this Resolution. We believe it will honor the long-expected recognition of sexual wrong doing that has happened in our communities of faith; it will turn us from secrecy to transparency, and voice our lament for not doing enough to restore the lives of victims who have suffered abuse.
Just as God listened to the lament of victims, God’s people too have listened and believed.
As leaders of Mennonite Church USA, we seek God’s forgiveness for delaying our response and acknowledge that the silence and secrecy has hurt us as a body, clouding our witness to true peace.
We grieve the way in which we as church leaders at various levels in our denomination have at times looked the other way or wrung our hands, without stopping abusive behaviors.
We grieve with victims who have been abused, and the circles of people around them who have also suffered as a result.
We applaud the survivors of abuse who courageously persisted in exposing the abuse by vulnerably telling their own stories, and persisted in the call for greater transparency and accountability in the church.
We applaud President Sara Wenger Shenk for her courage in addressing the long legacy of cover-up for the abuse which John Howard Yoder perpetrated on students at AMBS and beyond.
We call upon our teaching institutions (particularly colleges and seminaries) to denounce sexual harassment, rape or any type of abuse in the student body, and to revise and reinforce policies and procedures to assure the safety of victims.
We commit ourselves to continue the journey of healing at this convention, first with a gathering for worship, lament and hope, and second with the receiving of an offering for the care of victims and the growth of a church where all are safe from sexual abuse and other forms of violence.
Psalm 5:7 voices our communal prayer of hope: “But [we], through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.” May God have mercy on us sinners, and forgive us. We pray that we may enter this time of discernment and deliberation with open hearts and minds to guide us in the ways of God’s justice and peace.
Ervin Stutzman is the executive director of Mennonite Church USA.
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht completed her term as moderator for Mennonite Church USA at the convention in Kansas City, June 30 – July 5, 2015.