Passed by the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly at Kansas City, Missouri, July 3, 2015
Mennonite Church USA’s vision statement calls us “…to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace.” The 10–year Purposeful Plan (developed in 2011) defines seven priorities of a missional church, dedicated to following Jesus’ way of love and nonviolence toward all.
These commitments call us to give attention to the tragedy of sexual abuse in our families, churches and communities. According to data collected from the 2006 Church Member Profile, 21 percent of women in Mennonite Church USA congregations and 5.6 percent of men reported having experienced sexual abuse or violation. We lament that sexual abuse exists not only in our society but also within our own homes, congregations and institutions.
This is not what God intended. God created human beings in God’s image and declared this very good. God’s incarnation in Jesus also affirms that human bodies are good.Our sexuality is part of this good order, created to enable us to enjoy companionship and intimacy and to form families and build community. Our spirituality and our sexuality are not disconnected or competing aspects of our lives but express our longing for intimacy with God and with others.
When people violate others sexually, the church is called to be a place of healing. Yet we confess that we have often responded with denial, fear and self–preservation. We have tended to listen to voices who have positional power, rather than to those who have been violated and those who are most vulnerable.In this way, we have enabled sexual abuse to continue while silencing and disregarding the testimony of victims. We lament that our inaction permits abuse to continue and the ways we obstruct God’s healing. 1
Abuse wounds the body of Christ. Whenever sexual boundaries are crossed, the wounds extend beyond the direct victims. Abuse also harms the friends and families of both victims and perpetrators, those called upon to bind up the wounds, and the church itself. We join our anguished cries with all who have been traumatized in this way.
We confess we are uncomfortable with the pain and anger of survivors as well as the behavior of perpetrators. In our discipline processes we struggle to find ways to support survivors as they reclaim their lives. We have often failed to focus first on their needs; we lament our tendency to give more attention to the perpetrator than to victims and survivors.
Finally, we have failed to focus on teaching and supporting healthy sexuality. We have failed to promote relationships that are truly committed, mutual and deeply respectful. In doing so, we have minimized and neglected the needs of those who suffer from sexual violence and abuse. For all of this, we repent and seek to change our ways. We resolve to tell the truth about sexual abuse; hold abusers accountable; acknowledge the seriousness of their sin; listen with care to those who have been wounded; protect vulnerable persons from injury; work restoratively for justice; and hold out hope that wounds will be healed, forgiveness offered, and relationships established or reestablished in healthy ways.
1 The 2011 Purposeful Plan identifies these priorities: Christian Formation, Christian Community, Holistic Christian Witness, Stewardship, Leadership Development, Undoing Racism and Advancing Intercultural Transformation, and Church-to-Church Relationships.