News release: VMC actions since DSA report
by VMC Staff
Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC) is actively pursuing the recommendations that were presented to us by Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) based on the D. Stafford & Associates report (DSA). The DSA report, received January 2017, contains the findings from the investigation associated with VMC leadership responses to the knowledge of Luke Hartman’s inappropriate activities.
The DSA report indicated that VMC had no prior knowledge of his behaviors, but made specific recommendations for prevention education, policy reviews, and working with Lindale Mennonite Church to clarify their governance structures. Our response to MC USA is that we will seek to fulfill their expectations with transparency.
Thus far, we engaged in the following:
- Lindale Mennonite Church leadership support and monitoring progress on their recommendations. Aldine Musser, District Minister, secured Jason Kuniholm as the interim minister, effective May 1, 2017. He will serve the congregation through the duration of specific leadership tasks assigned to him as the interim. Jason will meet quarterly with Aldine, Clyde Kratz, Executive Conference Minister, and the chair of the congregation for encouragement and to monitor the progress on the recommendations from MC USA and VMC. Jason is a former pastor at Frazier Mennonite Church, and former Bishop of the Lancaster District of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. He has also served in other pastoral assignments within Lancaster Conference. He was valued in his role as bishop as someone able to work across theological differences, and provide clarity to key leadership processes.
- Investigation Team. A key recommendation is to determine whether boundaries where violated by the pastoral staff of Lindale Mennonite Church when learning about Luke Hartman’s inappropriate behaviors, representing information to EMU, and subsequent leadership responses. As a result of the DSA report, Executive Conference Minister Clyde Kratz developed a pending complaint based upon the report on matters of pastoral ethics. In addition, Aldine Musser, District Minister, received additional information from individuals, leading her to supplement the initial charges with the information she received. On Feb. 9, 2017, Duane Yoder’s ministerial credentials were suspended, pending a review by the Investigation Team.
- In keeping with the Virginia Mennonite Conference Ministerial Sexual Misconduct policy (2005) which can be applied to other matters of alleged pastoral misconduct, the complaints concerning Duane Yoder have been given to the Investigation Team. The Investigation Team is a four person team that receives complaints and processes the information to determine any violations of pastoral ethical conduct.
Members of the Investigation Team received training for this leadership ministry. Their training included a one day (June 29, 2017) event on Healthy Boundaries 101-Fundamentals. FaithTrust Institute staff members M.L. Daniel and Emily Cohen provided the second training July 14-15, 2017, on Responding to Clergy Misconduct. Members of the Faith and Life Commission participated in the trainings as well. With the completion of the Investigation Team training, the Investigation Team is prepared to receive any additional complaints concerning Duane Yoder. If you would like to provide them with information consistent with our policy on complaints for pastoral misconduct, you may contact them at InvestigationTeam.email@example.com
- Review of policy and procedures within VMC organization. Virginia Mennonite Conference documents concerning ministry practice were forwarded to FaithTrust Institute for review. Our policies will be updated to be consistent with the FaithTrust Institute training. The Faith and Life Commission and Conference Council will review the updated documents and have the opportunity to approve them.
- Healthy Boundary Training. Lonnie and Teresa Yoder attended a training event in Kansas City, Missouri (May 9-12, 2017) and became certified trainers on Healthy Boundaries. Lonnie and Teresa will provide training over the next year in nine regional districts in a one day seminar. Credentialed leaders and congregational elders are being encouraged to participate in the training.
VMC recognizes that a significant amount of time has lapsed from when we received the DSA report and MC USA’s letter of recommendations until the time we have the Ministerial Review Committee prepared to vet a case. Below we highlight the necessity of the length of time it has taken to achieve these results.
- The training of trainers occurred in May 2017.
- Securing persons to serve on the Investigation Team was an arduous task. Numerous individuals chose not to be involved in a potentially volatile situation whereby their life and work would be scrutinized by the public.
- Finding compatible dates to schedule FaithTrust Institute staff for the training at the point the Investigation Team members were selected.
- Seeking appropriate counsel from Faith & Life Commission and Conference Council required time.
While this work has taken nearly five months to achieve, it was never for the lack of resolve to follow the recommendations of DSA and MC USA. It remains our intention to achieve this work in a timely fashion to the best of our ability.