Implications of the Sexual Abuse Resolution from Mennonite Church USA

Anna Groff

 By Anna Groff

We at Dove’s Nest are thankful for this new resolution from Mennonite Church USA: Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse.

Mennonite Church USA delegates passed the resolution this summer at their churchwide convention in Kansas City. (Mennonite Church USA is the denomination from which Dove’s Nest grew out of in 2009.) We believe that a document like this is a significant first step in addressing the need for abuse prevention in church settings.

The resolution includes many recommendations for actions and commitments. We are delighted to see the church put forth these goals for abuse prevention. Dove’s Nest is equipped to resources and partner with churches and church institutions to help them reach these goals.

The sexual abuse resolution includes the following actions and commitments:

1. Develop and teach healthy, wholesome sexuality.

a. Offer Sunday school or other classes for all ages. Use resources such as the Circle of Grace curriculum.
b. Teach sexual literacy. For example, teach children correct names for body parts and their right to say “No!” when something feels wrong or uncomfortable.
c. Place written resources in the church library and equip parents for teaching and modeling healthy sexuality at home.

2. Make sure child protection policies and procedures are in place and followed. These should include:

a. Safe meeting places with windows in all interior doors.
b. Two adults present when meeting with children and youth.
c. Screening for all staff and volunteers.
d. Regular training for parents, teachers and youth workers about sexual harassment and abuse.
e. Procedures for reporting disclosures or allegations of abuse. These should include clear guidance about when police and/or child protection offices should be notified.
f. Compliance with all state-mandated laws/regulations for reporting and training.
g. Guidelines for relating to a known sex offender in the congregation.

3. Ensure that worship services and sermons are sensitive to the needs of victims/survivors.

a. Name the sin of abuse in public prayers and laments.
b. In teaching about anger, forgiveness, loving enemies and obedience, be aware of how abuse victims and survivors may hear these instructions.

Dove’s Nest is uniquely suited to address these action items with churches and church institutions—or at least point leaders to helpful resources.

Also, growing out of this resolution, the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board is forming a new group to address the prevention of and education about sexual abuse in the church. The Executive Board will work with Mennonite Education Agency. Dove’s Nest plans to find ways to collaborate and partner with this group.

The group follows the work of the Discernment Group on sexual abuse and the church for their work. The Discernment Group was convened in August 2013 and was formed to examine the legacy of John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse, address questions about how the church responded to it, and help shape healing and reconciliation efforts.

Please pray for Dove’s Nest and Mennonite Church USA as these groups work to keep vulnerable people safe from sexual abuse.

If your congregation or agency is interested in working at the resolution’s actions and commitments named above, please contact me at anna [at] dovesnest.net or find more resources on our website