In response to the Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse, which was passed by the Delegate Assembly of Mennonite Church USA at its 2015 biennial convention in Kansas City, the Executive Board staff Cabinet in partnership with MEA, formed a panel in the fall of 2015 to continue the work of healing and prevention of sexual abuse within the denomination. The panel will work together to help carry out the commitments outlined in the churchwide statement.
- Develop guidelines for processing complaints brought to the church regarding inappropriate actions by non-credentialed leaders in congregations, area conferences and churchwide agencies.
- Develop “best practices” for implementing outside investigations into allegations of sexual abuse.
- Develop a monitoring tool for agency reviews that would evaluate for sexual abuse prevention and response policies and practices that are clear, accessible and public.
- Develop a tool for agencies to use in interviewing victims who lodge a complaint.
- Work with leaders of Mennonite Education Agency and Mennonite colleges/universities regarding their sexual abuse prevention and response policies and practices, and on processes for ongoing monitoring.
- Develop educational tools and resources for raising awareness about religious teachings that make it difficult for victims to protect themselves or speak up when they have been violated and hurt.
- Develop educational materials and/or provide resources to help congregations better understand the realities of sexualized violence by church leaders and other trusted individuals.
- Develop guidelines for preaching and worship practices that are sensitive to the needs of victims and survivors.
Anna Groff is executive director of Dove’s Nest: Faith Communities Keeping Children and Youth Safe. Anna studied journalism at Goshen (Indiana) College and received a Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and daughter. She is a member of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson.
Nancy Kauffmann serves as denominational minister on the Leadership Development Team of Mennonite Church USA. Before that, she served as a regional conference minister for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference and was on the pastoral team at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Goshen College; a Master of Divinity from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana; and a Doctor of Ministry from the School of Theology at Claremont, California. She is the mother of two grown sons and has one granddaughter who brings her much joy.
Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice, and conflict Studies, has been teaching at Goshen College since 2002. Her classes cover a range of topics, from studies in race, class, gender and the Bible to addressing conflict and violence. She holds a master’s degree in biblical studies from Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary and is completing a Ph.D. in theology, ethics and contemporary culture at Chicago Theological Seminary. In 2016 she was awarded Indiana’s highest civil rights honor, the Spirit of Justice Award, by the State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
David B. Miller is associate professor of Missional Leadership Development at AMBS. Previously he served as pastor of University Mennonite Church in State College, Pennsylvania; taught at Hesston College; was a pastor in Indiana and coordinated Mennonite Church youth conventions. He has a Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia; a Master of Divinity from AMBS and Bachelor of Arts from Goshen College. He is married to Mary Kathryn Schmid; they have four adult children and three grandchildren.
Jenny Castro is coordinator of the Women in Leadership Project and communications associate for Mennonite Church USA and provides staff support for the panel. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and has been involved in education in a variety of contexts — from public school teaching to women’s health and community-based education. She’s spent time living and working in Central America with Mennonite Central Committee and several years as a stay-at-home mom. She’s married to Jake Castro and they are parents to three remarkable kids. She is a member of San Antonio (Texas) Mennonite Church.
Ross Erb graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario in 1994 and began his career as a child protection worker. Ross has nine years of extensive experience with Family and Children’s Services of Cambridge, Ontario, where he worked with abused children and their families as a clinical social work supervisor and as a member of the Sexual Abuse Treatment Program. Following his family’s move to Harrisonburg in 2002, Ross began serving as associate pastor for Children, Youth and Families at Park View Mennonite Church. In October, 2015 Ross moved to work at the Collins Center, a non-profit agency which strives to eliminate sexual violence and its impact in the community. As a part of his duties, he works with agency’s Safe Church program, helping to provide congregations with child protection policies based on best practices and educating all members of the congregation to enable them to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in the congregation and their broader community.