abstract :

This article names the fact of long-standing sexual violence in Mennonite communities and examines the case of renowned Mennonite theologian and ethicist John Howard Yoder, whose serial sexual violence became widely known in 2015. I first sketch briefly Yoder's sexual abuse and Mennonite institutional responses to victim– survivors and to Yoder himself. While focus on so prominent a figure can obscure the trauma suffered by the many, many victim–survivors of other perpetrators, such a public reckoning can also help to break the silence and motivate visible institutional change. The second part of the article considers the ways in which the inadequacy of the tradition's theology of nonviolence and commitment to communal discernment and accountability contributed to the failure to respond to victims and to bring Yoder to justice. At the same time, I argue both of these long-standing commitments also present potential resources for Mennonite responses to sexual violence. The theology and practice of nonviolence must be recast and expanded to attend to power dynamics and abuses internal to the community. Such a trauma-informed peace theology can ground and direct more adequate response to sexualized violence. In the same way, communal discernment and accountability can be a resource if recast in light of the needs of victim–survivors—for example, by addressing power differentials, the limits of traditional reconciliation approaches based on Matthew 18, and the need to report abuse to outside agencies.


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pp. 87-94
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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