Virginia Conference team begins investigation work

Jul 31, 2017 by and

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Virginia Mennonite Conference has appointed a four-person investigation team to review whether staff of Lindale Mennonite Church near Harrisonburg violated boundaries after learning about inappropriate behavior of an Eastern Mennonite University vice president.

VMC announced on July 18 that the team will process complaints received by the conference to determine any violations of pastoral ethical conduct.

On Jan. 14, Mennonite Church USA released findings stating Lindale Pastor Duane Yoder did not disclose everything he knew about allegations of sexual abuse that have been deemed credible. The findings state Yoder’s decisions and actions protected former EMU vice president of enrollment Luke Hartman, rather than supporting a young woman who approached Lindale staff.

Yoder’s ministerial credentials were suspended by VMC Feb. 9, pending the investigation team’s review. He retired from his position at Lindale on March 3.

The July 18 VMC news release acknowledged a significant amount of time had passed since the conference received the report and a letter of recommendations from MC USA. The conference said it desired to have healthy-boundary trainers attend a training event May 9-12; these trainers then trained the investigation team June 29. The team also received training from Faith­Trust Institute on responding to clergy misconduct July 14-15.

VMC stated that finding people to serve on the team was “an arduous task” and that Faith­Trust Institute encouraged the conference not to disclose team members’ names. VMC communications manager Jon Trotter said the team is made up of retired male and female ministers, and a male and female representing the VMC constituency.

“Numerous individuals chose not to be involved in a potentially volatile situation whereby their life and work would be scrutinized by the public,” the news release stated. “. . . It was never for the lack of resolve to follow the recommendations of [outside investigation firm D. Stafford and Associates] and MC USA. It remains our intention to achieve this work in a timely fashion to the best of our ability.”

Jason Kuniholm, a former bishop in Lancaster Mennonite Conference, began serving May 1 as Lindale’s interim pastor. He will meet quarterly with VMC executive conference minister Clyde Kratz, district minister Aldine Musser and the congregational chair to monitor implementation of recommendations from MC USA to review policies and governance.

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