"Abuse of Power” (cartoon by nakedpastor, David Hayward)

graphic by nakedpastor, David Hayward

Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada has released a public statement that it has received an allegation of “sexual and ethical misconduct” implicating a former pastor, Vernon Leis, of Tavistock, ONT, Canada, who is deceased. In order to reveal the full truth, we urge any victims or witnesses with more information to come forward. Contact us confidentially at Mennonite@snapnetwork.org or by calling 540-214-8874.

Public announcement of the Leis allegation was made on Sunday August 30th to three congregations in Ontario where Leis had pastored: East Zorra, Stirling, and Elmira Mennonite Churches.  MCEC has reportedly forwarded this announcement to all MCEC congregations and pastors including those retired.

MCEC logoAs a result of a lengthy review process carried out by a task force appointed by MCEC ‘s Executive Council, MCEC was able to establish the complainant’s account to be sufficiently compelling and credible to release the allegation and identity of Leis.

“This is an important step in facilitating the process of healing because it allows the affected parties and the wider faith community to confront a hidden truth and bring it into the light of healing. As painful as it may be, we as a faith community are called to support those paths that lead to healing and wholeness,” the statement said. “In the midst of this challenging and painful situation, MCEC will do its best to walk alongside all those who are impacted.”

SNAP Menno and OurStoriesUntold want to thank and honor the brave survivor who was willing to step forward so that justice and accountability could be realized. We believe you. We honor your courage. You are not alone. We are deeply saddened by the reprehensible betrayal of trust you experienced from a man who took on the role of God’s servant on earth.

vernon leis

Mennonite Pastor, Vernon Leis

Justice has no timeline and all whose lives were harmed by Leis’s actions deserve to know they are not alone. We encourage any additional victims of Vernon Leis who have been suffering in silence to come forward so that the full truth can be known. It is rare that a powerful church leader predator has only one victim. Such offending persons are often skilled at grooming those they target (who are usually less powerful parishioners) to believe they caused the pastor to “sin” and are therefore complicit.

The soul shredding impact of sexual abuse of power from a church leader can be multi-dimensional, last a lifetime, and rob its victims of the privilege to ever again feel at home in the family of God or within the walls of a Christian church. The actions of one man can cause a ripple of pain that continues through the families of both predator and victim and through the faith communities to which they both belong.

We applaud MCEC leaders for taking this preventative public action. When Mennonite institutions immediately and publicly identify the person against whom allegations have been made and invite others with more information to come forward, it creates several important preventative benefits:

1)  An effective strategy of prevention is realized, letting the entire faith community know that those who would cover-up or continue to perpetrate these deeply harmful acts of violation will be held to public account by the church and its institutional leadership.

2)  If the alleged predator is still living, it warns others of risk

3)   Living or dead, other victims of the accused will know they were not the only ones and feel freer to bring important additional information to the case. Justice has no timeline.

4)   Survivors of other church leader abuses are encouraged to come forward

5)  The church is now more likely to become a sanctuary where God’s healing love is able to flourish in the light of truth.

Such effective prevention will become a reality when survivors, witnesses and whistleblowers feel safe enough to come forward. It will become reality as courageous and conscientious leaders in the church press make sure all reports and allegations are passed along to the public, encouraging others with information to come forward so that the full truth can be discovered.

This holocaust of hidden anguish perpetrated against our own by our own will stop when those who hold the special privilege of leadership in the Mennonite church —across all congregations, conferences, and institutions —are publicly named and held accountable for any attempt to sexualize the sacred relational contract they hold with persons under their nurture and care.

The full text of the Public Statement from MCEC can be found by clicking here . It can be found at the end of the blog post by David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAPnetwork.org.

All genders suffer from this system below, illustrated by pastor David Hayward. All genders can suffer violation, all genders can perpetrate it. We break the cycle by ending the silence.