Dear friends and supporters,
On June 14, 2016 Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Education Agency published their joint plan for pursuing outside investigation into “the Hartman situation.” On first glance, it might read as a reasonable and unremarkable update, but Our Stories Untold cannot stress enough that this plan, as it is written, will undermine all current efforts to address sexual abuse in Mennonite institutions and have a devastating impact on current and future survivors of abuse and their communities. It reveals that such undermining action is already underway. People concerned about sexual abuse in Mennonite contexts need to send a strong and clear message, right away, that we will not stand for it. (We’re serious. Pick up the phone. Make a racket. Your voice IS powerful and it matters right now.)
In short:
1. The article in which the plan is described reveals that leaders of the institutions being investigated met together to privately set, or in the language of the article “come to consensus” upon, the terms of the plan put forth. It is unacceptable for the organizations under investigation to set the terms of their own investigation. It is sneaky and dishonest and wrong for leaders of institutions to have met together and held this conversation amongst themselves privately, without Lauren Shifflett or her advocate or any survivor’s group representative, and without the oversight of an outside, expert organization.
2. The stated plan reveals that the authority of the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention is being dangerously undermined by the same institutional executives. Mennonite Church USA created the Panel to, among other things, develop a monitoring tool for agency reviews that would evaluate for clear, accessible and public policies on sexual harassment and abuse.” In this case, the Panel has done so. The Panel advised that GRACE be hired to conduct an independent investigation, and if not GRACE then Faith Trust Institute.
The plan put forth by MCUSA and MEA in partnership with EMU, VMC and LMC, gives the organizations being investigated the option of choosing their own preferred organization and not following the Panel’s recommendation. This is dangerous. There are organizations that do this work that have reputations for going easy on executive leadership. The Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention is a group of hand-picked Mennonite experts on abuse created to tell the church how to address abuse responsibly. They are doing their job. The job of Mennonite institutions is to do what the Panel says. Anything less strips the Panel of the authority they must have if their work is to lead to concrete change in Mennonite policies and culture.
This is the tip of the iceberg. We are disciplining ourselves to keep this call to action short and sweet, but stay tuned. There will be more to come. 
Contact and communicate with any of the Mennonite church leaders from the list below or beyond, especially those you know personally. You may: 
1) Use or adapt the following paragraphs 
2) Create a communication of your own 
3) Sign your name and any affiliation to Mennonite communities or institutions that you’re willing to share in the comment section of this post to register your desire that the concerns expressed here be taken seriously.
Personal calls, messages, and letters are most effective.  We thank you in advance for your help. 
To the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention:
We are dismayed and disturbed by the June 14 statement from our denominational executives and urge you to refuse to compromise the task you have been given and the decisions you deem most wise and effective in stopping the scourge of sexual violence predation among Mennonites. We support your choice of GRACE as the outside investigator in this case. We do not trust denominational executives to choose their own investigators. Please take fresh courage in standing firm in your carefully discerned choices.
To EMU, Lindale, Virginia Mennonite Conference, MCUSA, and MEA Leadership:
We are deeply troubled by the statement of June 14 which quietly undermines the authority of the Panel for Sexual Abuse Prevention and covertly designs an in-house process while simultaneously stating a commitment to addressing abuse responsibly. Your effort to interfere with the Panel’s process is deeply offensive to survivors and hurts all of us in the long run. Please stop all interference in the choice of an independent investigative organization, submit to the recommendations of the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention, and publicly pledge full and uncompromised cooperation with whatever process the Panel outlines. These times call for your humility, repentance and sacrifice as leaders in the cause of healing for our church and the safety of all Mennonite children and vulnerable adults.
Anna Groff, chair of the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention,
Additional members of the Panel: Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Goshen College; Ross Erb, Harrisonburg, VA; Nancy Kauffman, Mennonite Church USA; David Miller, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary; Jennifer Castro, Mennonite Church USA
Kathleen (Kay) Nussbaum, Chair of the EMU Board of Trustees,
Fred Kniss office, EMU Provost,
Kirk Shisler, EMU Vice President for Advancement,
Herman Bontrager, representing Eastern Mennonite University, member of the EMU Board of Trustees,
Loren Swartzendruber, Eastern Mennonite University President,,, (540) 432-4100
Ervin Stutzman, MC USA Executive Director,, 574-523-3092
Carlos Romero, Mennonite Education Agency Executive Director,, 574-642-3164
Patty Shelly, Moderator of Mennonite Church USA Executive Board,
Iris de Léon-Hartshorn, MC USA Director of Transformative Peacemaking,, 574-523-3028
Clyde Kratz, Executive Conference Minister, Virginia Mennonite Conference,
Patsy Seitz, representing Virginia Mennonite Conference, 
Gloria Lehman, representing Lindale Mennonite Church, contact unknown
Lindale Mennonite Church pastors and, 540-833-5171
Duane Yoder, Lead Pastor, Lindale Mennonite Church,