MennoMedia responds to news of sexual misconduct

HARRISONBURG, Va. — MennoMedia has recently learned that John Rempel’s ministerial credentials have been terminated by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada after an investigation into multiple complaints of ministerial sexual misconduct that stem from Rempel’s time serving as chaplain, residence director, and adjunct professor at Conrad Grebel University College from 1973 until 1989.

“We are taking this termination of credentials very seriously and we grieve with those who have been harmed,” said Amy Gingerich, MennoMedia publisher and executive director. “Over the years, Rempel has been involved on various writing and editorial teams for MennoMedia publications. We will work with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada to study the publications in which Rempel has been involved, and we will seek outside expertise and discernment as we wrestle with the complicated questions this revocation of credentials raises.”

“In Scripture we repeatedly see God standing with survivors, and MennoMedia stands with survivors at this time,” said Gingerich. “We know that Rempel’s work has been used as authoritative across the denominations, and we know that many, including us at MennoMedia, are grappling with how to respond.”

Earlier this year, a team of writers developed “Show Strength: How to Respond When Worship Materials Are Implicated in Abuse.” That resource was developed to help individuals and communities of faith respond when it is discovered that beloved songs and prayers were written by a person who has perpetrated sexual violence.

However, the resource was created with solo-authored songs and worship resources in mind. All of Rempel’s writing and editing published by MennoMedia was done as part of a collaborative team.

“Even as we point congregations to the ‘Show Strength’ resource, we are aware of its limitations and original intentions around solo-authored works. We must now think through how to offer up additional guidance for congregations around works developed collaboratively,” said Gingerich.

John Rempel had no direct role in making any final decisions about the contents of Voices Together. Any contributions he made as a drafter or reviewer (one among many), as a translator, or through other sources went through an extensive process of independent committee review and revision.

At the same time, it is difficult to assess Rempel’s indirect influence through previous collaborative publications including Hymnal: A Worship Book and the Minister’s Manual, among other sources. Voices Together is in continuity with previous Mennonite publications and the historical and ecumenical Christian tradition, while also representing a new generation of worship resources with new leadership. It is necessary to carefully examine how all aspects of worship, including this new generation of resources, can better support survivors and shape communities that oppose violence in all forms.

Herald Press, MC USA, and MC Canada partner for Common Read

Mennonites to read together over the next year

HARRISONBURG, Va. — The global pandemic has created faith formation challenges for churches. With isolation, digital issues, and Zoom fatigue setting in, Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), Mennonite Church Canada, and Herald Press are partnering to encourage Mennonites to engage in a “Common Read,” a shared reading experience focused on specific books written to nurture Christian faith in this cultural moment.

Signs of Life: Resurrecting Hope Out of Ordinary Losses by Stephanie Lobdell is the Common Read book chosen for September. Whether it’s the demise of a relationship, career plans, or our image of ourselves: we all experience losses. Lobdell leads readers to the power of the resurrection to heal daily hurts.

In Signs of Life, Lobdell shares stories of her own depression, loss of confidence, and disillusionment with the church. “My ordinary losses are probably no bigger than yours, and are maybe even smaller,” says Lobdell. “My ordinary losses are just that: ordi­nary and plain, maybe even dull. But they are real. And their smallness does not negate their power or their importance in shaping me. Such ordinary losses in your life—and maybe some extraordinary ones—have likely wounded and shaped you.”

The Common Read for Signs of Life kicks off with a Zoom event on Sept 3 at noon EST with the author, Stephanie Lobdell. Registration for the event is open here. Books are available on the MennoMedia website or by calling 1-800-245-7894. Purchases of four or more copies will receive a 30% discount.

“In a time of social reckoning and spiritual need, reading these books together can provide the spiritual space in which the Spirit can nurture and guide us,” said Shana Peachey Boshart, MC USA denominational minister for Faith Formation. “Plus, a common read is ideal for online or in-person congregational study, adult Sunday school and small group discussion.”

The MC USA Common Read continues in January with I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World by Michael T. McRay and April with Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter for Our Kids by Natalie Frisk. Each new Common Read session will launch with a Zoom event with the author.

Free downloadable study guides are available for every Common Read book on the Herald Press website. To schedule an interview with Stephanie Lobdell, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

COVID-19 claims author Jim Atwood

Beloved gun-control advocate passes after battling virus

 

HARRISONBURG, VA — Jim Atwood, well-known gun-control advocate and author of the recent Herald Press title Collateral Damage, died at 4:30 this morning due to COVID-19 complications. He was surrounded by his family at Sunnyside Hospice in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Atwood was pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington, Virginia. A leader in the faith-based movement for good gun laws, he served as chair of the anti-gun violence group Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington, interfaith coordinator of the Million Mom March, and a member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Earlier this week on June 24, Presbyterian Church USA awarded Atwood a Crystal Teardrop Award for his work to end gun violence.

“Jim was a delight and joy to work with,” said Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director at Herald Press. “We at Herald Press are honored to have published his last book on such an important and timely topic. Jim was tireless in his pursuit of ending gun violence and his words brought together practical insights and deep theological concern.”

Atwood believed the church should get involved in ending gun violence. “It always gets my dander up when people say the church ought to stay out of a political issue and as a spiritual community, we should stay out of that,” he said in an interview with PC(USA). “Over 150 years ago, that’s how we treated slavery, that it was not a religious or biblical concern, it was an economic and political issue and we bought into that.”

Atwood said there is nothing more spiritual than a human being who is made in the image of God.

In an online statement, Atwood’s family said, “We, Roxana, David (Harry) and Mebane, were by his side and were able to say our final goodbyes and how much we loved him.  The last 48 hours were extremely difficult for him and for us.  We are relieved that his suffering and pain are over.”

Atwood began suffering with chronic back pain in September and tested positive for COVID-19 on June 3.

For more information, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.