Bishop Howard Bean, Grace Mennonite Church, charged with sexual assault after 40+ years of predatory behaviour

I started the following blog around a year ago, and I am sharing with the permission of the first known victim.

It has been very difficult to write, for many reasons. Mostly, I have written almost nothing since the car crash of 2019. It takes too much out of me, physically, with post-concussion syndrome, shoulder tears and recently diagnosed severe issues in my neck (that finally explained at least some of the severe symptoms I deal with). Yesterday I received many messages asking about Howard Bean. Someone had commented publicly, and former students of Mr. Bean were shocked to learn he had sexually harmed students. Rather than continue to answer privately, I decided it is time to edit this blog and post it. I am heading into a four month stretch that is unbelievably busy. I will respond to emails as I am able, answering questions.

LINK: Howard Bean, disgraced bishop of Grace Mennonite Church, has been credibly accused and charged with sexual assault.

Photos credit of The Map List & Mennonite Archived

Grace Mennonite is a church I recommended in the past when Conservative Anabaptists reached out asking if I know of any safe Mennonite church in Ontario. With a disclaimer that I didnt’ know them well, but they had a strong and clearly defined child abuse policy, I would suggest Grace. (I had a copy of their police at one time, but cannot locate it). I had confidence that abuse allegations would be swiftly dealt with, and victims supported.

I didn’t account for allegations of sexual impropriety coming against the bishop, Howard Bean, who is also a licensed school teacher with access to many children over the years. Some involved I believe have wanted truth. Others have a vested interest in making this go away, and have enabled Mr. Bean as a predator. (Anyone who preys — especially repeatedly — on the innocence of children and youth is a predator).

When I first became aware of concerns, it was a third party report with no evidence or even an incident or alleged victim; only a sense that something was ‘off’. The individual had close interaction with Mr. Bean for several years and didn’t feel safe. There was nothing to report. Nothing to expose. Only a thought to file, and not disregard. But nothing actionable.

In the span of several years of supporting survivors — who, by the way, have an uncanny sense about who is safe and who is not — three mentioned something not feeling safe with Mr. Bean. By 2018, a witness came forward with something they had observed Mr. Bean do, as a teacher, that felt violating. It was not done against them; they had witnessed it.

That witness did not want to be named, but asked if I would look into it. I processed it, and wanted to do something, but I had no concrete evidence; no victim asking me to act. I felt concern and like my hands were tied, all at once.

So I sat in the quiet, knowing there was a strong likelihood of abuse, but having nothing solid allowing me to move forward. Waiting, and pondering, I gathered Mr. Bean’s information just in case it seemed right to meet him, but I never spoke with him.

The challenges when allegations are vague or third party, are many. First, do victims want it addressed? Second, if addressed with nothing concrete, does it work against the case when evidence comes forward? Will people say, “Trudy planted the idea with her vague/unfounded concerns?” So I waited.

And then I had the heart attack in March, 2019, followed in August by being rear-ended at over 120 km p/h, resulting in severe whiplash (for which I am still in therapy). Needless to say, all else fell by the wayside.

The allegations and concerns have since been proven valid, though not the half has been told. The key — and first known victim — was never contacted by the church-recruited investigator. That victim suffered more than anything that has been disclosed so far. It was startling to discover that I had known about it since I was 16…

Only as the details unfolded did the memory resurface. A friend shared some of the ‘story’, processing what was going on. She had been closely connected with the first known victim. As she spoke, the shock hit that, “I know this story!” I said as much to my friend. “I know this story…. but I don’t know why!” And then it came back…

I was 16. A troubled and hurting teenager, living in New Hamburg Ontario. Not one established friend. And then I met two sisters. I have no memory of where or how we met. But I found myself at the older sister’s home, sitting on the floor in front of her, while she sat and nursed her newborn. I learned about giving birth and the afterpains. And I learned her life had been brutally hard.

She shared how a school teacher had sexually abused her for years. He did things to her. He made her do things. Awful and confusing things that scarred and confused her deeply.

As the Howard Bean allegations unfolded, so did the realization that he had worked at the very school where that friend attended, it all came back…. I was, again, 16 years old, sitting with a new mom caring for her infant….

I felt sick. I felt betrayed by a man I didn’t really know. Betrayed. Over. And over. And over. Again.

And I felt like I was a traitor for sitting in silence.

How can they do this? How can they name the name of God, preach, teach on morality, build a name for themselves in Christian community….

How can I sit in silence? And, yet, I have. Mostly because of my accident injuries. I pay a price for sitting at my desk. I pay a price for typing.

I learned on FB yesterday, January 17, 2023, that Christian Light Publications (CLP) still promotes Mr. Bean’s writings, and keeps Pete Peters on staff, while removing books of an author who dared to write questions she has about the afterlife. A facebook conversation where Mr. Bean was mentioned, sparked a flood of messages asking what the deal is. I responded to those messages, and decided to write a blog.

Mr. Bean has been credibly accused and charged with sexual assault. The first known victim is well over 40 years ago, with a string scattered through the years that followed. The extent of the abuse varies among the victims. Numerous students have reported observing the indecent behaviour over the years.

Mr. Bean admitted only to what was brought forward, and each time as more was brought, he acted repentant. He has made excuses. He claimed he did not know that touching a girl’s buttocks was sexual.

That raises many questions.

What is such an ill-informed man doing in classrooms? What is he doing behind the pulpit? How can one so naive and uninformed write books guiding churches, and preach purity to youth? Is he truly this unaware? Or is he simply a skilled manipulator? A liar? Is it such a long leap from sexual assault to lying? I would say they often, if not always go hand in hand, the blatant lying and sexual abuse. Certainly, they are already liars and hypocrites in how they live. Skilled abusers/predators are also highly skilled manipulative liars who know how to groom their church.

It took me two years to find the first known victim. But I found her. I asked if she remembers when we met and I sat on the floor as she nursed her baby, and she told me her story. She did. I asked if she would tell her story again. It matched. And there was more. Not only did Mr. Bean seriously violate this woman’s sexuality, starting before she was even 10 years old, and into her teens, he also violated her by speaking disrespectfully of his wife’s body to her, and commenting on the victims’ clothes and body, among other things. He violated her trust sexually, emotionally, and spiritually. The level of harm done has never been addressed, to this day. Not even close.

I had been told that a woman at Grace Mennonite, who was connected with that first known victim, told key people that the victim did not want to be contacted. When I asked if she would be willing to speak to the committee, she said she would. So this claim also was not true. The victim was very willing to speak *on her terms*, so she would be safe. That is not the same as unwilling. (I do not put blame for this on the committee formed to investigate Mr. Bean’s crimes. It is the responsibility of the person spreading the lies).

For anyone questioning if we can believe the victim(s), Howard Bean admitted to positioning his hands, as the teacher of that first known victim, so her breasts would touch them. He admitted to sexual assault. But that’s the watered down version. He did much more than this, including serious emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse, and more sexual abuse than he has admitted to.

Mr. Bean is a master at words. He is an author with high standing for good reason. He is skilled. And he is skilled when it comes to responding to questions. When more recent allegations were addressed at a church meeting, he was questioned regarding other allegations, and stated, “No.” When challenged later that this was not true, he responded with an explanation that he understood the question differently than intended.

These are classic highly skilled predator behaviours. When I sat with Dave Denlinger in 2018, I asked, “Did you sexually assault (name withheld) in your car?” He looked me in the eye and said he did not. I was baffled. Having sat with the victim, I was confident she was telling the truth. And then it struck me… He had given her his car.

Did you do ‘x’ to (name withheld) in her car?” His answer, “Yes, I did.”

Lying on a technicality. That is the art of a highly skilled religious predator. (I find they often have a conscience about blatant lying, oddly, given they seem to have no conscience about sexual assault).

Repentant offenders do not protect themselves. They accept consequences. They do not lie, manipulate and deceive. They own their wrongs fully. Not only what is brought forward, and do so before others have to come forward. They set victims free. No lies. No manipulations. No trying to control the narrative. (Interesting fact, Mr. Bean still had power to place a minister as lead in his stead *after* allegations came forward. How does that happen in any Christian environment, that a credibly-accused holds that power?)

I will leave Mr. Bean’s repentance between him and God. What I know with confidence is that he has not yet disclosed fully his crimes. I am confident that if his first known and credible victim came forward with abuse charges — and the students who witnessed things stood with that victim — Mr. Bean would face more charges than he currently has on record.

That victim lives in terror of Mr. Bean and is not ready to face the horror that goes with reporting. I support her 100%. Her well-being is of utmost importance. And, Mr. Bean standing before a judge in this life holds no power compared to standing before God in eternity. While the victim is not ready to go public, she willing to speak one-on-one with safe individuals.

(For those saying Mr. Bean repented. No. Controlling the narrative does not equal repentance. He told his version of the situation to a church leader 40+ years ago *after* there was threat of exposure. He rushed to ‘take care’ of things, going to the victim’s family with a skewed version, which resulted in extreme further harm to the victim. But that is not a part of the story she is ready to tell because of what it would cost her today).

The victim’s justice, and validation of her suffering, will come. Not from (most in) church. Not from those calling her a liar. Not from those (shame on them) calling her mentally unstable.

No, her justice will come on judgement day. Her validation will come from the heart of Jesus; her healing in His arms and with friends and those who support her.

In this life, she carries incredible scars that are painful to hear. and see. In spite of the scars, she is always kind. Always gentle. Always thoughtful. Never — although it would be justified — has she expressed anger or been vindictive. Going to the law would be justified. But that is not what she needs right now. So I stand with her, and bless her.

I pray that Mr. Bean will be truly broken in this life. That he will own all his lies-on-technicality to the harm of the victims and church community, and his manipulations as well as all the abuse. All of it. For the sake of his soul, and for the healing of those harmed. But that is between him and God.

***

The concerns regarding Mr. Bean began as discomfort. Nothing concrete could be found. Many (or most) times, victims are reticent to speak out for fear of suffering further harm or alienation, particularly students. It is highly likely that if those who were concerned had spoken out, they would have been subjected to consequences.

Fellow teachers would, in likelihood lose their jobs for speaking out, or be accused of being divisive and harming school culture. (In church, I’ve seen excommunication as the outcome). Students would be left to face the teacher they don’t trust; his position would likely be protected. Parents would be ostracized. It is not a small price to pay for sharing concerns.

Yet, years later it is clear that Mr. Bean is a predator. He leaned over desks in ways that were uncomfortable. He stood in the path of one of his victims, forcing her to contend with his presence. He reached his arms around one student, making her feel violated. Let me add, she was violated.

Yet, repeatedly, these concerns are downplayed as churches scramble to cover up and protect their image, and the abuser.

It’s time to learn from history, and protect those who are most vulnerable.

Did Cornerstone Mennonite Church allow a man credibly accused of sexual assault to serve in church

DISCLAIMER: Two things that the following post IS NOT:

1. It is not to discredit the church or its leaders where they made mistakes.
2. It is not an endorsement of the church or its leaders where they got it right.

I do not know Cornerstone church well, nor its leaders. I do think they got some things right and some things wrong. My interest is in a church moving in the right direction, even with mistakes. In the past six months I have connected with numerous leaders, including bishops, ranging from the some of the most conservative and some of the most liberal ‘covering-wearing’ Mennonites, who want to do what is right. They are listening. They are learning. They are trying. Not all are, but those who are reaching out want change. It would be a fool’s errand to works against such a movement happening within the church, in the name of advocacy or any other cause. The most lasting and profound change always comes from within.

This change within is what we who support victims or advocate against abuse have claimed we were working towards all these years. Now that we are here, I am committed to honouring my calling and the goal I professed all along: To help victims of sexual abuse, first and foremost. And, where possible, to support the church, including conservative Anabaptists, in making healthy changes that prevent abuse and help victims heal.

My calling has not changed. It will not change. I will stand boldly against sexual abuse in the CA churches, and wherever I am called. I will not attack the CA church, or wherever I am called, but I will speak honestly to the problem. It is counterproductive to attack a person or affiliation and even more so when there is opportunity to influence and support healthy changes.

I, for one, am beyond thrilled at the positive things I see happening within my culture, my people. It is my hope that this will continue and a day will come when survivors of sexual abuse feel fully supported and acknowledged within their culture.

***

Cornerstone Mennonite Church & Daniel E. Edwards:
Early November 2022, someone contacted me regarding announcements made by abuse advocates, asking what I know, and is the church really responding as reported….

Daniel Earl Edwards — a member at Cornerstone Mennonite Church, Ephrata Pa — was being investigated for sexual assault allegations against minors (one, we would later discover, was said to be as young as 7 years old), and — according to several advocates — he was still a member in good standing, not to mention serving in some capacity in a Mennonite church. (Link: Lancaster Man credibly accused of molesting minors under 13). More allegations were shared, criticizing how leaders of said church responded.

The information was alarming, if accurate, that a church would allow him to continue serving. As I prefer to do, whenever reasonably possible, I went to the source to ask questions. Since I had engaged the overseer of Cornerstone church in conversation a few months prior, I reached out to him to discuss the allegations. He welcomed the conversation. The following is what I learned, prior to Mr. Edwards being charged.

Some weeks before our conversation, Mr. Edwards had informed church leaders that he was being investigated for sexual abuse of a minor. He assured them that the allegations are false. (Much akin to a fox telling the farmer he didn’t eat the chickens, is how these ‘I’m innocent’ stories tend to go, when allegations are credible).

Having only the word of the accused, the leadership made calls to the Child and Youth Service (CYS), asking advice on how to handle this with their church. Later a call was made to law enforcement officers (LEOs) for advice. After seeking advice, church leaders chose to put a ‘tail’ (or shadow) on Mr. Edwards at church. Whenever he arrived at church, a number of men were assigned to tail him wherever he went, thus ensuring no access to children, while the investigation was ongoing.

Several days prior to being charged, Mr. Edwards again reached out to leaders and informed them that he received paperwork stating he was going to be arrested. They reached out to CYS again and were told CYS cannot speak about the case, but the charges are credible.

At that point the church leaders informed the congregation of the allegations and imminent arrest, so they would be in the loop.  I also learned that Mr. Edward’s membership was “inactive” and that he had no membership privileges, such as participating in communion or any active roles within the church.  Prior to the charges becoming public, the ministry team had no knowledge of the alleged crimes or charges. 

At the end of our conversation, Jay Laughman asked what more they could have done as a church than to reach out to CYS and LEOs for direction and have a strict monitoring plan in place.  My response was, “You could have informed the families in the church.” Always, families — especially those with minors — should be informed so parents can protect their children from risk of harm. Even when the allegations have not been proven in court. (“Innocent until proven guilty” and “alleged crimes” is legal terminology, not spiritual discernment).

Prior to any child abuse allegations surfacing, there was a brothers meeting to discuss Mr. Edwards’s moral integrity. Excommunication was on the table because of Mr. Edwards trips to Kenya and his alleged sexual immorality with a prostitute.  At this point, no action was taken other than for the church to pray for repentance, which Mr. Edwards seemed to display.  Soon after this meeting the new allegations of child abuse became public. 

A second brother’s meeting was scheduled to discuss the new allegations of child abuse as well as a recommendation given by the Leadership Team that Mr. Edwards not be allowed to attend any Church services while there is an ongoing criminal investigation. 

At this same meeting, leaders gave the men of the church opportunity to vote on how the situation would to be handled. Jay Laughman, the overseer with whom I spoke, did NOT want Mr. Edwards to attend church, and made this very clear. He suggested an arrangement that allowed Mr. Edwards to tune in to church or have bible study with men from church, but not be welcome on church premises. Instead, the men of the congregation felt it best to allow Mr. Edwards to attend church on the condition that there would be a strict monitoring plan in place. 

When I spoke with Mr. Laughman, December 15, 2022, he said that he regrets putting this matter to church vote. He stated they, as leaders, do not want to use the heavy-handed top-down approach to leading their congregation and prefer rather to involve lay-members. In this case, he said, leaders should have made the call. In hindsight that is clear to him.

From the time of Mr. Edwards being charged until the time I spoke with Mr. Laughman in mid December, Mr. Edwards had not yet attended church. He was presented with a safety plan to which he needed to submit if he wished to attend. Among other things, the safety plan includes several men watching over Mr. Edward’s every move. Having not yet agreed to the proposed safety plan, Mr.Edwards has also not attended church since Cornerstone was made aware that the allegations are credible, and since his subsequent arrest. (When I checked in with Mr. Laughman early January,

Mr. Edwards had not attended again. In January 2023 another meeting was held, and Mr. Edwards was removed from membership by excommunication.).

Following his arrest, Mr. Edwards posted his own bail. Bail was set at $250,000. It is my understanding that Mr. Edwards continues to maintain his innocence. This leaves many in religious community vulnerable, particularly those who are naive to the true nature of predators and their uncanny ability to manipulate and draw sympathy. Those of us who have worked in the field for any notable length of time are able to predict the behaviours. Those who have little awareness or experience fall prey to it.

This leads me on an important rabbit trail that exemplifies so well what too often happens:

I take that rabbit trail to show one example of the pattern of denial. I could tell hundreds more, with evidence, but will refrain. The fact is that credibly accused perpetrators of sex crimes will declare their innocence because they have talked themselves into believing it was nothing of consequence. And naive religious folks — or occasionally the willfully ignorant — accept it. “See, he’s innocent!” or “He would never do that! He has never harmed our children and we are around him.”

Some years ago I met with a man who was accused of molesting a young girl in his teen years. Present, besides the accused and I, were his wife, a support couple, the victim’s husband, and my husband Tim. I asked if he knew why we were there, and he said yes; it had been a rough week leading up to the
meeting. “But it wasn’t sexual abuse!” he added quickly.

“So, you wouldn’t mind then if one of the men present would do to your wife what you did to the girl?”

“Ok, it was sexual abuse!” he said quickly. And that gave us a
starting point. He was a minor under 14 at the time of the offence. Our goal, on the victim’s behalf, was for him to acknowledge his wrong and hopefully offer an apology, to the benefit of the victim. But only if he was sincerely repentant.

Once his defences and denial were removed, ownership was taken to a point, and apology was given. Events that ensued showed that his apology lacked sincerity. Some in the church community started treating the victim most disgracefully, while protecting the accused. Since we had not taken it to the church, this meant that he gave his version of what took place without the ‘repentance’ he showed when confronted. If he had been truly repentant, it is unlikely the church would have turned on the victim as they did. What could have been a healthy outcome took a negative turn because of the church’s response.

But there was status to protect. The bishop was his brother….

This brings me to two points: First, perpetrators groom their entire community. That is their safety net that allows them to continue preying on children. Secondly, unless you are especially close to Mr. Edwards, he is a ‘stranger’ to your children.

Mr. Edwards’ is credibly accused of molesting victims of whom at least some are closely related to him. To protect victims’ identity, the nature of the relationship is not important. Choosing close relatives or close friends while never harming children outside of that circle, is part of the grooming. Keeping up good appearances in public, and particularly in religious community is part of the game plan. Abusers are skilled at hiding abuse, and skilled at pulling wool over the eyes of anyone lacking discernment or naively trusting.

If a church is ‘properly’ groomed, the members will protect and accept the perpetrator while disregarding the wellbeing of victims. At times, while believing they are, in fact, making church safe for victims. (Setting up a safety plan does not account for victims’ spiritual, psychological/mental well-being).

This lack of safety includes victims of that perpetrator, as well as other victims who have to watch the offender be coddled and given a safe place in church, while their mental and spiritual wellbeing is compromised if not completely disregarded and shattered. Not one victim I’ve encountered, who is struggling with their own story, is ok with a perpetrator getting the attention of acceptance and in some cases seated where they have to see the accused Sunday after Sunday.

To make church safe, those who are credibly accused should be asked to refrain from attending, when someone is credibly accused. There are mixed opinions about what should be done when allegations first surface. Any truly innocent adult will prioritize the wellbeing of others. That is the Jesus Way. That doesn’t negate the harm done when allegations are false. But it does protect the children.

Taking ownership for their congregations’ wellbeing — especially the vulnerable, while also tending to the accused, churches would do well to arrange for alternative care for the accused. One way is to gather a few men and women in the home of the accused or neutral location to have fellowship. Circles of Support and Accountability Canada (COSA) has a format for supporting offenders that could easily be adapted for religious communities and spiritual support. One of their team members is an Anabaptist gentleman, who is also a friend of mine, with shared spiritual values and concern for offender wellbeing, while addressing the wrongs committed.

Offenders commit horrific harms. Nonetheless, they are human beings, albeit very broken and unsafe, who need help and accountability. Having men and women who are willing to gather with them is part of a healthy safety plan. To isolate, is to increase risk. While not all people are comfortable gathering with offenders, whether the offenders are men or women, it is good for them to be connected to both men and women. Community Justice Initiatives, an organization in Kitchener Ontario that specializes in Restorative Justice, also has an excellent model for doing this. In both CJI and COSA, I have peers who are involved at a leadership level, who are always willing to offer advice. Any pastors interested in connecting with him, please reach out via our CONTACT page.

Together, we will continue to move in the direction of positive change, create a safer religious community to prevent harm, and restore hope and healing among the abused within the Conservative Anabaptist community.

As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2022

Haitian victim of Jeriah Mast and Christian Aid Ministries releases book

Today I received word from Doeurldy Cadet, that his book “In the name of “Mission Work” is available on Amazon.

To order click the appropriate link. Purchase in United States via Amazon USA: In the name of “Mission Work and in Canada via Amazon Canada: In the name of “Mission Work.

I have ordered my copy and am looking forward to its arrival tomorrow. Mr. Cadet is a tenderhearted young man who suffered at the hands of Jeriah Mast, pedophile sent to Haiti by Christian Aid Ministries USA (CAM USA), where he had access to countless young men. In his position with CAM USA, he had the power to use food to manipulate boys into cooperating with his advances.

Mr. Cadet also talks about the disruption CAM brought to the country. As a former staff member, he speaks as an insider of the organization, as well as a Haitian who suffered grave injustices.

In spite of this, there is no bitterness. Mr. Cadet speaks honestly, with grace. It is my prayer that his story will bring change and greater accountability to “mission work” and the way Western religious groups use their power against the people they profess to serve. (Some sincerely, but with many corrupt and greedy organizations doing more harm than good).

As one of Jeriah Mast’s victims, he refused CAM’s money in exchange for silence, and chose instead to tell his story to the world. I have heard his heart at various times, having kept in touch since our meeting in 2019, and have deep respect for him.

I encourage you to order the book and prayerfully ponder the implications to the spreading of the Gospel; what it has become, and what it should be.

Praying God will use this for great good and desperately needed change.

NOTE: I am not being paid to market the book. Nor did I assist in any way in writing it. My only role has been to believe in Mr. Cadet’s story, and the value it holds in Christian community so that we can learn to do better.

As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2022