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…
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2022

Love, wrapped in a sandwich: Anabaptist church in Bronx NY, serves healthcare workers at Medical Centre

Rich Schwartz, the lead pastor of BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHURCH, a small Anabaptist-type outreach church in the Bronx, NY, shared the following last evening:

** On my way back from a site inspection in Manhattan, I stopped in at the ER at Jacobi Medical Center here in the Bronx. I had some very helpful interactions with a police officer who has been stationed there 18 years, a nurse who is a 30 year veteran, and two H.R. people with 30 and 16 years experience. All of them said they have never faced such difficult times at the hospital as they are facing now. There is a very real shortage of every kind of PPE. As the police officer walked me from the main building over to Building Four, we passed a refrigerated tractor-trailer that had the back open. The police officer grimaced a bit as we saw dozens of bodies taking up probably 70% of the floor of that trailer. They weren’t stacked on top of each other, but it was surprisingly full of bodies in body bags. Eerie.

Tomorrow (03/31/2020) at 12:30 p.m., we are hoping to bring in individually wrapped sandwiches, coffee/tea, and juice to the nurses and doctors at the ER of Jacobi Medical Center. I have a contact there who said they would welcome this. Rich **

This is church. Living. Breathing. Giving. Loving. No walls. No pews. Those things have their place for encouragement. But this is church that I can get behind, 100%.

This morning, interacting with Rich via Messenger, he added this:
I would advise the public to pray, meditate on Psalm 121, and look for ways to love others well.

It takes courage and compassion to walk into such a space surrounded by death, when you are under no obligation to o so, humanly speaking. When practical, hands on, frontline duty could be left, by virtue of their training, to doctors, nurses and others who ‘signed up’ for this through their profession. This pastor’s visit to the Jacobi Medical Centre opened up doors to serve and show love in practical ways, so that his congregation is now making food for the healthcare providers at the medical centre. (I asked if there was a place for people to donate. The following email is the church’s PayPal, if you would like to help with the costs of this ministry: bjcgive@gmail.com).

After my exchange with Rich, I received the following message from his wife:  This is Sandy, Rich’s wife chiming in. 😀 There is a possibility that we will be able to video call patients in the hospital to pray with them. Pray that we can do that! Such an awesome opportunity!

Let’s pray for them as they reach out to the sick and hurting, and the medical team looking after their needs. To step into the suffering of others is not easy. Pray for the church as they show the love of Jesus to those around them.

We can’t all go to medical centres and offer assistance. For one, it would be counterproductive and become saturated, creating extreme and unnecessary risks. But we can all listen to the nudging inside of us, and do the next right thing, and care for that one person within our reach. We who are believers ‘signed up for this’ when we accepted Christ as our Saviour and Lord, and committed to walking in the Way of Love.


I’ve followed the numbers closely from the start. There is much public speculation about whether the numbers of cases are ‘real’, and comments like, ‘most of these people would have died anyway’, and that kind of thing. Or, ‘they’re fudging the numbers to scare us’ and take away our freedom. Or, we can’t stop it anyway, we might as well let it run its course, live our normal lives and see what happens.

We’re all entitled to our thoughts. That’s one of the beautiful things about free will. We are even granted freedom of speech (at least in relation to this, for the most part, as far as I have seen and know). We won’t all agree, and that is ok too. Ideally we disagree respectfully.

For all the memes and jokes we’ve seen (or created) about the toilet paper shortage — because that truly is funny, at least until you run out of TP in your house and are left to scramble — the disease itself is not funny. It is ruthless and harsh. Whether the people all would have died or not is not the question. Based on what friends in healthcare are seeing, the answer to that question is, “no’.  A friend who works in a hospital watched an otherwise healthy individual, almost ten years younger than me, succumb to COVID-19. There was no underlying heart disease, diabetes, or other disease that made this person high risk. No medical reason for someone so young to die. Young. Healthy. Gone.

Reading Rich’s experience, how he saw the truck with bodies lined on the floor… That’s not a normal death rate. That’s not a ‘they would have died anyway’ situation. That is the outcome of a high risk disease spreading at unmanageable rates, taxing the healthcare staff. We can’t afford to have our medically trained professionals burning out. For that reason alone, exercising caution is the most respectful and loving thing we can do for our neighbours.

On the other hand, hearing  Rich’s experience, what he saw on that truck, is no reason to live in fear. I do not say this for that reason. I say it as a call to ‘love in action’ and to encourage respect for others’ wellbeing during this time. Just because I am not afraid to die does not mean I have the right to impose such risk on others.

The restrictions by governments across the world are to protect the public, by preventing rapid spread and unnecessary infecting of countless people. To the argument that they don’t protect the unborn, making them hypocrites for pretending to care now, my question is, “What bearing does their failure in one area have on our duty to protect life in every situation?”  Regardless of the failure of government in any area, my duty is to protect life always, as much as I am able. If they are comfortable killing babies, I should be no more comfortable causing unnecessary death and harm to others. My duty is to Christ, first and foremost, and to show love and grace in whatever situation I find myself. Right now, the best way to love those around me is to not put them at unnecessary risk.

I’ve seen strange claims that this is an attack by government on our faith and religious freedom as believers. No it isn’t. It isn’t persecution against the church. We are not victims here. God is not taken off guard by the scenario, and I have a hunch He’s trying to speak to the church, but some of us are too busy playing the victim to hear him. If it really was persecution for the sake of Christ, we should rejoice, not fight for our freedoms. But it isn’t that. We are all shut down together, along with our friends who are atheist, Muslim, Sikh, and every other religion.

So saying we are being persecuted is a bit of an embarrassment to Christianity, as though somehow we should have special rights. First of all, it isn’t persecution. Secondly, a life of ‘special privilege’ is not what Jesus said His life would offer us. Thirdly, in everything that happens, God is about pursuing hearts, and if we align ourselves with His vision, we don’t have space to play the victim. We have only an opportunity to love well.

Sin and death have done a number on us, on our world. Disease is part of the curse of sin. But God…

These difficult times are an opportunity to show love to others in ways we do not normally see. We tend to be so busy about our own lives that we don’t see opportunities to share the love of Jesus in practical ways. Right now, if we stop fussing long enough to see and hear, there are countless opportunities to bring the love of God to people, even from the quiet of our homes. Seize the moment, as a Jesus-believer. Show His love and grace.

Let’s pray for the countless sick across the world and in New York. New York been hit hardest in USA, with over 75,000 sick in that state alone, with over 180,000 across USA infected. New York, alone, has almost as many cases as have been reported in all of China. Even with fudging numbers, if such a thing would be happening, there is a staggering number of sicknesses and death, with evidence Rich writes about to validate that it is a significant and traumatic number of infections. They need our care and our prayers.

And let’s pray for the many struggling with suicidal ideations as a result of fears surrounding COVID-19. There have been numerous high profile suicides — including the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, and a nurse who feared she had infected patients — which has the potential for ripple effects. The hopelessness that comes from not being able to see their way through the present pandemic and inevitable aftermath speaks to a deep need within the human heart. Our desire to feel safe, secure, cared for is normal.  When that is shaken, we need a deeper hope. We need to know that in our need we will not be abandoned. In Jesus we have that hope. And if we are in Him, and carry His hope, we have something to offer. Not in preaching condemnation. But in loving generously and in prayer.

Admittedly, there are moments I don’t know what to say to God, or how to pray, in all of this. And the simple prayer that rises from my heart is this, “We need you Jesus. We need you. The world needs you.”

We need Him desperately. And the world needs Him. We are His hands and feet, ‘living among them’; the brokenhearted.  It is our opportunity to show the world that Jesus is kind and generous. He is hope. He is peace. He is love. He is present. … present, through our love.

As always…

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Holdeman Mennonite Man in Tanzania Experiences Miraculous Healing Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Due to the offence taken, harsh judgement and confusion, I removed the original post. To read the update on Jason and Mel Hunt, click the following link:



To all who are working the front lines — doctors, nurses, truckers, researchers and many more — thank you for your sacrifice and the risks you take to ensure people have their needs met. I pray God’s blessing and protection over you.

Remember to choose joy in your journey. Be kind. It shows character and grace. Laugh often. It builds up your immunity and is bonding. Give generously. It builds morale. And trust God. Faith is a powerful force.

In closing, one of my favourite hymns: How Great Thou Art, by Anthem Lights.

As always…

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020