Is there grace for Harold Herr? His wife’s real cause of death… Why was he *really* let go from Life Literature? And a correction…

I’m sure the truth will come out,
if indeed that’s what we’re all interested in.

Matlock

*****

A correction/update to my previous blog:
Multiple people contacted me prior to posting my previous blog to ask if I heard Mose Stoltzfus and Darwin Hostetler, along with Harold Herr, met to discuss ‘what to do with Trudy’. That information came from someone closely linked to at least one of the men alleged to have been at the meeting. The individuals who contacted me each named Mose Stoltzfus, Darwin Hostetler and Harold Herr as being in attendance.

Since releasing the blog even more individuals have contacted me to say my sources had it wrong.

Allegedly, the meeting was not about what to do with Trudy. It is true that my name was brought up in relation to posting publicly the allegations. (It would be hard to have a meeting about this without talking about me, but the spirit in which this was done was not as understood and relayed to me).  It is not hard to understand how someone close to these leaders would have misunderstood that the point of the meeting was to discuss me and the problem I am. Just what created that misunderstanding, God only knows.

My interaction with the one gentleman who attended the meeting has been respectful and thoughtful, and I am taking at face value that the meeting was not to discuss ‘what to do about Trudy’. Furthermore, one of my trusted friends has spoken to the honour and integrity of the original source; therefore I do not believe that I was intentionally misinformed as a trap.  And I do not believe there was ill-will towards me by the source, or towards the people at the meeting. It was a sincere misunderstanding of facts brought to me.

The list of individuals said to be present at the meeting, were indeed present, but the list was incomplete. Present were: Steve Simmons, Darwin Hostetler, Mose Stoltzfus, Harold Herr, Nathan Zeiset, and Allen Hoover.

Having confirmed the details, and being confident that there was error in what was reported to me, I apologize for sharing the misrepresentation/misunderstanding of motive and intent of the meeting as shared with me. It is not my intention to ever misrepresent facts. I try my best to confirm what I hear. (Had I known Allen Hoover was present, with whom I have communicated  numerous times about various situations, I would have been inclined to contact him to ask questions).

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IS HAROLD HERR GUILTY OR INNOCENT & A THIRD PARTY INVESTIGATION:
I continue to maintain that I cannot declare guilt or innocence other than that to which Harold has admitted. (Nor can others. I hold more evidence than most of them). But, I can say with absolute confidence that the allegations are credible. (Credible does not mean true and confirmed. It means plausible and worthy of deep investigation and acknowledgement).

It is concerning that there has NOT been an independent third party investigation. It would be deeply concerning if a determination of either innocence or guilt was made by a committee made up of untrained ‘friends of the accused’, or even acquaintances. And lack of training and experience in investigating sex offence allegations makes the entire process traumatic for victims and family members. Particularly given the history of silence in our culture, and in their case in particular. Harold’s children are now being asked to trust an investigation to the very culture that has disregarded them for around 40 years, and some have even called them liars.

For truth and justice to take place, all cultural and friendship ties must be absent among those conducting investigations. Anyone who thinks they can speak to the ‘good character’ of the person in question, or the leaders who ignored the allegations for any reason at all — including the  assumption of mental illness in the mother, *from whom the allegations did not originate* — is not the right choice. For the sake of alleged victims and family members supporting them, this independent third party investigation team is important, as is extensive trauma sensitivity training. (*Daniel wrote the letter addressing the allegations in 1990. In our private interactions he disclosed that this was the initial disclosure even to his mother, to the best of his memory. See comments by his sister under previous blog for more insight. She is referencing the same private conversation that I reference here).

One alleged victim and one family member have requested such an independent third party investigation by trained professionals as a condition for meeting. [See copy of their request/response in following section).  They are not opposed to speaking of their traumatic history, and being interviewed, but they are not willing to meet with a committee of friends of Harold, or friends of the leaders who have looked the other way for years. Bias is inevitable simply because friends are, by nature, biased no matter how much they want truth. Therefore they  cannot possibly make a just determination, or make victims feel equally heard and cared for. Victims will inevitably feel cautious and on guard, as well they should. I would too.

Friends are the most likely to be manipulated and deceived by abusers. Abusers count on that.

And, now that another of Harold’s alleged victims wrote publicly this past week (also in comments under previous blog) this independent third party investigation, by a team made up of people with trauma sensitivity training and no ties to Harold whatsoever or the leaders who ignored allegations, is even more important.

Allen Hoover, Darwin Hostetler and Steve Simmons met with at least two of Harold Herr’s children. (If more were interviewed, I am not privy to that). There is overlap between this committee and those involved in the Jeriah Mast case. Whether that is good or bad, I offer no opinion, but I can say it does not feel healthy or safe to those [allegedly] victimized by Harold.

Following the one  meeting the committee reached out to Daniel Herr, who declined meeting with them as they are a committee of men untrained in sensitive investigations. His request was that they have an independent third party investigation done, by individuals not connected to Harold Herr. The following is a copy of what Daniel’s sister sent to the committee (Steve Simmons, specifically) on his behalf. Daniel later followed that up with personally contacted them to validate the message from Freda.

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I do not think Daniel’s request is asking too much. Particularly given the history of neglecting to hear victims. Neglecting such a direct and reasonable request continues the disregard of victims’ needs, and shows neither compassion nor care. That is true even with the best of intentions by any committee. If it is not sensitive to victims’ needs and requests, it is uncaring. It’s that simple.

If the tables were turned and the victims were bringing in a committee of their own friends and acquaintances, it goes without saying that Harold Herr, his daughter who defends him, and church leaders would not be particularly excited to share transparently and allow such a group to make a determination of innocence or guilt. So  they should not ask this of victims.

*****

Why was Harold Herr really let go from Life Literature in September, and more on an internal investigating committee 

I would urge this committee to also look into why Harold Herr was really let go from Life Literature (LL). They say that it was not because of pressure from Haiti Benefit Auction (HBA), as I reported…. (Which I reported because I knew of the pressure by HBA *prior* to Harold being fired in September!) HBA put pressure on LL, and Harold was released shortly thereafter.

However, now Life Literature says it was not because of the pressure from HBA, but their own reasons. My question is, Did the pressure from HBA trigger an internal investigation that resulted in concerns significant enough to release HH? Or what internal findings were so significant to justify firing Harold Herr? This really needs to be looked into, if it is truth we’re are after. It’s particularly important because of his history of sexual perversion, the impact of which he has never been fully owned up.

I have also confirmed that Harold Herr remained on payroll until after my blog came out. These are indisputable facts.

Couple those facts with the real reason Harold Herr was let go — info that doesn’t seem particularly forthcoming and should be, under the circumstances of unresolved allegations — and we will have a clearer picture of this whole scenario.

*****

Harold Herr’s Wife’s real cause of death:
Further to speculation that Harold’s deceased (estranged) wife, Anna Mary, committed suicide….

After posting what I did in my previous blog, about there being no autopsy, numerous people contacted me. They are quite certain she did indeed commit suicide, they said, and informed me that even the family believes this to be true.

I am aware of the speculation. I am aware that some family members have shared their questions . I am also aware that for some family members seeing the public speculate such a thing when they had never suspected such a thing has been very traumatic. There is an injustice in that, against the family. It is human nature to wonder what happened when we don’t have answers, but for someone to propagate such a thing as fact, when medical evidence does not support it… Well, I’d come back to this: What would be their motive? What could anyone possibly gain from the public believing it as fact, when it has never been anything more than questions in search of answers for the unknown? 

Before I present evidence (with permission), let me say the following: 

It is an absolute tragedy that some leaders and public are focusing on how Anna Mary died, rather than acknowledging the following:

  1. Organizations (and churches) have a history of not taking allegations seriously, and excusing that neglect. (We saw this in the Jeriah Mast case. And we see it in the Harold Herr case.
  2. Radical sexual abuse and bestiality allegations against someone in ministry have not been properly investigated and certainly not dealt with.

Those two things are what should be the focus. They are the reason the family went public with these allegations at this time; to warn the public about their concerns regarding Harold Herr and the potential risk to children, and to call CAM and LIFE Literature to account for their neglect to take allegations seriously and sending someone overseas with outstanding allegation that are not investigated and remain unresolved. And to hold church leaders to the same account.

That Anna Mary Herr has become the focus is a shameful continuation of the same abuse that she suffered by those who neglected her in her living years. (I recognize some of you contacted me out of shock that these rumours are circulating, including people who knew her quite well to a time.  This is not directed at you. It is directed at those who use this as a deflection from the allegations of sexual abuse).

In response to the speculation, I can say with certainty that it is not reflected on her death certificate. I can also say with absolute certainty that no autopsy was done and the death certificate states that she died of “cerebrovascular accident”, also known as “stroke”. I have a copy of the death certificate in my possession and have personally confirmed this as her cause of death.

And a more close up with date and cause of death highlighted:

Shortly before her death, Anna Mary became very ill and was hospitalized for approximately one week. Sometime in that timeframe it she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. During her one-week hospital stay she improved and was released to go home. Within approximately a week  she passed away in her home, having suffered a cerebrovascular event, more commonly referred to as stroke.

What caused that stroke?

From what I am told by her children, no one is certain what caused it. Was it coincidental that after Anna Mary got ill and almost lost her life, she improved in the hospital, but became ill again at home? If she showed signs of suicidal tendencies, would medical staff not have documented this? And would they not have kept her in to ensure her safety? Was there some toxin in the home that she was sensitive to and no one knew existed? Stroke has been linked to asbestos, arsenic, and cyanide, to mention but a few environmental possibilities.

Speculations of this nature have come to me from numerous sources, yet none have anything whatsoever to do with the allegations of abuse. What judge or lawyer would write off abuse allegations because of the accused’s spouse’s cause of death?

Speculation surrounding Anna Mary’s death should be not be the focus. If the family wants answers, there are ways for them to find out, but that is their private concern. As far as the public, I do not see value in speculating that which cannot be proven about a deceased woman, when the real issue is that there are allegations that have been disregarded for 40 years.

The more I hear this kind of deflection, from the abuse allegations at hand to Anna Mary, the more my red flags go off. I agree with the request of some of the family to have  an unbiased third party investigation team pursue the case. There is truth to be found, but it will not be found by those closely connected to the family or culture. No matter how pure of heart, it is not right to put the victims and family through that.

For anyone thinking I am also not the right person, I agree. I am biased. Definitely biased. I’ve seen the evidence, heard the testimony, and seen the deflection and neglect. I am very much the wrong person to investigate. But I am the right person to push for a bit of accountability. And what makes me the right person is that some family members asked for my help. That’s good enough for me. But if they asked me to deeply investigate it, I would decline.

*****

For the first time since interviewing Harold Herr in summer of 2019, and asking about the allegations, I listened to that audio again last week. When I mentioned Detective Ortenzi, Harold acts surprised, and says, “You say there were charges against me back then?!” as though he knew nothing of it. I later learned that, not only did Harold know there were allegations back then, the detective actually met with him in person. (i have evidence in possession of Ortenzi’s involvement in the case).

Why did Harold act as though he had no knowledge of the allegations or that a law enforcement officer was on the case? Either he was trying to intentionally deceive me, in which case I ask, “Why are leaders trusting him if he is being deceptive?” Or, maybe he doesn’t remember? Though unlikely, if true, why do leaders take at face value anything he says? If he can’t remember a police officer confronting him about sexual abuse and bestiality, why should we assume he is remembering truth about the abuse? It is neither logical nor responsible.

So is there grace for Harold Herr? Yes… generous grace if he humbles himself completely, tells consistent truth, and repents for thing he has not yet acknowledged.

“By their fruit you will know them,” said a wise Man some 2000+ years ago. And, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free!”

He was a truly wise Man. We could learn from Him in our handling of sexual abuse in religious communities.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

*****

Trudy offers support conferences for survivors of abuse, and training to equip churches and the community in caring for victims and offenders, or if you would like to inquire about having a conference or training in your area, send an inquiry via Contact TrudyTo support Generations Unleashed, the charity Trudy works for, Donate Here.

SURVEY: Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse: If you are/were CA and have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you.

I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

 

Preacher Mose Stoltzfus, Harold Herr & Darwin Hostetler meet to discuss what to do with Trudy; More details on Harold Herr allegations

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right.
A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice.
A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ~

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QUESTIONS CONTINUE TO TRICKLE IN, SO I WILL ADDRESS THEM HERE, INCLUDING THE MEETING WITH MOSE STOLTZFUS, HAROLD HERR AND DARWIN HOSTETLER:

  1. Q: Does Harold’s own daughter defend him and say the allegations are false? 

    A: Yes, one of Harold’s three daughters, Rachel Herr Weaver, insists the allegations are false. She, however, is not an alleged victim (to my knowledge), and therefore has no authority to declare her father’s innocence or guilt. (That would only change if she saw him molest someone, heard him admit to molesting someone, or was molested herself). We have authority to speak with certainty to our own experience, not the experience of another.  My father molested numerous children, starting when he was only 13 (from what we know), with several victims being his own children to varying degrees. Many of his 16 children were never sexually abused by him. Rachel’s experience (or lack thereof) has no bearing on her brother’s or any other alleged victim’s story. My experience does not negate the experience of my siblings, nor theirs mine.

  2. Q: More specifically, some are saying Rachel says allegations of him having fathered a child are false; is this true? 

    A: I have been told by numerous sources that Rachel insists it is lies and false allegations that Harold fathered a child. Again, apart from a DNA test, that is not a question she can answer. Nor can I. But it sure begs the question how many godly innocent men have to provide DNA tests… And even then, a DNA sample does not prove a lack of sexual contact. It merely proves a lack of conception when there was contact, if there was contact.And that provides a perfect segue into the next question…

  3. Q: Did Harold Herr have a DNA test after allegations first surfaced, to prove a child alleged to be conceived by him was not his? 

    A: As far as I know, after contacting one of Harold’s children for confirmation, there was never a DNA test done.  (If there was, the whole family is not aware. And, given the dynamics, it is highly likely that they would have known. So if it was done, that info was withheld from some). I have not spoken with the mother of the child in question, and for the sake of her wellbeing I have no intentions of going there, or disclosing her identity. My focus has been and remains on allegations made by Harold’s son Daniel, and the fact that church leaders, missions and community members did nothing when there was ample cause for concern.

  4. Q: (a). Are you sure Harold Herr and Earl Fox were shopping together, or did they just happen to stumble upon each other at Paul B’s Hardware? (b). And did they say they were shopping for supplies for Harold to take to Haiti, or did the person who saw them assume this? 

    A: I am told Harold and Earl was heard to say that they are gathering supplies for Harold. And that they explicitly stated the supplies were for Harold to take to Haiti.

  5. Q: Are you sure Harold was going to Haiti to train his replacement, or was he just going to live there? (Note: He owns a house there). 

    A: Harold Herr told his family he is going to Haiti to train his replacement. He was with LIFE Literature, previously. That is where a replacement would be needed.So “do I know for certain?” . No, because I don’t know if Harold Herr is a blatant liar who would tell his family he is going to train his replacement or not. Either he is a blatant liar and he was not going to train his replacement, or he was telling the truth and that was precisely what he was doing.

    If that is what he was doing why does Life Literature not own up? (And also acknowledge the shopping trip to buy supplies, while at it).

    If he was lying, then tell me, how do we believe him anywhere else? If he lies about ‘little things’ (like innocent trips to Haiti), why would he not lie about bigger things?

  6. Q. LIFE Literature pleaded with Harold *not* to return to Haiti; is it possible they did not know he was going? 

    A: Is it possible? Absolutely.Either way, it raises questions:
    a).  Why wouldn’t they put out a statement publicly to that effect instead of Lamar Nolt responding in ‘beat around the bush’ kind of answers that don’t ever tell the facts as they are?
    b). Why did they continue paying him after he was fired back in September, until after my blog came out?
    c). And a random other question… Them firing him overlapped with Haiti Benefit Auction allegedly raising concerns about Harold…. What hidden stories lie beneath all that silence?

  7. TRIGGER ALERT:
    Q: Was Harold Herr’s wife crazy, psychotic, or mentally ill?

    A: This is a very interesting question. And one we cannot answer with certainty in the clinical sense.  There was definitely signs she was depressed,  based on information I have gathered. She would be some special kind of woman — somewhat super human, really — if she wasn’t depressed after discovering her husband was having sex with animals. I think most women would struggle, don’t you? I mean, another woman you can find a way to confront. But… animals? That makes anything fair game.After Harold Herr was released from the school he had somewhat of a breakdown and they went to Phil Haven for family counseling.  His son Daniel, in the presence of others, said to Harold, “I saw you with the chickens.” His wife (who was allegedly the crazy one, according to rumours), was forced to contend with the fact that her husband was not faithful to her. Not only was he unfaithful to her, he didn’t choose another woman, he chose chickens. Pause, for just a moment, and process that. As a wife, honestly, wouldn’t you struggle just a smidge? It’s almost beyond human comprehension.

    Now add the fact that her son saw his father using the chickens for sex and at age 14 had to be the one to speak out.* Any mother who wouldn’t struggle wouldn’t be healthy and normal. If that stuff doesn’t make your mind spin, as a wife or a mother, and even more so depending what other traumas she had in her life…

    The following letter was written by Isaac K. Sensenig to Freda Herr.

    August 17, 1988

    Dear Friend: 

                I received your letter, and it is shockingly informative.  Harold had poured his heart out to us as a Centerville ministry some years ago.  He confessed to taking something from the place he worked that did not belong to him.  He also confessed to beastiology [sic], and we had him make a public confession concerning the matter.  We feel he had repented of the matters involved including necessary restitution.  We knew nothing of the items of incest you refer to in the letter.  They may have taken place since.  I am sorry to hear this and pray for his repentance and deliverance.

                Since he is no longer a member with us, you probably should write to Earl Horst or Edwin Gehman.  I am surely willing to be used to help him, like all other persons.  We as a church surely would not cover anything up to spare such a person.

                I would like to see him repent, and their marriage corrected as well.  I have a deep-felt concern that the items mentioned will not hinder you nor your mother from being saved people.

     Sincerely,

    Isaac K. Sensenig

    *More later on what it means that Daniel, as a youngster saw his father raping chickens, and at age 14 spoke up about the bestiality, but was not believed when he spoke out later about his fathers heinous crimes. Yes, raping chickens, in and of itself is a crime. (To all who cry ‘it’s under the blood’… more on that later as well).

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  8. Q: Are you aware that a group of men (named to be among them were Preacher Mose Stoltzfus, Darwin Hostetler) met in PA recently to discuss: “What do we do with Trudy?” 

    A: (Following a hearty laugh. This brings to mind a certain song in Sound of Music: How do you solve a problem like Trudy… I mean, Maria?) I did not know, and then I did, after several people contacted me…To the question at hand: What to do with Trudy? That is a very good question. If the men in this group are looking to silence me, they will have to kill me. It’s that simple.

    I am called to expose this corruption. And expose it I will until God says ‘be silent’ or someone here takes matters in their own hands and puts me to rest. Even that they cannot do until my death serves His kingdom purposes more than my life.  He holds my life in His hands.

    I have suggestions for other less extreme measures that could be tried, some that have already been threatened by other ‘godly Anabaptist world-changers’ … like a lawsuit. But that would only confirm the true character of the individuals involved. So, as much as no one wants that stress, I do want to see the true character revealed, and if that is what it takes…. so be it.

    There are a whole host of victims who were beaten and whipped, molested and otherwise abused under the advice and under the leadership of Preacher Mose and Charity (Ephrata) leadership. I have no doubt there are many who would welcome their day in court. So in the end,  if it will all serve the desired end of revealing truth of all the corruption buried,  I am willing to go through whatever I must for that to happen.

    So my advice? Do what you need to do to show us who you really are. Because there are godly Anabaptists — leaders and lay people alike — who will rise up against corruption when they see it. Some sincere ones don’t see it yet. But they will.

    Alternatively, there would be the much better option of coming clean, fully repenting and moving toward Christ-like redemption.

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  9. I do have one closing question to leave here, hanging in thin air:  What devilish thing lies hidden that makes me such a threat that I am worthy of these men meeting to figure out what to do with me? If there is nothing hidden to be unearthed, why not just let me rant and let it blow over? What wickedness do they not want exposed that would inspire them to gather together to discuss what to do with Trudy, or how to get rid of her? 

    That alone sounds like the work of demons and devils. It most certainly is not the least  bit reflective of Jesus Christ, who suffered false accusations in silence. He was the one the Pharisees sought to eliminate because He was an affront to their hidden wickedness. Jesus was never the one seeking to rid His world or His space of those who spoke out, whether speaking truth or not. It simply is not the Jesus Way

    The fact is, I am not throwing around false allegations. At least one Eastern leader has confirmed to a friend that some of the allegations are true. I have said, and continue to say, I do not know what all is truth in this story. I was not there. I am not God. What I do know is that Harold engaged in bestiality and his young son could only have known to address it if he saw the crimes committed. In that act alone, laying aside every other detail, the then-young-Daniel was extremely sexually violated. Extremely victimized.*

    Who of you would let your young son witness his father having sex with animals and walk away concluding he was not sexually victimized? (And if even one of you said yes, shame on you!)

     

  10. Q: Is it true that Harold Herr’s wife committed suicide? 

    A: Since no autopsy was ever done, it is impossible to say with certainty one way or the other.  Given what I’ve shared of what she was living with, and the fact she was not heard and the church made her the crazy one,  it certainly would not be a shocking outcome, but I would hesitate to surmise such a thing without proof. To my knowledge it was not ruled a suicide. (I welcome updates if there is evidence to support such a thing).

  11. Q.) How do we know the letters written by Daniel and dated some 30 years ago is/are legit?
    A: Let me repost the letter (with Daniel’s permission) after the last question, showing the list of all who received a copy at that time. It speaks for itself and is well documented.
     
  12. Q: Lastly, is it true that I redacted a portion of the letter (shared next in full) to hide the fact that Daniel stated some uncertainty regarding details in his memories? 

    A: No. I posted the very redacted version because I had promised Daniel to post nothing revealing. I kept that promise. As for uncertainty about all the details, that is the most normal thing in trauma memory.Today I sat with a friend whose child was tragically killed a few months ago. Not forty years ago. A few months ago. As she told me the story of the events of that day for the first time (she is in another country and it was our first time meeting since her child’s death), she would pause and say she’s uncertain about something. She would share a detail, then pause and question her memory. And she would pick up the pieces of the story, through the trauma, and keep talking.  She didn’t doubt whether her son died. That fact was a certainty. She did question details.It is the height of idiocy to write off someone’s traumatic experience based on a most normal trauma response. To be confused about the details of vile acts committed against you as a child is normal. To question the horror — especially when there is an evidence trail (ie; Harold admitting to bestiality and his young son speaking up about it), and then to believe the abuser, (yes he is that, what else do you call someone who rapes chickens?) while disregarding the son and the wife…

    That is the game of people who are pursuing self-preservation, not truth. It is the game of the guilty. It is a game of those covering evil. It is barely worth entertaining such nonsense in a blog. And I certainly don’t do it for them. I do it for those who sincerely want to know the truth.

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*****

ABOUT CRITICAL THINKING AND SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT:
We hear and use the statement “don’t check your brains at the door”. In essence, we are hearing, “Apply critical thought to the information you hear/see.” That includes right here, on my blog. And it should include the teachings you’ve been handed and told are truth. If you read the evidence I post through the lens of what you’ve been told to believe or out of thoughtless belief that what I say is true, rather than through critical thought and spiritual discernment, then you have checked your brains at the door. I urge you to think deeply and analyze what I write. (And I’m not talking about having a minor detail wrong. That’s just petty).

Spiritually, we call this discernment, using both brain (thought) and spiritual awareness, or the ‘sensing of things’. Spiritually, we my not have a solid thought process to offer, but something just ‘feels off’, or ‘feels right’, not an emotional sense of ‘feeling’, usually, but an awareness. A quiet ‘knowing’. This should be held with humility and caution; the human mind has great influence and it is easy to assign spiritual significance to human thought, or hold as certain that which may not be. This can be deadly. (For example, when a spiritual ‘guide’ – whether counsellor, pastor or other – ‘senses’ that a person has been abused and even by who, and then plants such a thing. There are people who have brought false allegations against individuals this way. It is not wise, and it is not right).

Critical thinking can be intertwined with discernment, or it can be a most practical non-spiritual exercise. It can be ‘looking at the facts with a deeper ‘below the surface’ kind of critique’. What I plan to share today focuses on the latter; a practical exercise in looking at information I posted in the blog Timeline of ‘Grandpa Harold’, and purpose for revealing his identity…. Evidence that is easily missed apart from applying critical thinking, combined with knowledge of at least some details, and if or how there might have been an admission of guilt by the accused. In this case, that admission is documented.

A series of question every individual must ask in a case like this is:

  1. Is it wrong (abuse) to have sex with an animal? (Known as bestiality).
  2. Is it wrong (abuse) to have sex with an animal in the presence of a child? 
  3. Is it wrong (abuse) for a parent to engage in sexual activity of any sort in front of child?

Anyone who who professes Christianity and answered any of the above ‘no’, I’d like to hear your justification. You may send me your argument via the “Contact Trudy” page. And if you do these things, please include details of your acts, as well as your full name, date of birth, full address. These acts are all crimes. But, I cannot imagine that anyone said the above are ok.

On that assumption, we have established:

  1. Sex with an animal is abuse.
  2. Sex with an animal in front of a child is abuse, of both the animal and the child.
  3. It is wrong for parents to have sex in front of their children.

The next series of questions is:

  1. Can we establish that any such acts took place?
  2. Can we establish that any of these acts were admitted by the accused?

The first question was answered in the timeline.  It tells us that, when speaking with Detective Ortenzi, Harold Herr tried to shift focus away from the allegations of sexual abuse and admitted to engaging in bestiality. (There is also a letter from a church leader who acknowledged Harold did indeed admit to bestiality).

For the sake of argument and in honour of a few of my heckling Facebook friends, let’s grant it that Harold ‘repented’ of bestiality at Centerville church, as per the letter. Let’s say that moment it indeed was “under the blood” (as these same men like to repeat in every allegation). In that case, “Praise Jesus!”

If true! Praise Him indeed! This means there is no more reason to hide, to walk in shame, to manipulate… 

But, alas, that ‘repentance‘ took place around 1975, give or take a year or two. Those dates are approximates, lest anyone feels compelled to use this uncertainty of which year to distract from the real issue. It is hard to ask dead men for confirmation. Also, séances are forbidden by God, so we won’t go there.

At that time Daniel Herr was approximately 14 years old. After his father, Harold Herr, was released from teaching school, they went to Phil Haven for help. While there, in the presence of others but addressing his father, the young Daniel made the statement that he had seen his father engaging in bestiality. (This was not told to me by Daniel, but by someone else who was present at that time and heard it).

We have established that Harold Herr engaged in sexual abuse of chickens. He admitted to bestiality and *allegedly repented. (*I will explain this ‘allegedly’ momentarily).

We have further established that Harold Herr sexually violated his son when he engaged in bestiality in front of him. We have also established that his young son first spoke out as a very young teen,  in the presence of multiple witnesses. (For them what thinks there has to be a few witnesses for it to count).

The problem is, Harold Herr did not repent of this abuse of his son. Sins cannot be “under the blood” as many like to say Harold’s are, when they are denied and not repented of.  It is not possible. They can be covered up, denied, ignored and excused. But they cannot be under the blood when they are denied.

Harold’s son, Daniel, deserves a humble apology from his father and humble repentance for his sins and crimes. At 14 …. think about it… at 14 he spoke up. And still he is being viewed the liar and his father the saint by some. I can’t even wrap my head around what level of religious perversion that requires… Religious perversion, and religious arrogance. And I pray that is but a small (albeit vocal) group ‘among us’.

Furthermore, even after his ‘repentance’ in the mid 70’s, Harold’s son saw him engage in ongoing sexual assault of animals over the period of numerous years.

It is easy for some in religious community — usually those with a vested interest in silence and not having something discussed or exposed — to grab the widest brush possible and say, “He has repented. You should not speak of it again. That sin is under the blood.”

I say, “If it’s under the blood so thoroughly, by all means, let’s talk about it!” Let’s be honest about what was done, how it impacted others, how we pursued healing and redemption on behalf of those we harmed and victimized. Let’s not focus on our own self-preservation.

If we truly believe that Jesus came to do what He said He came to do, then let’s be like the Apostle Paul and not hide our sins. And let’s make sure that those we victimized, and their families, hear us acknowledge our wrongdoing.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

 

 

A former conservative Anabaptist (CA) pastor speaks; A meeting with a few godly men (including a CA pastor); And a glorious shattering

Before sharing the main blog, I want to address a few things that that have surfaced a few times through this process.

WHAT ARE CREDIBLE ALLEGATIONS:
Does ‘credible allegations’ mean I am telling my readers that everything that was/is reported is exactly 100% as reported? Am I saying with unquestioning certainty that “all allegations are true”?

I have said it numerous times, “I am not God. I make no claims to know exactly what was done.” What I am saying is the allegations are not fluff and there is merit to them to the point that there should be a deep investigation. It is in this that CAM and LIFE Literature failed.  I have never asked anyone to unquestioningly endorse as absolute truth what they hear. But I have and will continue to insist that independent third party investigations must be done when such allegations are brought forward, by someone trained in handling victims in a sensitive manner. Such allegations must never be ignored.  And those against whom allegations have been brought should not be sent out on the mission field. It will backfire.

LET’S WAIT UNTIL THE COURTS DECIDE INNOCENCE OR GUILT
This would be a brilliant idea if the cases had been reported before the statute of limitations was up. Sadly, because leaders failed to listen and report years ago, that is no longer an option, so it is my vote that those same people don’t get to give the advice of silence until the courts decide. The courts will never decide on the Daniel Herr case because he was disregarded for approximately 30 to 40 years, and the whispers and allegations were excused.  So, no, we don’t wait. We do the right thing and let the public know.

There are more, but I will leave it there for tonight.

*****

The following is a conversation I had with a friend on Facebook Messenger. I asked his permission to share here, including his name: 

STEVE LAPP (not with LOH, for clarification):
Just read your update on “ Grandpa “ .. The coverups that continue to be exposed are beyond comprehension to me. I am convinced there is no limit to the blindness that accompanies the attitude of moral and spiritual superiority. ( God help us ) PS : I thought there was no statute of limitations on sexual crimes involving minors.
MY RESPONSE:
[As I understand it, the statute of limitations now is] age 50, [for any] victim [who] was under 18 in 2006. It formerly was 18 years […], plus 12 years. (So [age] 30). In 2006 that changed. But the [alleged] victims [in this case, other than those in Haiti] are over 50.

What makes me so sick is that they didn’t bother talking to victims and report to the law. None of them. Not in that many churches, leaders or organizations. And then, rather than deal with it when it gets exposed, they gaslight and say “Trudy is just trying to destroy mission organizations”. And for what earthly reason would I do that?! Ignorant. (Not that I care they say it. I just further exposes their ignorance).

STEVE LAPP:
It’s dark [the abuse]… My childhood was so happy , so secure, filled with love and laughter. There were no dark clouds in the sky for me as a child. I trusted , and never found a reason to mistrust.
Nowadays tho, I do lots of reflecting, and I realize how stunningly stupid and ignorant we become when we blindly trust a “ movement “ of any sort , and particularly a religious movement. I was once a follower of the Charity churches ( for a short time ) . Only when I began to question some of the “absolutes” in the Anabaptist community did my eyes begin to see into some of the darkness that was there. It’s been a journey “out” for many years now , yet I struggle to grasp the enormity of the problem among my people.
It seems to me as long as we hang on to even a trace of the idea that we are spiritually superior as a group ie: Anabaptist , (although it’s true in any group) we will never be able to see clearly. It’s incredibly blinding and should shake us to the core of our being , for it’s a mindset that is a breeding ground for gross immortality and wickedness.

Yes, there’s much progress been made among Anabaptist leaders as far as enlightenment, but until we are broken by our sin of “ spiritual superiority “ I fear this monster ( sexual immorality ) will always be present and thriving. We need more than enlightenment. We are in desperate need of brokenness that goes beyond admitting we have a “ problem “ with immortality. We have a pride problem that we need to own up to, and repent of .

 

***

This evening I had coffee with 3 conservative Anabaptist gentlemen (one was my brother), and later Tim joined in too. It was good. It struck me, at one moment before Tim arrived that the last time I met with 3 (or more) conservative Anabaptist men by myself I was 18, a brand new Christian, and was being grilled about my sexual history. The memory flashed through my mind and it struck me how safe I felt tonight. These are three honourable men.

We sat and talked about my work, and one of them (the pastor in our midst), referring to the conservative Anabaptists in relation to my work, asked thoughtfully and gently, “How did you become our adversary? We need you.” He went on to say we should be partnering together, not fighting one another, in addressing the epidemic. 

In that I didn’t hear him say, “I endorse every detail of how you do your work.” But on the other hand I didn’t hear him judge. He simply acknowledged that there is an abuse problem that needs to be addressed, and he acknowledged God’s calling on my life and the gift He has given me to do what I do. He also acknowledged pride (religious pride and arrogance) as a contributing factor to the problem at hand. 

There is something humbling and empowering, sitting in the presence of men of God with such humility. It is touching, and a reflection of the heart of God. 

And this, my friends, is why I do not fight against ‘the Anabaptist culture’. It is a problem of individuals who are arrogant and selfish, not a problem of a culture in and of themselves. I have honourable and true-hearted friends, so very many of them, within the culture. They don’t put their faith in the culture or any of the practices; it is a way of life, not a way of salvation. The bulk of my friends, prayer warriors and supporters are conservative Anabaptist. They are the people whose love and prayers carry me through the the ministry I do. 

Then, to have encounters such as this evening — or like when I sit with my Amish friends in USA and one of their ministers comes to ask question — and I sit and talk heart to heart with conservative Anabaptist leaders who genuinely cares about addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in a redemptive and forthright manner, my heart is filled with gratitude.

The Spirit of God is alive and well among my people. Change is coming. Be encouraged.

A line has been drawn in the sand, and people will choose whether they will stand for truth and honour, or continue to bow to the idol of ‘good image’… will they rise up against this evil and bring healing to the children, or will they preserve self and reputation?

It is a painful shattering of illusions, but beyond that shattering lies glorious freedom and healing for victims and offenders.

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As always…

Love,
~ T ~

*****

Trudy offers conferences for survivors of abuse, and training to equip churches and the community in caring for victims and offenders. If you would like to inquire about having a conference or training in your area, send an inquiry via Contact TrudyTo support Generations Unleashed, the charity she works for, Donate Here.

SURVEY: Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse: If you are/were CA and have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you.

I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

Timeline of ‘Grandpa Harold’, and purpose for revealing his identity…

My previous blog was not posted lightly. It has been the contemplation of many months, many conversations, and the most careful consideration given to the alleged victim(s)’ needs. I took direction from the alleged victim whose letter was shared in the previous blog, in particular, as well as several informants. All wanted to disclose publicly to prevent risk of further harm and prevent more victim at the hands of ‘Grandpa’,  who is ‘Grandpa Harold’ to some, or Harold Herr. However, for all who speak out there is a cost, and I do not get to choose when to impose that on them.

Since releasing the initial blog yesterday, the individual with the timeline [referenced in yesterday’s blog: Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries] felt peace about releasing it. There has been much conversation as to the best way to move ahead. When names are released, there is serious backlash. When they are not released, there is serious backlash. Our decision is not based on that. Our decision is very specifically made based on what will accomplish the best outcome with the least damage.

Do we always get it right? I certainly don’t. But sitting on my hands debating what to do isn’t an option.

As with other details related to going public, each party has put effort into offering understanding to the others. (ie; if one was not ready to go public, none would. And if one was not ready to make the name public, none would).

In their communication with me, and any communication forwarded, they have been kind and respectful, with no intent to harm ‘Grandpa’. They made the decision out of a deep passion and conviction to prevent further victims and give Grandpa Harold opportunity to seek real help and take responsibility. This has not been easy for them. They have my deepest respect.  I honour their voices and speak no more than they are ready for. So, if you send me messages asking for more detail, I won’t respond. It is not mine to give.

*****

To those who would like a criminal investigation done  before going public:

  1. The statute of limitations is past for these crimes. So that’s not going to happen. (Though, leaders who knew and did nothing could still be charged if it was pursued, I believe. I am not 100%).
  2. The alleged case(s) in Haiti are incredibly difficult to prosecute due to alleged victim(s) having no permanent address that can be passed on to law enforcement. We’re still working on all of this, but at best it is challenging.

*****

The following timeline was written by someone I do not know and have never met. (I hope one day that changes). The introduction is completely their words:

“The informants disclose the perpetrator’s identity only after weighing the situation with great sensitivity, compassion, and dedication to integrity vs. malice, vindication, or retaliation.  They realize that he can only receive help for his self-destructive addiction to pedophilia, perpetuated by religion, through the tough love of accountability.  Potential victims can only be protected from the danger he currently poses to society by honorably identifying him as a source of harm. Covering would be complicit participation in devastation both for the perpetrator and his victims.”

The following timeline was sent to me months ago, and the redacted version was submitted to me today, to be posted:

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*****

What makes the information submitted so compelling, is that sources were not connected to each other, and none, when they contacted me, knew others were communicating with me. Each carried his/her own piece of a tragic puzzle.

Even so, it is not my goal to make judgements or determinations on the details. It is my goal to:

  1. Give the church, organizations and individuals involved opportunity to repent.
  2. Once again give opportunity for the accused to come forward with truth, without manipulation, lies or other self-preservation.
  3. Give opportunity for others who have offended and/or covered up to come forward and come clean. (This is by far not the last case that landed on my desk over the Jeriah Mast case. There are other alleged abusers who were known, or in some cases allegedly known, by some of the same people, churches, and/or organizations.

Contrary to popular belief, among some, I do not find any joy in discovering more and more cases. While I am not surprised, it continues to shatter me. I read stories and testimonies, and weep. No child should suffer sexual abuse, or any other abuse. No adult should have to live with those memories, having been overlooked, neglected and silenced. Some go on to thrive and do well. Some remain locked in a state of trauma and pay with their health and their life.

To anyone involved in abuse and coverup… I am not asking you to like how I expose abuse. I’m not asking you to agree with me in practice or doctrine. But I am inviting you to reach out if you are ready to come clean and work toward acknowledging and healing for victims, and taking full ownership. You don’t have to like me for me to help you.

I won’t cover up. But I will gladly work cooperatively to bring truth to light in other ways. There is always grace, always forgiveness for the truly repentant. But cover up can not ever be part of that equation. That’s not grace of forgiveness; it’s self preservation at the expense of truth. I don’t partner with that. It is my prayer that all guilty parties here will repent. Truly repent.

I am committed to seeing this epidemic of sexual abuse in our Anabaptist culture through to greater exposure and greater healing. Even in exposing, it is my hope that somehow it will begin to heal the victims and the church. And, frankly, I hope it brings the church to her knees in repentance.

When the same organizations and individuals are involved in repeated cases of sexual crimes, at home and abroad, we have to start asking some pretty hard questions.

How did we get here?

And how do we move to a better place?

The problem is multifaceted. The solution, while complex, must begin with a repentant individual or group, no longer willing to cover up. That’s step one… and only the beginning.

****

NOTE: As stated yesterday, Grandpa Harold is to return to Haiti in the near future to do some training for the same organization where Jeriah Mast worked one day a week. We have not heard if this trip has been cancelled.

I am not out to destroy mission organizations. I am determined to hold accountable those who have and are looking the other way when they know there are allegations. It is inexcusable that the leader at CAM, who was interviewed by the reporter (yesterday’s blog), stated ‘good behaviour’ (in a nutshell…and assuming in public, given the crimes allegedly going on behind the scenes) is enough to declare innocence.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Conservative Mennonite missionary “Grandpa” accused of molesting minors: 4 decades, 2 countries

Note: This blog was proofed and approved by the four critical parties who are referenced in documentation and/or who brought documentation forward.

EDIT/ADDITION: In the next blog ‘Grandpa’ is named. To avoid confusion, we are adding the link here: Timeline of Grandpa Harold and Purpose for Revealing his Identity.

****

It was late summer 1989, if memory serves me right… maybe 1990. I had returned to my Conservative Mennonite church about 2 years prior, after several years of pretty harsh living. Now, a young adult roughly two years into my conversion, I faced my 20’s with new-found faith and freedom. Life was good.

The conversation took place on one of many trips to US, where I had many friends and dated a young man for over several years. I don’t recall which year it was, exactly, but the moment lingers in my memory…

A group of youth, myself included, visited an Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite church that summer Sunday night. I don’t recall who preached. I don’t recall about what. But I do recall the startling moment of standing in a group of youth discussing a school teacher who had allegedly molested his students. He then had left the Eastern Mennonite Church, moved to another conservative Mennonite group, and was ordained there. That this was acceptable, horrified me. And that adults couldn’t see the risk of such a thing baffled me.

Nonetheless, the information came, and it went. I did nothing with it. Not beyond maybe another conversation or two. And then I laid it aside. What is a barely-past-teens adult to do about that which they’ve never been taught; that which many only whisper in the shadows, but have no clue how to address? Especially in the ’80’s and ’90’s, and in our setting… long before the topic was welcomed. (Not that it really is now, but we’ve made progress).

Spring 2019, the topic resurfaced… Not from one individual, but eight including documentation from an alleged victim, as well as documentation dating back to 1970’s with verifiable timelines. Besides messages, several individuals spoke with me about this alleged abuser, wondering if there was some way to expose him and warn the public. The first messages started trickling in shortly before Jeriah Mast was exposed for his sex crimes in Haiti and Ohio, completely unsolicited, and they continued coming after. The most recent contact, from a total stranger, was December 2019. 

*****

Circumstantially, I met with the alleged abuser to discuss another matter, and in that conversation I told him of the allegations against him, and asked what he had to say for himself. He made one significant error that day. He lied. He said the individual(s) bringing the allegations had withdrawn them. I knew for a fact that was untrue. Whenever a person has to tell an untruth to convince me of innocence, it tends to raise my concerns. (Ironically, he spoke with someone soon after my meeting with him, and next thing I know, I allegedly sent a woman  in Canada to prison for not changing her baby’s diaper often enough. I sure hope that woman who went to prison wasn’t me!).

A second troubling tidbit was that he boasted having proof that a child he was alleged to have fathered in USA (or was somehow in question) was not his. If he never assaulted the mother, or touched her, why would he need proof the child is not his? And since that proof was not a DNA test, it would hold no weight in court. The child would need to be found and a DNA test done to prove his claims. (I will refrain from disclosing what item the ‘proof’ was/is, as it becomes too revealing of story I cannot yet share).

We shall call the alleged abuser Grandpa, without using his name at this point.  It is not critical that the public know his name until I am asked, by victims, to make his name public. So a nameless Grandpa he will be.

*****

Initially, when told of the allegations and asked how to stop him, there was nothing I could do. I had been given allegations from numerous sources, but none by witnesses or alleged victims. No documentation. But as more information trickled in, that changed.

Three particularly compelling testimonies caused me great concern. One stood out in particular, of those three, because it allegedly transpired over the ocean, in a remote area, far away from the allegations dating back four decades.

A man was traveling on the mission field with this Grandpa in the vehicle when a man from that remote community approached their vehicle. He was irate and called the Grandpa an unrighteous man. The traveling partner did not know why they called him unrighteous; suffice it to say, he had a bad reputation.

On another occasion, a missionary was in the area without the Grandpa, standing at a small shop where they purchase drinks and snacks. He was in a group of men and boys, natives of that country, when a few youngsters walked by. Pointing to one of them, someone in the group said, “That one is [the Grandpa’s] [child].” (Note, the name of the grandpa in question was spoken, and the gender of the child was revealed. I am not comfortable sharing that information here). Not only were there claims that Grandpa had fathered a child, but that he had fathered the child with a minor (an exceptionally young minor) in their community.

What’s more, the minor who was allegedly assaulted gave birth to a child at around 9 months after the time Grandpa visited the community. And it was confirmed that Grandpa was indeed in the community, over night and without anyone else to hold him accountable, at the time the alleged assaults took place.

It is very possible the child is not his. I make no claims one way or the other. But certainly, if he did assault the young girl, it is also possible the child is his. However, even if the child was not his, it does not negate the allegations against him.  It is uncanny that a man, who has allegations in his home country dating back more than 4 decades, winds up with allegations in the mission field. Allegations from someone with no knowledge of former allegations.

What is more, the Grandpa reportedly kept in contact with that young mom and her child, ensuring provision for them on various practical fronts. Either he is an incredibly good-hearted man, or he has his own worries that maybe he’s responsible for the child… or at least that he harmed the mother. I can’t tell you which it is. I don’t know.

The following is evidence sent to me, again with no solicitation on my part, of allegations made against this Grandpa.

Note the date on the following letter. Tonight is the eve of the 30th anniversary of when it was written. Coincidence that I expose it this at this time, and that I did not realize it was exactly 30 years? I think not:

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A list of all individuals to whom the letter was sent has been removed, as it is too revealing.

Not only did international allegations (referenced above) came to my attention this past year; I discovered that many people knew of these allegations dating back to the 80’s. It remains almost common knowledge, it seems, in some communities.

One of the items sent to me includes leaders that were spoken to at various times, which organizations, which churches. All who did not act on what they heard. (Ironically, that is just the thing Judge R took the church to task for in Jeriah Mast’s sentencing. Someone must have known. Someone must have said somethingand no one did anything. (Not sure if wording is exact).

That these allegations were never reported, adequately investigated or pursued, and that he was allowed to (just like Jeriah Mast) to work with the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, is shameful at best. The quote in the newspaper article (below) “I’ve heard [Grandpa/John – not his real name] repeatedly say, and supported by his Christ-like lifestyle, that he never abused anyone.” (Hmmm… that’s what Jeriah Mast said too, until he couldn’t anymore). The article is worth reading. Other quotes show the mentality in leaders who refuse to interview family of the accused, or their victims. They simply accept the testimony of the accused.

The knowledge of allegations crosses over 4 decades, at minimum 3 organizations, and at least 3 churches. (The timeline is very detailed, however, I do not know what churches some of the leaders affiliate with). And NOT ONE… NOT ONE did the right thing. How does this go on… and on….. and on… ?

The following account was published in the newspaper, and one of the situations mentioned, refers to the man in question. The journalist covers several cases in the article, including referencing ‘Grandpa’:

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Sadly, as always, there is much more tragedy to the story than can be adequately shared. Not only of the Grandpa’s alleged crimes, but also how it negatively impacted his alleged victims, and others under his influence, and the ripple effects it caused.

I was just informed that Grandpa is about to embark on another mission trip to do some training….

Some things, it seems, we are slow to learn…

*****

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2020

****

SURVEY

Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Leaders’ Response to Abuse: If you are/were CA and have been sexually abused and interacted with a CA leader regarding the abuse, this survey is for you.

I am preparing several other surveys and will release them on our SURVEYS PAGE.

 

True forgiveness leaves offenders in their own noose… And a sneak peek at survey results

We Anabaptists say that for a Catholic priest to forgive a penitent sinner is false doctrine. He has no such authority, we say, to stand in the place of God and forgive sins.

We then turn around and teach that victims of sexual abuse and violence must forgive their offenders. It is his/her Christian duty. And we teach that it brings freedom not only to the offended but also to the offender. Moreover, we have members’ meetings in which the guilty are singled out, and the congregation stands to declare forgiveness.

Tell me, if the Catholic priest has no such rights and authority, how can we say that we do? Do we not also stand in the place of God, and encourage victims to do so, when we make forgiveness about the offender? (I understand the priest ‘absolves’ the sinner, which sounds much worse, but only means to set free from guilt or responsibility. So, same thing as forgiveness. Same doctrinal practice).

Forgiveness is one of the most crucial aspects of *our own healing*. It has nothing to do with setting the other person free from their sins or wrongs. It sets *us* free from *their* sins and wrongs. It’s like it cuts the rope of the noose the offender placed around our neck, and allows us to truly live, completely released from him/her and the crimes committed against us.

Part of that noose is vindictiveness; entertaining the urge to retaliate. Part of that noose is vengeance; the act of getting even and letting them have it. Part of that noose is hatred; despising the person rather than the vile acts they committed. When we cut the noose, we release hatred for the person, and we release vengeance and vindictiveness. We are no longer obsessed with getting back at them. We trade those things for compassion, and maintain a desire for truth and justice, and to protect the vulnerable. The latter qualities do not evaporate with forgiveness. In this exchange, when we forgive, we become whole and the noose about our neck is severed.

When we cut that noose, however, offenders are no more free from their noose than before we forgave. He/she must come before God taking full ownership and in full repentance to be freed from the noose around his/her neck. Both ‘cheap forgiveness’ — the kind that quickly tidies things up to look good,  and lack of forgiveness — that keeps us constantly seeking vengeance, hold offender in bondage and do nothing for the freedom of the victim. It is a gift to the offender to be held accountable.

We are set free when we forgive, and we release them to accountability before God and the law.

In other words, forgiveness is an act of faith in God. Through forgiveness we recognize that the offender remains accountable before God for his/her sins/crimes, not to us. Vengeance is not ours; it is Gods.

Forgiveness also does not fulfil the demand of law and government. That is a separate accountability structure. (Romans 13). We have no more authority to ‘forgive’ the offender and ‘free them from responsibility to the law’ than we have to offer eternal life through forgiveness of sins.

False doctrine surrounding forgiveness keeps both victim and offender in bondage to the sin/crime committed. It keeps the victim in bondage to the consequences of the offender’s sins/crimes. We were not designed to carry the consequences of our own sins, let alone the sins of another. We can only choose to take ownership of our healing needs that result from those sins/crimes.

Forgiveness leaves the offender, right there in his/her own noose, before God. Because that noose has nothing to do with the victim. It has everything to do with his/her heart before God. It leaves the offender with the choice to reach up and cry out for forgiveness from God, and turn from the wickedness, or to slowly strangle the life out of him/herself. Our false doctrine of forgiveness leaves the offender to strangle, not realizing that’s what is happening.

True forgiveness, separated from the offender and his/her story, sets the victim free from the offender. It sets the victim free from the offence. It sets the victim free *from the consequences of the offence*. It releases the victim *from* being a victim *to* being empowered.

True forgiveness frees the victim to become an overcomer. And it frees the victim to take ownership of his/her own healing.

That’s what real forgiveness does.

***

SURVEY:

Currently we have a survey looking at Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.  We have 77 responses in under two days, which is outstanding. We are also collecting data on relationship of offender(s) to victims. Some of the results, as usual, are pretty much what we expected. Others are startling. For example:

SNEAK PREVIEW OF SURVEY RESULTS BASED ON 78 respondents:
• 40% of victims have been assaulted by their brothers
• 31%  of victims have been assaulted by family friends
• 27% of victims have been assaulted by their fathers
• 10% of victims have been assaulted by their mothers
• 15% of victims have been sexually assaulted by more than 5 offenders
• Roughly 57% of victims who suffered only SA or only DV left the conservative; When the two are combined — SA & DV — that number jumps to nearly 70%
• 30% of SA victims (no DV) who left the church say leaders played a significant role in their leaving the church; coincidentally 42% of all SA victims (no DV)  would recommend going to leaders
• 36% of DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 87% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support
• 42% of SA & DV victims who left the church say leaders’ response played a significant role in leaving the church; 100% advise victims NOT to go to leaders for support

NOTE: While the numbers are startling, it should not be assumed that 10% of all CA survivors (outside of this study) were molested by mothers. There are many factors that could contribute to this representation in this particular survey.
….

There is much more emerging, and when we have enough participants to feel fairly confident in the data, I plan to do a deep analysis and share some of the graphs and stats here. I’m hopeful that we will have around 200 participants with a bit of time. (Currently we are at 78, so climbing even since writing the last two paragraphs).

I have fine-tuned that survey, and will release the improved version on our new Survey’s Page shortly. (Hoping later tonight). I plan to update this page with new surveys as I get then ready, so check back. While this blog is the sole ownership and responsibility of myself, Trudy Metzger, the data gathered will be used by Generations Unleashed to better understand sexual abuse in our culture. I will also share surveys for other individual i trust, and who are researching sexual abuse.

I am hopeful that as the conversations continue, professionals and support persons alike will be equipped to give better advice and support sexual abuse survivors in our conservative Mennonite culture. For example, if professionals are encouraging victims to go to their leaders, but victims are finding their leaders to be abusive, then such advice should stop.

But it should not end there. Leaders should be trained and equipped to respond in more effective ways. Looking at the results above it appears (and has consistently throughout the survey) that leaders’ response to DV is even more neglectful than sexual abuse. There are many things that play into responses, including silence surrounding the topic. Respondents talked about ‘seeing change’ and ‘being hopeful’ that there is improvement. And some referenced ‘the last 10 years’.

This makes sense to me. The last 10 years is when we’ve started addressing sexual abuse more and more openly. It is anecdotal evidence that conversation is necessary for change. So let’s keep talking!

And, lest I’ve completely distracted you from good intentions, you can take the survey Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Responses to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence and let your voice make a difference. Also, for more accurate results.

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Should survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support?

Survivors of SEXUAL ABUSE and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE in ANABAPTIST COMMUNITY:

Should professionals advise survivors of sexual abuse or domestic to go to church leaders to report and/or seek support? Would you advise them to go to leaders, based on your experience? Why, or why not?

In the past I’ve said (and probably will again in the future) that it is not fair to put it on leaders to counsel victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. They have no training for it. They are not counsellors or psychologists. Not usually, anyway. And how do they effectively support 1 in 3 to 4 women and 1 in 5 to 6 who have been sexually abused, and the domestic violence cases besides? Is it reasonable to expect this? Is it even wise?

Some say it is their duty. Others say it does more harm than good to have those with limited (or no) training and knowledge on these topics be the ‘go to’.  I have my thoughts and opinions, formulated through ten years of working with sexual abuse and occasionally domestic violence victims.

I would love to hear your thoughts, either for or against. To take the survey visit: Conservative Anabaptist Leaders’ Response to Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence. The survey is completely anonymous.

As always…
Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Forgiveness; Compassion; William McGrath a Conservative Anabaptist Leader and Sex Offender, and all the Things

FORGIVENESS
In all the Christian talk about the beauty of forgiveness, we have made the mistake of teaching and believing that forgiveness and justice are at odds. They are compatible. It is not ‘forgiveness *or* justice’. It is ‘forgiveness *and* justice’. God loves both.

The problem is that we really do not understand what forgiveness is and means, and we really don’t understand what justice is and means. (I do not propose to have the understanding either! But to think they are at odds is evidence we are missing something). As a result, most teachings on forgiveness are imbalanced, saying you must choose ‘only’ forgiveness. Many even teach that to forgive means “I am taking the consequences of your sin on myself.”

I would propose that we release ourselves from the consequences of their wrongs and sins when we forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of releasing my heart from the burden I carry as a result of the evils done against me. The greatest longterm ongoing consequence for most sins committed against me is what I believe as a result of that wrong. (There are exceptions. If a drunk driver kills my child, the longterm consequences is my grief, the loss of that child and all that goes with it. I speak here specifically to my experience and most wrong committed against me).

My forgiveness cannot free the other person; only God’s forgiveness can do that. In fact, if handled in such a way that the other person never truly comes to grips with their wrongdoing, ‘forgiveness’ (as taught by many) keeps that person in bondage. There is a kindness in a person being confronted with their own capacity for evil, when paired with compassion, mercy, grace and consequences that holds him/her accountable. If the offender is truly repentant, this encounter is life altering and a gift to him/her and those in relationship with them.

I believe in forgiveness. It transformed my life. It continues to transform my life. It is what set me free to live a whole life, to pursue my calling. And it is what breaks the power their actions had over me. It does not impose on me any code of silence. It does change the way I speak about it. I still call out evil. I still call out corruption and manipulation. I do not hate. I do not call for beheadings, literally or figuratively. I still support going to the law and ensuring offenders cannot continue to hurt people. That’s part of justice.

There is no justice in leaving children vulnerable to predators. None. Nor is that forgiveness. That is ignorance. But true justice never calls for the destruction (death or other) of the wrongdoer. Because true justice recognizes that I, too, am fallen humanity who deserves judgement, and the grace I have received is the grace I pass on. God did not remove this life’s consequences; I continue to live with those to this day. But He did offer me eternal life and removed from me the consequence of eternal death.  That is a gift I offer others, along with restoring their humanity, seeing them as having both capacity for good and for evil, and treating them with dignity even while holding them accountable for that evil.

***

Over my mother’s funeral several of my offenders showed up . One, in particular, stood out. He looks but a broken shell of humanity. Though he is not a family member, I’ve seen him at numerous family events such as weddings and funerals — I anticipate I will see him again tomorrow — and always what it stirs in my heart is grief. Not for what was done against me — I’m done with that grieving and am healed — but of what sin robbed him of. That’s not to say he hasn’t made his heart right before God. I’m not one to judge that. But the eyes tell a story…. and the story his tell… 

I saw him there… So I walked over, stood behind the gentleman talking to him and waited ‘in line’ to speak with him. When my turn came, I shook his hand, and thanked him for his expression of sympathy by coming to mom’s funeral. Admittedly, he looked relieved when my thanks was all I had to say to him.

Whatever he took from me when he molested me, it does not compare with what he lost within himself, and the consequences he has to live with for his choices. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not downplaying his crimes; they had a huge impact on me. Truth is, odds are high I would still be conservative Anabaptist if he had not done what he did. That is where and when I started feeling lost in the culture to such a degree that I knew I could not stay. I saw myself as a misfit who would never survive, and whose dreams would never come true ‘among them’. Trust me, I do not bemoan the outcome, but at the time, as a young teen who dreamed of marrying a Mennonite man — ideally a farmer — it was devastating. I saw only ‘old rejected spinster’ in my future, and that belief isolated me.

The greater harm was the sexual confusion it threw me into. Feeling things for which I had no words or teaching, and the ensuing years of deep shame it cost me. And because word got out, I had no idea who all knew. Every time a young man looked at me, I was sure he was thinking “slut”. So I would sit through special meetings at other churches, blushing and ashamed, whenever a young man looked my way. Yes, the cost was significant.

But I saw the consequences in his eyes at mom’s funeral, and felt only compassion. Since seeing him at mom’s funeral, I’ve said to Tim from time to time, “I think I need to go visit him and his wife. I need to have a conversation with them….”

We will see. If and when the time is right, I will do it. And that visit won’t be for my own good or healing; it will be for his redemption. Not relational restoration. That is not necessary. But his deep soul redemption and freedom.

If I do it, I do it of my own choice. And that choice has nothing whatsoever to do with forgiveness, other than to give me the courage to do it. Forgiveness is something I did in my heart before God many years ago. These things should not be confused with forgiveness, because they are not a requirement of the forgiving process.

COMPASSION
I felt that same compassion standing in the courtroom at Jeriah Mast’s hearing. First, and foremost, I felt deep grief for those whom Jeriah victimized. When the judge read the list of crimes Jeriah confessed to committing, it was all I could do to hold myself together and not begin sobbing. When the judge read how only weeks before the sentencing, Jeriah still said his sexual assaults (at age 25) of minors under 13 was ‘consensual’, I felt frustrated that he still doesn’t ‘get it’ how incredibly vile it is to use children and that there is no such thing as ‘consensual’ when adults take advantage of children. And when the judge handed down the sentence and explained why he chose the 9 years instead of a lesser sentence– because Jeriah is an ongoing risk to the public, in part because he doesn’t get it — I felt a mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that it is a judge who ‘gets it’, not the church, and gratitude that at least someone does.

And when I saw Jeriah handcuffed and taken from the courtroom before a numb audience (his church and family, by all appearances), I felt compassion and deep sorrow. Sorrow that Jeriah’s crimes caused so much loss and harm to the victims, his wife and family, and his friends. Sorrow that so much of religion doesn’t grasp the harm and rallies for the offender. (I was one of less than a handful of people – and that’s a generous number – who were there to support the victims in a courtroom so full that people were standing around the room). And compassion for Jeriah’s soul and the things that took him down this path. It came out in court that he had been sexually abused by an older brother. This in now way excuses his evil deeds. To commit them was a choice, and he must own that before God and man.

Some say he has owned it. I reiterate that his comments not long before sentencing, minimizing his crimes to ‘consensual acts’, are revealing of his lack of grasping the severity of his crimes, which means he isn’t safe around the vulnerable, but the rest — repentance and forgiveness — I leave between him and God. And leave it with God to fully break him and help him understand how evil and far reaching the crimes/sins are. And to understand that children should be protected by 25 year old men; they should not need to be protected from them. 

***

William McGrath. The name evokes many and various responses, depending who is in the audience. Those who hold him high, and idolize this cultural trophy with his charismatic (so some say) personality, it evokes high praise and reverence. For his victims, and those near them, who watched a religious culture idolize him, then (some) question him, followed by deafening silence and cover-up, the name is a reminder of loss and suffering without proper acknowledgement of truth, and certainly a lack of justice. For the Beachy Amish leaders who investigated and then fell short of being honourable, I imagine the name brings shame.

For the woman whose husband — a victim of McGrath — committed suicide… I cannot imagine the deep suffering she has experienced at the silence, and at not hearing McGrath’s name where it should have been spoken, and where his actions should have been unequivocally condemned. And I can’t imagine how healing it must be for her to know that someone has heard her cries.

And ‘that someone’ who heard is the author of Anabaptist Medical Matters, a Conservative Anabaptist (CA) Medical doctor who has recently written several articles addressing the epidemic of sexual abuse in the CA community, including a current one on McGrath. He is forthright, gentle, honest, and — from what I see at a distance — seems to live honourably. (I have never met him, but still hope to one day).

In this article he tells of the case of William, and dares to speak to that which lies carefully buried. But the truth does not die with the body, and the consequences ripple throughout the generations, when sex crimes are left unaddressed. Especially when it is at a religious leadership level. To read the article, visit, “Blessed Are They That Mourn“.

(Warning: The article may be triggering for survivors. Trigger or not, I would read it for the gold that is in it. By giving you a heads up, I hope it will prevent extreme triggering and make it possible for you to push past the triggers. The first potential trigger is in ‘mourn for the offenders’. I agree with the author, but have worked long enough with survivors to know the general consensus is that offenders’ needs are always placed first. If able, push past this and read on. The second trigger is in addressing Jeriah Mast. The author may not be aware that only weeks prior to his sentencing, Mast was still defending/excusing his actions against boys as young as 11 — when he was 25 — as consensual. For those who know this, the author’s statement “By all accounts, he has sincerely repented, even expressing a desire to be rebaptized” could be very triggering).

I do not agree with everything written here, and that’s ok. I see a sincere and honest acknowledgement of deep failure in the CA community, in this writing, and bless the author for daring to go there. It is not a popular move in that culture.

Frankly, until survivors have permission to speak, and those who remain (whether family or culture) repent for the coverups and abuses, there is no changing the course of history. But God forbid that the abusers be the ones to ‘stand in the gap’ and repent for other offenders, if they have not first done so with their own offences. If you are godly, and if you have taken ownership for your wrongs and repented at a personal level, only then have you any right to stand in that gap without making things worse.

***

Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. I feel blessed to be alive and doing so well. I’ve had some near-death encounters in my life — two in particular stand out — including numerous events this year that reminded me of the fragility of life. To have made it half way to 100 and thriving, is the mercy and grace of God.

I have no personal needs but have many in my life who do have needs, so to celebrate my 50th, I invite you to support the following:

  1. THE GATHERING, our second annual event offering survivors of abuse a safe place to gather and connect, a place to find hope, safety and healing. This year we were able to offer attendance considerably below cost, thanks to donors. It is our hope to continue making this event affordable through donations. To donate, visit Generations Unleashed Donate and scroll down to The Gathering 2020.
  2. Support for victims of Jeriah Mast in Haiti who did not accept payouts from Christian Aid Ministries. We started this fund just prior to my mother’s decline and death, with a team of people willing to help oversee it, and with reports. To date we have received two donations — one for $200 and one for $20 — but unfortunately holds were placed on both donations (presumably because it was a new PayPal account, since we could not put this through GU). One hold has now been lifted. Furthermore, the tragic events in Haiti have made it impossible for us to set up vendors where these survivors can go for prepaid supplies, whether groceries or other. As of this week, that has changed for some survivors who have relocated. We will now work toward arranging for their needs to be met, where they have relocated, but will require considerably more funding than the $220 we presently have. Donate: Here and scroll down to Haiti Victims.

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019

Religious community urges forgiveness after ‘foot shooting’ spree

To the pastor whose wife was shot in the foot:
A man wearing a navy hoodie walks into your house one night, shoots your wife in the foot. You read a few bible verses and pray for her. No hospital. No doctor. Just a simple bandage. No police officer.

The next night a man walks in, shoots her in the foot. You respond precisely as the night before.

The third night, same thing.

Each night you urge your wife to forgive. You suggest reading her bible and praying more. You ask her what she might have done to make the men shoot her in the foot. There must be some explanation. Men don’t just walk into a random houses and shoot women in the feet without cause.

Your wife tries to continue with her normal duties. She hobbles about on the festering wound, limping and wincing. It is an ever present reminder of the traumatic events.

You urge your wife to forgive. Once she has truly forgiven, her foot will stop hurting, and the limp will go away. With each improvement, you are relieved to be one milestone further from the shootings.

Some time later, your wife — still hobbling, foot still infected — sees a man walking in the lane wearing a navy hoodie. She freaks. It turns out to be a neighbour. You chide your wife. You tell her she’s overreacting. She must not have forgiven the other man if she’s reacting so strongly to the neighbour in his navy hoodie.

A broader epidemic & proposed solution:
At church you learn that other men’s wives have been shot in similar fashion. But it doesn’t end there. You learn that this has been happening in other churches too. It’s at epidemic levels. And women are freaking out at the sight of hoodies for no reason. What’s more, you discover the men doing the shooting are fellow church members. Several are even fellow leaders; pillars of the church who would never do such a thing! Now you are certain that the women are causing this!

Troubled, and uncertain what to do with it, yet not wanting your church to fall apart, you address it by preaching a series on Forgiveness. Five Sundays in a row you preach on Forgiveness. Surely, if all of the women who were shot could only forgive, things would not be as they are.

You then preach on what the women may have done to trigger such an epidemic. You point out that every woman who was shot was not in the kitchen at the time she was shot. If each had been in the kitchen, none of this would have happened. You urge the women to take ownership of their failure, thus protecting the oncoming generation from having their feet shot. And, though your message this Sunday is not about forgiveness, due to the critical role forgiveness plays, you put in a gentle reminder to forgive.

Following this you dedicate a Sunday to speaking against seeking attention. You point out how they are using emotional responses at the sight of hoodies to control the men and dramatize their experiences. You gently let them know that their exaggerated limping is a tool of the devil to shame the men and bringing great harm to the church.

A few good men and some wounded:
You meet with the men,
including those who did the shooting. Some admit to having at least held a gun and considered shooting, a few admit to pulling the trigger. Other insist they have never even seen a gun, let alone held one. The allegations are absurd! False allegations, most are! It is the women sticking their feet in front of the guns, asking to be shot, that is the problem.

Some who had no part in the shootings speak up in defence of these honourable men, echoing their sentiments; the women were wanting their feet shot. Others suggest that maybe it isn’t the women’s fault at all. The latter are asked to be silent or leave. Most of them leave.

Good riddance, you think to yourself… no one needs their bitterness and negativity. Until they see how divisive they are, it’s better they are gone.

And no one notices that half of the men who leave are limping. They too have been shot in the foot and have festering wounds. 

A gentle reminder to forgive:
You wrap it up with one final message on forgiveness. You share how meaningful your meeting was with the ‘brothers’. Some admitted to having thoughts of shooting feet. Yes, a few were guilty, but they are deeply sorry. Having learned from their mistakes, they are now more equipped than before; better men for having sinned and repented.

You cannot emphasize enough the importance of allowing the men in the navy hoodies return to leadership. God has called us to forgiveness and unity. We should receive them in full fellowship, restoring all relationships and supporting them in their positions, and trust they will never do it again.

You remind them of the Apostle Paul who murdered. He didn’t just shoot women in the feet. He murdered God’s people. Surely, if God can forgive him and have him preach, there is still a place behind the pulpit for men who shoot feet. 

And nothing has changed:
Women’s feet are still bleeding. Festering wounds are turning gangrenous. Slowly they die. The men who were shot, too.

The men who shot them, keep on shooting. Shooting other men. Shooting women. Shooting boys. Shooting girls. All in the feet so they must find some way to live, while they die slowly.

And then you hear that women are shooting boys and girls in the feet.

The children are shooting each other in the feet.

People are dying. Slowly. 

What went wrong?
You go back to your notes on Forgiveness and wonder what went so wrong. Why didn’t it heal everyone? Why didn’t it stop the shooting. The bleeding. The gangrene. The epidemic.

It never occurred to you to kneel down and get your own hands bloody. To pour ointment gently on their wound. To wrap her feet tenderly, and offer her a footstool. To teach your congregation to tend to her needs while the wounds heal. It never crossed your mind to lay aside your sermons for a few weeks, and instead pull up a stool and lean in to hear her heart. Truly listen. To wipe her tears, look her in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry. You did not deserve this. It is not your fault.” 

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A wounded bride, dying children and the Jesus who wept
And Jesus weeps. His bride’s wounds have become a cancer, slowly killing her soul. 

His bride’s tears flow uncomforted. Her infants lie scattered, lifeless at her feet. 

Jesus cries, again, from the cross, “I thirst!”

And the best we have offered Him is vinegar and gall, served on a hyssop branch — to numb His pain and purify His lips.

When all His heart cried for was that we love His bride enough to protect her, and care for her children; that we love Him.

 

***

The preceding story is a parable.

Sexual abuse continues, an epidemic in church. Allegations, carelessly labeled false without ever leaning in and listening to the victims.

Mothers are blamed for their children’s traumatic experience, and sometimes fathers. Unless the parents are ‘model’ members, then the children somehow removed themselves from protection.

Excuses abound. Forgiveness is treated with the care of a cuss word. Hearts even less gently.

And a few godly men rise up with their sisters, and wipe the tears of the Christ, in the eyes of the children, and the oppressed.

To those honourable ones, “Thank you.”

 

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

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© Trudy Metzger 2019