Event equips ‘Healthy Boundaries’ trainers for the church

By Jenny Castro

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Mennonite Church USA) — Nearly 40 area conference ministers and representatives, pastors, denominational leaders, social workers, victim advocates and counselors from across Mennonite Church USA gathered May 10-11 in Kansas City for a “train the trainers” event organized by Mennonite Church USA staff members Iris de León Hartshorn, director of Transformative Peacemaking, and Terry Shue, director of Leadership Development. At the end of the two-day training, led by Rev. Patricia Simpson and Rev. M.L. Daniel, Esq., of FaithTrust Institute, the Mennonite Church USA leaders were equipped to facilitate the Healthy Boundaries 101 and 201 workshops produced by FaithTrust.

FaithTrust training
About 40 people from across Mennonite USA gathered for a “Healthy Boundaries” training event in Kansas City. Photo by Jenny Castro.

As stated in the training manuals, the purpose of these workshops is:

  1. To increase awareness of the need for healthy and appropriate boundaries in the clergy/congregant or spiritual teacher/student relationship
  2. To illustrate the impact of appropriate versus inappropriate boundaries in promoting effective ministry
  3. To provide clergy and spiritual teacher with guidelines and suggestions for developing appropriate boundaries and necessary self-care strategies.

“Recent episodes of ministerial misconduct in our system have again alerted us to the ongoing task of making our congregations a safe place for everyone — both children and adults,” Shue said. Organizing this event was one of Mennonite Church USA’s commitments after the investigation by D. Stafford and Associates last fall into the handling of abuse allegations by Eastern Mennonite University, Virginia Mennonite Conference and Lindale Mennonite Church.

“We cannot address sexual abuse appropriately unless we really understand it,” said de León Hartshorn. “We have to be educated — understanding power, sexualized violence, healthy boundaries and boundary violation. We cannot recognize those things unless we are taught to; we have to get educated.”

FaithTrust training 2
People from across Mennonite Church USA gathered for a “Healthy Boundaries” training event in Kansas City. Photo by Jenny Castro.

Event planners said they hope that participants will follow up on the training by taking the Healthy Boundaries 101 and 102 curriculum to their local leaders: training pastors, congregations and other conference leaders about recognizing and setting healthy boundaries. They envision that all pastors who hold credentials in Mennonite Church USA area conferences will participate in boundaries training over the next three years.

“We desire to raise the bar of trust by all of our conferences — large and small — to take concrete steps to require boundary training as a part of retaining an active status of any and all credentials [pastors] hold,” Shue said. “This training is not only to protect potential victims; it is also in the best interest of our pastors and our congregations, keeping them safe and healthy.”

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