Reflections from a chagrined “Yoderian” (part three—Yoder’s violence)

Ted Grimsrud—August 4, 2013

I remember back in the mid-1980s when I learned that John Howard Yoder would no longer be teaching at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, IN. My wife Kathleen and I had attended AMBS in 1980-1 almost solely because Yoder was teaching there. Right after our time at AMBS we decided we wanted to become Mennonites.

Yoder had been teaching only one class a semester at AMBS for a number of years once he started teaching also at Notre Dame in nearby South Bend. I first assumed that he had decided himself to focus only on his Notre Dame responsibilities. However, I began to hear from friends at AMBS that this move was not Yoder’s decision, but that AMBS had decided to end the relationship. However, the reasons for this termination were top secret. No one I talked with had any sense what the problem had been, only that AMBS administrators were indicating that there had to be no information given due to legal confidentiality purposes.

I was troubled, but for many years had no idea what the problem might have been. Then, Kathleen and I returned to AMBS for a semester in the spring of 1992. And the other shoe dropped. Yoder had been invited to speak at Bethel College in Kansas, and due to voices of protest raised by women who Yoder had hurt and their allies, Yoder’s invitation was rescinded. We had a forum at AMBS shortly afterwards which was the first time I heard a more detailed explanation (though still pretty cryptic) that the reason why Yoder was no longer teaching at AMBS was because of sexual misconduct.

Then, in June 1992, reporter Tom Price of the Elkhart Truth, wrote a series of articles based on interviews with a number of those directly hurt by Yoder as well as numerous other church leaders, et al. Price also included a summary of one of Yoder’s unpublished essays that seemingly gave at least an indirect rationale for Yoder’s actions. [Price’s article on this may be read here.]

Price’s articles have remained the main source of specific information about Yoder’s actions that I am aware of. A few years ago, Yoder’s friend, the prominent theologian Stanley Hauerwas, included a short but informative discussion of Yoder’s situation in his memoir, Hannah’s Child. [This discussion may be read here.] Continue reading “Reflections from a chagrined “Yoderian” (part three—Yoder’s violence)”