Canada – Mennonite church leader Urie A. Bender dies, SNAP responds
For immediate release, May 24, 2018
Statement by Barbra Graber, Volunteer SNAP Mennonite Leader, [email protected], 540-214-8874
Urie A. Bender, credibly accused clergy sexual abuser of Mennonite girls and women over several decades, died on Friday. We grieve for his family and loved ones. But we also grieve for his many victims, especially those who have never felt it was safe to come forward.
It will be tempting to publicly profess Urie Bender’s glowing accomplishments while ignoring his deeply harmful actions against vulnerable members of the church body. We as adults face a simple choice.
We can either make it easier for child and young adult sex abuse victims to come forward, or we can make it harder for them to come forward. Publicly proclaiming the virtues of offending church leaders at the time of their death makes coming forward harder and does not make the church safer.
Finally, we must understand and accept the fact that most sexual predators are charming, charismatic, warm, outgoing and loveable. If they weren’t, no child would want to be near them and no parent would trust their child to be near them. The notion that child molesters present themselves as creeps, monsters, and social misfits is just wrong. Worse, it’s dangerous.
We urge Pastor Scott Brubaker-Zehr, who is conducting the funeral service at Steinmann Mennonite Church in Baden, Ontario, as well as the church press, to exercise restraint and sensitivity, remembering there are those listening whose knowledge of the damage to their lives that Urie Bender caused them, greatly overshadows the praiseworthy things he did for his church and community.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, is the world's oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 25,000 supporters. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org )