News And Media Releases

Haas songs removed from Voices Together hymnal

Changes made after accusations of serial sexual misconduct

 

The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee takes seriously the recent multiple accusations of serial sexual misconduct and spiritual manipulation by composer David Haas. Recently, Into Account and SNAP, two nonprofit organizations that specialize in advocating for survivors of abuse in church contexts, have been processing numerous statements about Haas using his authority and influence over decades to perpetuate abuse.

“We take these accusations seriously and support the work of Into Account in shining a light where patterns of misconduct have been allowed to continue for so many years,” said Bradley Kauffman, general editor of Voices Together.

Though Haas may not be a familiar name among Mennonites, a 2016 survey conducted by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee revealed that three songs by Haas ranked among the top 30 heart songs, with one being among the top 10. “Several of Haas’s songs have developed deep connections among individuals and worshiping communities. This adds additional grief and complexity as we denounce sexualized violence,” added Kauffman.

In light of the recent accusations concerning Haas, the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is:

  1. Removing all songs by David Haas from the forthcoming Voices Together worship and song collection. Though prior planning identified seven Haas songs to be in Voices Together, the editorial team, backed by full committee consensus, reversed this decision in order not to amplify his voice and increase the possibility of ongoing harm.
  2. Urging pastors, worship leaders, and song leaders, if choosing to use Haas’s songs in worship, to center the goals of harm reduction and ongoing pastoral care in ways that care for the needs and voices of survivors of trauma.
  3. Developing a resource to support individuals and communities as they navigate these questions.

Because worship, especially singing, is an embodied practice, worshipers develop a particular intimacy with songs, the committee notes. Once a song is imprinted on our hearts, the question of who owns it becomes complex.

Hilary Scarsella, assistant professor of ethics at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and director of theological integrity at Into Account, says, “It’s possible for music composed by someone who behaved abusively to be intentionally separated from the composer and reclaimed by worshipers in resistance to his violence. However, this can only be done ethically when it is done in careful solidarity with survivors and at survivors’ lead. Survivors’ testimonies call each of us who have an inward connection to Haas’s music to engage the complex and painful process of taking their testimonies to heart and redefining our relationships with songs that we have held dear.”

Removing Haas’s work from Voices Together was a complex decision made within particular time constraints, Kauffman noted. “With Haas’s work in circulation on numerous platforms, not including it in Voices Together focuses ongoing conversations among worship committees, pastors, leaders of worship, and congregants. The actions announced here are not the end of a conversation, nor an implied prohibition of ever engaging work by this composer. The timing of this conversation provides an opportunity to stand with survivors or participate in patterns that have enabled abuse. We stand with survivors.”

“Our team is confident in this decision given the information and time available to us,” said Kauffman.

“We stand with other publishers who are choosing not to enter into ongoing contractual relationships with this composer,” added Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director at MennoMedia.

 

 

Voices Together is slated for publication this fall by MennoMedia. Find out more at VoicesTogetherHymnal.org.

 

Posted on: June 23rd, 2020 by Alyssa Bennett Smith

4 Responses

  1. Ken Rodgers says:

    Thank you for this. Upon hearing of this recently, I was wondering what impact that would have on the Voices Together project. I affirm your decision.

  2. Carolyn Heggen says:

    Thank you for taking seriously the pain of survivors of sexual abuse!

  3. Ann says:

    As a Catholic, please know that we over here in our Church have ridded hiso music from our hymnals and parishes as well. His ongoing predatory behavior should have been stopped years ago and I am personally disgusted that our Bishop didn’t take greater action back when he was first accused (in 1987!). From a Catholic perspective his beliefs were often in opposition to our teachings as well, and yet he was continually given a platform to promote these dissident views in his “workshops.” May God comfort those who have been scarred by his actions.

  4. I AM LIVID FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE, AND IN ALL HONESTY, IF I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY, I WOULD BLAST HIM LOUD AND CLEAR. AS A CHILD, I GREW UP BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED BY AN UNCLE. SO I TRULY FEEL NOT ONLY FOR HIS VICTIMS, BUT WITH HIS VICTIMS. DAVID HAAS AND MARTY HAUGIN BOTH ABUSED WOMEN. THEY BOTH COMPOSED FOR OCP (OREGON CATHOLIC PRESS) AND GIA PUBLICATIONS, INC. BOTH COMPANIES HAVE FIRED THEM, ANY PROFITS FROM THEIR COMPOSITIONS ARE BEING DONATED TO A SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIMS PROGRAM.THE 2021 MUSIC WAS ALREADY PUBLISHED, BUT AFTER THAT NOTHING WILL BE PUBLISHED.

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