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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.