From the Bishop’s Desk: Composer David Haas Update

Dear Colleagues in Christ,

It grieves me deeply to bring this matter to your attention regarding composer David Hass. In case you haven’t seen the latest updates in the sexual abuse allegations against him, the newest report includes sexual abuse of minors aged 13-17, including rape. Along with the article that notes 44 accounts of alleged abuse, I have added all the songs written by Haas that are included in our ELCA resources. Abuse survivors have asked us to stop using these songs, as they are retraumatizing.

In many of the conversations about this online, the argument to “separate the art from the artist” comes up quickly. This is not possible or faithful. We need to be mindful that artists make money from the use of their art and we do not want to endorse those who use their status to lure and abuse minors. I am well aware and know many have deep connections to his music. I personally grieve no longer singing, “We are called” and “You are mine.”  I realize some may ask, “Why can’t we just sing those songs and pretend he didn’t write them?” Questions like this come from a well-meaning place, and from a place of grief and loss, but it’s simply not possible to pretend if we care to do ministry with integrity.

I am writing with the request that you have conversations with your music ministries and strongly consider removing David Haas’ music from your rotation and repertoire. I understand this is a faithful yet difficult stance. I also understand that this serves as a teaching moment for us all; it’s a reminder that we do not worship writers, composers, musicians or songs. We worship the One to whom we sing.

In addition, please make it a priority to thoroughly review your congregation’s sexual misconduct policies including children and youth-specific policies and procedures within the next six months. During this time of COVID, how we interact with each other and our youth as well as the mediums we are using have most certainly changed. Our policies must reflect the new “world” in which we are doing ministry to prevent any harm or misconduct in our congregations.

The ELCA offers a thorough document with links to resources and supporting organizations to help prevent sexual misconduct and abuse of minors as well as adults. Pastor Kate Davidson was gracious to provide process guidelines from Church Mutual Insurance and a resources document that she has found helpful. It is always important to seek legal advice when updating and drafting policies relating to employment and misconduct issues.

I ask you to pray for the abuse survivors and all people who have been impacted by this awful tragedy. And I will continue to keep you in my prayers as you navigate this potential hardship with those you have been entrusted to serve.

If you care to have further conversation, I will gladly make myself available.

May we continue to listen, learn, and lead with God’s help and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

En Cristo,

Rev. Leila M. Ortiz, Bishop

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