Daniel W. Baumgartner

Credibly-accused Kansas Mennonite congregant repeatedly violated church boundaries

2013

In 2013, Bethel College Mennonite Church (BCMC) pastor Heidi Regier Kreider was informed of abuse allegations against Daniel “Dan” Baumgartner (b. 1939), according to a letter from a congregant. Church leaders reportedly took steps to “address the possible risk” after this notification, but by June 2016, “Dan seemed to participate fully in the life of the congregation” without any evidence of restrictions.

2016

In September 2016, Baumgartner’s daughter Libby, who reports being abused by him, emailed the BCMC church office to warn them that Baumgartner was “an unregistered sex offender” and to ask, “What is being done to protect children and youth?” She did not receive a response. Other victims reportedly made contact with the church between 2013 and 2016 as well, and “to varying degrees, all were unsatisfied with the responses they received.”

A year and a half later, at the request of Western District Conference (WDC), Dove’s Nest facilitated intentional conversations involving leaders of BCMC and WDC and several individuals who reported abuse by Baumgartner. In a final report, dated February 2018, Dove’s Nest recommended that “BCMC needs to have an internal review into what staff and procedures contributed to the delay in appropriate response to this situation, and make any needed changes or offer training. WDC should offer similar resources and support to other WDC churches.” Former BCMC pastor Regier Kreider was by then serving as conference minister for WDC.

The Dove’s Nest report also stated, “BCMC should have an actionable and clearly articulated plan should Dan and Loretta not agree to the agreement or not follow its stipulations. This plan should include a legal or professional referral, and Dan and Loretta having no contact with the church.”

2018

On March 25, 2018, BCMC pastor Dawn Yoder Harms announced to the congregation that leaders had received credible, corroborated allegations of sexual abuse by Baumgartner against multiple victims. According to recollections of multiple people who were present, Yoder Harms seemed to imply that this was new information, and she told congregants that Baumgartner had refused to sign a limited access agreement and had stopped attending BCMC. She instructed anyone who might have been a victim of Baumgartner’s abuse to contact church leaders. The audio for the March 25, 2018 service was missing from the BCMC website as of the 2019 publication of this post.

A letter dated August 5, 2018, from a concerned congregant to church leaders urged transparency about the history of the matter, the decision-making process, and “what is and is not currently church policy regarding the safety of children and youth.” After receiving the letter, Pastor Yoder Harms and Church Board Chair John Waltner stated, in a letter to the congregation, that the church board had appointed a task group to “work on finding ways to help our congregation […] develop a clear policy about care and accountability for known sexual offenders among us.”

MAP has been unable to document any official responses to the 2013 and 2016 reports of abuse allegations. In 2016, interim BCMC pastor June Thomsen wrote an unsent email to Libby saying that the church had placed some restrictions on Baumgartner’s contact with children, but Heidi Regier Kreider, former BCMC pastor and current conference minister for WDC, declined to provide any information to MAP, saying that as conference minister it isn’t in her purview to provide documentation for congregational membership concerns.

2019

On May 28, 2019, MAP, on behalf of Libby, sent BCMC leaders a formal request for documentation. Libby requested all documents related to her case, including the process of learning about the abuse allegations, setting up an accountability group, offering Baumgartner a limited access agreement, publicizing the abuse allegations, prohibiting him from the church, etc. The letter of request referenced MC USA and WDC policies allowing for release of documentation.

Pastor Yoder Harms acknowledged the request on June 3, and a few days later responded to Libby that “to protect the privacy of other survivors in this situation, we will only release documents that specifically pertain to you.”

In June 2019, Dan Baumgartner emailed MAP to deny some of the allegations against him, but began by saying, “I most assuredly DID touch my [relative’s] breast when she was 10.”  He stated emphatically, “GOD KNOWS that I did NOT molest anyone else, no relative, NO ONE!” In 2022, Baumgartner would hire a lawyer to write a letter to MAP again denying some of the allegations (see below).

On October 29, 2019, pastor John Hoffman of the Newton Church of the Brethren, where Baumgartner began attending after leaving BCMC, stated that he would baptize Baumgartner into the fellowship on November 2. Hoffman acknowledged receiving the information in this MAP post and said, “In my questioning of decision I will be requesting full repentance of all past sinful actions and verify intent to make a commitment to the church in the Name of Christ, and participate in ways that nurture and enhance the church.”

WDC conference minister Neufeld Dunn reportedly contacted Sonja Griffith, district executive minister for Western Plains District of the Church of the Brethren, “to ask her to take actions that fall under Church of the Brethren protocols when it comes to credible allegations of sexual abuse committed by a lay member of a congregation.”

2021

In October 2021, Bethel College Mennonite Church introduced a new Abuse Prevention and Response Policy that was approved by the congregation on November 21, 2021.

2022

In September 2022, a lawyer representing Baumgartner emailed MAP to request removal of Baumgartner’s name from this website, stating, “He has not been convicted of sexual abuse and there is no official determination that he committed sexual abuse. He denies any such allegation being made against him.”

2024

In January 2024, Baumgartner reportedly contacted the BCMC Abuse Prevention and Response Committee (APRC) to state his intention to attend an upcoming service at the church “despite previously communicated restrictions.” In February 2024, The APRC updated the congregation via email about their decision to file a no-trespass order that had been delivered to Baumgartner by the North Newton Police Department. The APRC reported that their letter to Baumgartner stated, in part:

When you decided to not sign a limited use agreement with Bethel College Mennonite Church in 2018, it was made clear to you that you were not to attend any events at or connected to Bethel College Mennonite Church.

Since your refusal to sign a limited use agreement, you have violated our policy by attending multiple events at BCMC.  In addition, you recently emailed your intentions to continue to violate our policy and attend events at Bethel College Mennonite Church based upon your own interests.

Because of your past actions and stated intentions that show little regard for boundaries, we are now placing a firm boundary. … If in the future you want to discuss the possibility of signing a limited use agreement and thus be allowed to attend events at Bethel College Mennonite Church, please contact the Abuse Prevention and Response Committee.

Church-related positions

  • Former member, Bethel College Mennonite Church, North Newton, Kansas
  • Member, Newton Church of the Brethren, Newton, Kansas

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