Kent A. Peters

Mennonite Voluntary Service administrator, camp counselor terminated and removed from roles with youth

In 2021, Kent Peters (b. 1984) was reported by at least ten women for sexually abusive or otherwise concerning behavior that occurred from approximately 2008 to 2021. After the allegations became public in April 2021, Peters was terminated from his position with Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) of Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), in Newton, Kansas, on the basis of “inappropriate text messages between himself and a female minor.” Peters had previously been removed, in 2019, from his role as counselor and former board member at Camp Mennoscah in Murdock, Kansas, after a report of similar misconduct with a camper. At that time he continued in roles with youth not only at MVS but also at his church, Alexanderwohl Mennonite, where a pastor had been informed of the allegations received by the camp.

Two women told Mennonite Abuse Prevention (MAP) that they reported Peters’ conduct on previous occasions, one to an MMN employee in 2018 and another to a Camp Mennoscah counselor in 2015 or 2016, but their concerns seemed to be dismissed.

In February and March 2021, after six women reached out to the survivor advocacy organization Into Account, the organization began contacting institutions where Peters had access to youth. They notified Mennonite Mission Network, Camp Mennoscah, Bethel College, Hesston College, and three public school districts of allegations of “sexually predatory actions” by Peters through his access to their institutions, including in the schools’ theater, music, and girls’ athletic departments, and as a long-time camp counselor. The six women had contacted Into Account with the goal of removing Peters’ access to other potential victims but did not at that time wish to report to the police. In April 2021, Into Account issued a public statement offering a variety of reporting options, and additional women came forward to Into Account.

After receiving information about the allegations against Peters from Bethel College, the North Newton Police Department opened a criminal investigation and notified the relevant institutions. At least 15 women reported their experiences with Peters to law enforcement, but no charges were ultimately filed. In conversation with MAP, a law enforcement officer cited a lack of evidence, in part due to Peters’ pattern of moving conversations with the women to Snapchat, a social media platform where messages are automatically deleted.

Camp Mennoscah

According to reports received by Into Account, Peters began contacting and targeting girls when they were minors, including through his roles at Camp Mennoscah, where he served on the board of directors for two years and was a camp counselor for at least 17 years.

In one example from September and October 2013, Peters, then age 28 and a board member, sent sexually suggestive messages to a 15-year-old girl whom he had met while he was a camp counselor and she was a high school camper. He wrote, “I’m pretty sure someday you’re gonna show these messages to someone and then I’ll never counsel at Mennoscah again.”

A former high school camper reported to MAP that in 2015 or 2016 she had expressed concerns about Peters’ behavior toward her to another camp counselor. “I thought [the other counselor] would know Kent well enough to notice the signs and at least watch out for things, or encourage me to tell Olivia [Bartel, then camp director]. I was kind of testing the waters to see how someone from camp would react. […] He shut me down pretty quickly with how Kent is a ‘good guy, just weird,’ so I didn’t say more.”

In early 2019, another high school camper reported a concerning experience with Peters to a different camp counselor, and the counselor notified the camp. Camp Mennoscah told MAP that after consulting with Dove’s Nest and the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center, they filed a report with the Kansas Protection Report Center, the state’s hotline for reporting suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The Newton Police Department confirmed that they received a copy of the report in March 2019, but the police did not open an investigation at that time. Camp Mennoscah also reported to MAP that in May 2019, Peters “was formally told he was no longer allowed to be a representative of Camp Mennoscah or participate in leadership roles, including counseling.”

Despite being restricted from Camp Mennoscah, Peters continued to serve in roles with youth at his church and place of employment. Camp Mennoscah said they notified the pastor of Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church of the allegations against Peters in 2019, but they did not make further notifications or contact campers who may have been affected. Camp stated that they limited their notifications in response to the reporting party’s wishes to remain anonymous and guard against backlash. The camp did not make additional notifications in 2021 after the allegations by multiple women were released by Into Account and a criminal investigation was opened.

When MAP contacted Camp Mennoscah for information about their response to the allegations, camp director Olivia Bartel initially declined to respond to MAP’s questions, but later issued a limited statement. MAP followed up to ask specifically about any community notifications and also to request a copy of the abuse prevention policy that was in place in 2019. After further consultation with the board, Bartel shared the notifications the camp had made and their reason for limiting them. Bartel also provided MAP a copy of the abuse prevention policy in place in 2019 and effective as of this publication. The policy is currently being updated.

In April 2021, after Into Account made community notifications concerning the reports they had received, and after the criminal investigation was opened, Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA notified pastors of the criminal investigation and offered a sample announcement for churches. The announcement noted that “Because campers, camp counselors or staff members at Camp Mennoscah may have been participants in WDC congregations, WDC is informing you so that you and congregational leaders may discern what information to share with your congregation, and to support individuals who may be impacted in this case or desire to report information. Camp Mennoscah supports this message being sent to you.”

Camp Mennoscah is affiliated with Western District Conference as well as South Central Conference, both of Mennonite Church USA.

Comparison case: In another MAP case involving a Camp Mennoscah counselor, Luke Loganbill, where the camp was not in direct contact with a reporting party but instead received notice of a criminal investigation, the camp sent letters notifying camp families and volunteers and calling for anyone else who might have been affected to come forward.

Mennonite Mission Network

In 2018, another former camper had contacted an administrator at MMN to report harassment by Peters, but the administrator did not follow up on the disclosure.

After MMN became aware in March 2021 of the multiple allegations Into Account had received, MMN placed Peters on administrative leave and hired FaithTrust Institute to investigate. The investigation was soon after placed on hold, however, when the North Newton Police Department announced that they were opening a criminal investigation. The employee who had received the report in 2018 then alerted MMN, and MMN opened a separate FaithTrust investigation into whether he had violated organizational policy.

In April 2021, MMN notified some staff and Into Account that Peters was no longer employed by MMN, without including any further information. When an MMN employee inquired about the nature of Peters’ departure, they were told that employment law prohibited sharing that information.

In August 2021, when the woman who had reported in 2018 inquired about whether Peters had been fired or resigned, and what additional measures had been taken in response, Lyz Weaver, then MMN’s senior executive for human resources, told her that Peters had been terminated in April when “additional evidence became available that made it clear that [Peters] could not return to his assignment with [MMN].” Weaver did not state the grounds on which Peters had been terminated. Regarding additional measures, Weaver stated that, “Internally, as Kent’s role also connected with MVS communities, we made each location aware and put in place reporting structures in the event that others might come forward.” Peters’ role as MVS assistant had put him in contact with young adults in locations across the country.

The woman who had reported also asked for additional information after MMN notified her that the second investigation, into the employee’s response to her report, found a violation of organizational policy. The woman had understood she was to be given a copy of the report summary, but Weaver said the executive summary needed to remain confidential. With the support of advocates, the woman expressed her concern about the lack of information on what MMN was doing to address any recommendations from the FaithTrust investigation. After some weeks, the care coordinator, Tonia Martin, noting changes in leadership at MMN and the considerable contributions the woman had made to the investigation, offered to let her review—but not keep—a copy of the executive summary. When the woman and two support persons met with the care coordinator and MMN’s senior executive of operations, Martin Gunawan, to review the summary, Gunawan emphasized their need to protect the organization.

When MAP contacted MMN in September, Weaver initially stated that Peters had been terminated for misconduct, but did not specify the nature of the misconduct. After MAP followed up, noting uncertainty in the community about the nature of the misconduct, she clarified: “In the April 15, 2021 termination letter from Mennonite Mission Network to Kent Peters he was informed that in addition to the Into Account allegations, Mennonite Mission Network had obtained and reviewed copies of an extensive series of inappropriate text messages between himself and a female minor. He was informed that this conduct was clearly not consistent with the standard of conduct Mennonite Mission Network requires and was terminated immediately.”

Weaver further stated, in response to a MAP inquiry, that MMN had no plans to reopen the original investigation, which had been placed on hold due to the criminal investigation.

Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church

In March 2021, congregants and former youth group members received a letter from Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, Goessel, Kansas, notifying them of “alleged offenses [by Peters that] began with sexual boundary violations using electronic communications” and that Peters was “granted a leave of absence from all responsibilities as youth leader” and “asked not to participate in in-person worship services during the law enforcement investigation.” The letter further stated that leaders consulted the church’s 2007 Safe Sanctuary policy. In June, the church bulletin announced a congregational survey and upcoming “conversation on the topic of sexual abuse.”

Caleb Yoder, the lead pastor of Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, reportedly learned of the allegations against Peters, and the reporting party’s wishes for anonymity, from Camp Mennoscah in 2019. Peters continued to lead youth activities at the church at least into 2020.

When MAP contacted Alexanderwohl to inquire about their response to the allegations, including what policies were in place at the time the allegations were received (no policies were available on the church website as of this publication), Yoder declined to share any information.

Church-related positions

  • Mennonite Voluntary Service Assistant, Mennonite Mission Network, 2007–2021
  • Volunteer counselor, Camp Mennoscah, Murdock, Kansas, at least 2003–2019
  • Board member, Camp Mennoscah, Murdock, Kansas, 2012–2014
  • Jr. High Sunday School teacher, youth group sponsor, youth mentor, and Board of Mission & Service, Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, Goessel, Kansas, ?–2021

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