An Open Letter to the Christchurch Stake on the Day of My Church Discipline

An Open Letter to the Christchurch Stake on the Day of My Church Discipline December 20, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers of Christchurch Stake,

I recall several years ago talking with a former Stake President about the reasons for church disaffiliation.  He’d just been to a regional meeting and inactivity was a discussion point.

He recounted several explantaions offered at the meeting;

a) People had been offended.
b) They weren’t faithful enough or were too lazy to make an effort.
c) They wanted to break the commandments.

I asked him where that information had come from?  Had he personally asked the people in his own stake why they had left?

Apparently, there was no hard data presented to support these claims.

The sad reality is that most people who join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and currently, there is no formal process to openly and honestly discover why.

We are good at finding our ‘Lost Sheep’ but not very good about finding out how they got lost in the first place.  So, the above answers we still hear liberally around the church are half-baked.  They suggest why active Mormons hope people leave and not why they actually leave.

I say this as many of you might already be aware, I have been called into a Church Disciplinary Council which will be held this on the 20th December 2018.

According to both official and unofficial sources,  I have been the cause of numerous Christchurch Stake members leaving the LDS Church.  I’ve been assured that there has been a steady traffic of people making their way to the Stake President with complaints about my spiritually corrosive influence on loved ones and friends.

I was disappointed by this news.    The only person who has directly threatened to leave because of me (very loudly and aggressively I might add)  is currently still active.  Even my own husband, with whom I have a great deal of leverage, hasn’t left the church.  And neither have I asked him to leave.

So, I decided I would ask several of our mutual friends from Christchurch Stake (past and present) who have left the church,  to speak for themselves and explain, for the record, why they have disaffiliated.   They were happy to do so in order to set the record straight.


Alice Cammock

The question of why I am no longer in the pew raises many different issues and experiences over the course of my life in the church.

Firstly, I wish to highlight that this decision was made solely by myself and as a result of experiences and learnings, independent of any other people or person’s opinions.

1. The promises that were given to me in blessings did not come to fruition, this created a doubt in the belief of God.

2. Being part of a Stake/District that was not inclusive or loving towards me during a time of struggle.

3. A lifetime of seeing inequality and blatant sexism, which was then highlighted tenfold by going to the temple.

4. The mistreatment of LGBTQIA within the Mormon Church.

5. Not seeing any love in the Mormon God or Church.

6. My faith moving to another spiritual practice that I discovered on my own and that nurtured me. This new spiritual practice was not safe in the Mormon Church and was frequently shut down and rejected.


Andrew Jones

In short, the best analogy would be that when I joined the church I fell in love with gospel and church life.  But I found that the church is a dishonest and adulterous lover. It is not what it says it is. Its truth claims are based upon lies, half-truths, and misinformation.

Upon discovering this, it changed how I viewed the Church. I now see it as largely irrelevant in the world. It is concerned with growing its numbers and building landmark temples and shopping malls instead of hospitals, schools and welfare centers. It promotes wealth inequality by stealing from the poor and guilt-tripping them whilst promoting business models of religion.  It wastes the time of its youth by making them door to door bible salespeople instead of utilizing them to be a force for good in the world. It promotes toxic ideas of sexuality and gender roles which as a father of two daughters is very concerning.

When I raise a voice amongst other adults to question this amongst my peers I am made to feel unwelcome or told that The Prophet has spoken and that My concerns are of No value. It is no longer a place where I can be the best version of myself as that doesn’t fit or conform with the expected. MORMON Norm. It is not a place for critical thinkers.  It is a place for obedient followers of the prophet Not Christ. All of this fell into place over a period of years through personal study and meditation. It is not a bad place if that is all you want from your faith but I want more and the church doesn’t.

Andrew Jones, 18-year member of Riccarton, Merivale and Rangiora /Kaiapoi wards.


Anna-Lee Mason

I was born into and raised a member of the Mormon church and lived a devout, faithful life true to the principles taught and truly believing that while I may not always understand everything it taught that ‘all would be revealed in the next life’ and to just ‘have faith’.

Years later, as a missionary, I became aware of a number of inconsistencies and hypocrisies as I met inactive women who had been abused by their husbands who were leaders of the church; these women were disciplined, judged and cast out by church leaders when seeking help and support from said leaders whilst their husbands were protected and given increased notoriety in their standing within the church. This didn’t sit well with me for many years. I continued to attempt to stay true to what I had been taught but as I began to learn of more and more inconsistencies my questioning increased.

There were multiple things that didn’t sit right with me with three major things being the catalyst for my decision to walk away.

First, learning firsthand about the corruptness and misuse of tithes and offerings sacrificed by faithful members around the world. I had always linked my testimony of the church and its truthfulness by the fact that no person was paid for their service in the church. A piece of me died when I learned how naïve I had been. This was the first step in my moving away.

Second, fearmongering – as a member I had always felt a sense of fearmongering under the guise of “having faith and following God’s command’s”. One key area of this was in regard to the Law of Chastity. Without going into detail, I can most certainly say that when I had sex for the first time and it being outside of marriage, I woke up the next day NOT feeling guilty but instead having a huge sense of relief and an overwhelming feeling that God loved me just the same – something I had always been brainwashed to believe was contrary to this action.

Finally, the covering-up of sexual abuse of members (particularly women and children); again, going back to what I had learned on my mission coupled with having a sibling ‘interfered with’ by a church leader and my parents being told that local church leaders would deal with it had always been a huge sticking point for me. I had always said that I could not continue being associated with an organization that had any part in covering up such atrocities. When I learned earlier this year of legal proceedings regarding significant covering up by the church of allegations against those holding significant power within the Church I said NO MORE. That was the final straw. I could no longer in good conscience call myself a Mormon.

As a result, I made a very personal choice to submit my resignation from the Church. Today, I am happily living with my defacto partner and continue to be extremely blessed in abundance.


Keziah Jones

Leaving wasn’t a decision that I made lightly and it is one that I entirely own, having first tried the middle way for many years sitting in the pew. I poured my heart and soul into investigating and thrashing out many issues, I searched for a way to stay connected, trying to find a way to make it work.

I remember bringing some of my early concerns to my Dad, who I greatly admire as a man of wisdom and strength. He didn’t have any answers to my questions but he offered some fatherly advice that I accepted. He believed that truth would always speak for itself, and if truth was what I was seeking, he felt sure that whatever my inquiry and concern, the truth would stand as a witness of the church that we both cherished.

With hope in my heart, I focused much of my time and efforts trying to find a way through. I had never before really questioned anything, I was buoyed along by being part of a community, connected with good, kind and loving people. It was easy, I was told how I should think and even what choices I should make. My testimony had been built on blind obedience and faith. I had never taken time to study the church much past the official correlated material, but when I did whoa! … it opened a whole can of worms!!

I found I belonged to an organization that is not what it professes to be, as I uncovered more and more institutional lies and cover-ups. Not one person persuaded me, no one offended me, no single doctrine or any one particular historical fact rocked my world. Instead over a period of years as one irreconcilable truth after another landed on my soul, like snowflake upon snowflake it gradually built to the avalanche that eventually tore through my trust and testimony in the Mormon Church.

Discovering that the image of the church I was presented and had believed in, was neither honest or true and was lacking in integrity and virtue. The longer I stayed the less I saw or felt Christ there. I was disappointed and hurt that I had been deceived along with those that I love, who walk in ignorance of many of the issues that made me too uncomfortable to stay.

I am sorry Dad, I had really hoped that you were right, I did find the truth but not the truth I had expected. My journey has led me out of the Mormon church, but it has not led me away from God. As I opened my eyes I recognized examples of Christ in the people around me. I see kindness, love and amazing examples of service and compassion toward others. I now feel free, free to investigate life, to use my own intelligence, and learn through my life experiences.

I am free to worship in grace and love, as I find my way and define my God. I feel empowered to take back control of my own choices and decisions and that of my family. I want my children to be free to find their God, and not have a God prescribed to them. From this time forward, I will no longer outsource moral authority or give power over my life to any organization again.

I am the captain of my soul and the kingdom of God is within me.


Jason Reed

I am a former member of the Riccarton Ward of the Christchurch Stake.
Born and raised in the LDS Church Graduate of Church College of New Zealand
1988 Seminary Graduate Returned missionary 1989 – 1991
Graduate of Brigham Young University – Hawaii 1996
Temple married with 4 children Served in the Christchurch High Council
Served 4 years as a councilor to the Bishop in the Riccarton Ward 2004 -2008
Resigned my membership in the LDS Church October 2018 at the age of 48.

I did not resign because of Gina Colvin. I resigned after doing my own uncorrelated study and observations. I discovered that there were many things that the Church has been and is afraid of, uncomfortable about and embarrassed of in relation to its history, practices and claims. It has tried to hide, obscure and sideline them. However, the ‘Information Age’ has and is shining a bright spotlight on its misdeeds. What was once anti-Mormon literature is now established fact about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Loyalty to the Prophet and Brethren / Church has superseded loyalty to Christ. I am grateful to the LDS ‘whistle blowers’ who expose this corporate organization’s un-Christ-like behavior at all levels of its hierarchy.

Townsville, Australia.


Nicola Petty

Because I no longer believe any of the truth claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in some ways what her leaders are doing is of no consequence. However, the people who are taking the action to remove Gina from the membership of the church do believe the truth claims. They believe that it is the only true church on the face of the earth and the only one that has the way to the greatest blessings in the after-life. So what they are doing to Gina is harsh. It is basically damning her to a less exalted eternity, without her husband or family.

I am unlikely ever to face a disciplinary council because I do not care enough about the church to try to make it better. Unlike Gina, I have no hope that it can be better. I have never had great faith in God, and sadly, my alliance was more to the organization than to deity. So when I realized that the organization was not what it appeared, it was time for me to leave. I did hope that there might be moves to be more inclusive to women and people of different sexual orientations. I was wrong.

In case anyone who knows both of us is reading this, Gina did not cause me to leave the church. I became aware of the duplicity underpinning the church through reading the official church published essays about sticky subjects like the denial of the priesthood to people of African descent and polygamy. This caused me to start to question if all was as I had hoped. Then as a Stake Relief Society President, it became crystal clear that women have less than no influence in the running of the church at any level. I was also subject to verbal abuse in meetings for daring to suggest such things. Gina was a source of comfort and help and even a laugh or two in my time of struggle. I was hoping to hang in there and help, but it was when my husband suggested we have a break, that I started to think that I would leave. The November policy discriminating against the children of same-sex couples that was the final act of the church that made it untenable for me to stay.

The Mormon church does not want people in the rank and file to make suggestions on how to improve it. There is no communication from the congregation to the central leadership, except via local leaders who are all men. Gina had the audacity to see the church of Jesus Christ as something that could be beautiful and visionary, but that had lost its way. She tried to make it better.

Once I saw the church as it was, I didn’t care enough to try to make it better. The church would go on happily without me, and though I am sad not to meet frequently with people I care about, I am actually happier out of it. I think for me as a convert it is easier for me to leave, even though I have been devout for thirty-five years. There is a certain loss of face, but I’ve never been one to worry too much about that. I have too much to do in the few decades I have left of my life, freed from the expectations of a church that worked for me but ceased to do so.

Gina asked if I regret joining the church. Mostly not. I wish I’d left about ten years earlier, as I fear it has damaged members of my family. I wouldn’t mind my tithing back though! There is no point in regret. I am so happy to be able to move on, taking with me the good, and casting off the bad as much as I can.


 

It is true that I have spent a lot of time with people who are in faith crisis and many who have left.

It is true that I have spoken up about worrying aspects of the worldwide church’s pastoral practices and its sometimes suffocating and narrow culture.  I have done so not to destroy but to let those on the margins know that their concerns have been seen and heard in the absence of anyone else pastoring them well.

I’ve also been vocal in order to encourage a more spiritually mature response to the 21st-century crisis of church attrition.  I haven’t always been good at it and admit I’ve made a few missteps but my intentions have never been malicious.  I appreciate that I have upset those with a naive faith.

I’ve also worked with people who, in faith crisis, want to rediscover a life of unchurched faith. Without advocating for any particular church ‘or its teachings’  I’ve guided both active and inactive Mormons in the spiritual disciplines and practices common to many Christian traditions.

It is also true that I have offered my services to Stake and Ward leaders to help them provide good pastoral care to those who come through the doors with the spectrum of doubts and worries that I have seen.  This offer has never been taken up.

And it’s true that I have given many of our mutual friends a safe place to process their doubts without encouraging them in any particular direction.

If you would like to understand the work I have been doing and its value you may wish to consider following the link.

Finally, if the outcome is that I am excommunicated or disfellowshipped it’s likely that Nathan will be pretty furious, so I would ask that you give him the courtesy of some room to be angry without circulating rumors about him in the same way that has been done to me.

And for those of you who are curious.   No, our marriage isn’t in crisis and we aren’t contemplating divorce.   Nathan assures me that he has every intention of staying by my side, and I believe him.

Regards,

Gina

(20th December 2018)

(If you’d like to understand why people are leaving the LDS Church you may be interested in Jana Riess’ book,  The Next Mormons.)

 

 

 

 

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