Dear Bishop Shaw and President Ormsby,
I am writing to stand as a witness on behalf of my friend, Gina Colvin and her family. I met Gina in person for the first time in 2015. She agreed to meet with my family and me for brekkie (and taught me the word “brekkie”) knowing nothing about us other than we were bound together by Mormonism. Gina did not know that I had spent my entire life as a faithful member of the Church and was reeling from the recent excommunication of my husband. I was hoping to spare our family the incredible shame and hurt that came from knowing a group of men, most of whom were friends and neighbors, chose to “ex” my husband from our tight knit “community”, despite my pleas that I could see the harm it would cause to him, my children, and me. My ward felt like my family. Being told that my husband was not allowed to participate in a discussion, a prayer, or even accompany me as I sang in a sacrament meeting was devastating. Even after his excommunication, I attempted to attend with my children, and with the loving support of my husband. However, the church no longer felt like home to me. A family does not excommunicate its members. In those excruciating months and years when I was trying to navigate the pain and devastation I felt from my husband’s excommunication and still acknowledge the love and good I had learned from the Church, Gina’s way of seeing Mormonism was so important to me. I was so grateful for the way she ministered to those of us on the borders – those of us who knew the history, were aware of the messiness, had felt the pain, yet found incredible love and support among the community. I am aware that the way Gina ministers makes the core of the church uncomfortable, but for those of us on the borders, she is so vital. Please prayerfully consider my perspective as you move forward. And consider what this means to Nathan. Please.
Did not want to share name publicly for confidential reasons.
My name is Brent Searle. I live in Idaho, a very conservative corner of it, and I’ll claim the pathway of nuance and uncertainty, doubt and faith, repulsion and love of the LDS theology, history, and doctrine. Lifelong member, etc., etc.
Dr. Gina Colvin, Sister Colvin, or Gina, whatever is preferred, has garnered my attention and appreciation more than once over the past several years. I appreciate her voice for native peoples, the downtrodden, voices that are unvoiced. She is so articulate, and just gets to the heart of matters. Acknowledging her affiliation with another faith, we must also acknowledge that Joseph Smith joined another faith just prior to his forming the Church of Jesus Christ; later adding “of Latter-day Saints”, among other titles. Religion is messy. There are few black and white lines. Gina has helped so many in and out of the LDS faith. She has held to the fire the feet of those who hold authority and power, and how they wield it. For this, she is pronounced unfit to belong as a member to that body by those who wield the power. So sad. We need more voices like hers, not less. She, like many others in recent years, has voiced uncomfortable truths. She has spoken truth to power. And for this she is shushed, told to quiet down, to back off, to be more diplomatic. And, dear Gina, cannot hold her tongue. She speaks truth and it hits cords of discontent and she is shunned as is custom of those in power to punish those that dare raise uncomfortable, even ugly, issues. To me, Gina is brave; remarkably so. She is honest; uncomfortably so. She is brilliant; unappreciatedly so. I give her my thanks and appreciation for helping me and so many others along paths of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and dissonance. Thanks Sis. Colvin! God bless.
As I encountered troubling information about the church, A Thoughtful Faith and Gina Colvin gave me the soft landing, emotional outlet to talk and be comforted by others who were facing the same and actually gave me reasons to remain positively engaged with the church. While she is outspoken about thorny topics and speaks the hard truth, I can think of no more passionate shepherd to thousands of struggling Mormons. Her excommunication would send a very negative message to many many thousands of Mormons who are hanging on despite feeling lied to or even betrayed by the church. Rather than excommunication, I recommend a strong listening session, a mourning session with Gina on behalf of everyone else who has and is suffering the trauma the church has created by inaccurately portraying its history. This would send a much more positive message that the church has compassion and is willing to engage with members who have been placed on the fringes by changing policies, doctrines and history.
During my last two years of activity in the church it was finding women like Gina who gave me a sense of, if she can carve out a space and be in the church so can I. This woman is fire, and a spiritual powerhouse. Listening to her expound scripture and explore ideas around the feminine divine woke me up to a deeper sense of my own spirituality. She inspired confidence in me to explore my own faith in a more meaningful way. She was the female role model I looked for but could never find in church leadership. Silencing a voice such as Gina’s sends a clear message of get in line, bow your head and say yes regardless of whether it aligns with your morality or there’s the door.
All I can say is that Gina has been a source of light and faith in my life. She does have a critical mind, and she uses it sometimes to offer a critique of the practices of church leaders. But every such offering has been, in my honest judgment, truly constructive and thought-provoking. Undoubtedly, as well, Gina holds views that are unorthodox. I am not sure that as a bishopric member–which I was for five years–I would have been prompted to call her to teach Gospel Doctrine in Sunday School. But Paul is still right, that we all bring different gifts to a common enterprise. Do know that I love Gina and consider her and her views as most welcome ingredients in my life. Whatever this council does, that will not change. If we adopt a doctrinal litmus test when considering who retains their membership, we will lose too many good people. Please think long and hard about this decision.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.