Dear Bishop Josh Shaw:
I am writing in wholehearted support of Gina Colvin in anticipation of her pending church disciplinary council before your bishopric. By way of background, I am a former bishop, stake presidency counselor and three-time high counselor, which I mention only as a way to note that I have been a part of many disciplinary councils and am very familiar with the process and its purpose.
I urge you to proceed with a careful and thoughtful appreciation for the significance of the proceeding that you have initiated. You may see this as a “court of love” that will stand in caring judgment of Gina and her membership. But, given the connected world in which we live, this council is not just a ward, stake or area matter — this is a matter of international significance. People around the world are aware of this proceeding and are watching it closely. To put it simply, Gina may be “on trial” for her LDS fellowship — but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is simultaneously on trial for its Christian values and bona fides.
Gina is guilty of one thing — an intensely personal pursuit of the fullest depth and breadth of her Christian discipleship. I experience her as someone who is seeking to express her love of the Lord and her desire to serve Him and His people to the greatest extent possible. There should be no limitations, institutional or otherwise, placed on the extent of her personal communion with the universal Body of Christ in whatever respected and respectful form that Body may manifest itself to the world. She has not left the Mormon Church to join the Anglican Church. She has added participation — communion — with the Anglican Church to her participation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each bearing witness to shared principles of righteousness and salvation. How is it possible that she could be disciplined for doing more with her discipleship, for finding added ways to grow in her worship and in the expression of her devotion, and for expanding the circle of her Christian love and service? It makes no sense.
Recently, Elder Jeffrey Holland met with leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion as an ecumenical recognition of shared Christian values and devotion to He who rules and reigns over all who profess to bear His name. It was a potentially meaningful meeting that signaled a compelling desire to walk side-by-side with fellow believers around the world. To discipline Gina, or anyone else, for choosing to sojourn simultaneously with her Mormon and Anglican brothers and sisters would make a mockery of that meeting by stripping it of any substantive meaning. It would say to the world, “We are happy to shake your hand and sit with you in momentary fellowship but we will not partake of the Christian sacraments with you in any meaningful form or degree — we will communicate with you in words but we will not truly commune with you in deeds, in any way other than in the most superficial manner. God will not be mocked by such disingenuous superficiality.
Gina speaks her mind, to be sure, but does so openly and honestly and always in pursuit of a worthy objective — a continuously evolving and improving place of communion for and with all people who stand as latter-day witnesses to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Yes, she challenges the status quo on important religious, social and cultural matters, but she does so while simultaneously uplifting and upholding the people who see her, listen to her, and read her words. I suspect you may be hearing from a number of people who have been genuinely and frequently edified by her presence in their lives, Mormons and Anglicans alike. In all these regards, she is following in the footsteps of a Shepherd who spoke and acted in strikingly similar ways. And, yet, she is to stand trial for her commitment, her discipline, and her devotion to the values and principles she genuinely holds dear to her heart…? Again, in a Christian context, it makes no sense.
To the extent that Gina may have embraced elements of Anglican ethos or teachings, theological or otherwise, how can that affair of the heart and mind present any meaningful threat to the power and authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Is the foundation of the church not firm enough to bear the questions or comparisons of a single member? Surely you do not envision a Lord, in whose name you will purport to speak and act, as truly troubled by such things to the extent that He would have you seriously consider severing the spiritual seal between Him and His daughter and between her and the other members of her family…? Is that the action of the God who stands at the head of His family-centered church? Again, in a Latter-day Saint context, it makes no sense.
You may regard your action as one protecting the image of the church. Be careful not to protect an imaginary paradigm that is not worth the cost of such protection, which includes the clear potential to create a worse image for the church. You may regard your action as one guarding the boundaries of Zion. Be careful not to turn that boundary into a large and abominable wall that holds one group of disciples captive inside while excluding other disciples outside that wall. This is a moment for you to choose whether to add ‘armed’ priesthood guards and dangerous concertina wire to the top of that wall or to open safe passages through it in behalf of brothers and sisters who want to dwell together in unity and peace on each side. This is a moment to choose which side of church history you will be found to stand on. The world will be watching what you choose to do on December 20th. Your words and actions will be seen as a reflection of and on the church you love.
As in all things, choose the right.
Sincerely and respectfully,
San Luis Obispo, California, USA
CC: President Jared Ormsby
Sister/Dr. Gina Colvin makes me think, feel, and work harder to be a better member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Secondarily, she has made me a better scholar and teacher. I write to petition Church leaders who will make a decision about her membership status to keep her in our community of faith as a member in good standing.
I came to know Gina because of work I have done with several scholars in the domain of globalization and the Church. I have followed her Kiwi Mormon Facebook postings, her “A Thoughtful Faith” podcast, and have been a contributor to a volume she co-edited with Joanna Brooks, DECOLONIZING MORMONISM. I have been inspired by so much of what she says and does. Sometimes she says things that make me feel uncomfortable. But like any church member who makes me feel uncomfortable, I am obligated to love a fellow Saint and see what I can learn from her/him. In Gina’s case I have found that when I step back and think about where my discomfort is rooted, it’s often because she’s hit a nerve and in the process of thinking about her words I find a deep truth that I need to confront. Gina is willing to have challenging and complex conversations with anyone. That should not be read as undermining faith as I fear it often is. Gina champions minor/minority voices and brings a perspective to the various communities in which I am engaged that round out discussions and inform other perspectives. As a lifelong member of the LDS Church, born and raised in Salt Lake City, then moving to and building ties with Saints in Boston, New York, Madrid Spain, and Hong Kong since 1993, I ache at how few non-US LDS voices we have in the “bloggernacle” or in the academy for that matter. Excommunicating Gina hurts the membership of the Church as well as Gina and her family.
Looking beyond Gina to the voices she represents so well, I am deeply saddened when I see the ways in which we, as a church, are bleeding good people who feel they don’t belong. It doesn’t have to be this way. Excommunicating Gina sends the message that difference is to be feared rather than understood and, in Christ-like fashion, loved. I plead with Gina’s priesthood leaders to consider the ways in which they might model leadership that makes a space for Gina, Nathan, and their dear children to continue to be part of our community of faith. As they do so, they are making a way for our community to grow stronger and more faithful in diverse and divine ways. The two are inseparable.
If Gina stays within our fold she can more easily continue to broaden our institutional understanding as she helps us think about individual church members who live at the crossroads of gender, race, nation, history, and generation throughout the world. Gina’s influence will make itself felt regardless of what happens this week in her disciplinary council but what a shame it will be if we lose Gina’s voice as a fellow Saint in our more internal conversations. As a scholar in transnational American Studies and gender studies at the University of Hong Kong. I will continue to teach Gina’s views about nation, religion, and gender in the same way that I teach about other religious figures who involve themselves in political and social justice movements. Gina is a keen observer of the ways in which American culture travels and shapes (and is shaped by) non-American cultures. I have appreciated local leaders who have, thus far, seen Gina’s presence in their congregations as an asset. If this now comes to an end, it will not curtail Gina’s wit and wisdom about spirituality, equity, identity, the excesses of US power (including institutional LDS power), and the beauty of diverse lives. But we will have lost her loving (because they are loving even when they are biting) and important interventions in the councils of the Church where our priesthood leaders continue to plead for more women’s voices. As we transition to a new curriculum of ministering and “home-centered, Church supported” teaching, it is my sincere hope that her priesthood leaders can find a way to support Gina and her family as members in good standing. What a powerful message of comfort and joy that would be this Christmas.
Stacilee Ford, Hong Kong
Please consider the impact GIna has made on thousands of lives before you perform what amounts to social assassination of her character. In a world where walls are being built instead of bridges, be the exception. I feel Christ’s message and example said just the opposite. He challenged notions of hard and fast rules, He challenged traditions and prejudices, challenged who is worthy of being in the company of God’s holy son. Stop dividing and separating those who don’t look like you, act like you, think like you, because Christ didn’t. Invite them to your table and learn what they have to say. All men and women should be welcome to share God’s love and contribute to a church in which his example presides.
This is my dear friend, Gina Colvin, on the other side of author and historian, Gregory Prince, this last summer at the SLC Sunstone Symposium.
Before about 2 1/2 years ago, I had never heard of Gina, her podcast (A Thoughtful Faith), or her blog at Kiwimormon.
Today, I find myself on the other side of what for a period was an acute existential faith crisis that changed my world, my faith, and my spiritual views about almost everything.
Gina’s work, both online and in person, played a vital role in this healthy and stretching personal development opportunity in which I’ve found myself.
I consumed her A Thoughtful Faith podcast interviews with people like Thomas McConkie, Gregory Prince, Patrick Mason, Kristy Money, Terryl Givens, John Dehlin, Lindsay Hansen Park, and so many others. They fed me in ways I needed to be nourished and inspired.
In the midst of those early months of what started as a faith crisis and turned into something much more treasured, I attended a July 2016, Mormon Stories Support Workshop with a small, intimate group, in which Gina participated. Her contributions to the discussions in that Group, her experience, her perspectives, and her wisdom inspired me and gave me hope when I desperately needed it.
During the days of the 2016 SLC Sunstone Symposium that followed that Workshop, I had the opportunity to better learn to know and interact with Gina and with her husband, Nathan. Their relationship, and how they navigated differentiation of belief and faith, inspired me to do better, to be better.
Gina’s compassion and kindness, combined with her fierce sense of purpose and justice, along with her unapologetic desire and manifestation of faith and connection to the divine have deeply moved me over these last 2 1/2 years, as we have interacted in Facebook support groups, and during the July 2017 and 2018 SLC Sunstone Symposium weeks.
I want to express solidarity, love, and strength to you today my dear friend Gina.
Thank you for the human being that you are, for the example you are, and for the friend you’ve become.
My thoughts and love are with you and your family this week ❤️❤️❤️
Anthony Miller (include picture)