‘Mormonism at its best’ — Bishop clears New Zealander who faced possible excommunication

After a wave of poetry, prayers and personal petitions, good news greeted Gina Colvin about her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

She gets to keep it.

The verdict from her local Latter-day Saint leaders in Christchurch, New Zealand, was not to discipline the outspoken Colvin at all.

“It was ‘no action,’” the popular podcaster of “A Thoughtful Faith” wrote to thousands of Facebook friends Thursday.

Colvin, a theologian and writer, was summoned to a disciplinary “bishop’s council” — which meant her fate would be determined by her local lay bishop and his two counselors — to answer charges of apostasy and “conduct unbecoming” a member.

Though she was baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Communion in March, that was not the “sole or even the predominant factor” in considering formal church discipline, the bishop wrote in his letter to Colvin outlining his reasoning.

Instead, he argued, the main issues were her “continued profession of membership in … [the LDS Church]” while actively criticizing the Utah-based faith and “its leaders in public forums, and public advocacy for positions which are contrary to core doctrines of the church.”

The council could have chosen to excommunicate, disfellowship or otherwise punish Colvin.

For her part, Colvin wanted to remain a Latter-day Saint but was not planning to attend the meeting.

However, in the “11th hour, both my bishop and my stake president [a regional lay leader] reached out and encouraged me to go,” she wrote in her Facebook message. “After a very tender exchange, I was moved by the spirit and agreed to attend.”

She thanked the many friends and supporters for writing to her bishop, Joshua Shaw, who read every submission and took seriously “their collective witness.”

Colvin also expressed appreciation to “friends who ditched prior plans and came with me and held vigil at the church,” especially her former bishop, Peter Cammock, “whose presence and voice was wise and wonderful.”

Earlier this week, Cammock expressed his view to The Salt Lake Tribune, in an email, saying, “I don’t think Gina should be subject to disciplinary action as I suspect she has influenced numerous people to stay in the church who might otherwise have left.”

In the end — and much to her surprise — “the council was a very sacred experience for all who attended,” Colvin wrote, “I found it profoundly moving.”

She still doesn’t support the idea of Latter-day Saint disciplinary councils, the Maori mom said, “but, under the circumstances, this was Mormonism [or whatever it’s supposed to be called these days] at its best."

Colvin’s friend Melissa Inouye, a scholar of global Christianity and Mormon studies at the University of Auckland, rejoiced at the news.

“I went around the house shouting ‘YES! YES! YES!’ until my kids giggled at me,” Inouye wrote in an email. “In the past, when prominent Latter-day Saint intellectuals have walked into these disciplinary councils, they have walked out excommunicated. In this case, everyone walked out better friends."

Colvin, too, is aware of how different her outcome was from others facing discipline for alleged heresy.

“Church discipline is invariably harsh and ultimately unnecessary,” she wrote in an email, “when there are so many more spiritually mature practices for healing our community’s inevitable differences.”

Her disciplinary council was “a shared conversation where both authority and ego were put aside,” Colvin said. “I was blessed that everyone present was committed to creating a gentle and kind experience in which we all, in good faith, sought to deeply understand and give Christlike attention to each other’s wounds and concerns.”