Thursday, May 3, 2018

Open Letter to Bishop Turner



This is my open letter to Bishop Turner of the Bow Valley Ward:

May 3, 2017

Dear Bishop Turner,

I write to you to express my concern and request your support in the matter of ecclesiastical abuse unchecked. I cannot be silent. Therefore I write this as an open letter that I am copying to President Steele, to Brother Brook Melchin, the one who ministers to me, and to President Louise Brown, my Relief Society President.  I am also posting it on my family blog so that my readers who are family and friends can know how I feel.

I am writing because in March I watched with horror the unfolding of reports of Missionary Training Centre’s President Joseph L. Bishop’s predation.  To gather information about what other Mormons were thinking I read the Young Mormon Feminist Blog, the Sisters Quorum, By Common Consent, Religion in Public, Mormon News Room, any place I could go to get a thoughtful perspective on a horrifying situation, listening to stakeholders and to common people on these  discussion platforms.

In my reading I found reference to a comment in the handbook that tells authorities to believe women when they come to religious authorities with their stories of abuse.  I concur.  I came to the same belief many years ago.  It caused a major shift in my thinking.

What is troubling me right now is that the practise from the general church headquarters is not the same as their theory.  Rather than tell the women who have come forward, “I am sorry this happened to you” and then finding ways for the women to work through that trauma, they have first ignored, then pilloried, and re-abused the woman who has spoken up in the Joseph F. Bishop incident, both in official church statements and in articles published in church-owned newspapers.

I cannot be silent.  Still, I do not know where to go to register my dissent.  If I send a letter to Salt Lake, it will be sent back to be taken care of by you.  My local authorities are not implicated in what happened.  It is the General Authorities who did not model an appropriate way to take care of this.

In other recent instances of dissent, some of my fellow Mormons choose to walk with their feet. In the year after the Nov 2015 LGBTQ statement (that children of LGBTQ people could not be baptized), 60,000 people asked to have their memberships removed from the church.  No change came in the policy.

With that in mind, if the leadership of the church won’t listen to the voices of 60,000 of its members, what would the protest of one small voice like mine matter in the case of protesting the protection of sexual predators, specifically the former mission president of the MRC? 

I can understand how abuse can happen.  What I can’t understand is why an apology hasn’t been issued, as well as an outpouring of help to the abused.

I was glad to see that near the end of March, after watching the Church respond in such a dishonourable way, that the Church announced an updated document about abuse (https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/multimedia/file/Preventing-and-Responding-to-Abuse-attachment-final.pdf) that included a shift in policy allowing  parents to be present in any interview of their child by a Bishop of Stake President.  This is a very small step in what needs to be a huge shift in ending ecclesiastical abuse and inappropriate questioning.  This policy needs to be not only about our children, but extended to all members of the church.  These tiny steps are necessary, but not sufficient.

So what am I asking of you?  I don’t know.  I am stuck.

These blogs have offered solutions. They are full of solutions that seem to be ignored.   The only mention of this at General Conference was shouted by a woman from one of the pews, but not addressed by those who have microphones at their disposal.

It seems like the people are crying out and no leaders will listen.

Will you listen? 

And if so, what can we do to see that this is checked so that women are believed.  I do not think it is right to proceed with a law suit against the woman who told over 10 church authorities about this and was not believed.

Faithfully,

Arta Johnson

cc President Colin Steele
cc President Louise Brown
cc Brother Brook Melchin

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