Anglican Church Apology
On Monday, June 15, 2015, community members gathered in the hall of the Vancouver Japanese Language School to hear an apology from the Anglican Church of Canada to all members of the Japanese Canadian Community affected by the sexual abuse perpetrated by the late Goichi Gordon Nakayama, past minister of the Anglican Church. The abuse, perpetrated primarily upon Japanese Canadians boys, spanned fifty years and affected an unknown number of victims. The abuse first came to light in late 1994 with a written confession by Mr. Nakayama to the then-Archbishop of Calgary. The charge of immorality was brought forward against Mr. Nakayama in early 1995 and he resigned soon after. He died later that same year.
At the request of clergy and lay leaders of Japanese Anglican congregations, Mr. Nakayama’s abuse and confession were not publicly revealed for 20 years. Over the past several years, a Japanese Canadian working group was formed with the aim of publicly revealing the truth, facilitating an apology by the Church, and offering support to survivors and their families.
In early 2014, the working group began the process that led to this Apology – offering community support through information articles in The Bulletin and organizing events. On June 14, 2014, Chief Doctor Robert Joseph and Squamish Nation Elder Gloria Wilson spoke eloquently at an event at Tonari Gumi sharing their own stories and offering advice about addressing sexual abuse within a community.
The June 15 event was emceed by JCCA President Lorene Oikawa and began with a First Nations traditional blessing by Councillor Deborah Baker of the Squamish Nation who shared her personal reflections on apology and reconciliation in the context of Indian residential schools survivors and the recent and ongoing focus on Truth and Reconciliation. Working group member Judy Hanazawa spoke next, providing a brief background on the Apology and the events that led up to it.
The Apology itself was read jointly by the Right Reverend Gregory Kerr-Wilson, Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary and the Right Reverend Melissa Skelton, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. Following the apology, Bishop Greg Kerr-Wilson presented the signed Apology document to Mary Kitagawa who gave her response. Both the Apology and the Response are reprinted here.
As Mary Kitagawa pointed out, most of the surviving victims do not wish to share their experience, having locked away this painful secret due to emotional paralysis. Having suffered silently throughout their lives, the truth is too painful to share even now. As such, the apology represents not an end to the trauma visited upon so many young and powerless victims, but hopefully the start of some degree of healing, beginning with the acknowledgement that a terrible wrong was committed against those powerless to defend themselves.
Apology issued by the Anglican Bishop of Calgary and the Anglican Bishop of New Westminster to all members of the Japanese Canadian Community affected by abuse perpetrated by the Reverend Canon Gordon Goichi Nakayama (hereafter referred to as Mr. Nakayama).
1. Mr. Nakayama was a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary. Some of his ministry was in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, and he travelled widely in Canada and in other parts of the world.
2. After he had retired, Mr. Nakayama confessed in person and in a letter dated December 28th 1994 to the then Archbishop of Calgary that he had engaged in ‘sexual bad behavior … to so many people’.
3. Upon receipt of Mr. Nakayama’s confession, the then Archbishop of Calgary formally brought forward the very serious charge of Immorality against Mr. Nakayamil on February 10, 1995.
4. Upon receiving this charge, Mr. Nakayama voluntarily resigned on February 13, 1995 from the exercise of priestly ministry.
5. It is not known how many young people were affected, and no complaints were received at that time.
6. We have been made aware of the impact and effect of these past actions by some of today’s survivors, whom we acknowledge and seek to support, along with those who have died, their families and friends.
7. We deeply regret that Mr. Nakayama while a priest committed these acts of immoral sexual behavior.
8. On behalf of our dioceses, we express our deep sorrow and grief for harm which Mr. Nakayama did, and we apologize to all whose lives have been affected by Mr. Nakayama’s actions.
9. We deeply regret this Apology was not delivered to the Japanese Canadian Community at the time of Mr. Nakayama’s confession, the charge of immorality, and his subsequent resignation from the exercise of priestly ministry.
10. We express our support to survivors, affected families, and community as a whole and deeply hope that this Apology encourages healing and wellness for all whose lives have been affected by Mr. Nakayama’s actions.
11. We commit to participation in a healing and reconciliation process with the members of the Japanese Canadian Community who were harmed by Mr. Nakayama.
12. And we assure you that the Anglican Church takes these matters seriously, and takes steps to prevent this type of behaviour.
Speaking to the Apology by the Anglican Clergy, June 15, 2015
by Mary Kitagawa
Good afternoon. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people.
Thank you also to the Anglican Clergy who are here today to participate in this event.
On behalf of the victims of the former Reverend Cannon Goichi Gordon Nakayama, I accept these words of apology from the clergy of the Anglican Church. I do not know how these words would be interpreted by the victims or if the words would even help to heal the wounds inflicted by Reverend Nakayama. However, I feel that this process is a good first step, a beginning that must continue to minister to those who were harmed and are still in pain. I hope that the Church’s acknowledgement of the harm and its willingness to take part in the healing process will help the victims and their families come out of hiding and verbalize their pain and anger. Perhaps then, they will feel the power of conversation about their experiences that will lead to healing. Sadly, in reality the trauma itself cannot be reversed.
The victims who are still alive are very elderly now. They have lived with this trauma since the time it happened to them in their youth. Most of those with whom I spoke who are still living do not wish to share their experience with anyone. They have locked away this painful secret due to emotional paralysis. Fear based pain and a sense of shame, might be forcing them to hide this ugly past. Most have suffered silently throughout their lives isolating themselves, unable to share their pain and anger that continues to engulf them. They were not even able to tell their parents or siblings therefore their hideous secret remained cocooned, unable to emerge in any form.
I am the voice of two generations of victims in my family who are now gone: My two uncles, two sponsored young Japanese boys who worked for my grandparents and my two younger brothers. They all had encounters with the former Reverend Nakayama. I did not know about my two brothers’ abuse until my one surviving brother who is now age 75, revealed his story to us only last year. They were 8 and 12 years old when the abuse took place. My youngest brother passed away in 2008. When I asked my remaining brother why he kept this information to himself for so long, he could not verbalize the reason why. However, when I think about some of his behaviors when he was growing up, I now understand that it was the result of his trauma. He is able to share his feelings with his siblings now, to speak freely about it but not with others.
When I was in my teens, a Japanese Canadian friend of our family came one evening alone for a visit. At that time we were living in Alberta. This man had a wife and two small children. During our conversation, he began to tell us about being sexually molested by Reverend Nakayama. We were horrified by the details he revealed. He sobbed like a child as he poured out his anguish and pain. It was an agonizing experience for us as we tried to comfort him. I hope later, he was able to share his story many times with others whom he trusted as a means to exorcise his most unspeakable experience. It took a great deal of courage for him to come out of hiding to share his story with us. Soon after, he and his family moved away and we were never able to meet him again.
Another person, victimized by Reverend Nakayama, is still extremely angry. He told me that the Kogawa House is in reality, Nakayama house and should be burned to the ground. He felt by turning that house into ashes, some of the evil done by Reverend Nakayama might be extinguished.
Just yesterday I received an email from one of Reverend Nakayama’s victims. He is a well-known, accomplished and a respected Japanese Canadian. Like all other victims with whom I spoke, he asked me never to reveal his name. In his senior years, he is still trying to deal with the impact of his abuse.
Rather than bringing closure to this terrible tragedy, this apology raises some serious questions:
1. Did the Church not consider sexual abuse of children and youth by Reverend Nakayama a crime? In Canada, sexual molestation and abuse of children and youth is considered a crime.
2. Why did the Church not report Reverend Nakayama to the police? When he confessed his “bad sexual behavior” to the then Archbishop of Calgary, why was Reverend Nakayama allowed to voluntarily resign instead of being excommunicated?
3. Was the Church aware of Reverend Nakayama’s abuse of children and youth before his confession?
4. What made him confess if not by pressure from the Church?
5. Was the Church protecting itself by not making this confession public?
6. I wonder if the Church would have initiated this process of apology if it was not approached by the Japanese Canadian community.
Perhaps, finding answers to some of these questions could be included in the next step. However, the most important task now, is to reach out to the victims, to see how they can be helped. In today’s apology, the Anglican Church has expressed support to the survivors and has committed to the participation in a healing and reconciliation process. In order to make this apology truly meaningful, I hope the Church will not only participate but initiate and lead this process for the sake of the victims of the former Reverend Cannon Goichi Gordon Nakayama.
I would like to close by sharing a verse from the Bible. It is Proverbs Chapter 15, verse 9; “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.”