Kate Kelly, the founder of a prominent Mormon women’s group, has been excommunicated, according to her organization, Ordain Women.
Kelly, an international human rights lawyer, formed the group, which pushes for gender equality in the faith, with the ultimate goal of allowing women in the lay clergy. Kelly has repeatedly insisted that she has not spoken out against church leaders or church doctrine.
The excommunication was announced by Ordain Women on Monday afternoon. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the formal name of the Mormon Church, held a disciplinary hearing on Sunday in Virginia before weighing their decision overnight.
Kelly did not attend the disciplinary hearing but held a vigil in Salt Lake City with about 200 supporters.
“The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful,” Kelly said in a post on the group’s website. “Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”
“We are deeply saddened by this news," the group said on its website. "As Mormons we recognize the gravity of this action. We follow the directive of Mosiah 18:9 and will mourn with our sister as she mourns. We regret that there is no way to predict how local leaders will react to conversations about gender inequality in the Church — many have been supportive in these discussions, others have not. Ordain Women will continue.”
Kelly was formally accused of apostasy – the public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.
In recent days, Mormon officials have refused to specifically discuss the charges against Kelly, but Ordain Women said Bishop Mark Harrison contacted Kelly by email to inform her that the all-male panel of judges had convicted her on the charge of apostasy and has decided to excommunicate her.
“Our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” the group quoted Mormon officials. “This means that you may not wear temple garments or contribute tithes and offerings. You may not take the sacrament, hold a Church calling, give a talk in Church, offer a public prayer in behalf of the class or congregation in a Church meeting, or vote in the sustaining of Church officers. These conditions almost always last at least one year. If you show true repentance and satisfy the conditions imposed below while you are no longer a member, you may be readmitted by baptism and confirmation.”
However, readmission requires that Kelly give up her views. A lifelong member of the church, Kelly said she will always be Mormon.
“I don't feel like Mormonism is something that washes off,” she said. “That identity is not something that they can take from me.”
Mormon officials have declined to discuss Kelly's case, but say that disciplinary hearings are held when members' actions contradict church doctrine and lead others astray, according to the Associated Press.
Mormons take what others regard as a conservative approach about the limited role of women and of gays. In addition to Kelly, John Dehlin, an outspoken advocate for gays, is to meet with church officials next week.
In 1993, the church disciplined six Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and kicking out a sixth temporarily.
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