The Mormon Church has taken the drastic step of excommunicating the founder of a women’s group within the denomination which had pushed for the inclusion of women in its priesthood.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is
officially known, deliberated overnight on whether to eject Kate
Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women group, and notified her of the
church’s decision on Monday.
Kelly, who did not attend her disciplinary hearing in Salt Lake City, was accused by the church of promoting apostasy, or the repeated advocacy of policy contrary to the sect’s teachings, reported the AP. The ultimate decision rested on an all-male panel of three judges.
“I am not an apostate, unless every single person who has questions to ask out loud is an apostate,” Ms. Kelly said during a telephone interview on Sunday with the New York Times.
“I am a faithful, active Mormon woman who has never spoken anything against the leaders of the church, and that’s not my definition of an apostate.”
Kelly founded the Ordain Women group in 2013, and caused waves within the Mormon Church by pushing to allow women into the male-only priesthood. She began to make headlines by leading demonstrations during the church’s semi-annual conferences in Salt Lake City.
Bishop Mark Harrison, Kelly’s own bishop in Virginia, informed her of her excommunication via email for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church.” As a result, she will be barred from holding voluntary positions with the church, voting for church offices, or take the sacrament.
“You must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church,” read the email.
The Mormon faith, which numbers over 15 million worldwide and over 6 million within the US alone, permits women to hold prominent leadership roles, but bars women from entering the priesthood, citing Biblical precedent as Jesus had only male apostles. The church maintains that those who are excommunicated from the Mormon faith may return, but must repent.
Kelly, an international humans right lawyer who recently moved to Utah, disclosed that she had been placed on notice by the church in May, and would face further consequences if she did not disaffiliate from Ordain Women, and take down the group’s website, reported the Times. After refusing to take the steps outlined in her warning, on June 8 Kelly was informed by her bishop that she faced apostasy charges and would face a disciplinary council and possible excommunication.
Some one thousand Mormons had written letters of support to Kelly’s bishop and his two counselors, and hundreds had come out for a vigil in Salt Lake City during her hearing. Groups of supporters came together in 50 cities throughout 17 countries in support of Kelly, according to information provided by Ordain Women.
“These conditions almost always last at least one year,” Harrison wrote to Kelly. “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.”
Responding to Monday’s events, Kelly expressed regret over the Church’s decision.
“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."