Catching up on Mormon excommunication

Up until this week, I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the push for women’s ordination in the Mormon church. However, I came across the letter Kate Kelly, leader of the movement and founder of the website ordainwomen.org, wrote in defense of her actions pushing for gender equality in ordination. Kelly’s letter is written to Mormon church leaders last week in an appeal to ask they not punish her for her outspoken views on the Mormon priesthood.

According to Religion News Service, Kelly received a letter this week from a Mormon Bishop’s council in Virginia informing her of the decision that she would be excommunicated from the LDS church not for her beliefs but her influence on others. This letter, written by Vienna Ward Bishop Mark Harrison, says, "You are entitled to your views, but you are not entitled to promote them and proselyte others to them while remaining in full fellowship in the church."

As a side note, because there has been news of excommunication both in the Mormon and Catholic churches this week, RNS produced a guide on excommunication and its history titled, “The Splainer: Excommunication 101.”

Kelly’s main claim is that Mormon women should have more input in church governance through ordination. Historically, that church teaches women have opportunities for leadership and service in other ways and the priesthood is exclusively for men to hold.

Kelly’s website presents teachings on ordination and women’s history in a series of 6 Discussions, five of which are complete and the sixth still to be released. Kelly has been repeatedly asked by her church to take this website down but plans to release the sixth discussion soon.

Also interesting in this story is Kelly is not acting alone, among her co-organizers is John Dehlin, a psychologist and founder of Mormon Stories, who also supports gender equality in the Mormon church. In this story from NBC, it is reported that Dehlin has also been summoned for disciplinary action from church leadership for his work and support of women’s ordination. 

Reading more of Kelly’s story it is clear to me that she has supporters and opponents in her movement – and a rift is developing in the Mormon church over the issue. Kelly’s supporters hope this can lead to dialogue. After one year Kelly can seek communion with the church again through repentance and baptism, but it seems unlikely she will. Her letter states: “These things [Mormon Stake President] President Wheatley instructed me to do, I cannot do in good conscience. I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul”

According to RNS Kelly plans to appeal the excommunication decision.

[Colleen Dunne is an NCR Bertelsen intern in editorial and marketing and a primary contributor to Global Sisters Report.]

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