June 23, 2014 in Nation/World

Mormon holds vigil, skips church’s hearing

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Kate Kelly speaks with reporters during her vigil Sunday in Salt Lake City. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy and may be excommunicated from her church.
(Full-size photo)

Background

Ordain Women drew rebukes from church leaders in April when they marched on church property in downtown Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. The women asked to be allowed in a meeting reserved for members of the priesthood, which includes most males in the church who are 12 and older.

SALT LAKE CITY — As Kate Kelly’s former church leaders met in Virginia on Sunday night to decide if she will be ousted from her church, about 200 supporters of the founder of a prominent Mormon women’s group held a vigil in Salt Lake City.

Kelly decided not to attend the disciplinary hearing in her former congregation. Instead, she sent a letter she wrote and about 1,000 letters from supporters.

The bishop of her former congregation emailed Kelly to tell her he and other leaders considered her status and reviewed her response, spokeswoman Laurie Turner said in a statement. It says the bishop wants to weigh the decision, and he will notify her likely today.

Whatever the outcome, 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.”

She was shocked to find out earlier this month from her bishop that she is facing excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a lifelong member. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Kelly, an international human rights lawyer, said she stands behind everything she has done since forming Ordain Women in 2013. The group advocates for gender equality in the faith, with the ultimate goal of allowing women in the lay clergy. Kelly insists that she has not spoken out against church leaders or doctrine.

Women can hold many leadership positions in church but aren’t allowed to be bishops of congregations or presidents of stakes. Stakes are made up of up to a dozen congregations, known as wards.

The church says only men serve in the lay clergy as prescribed in “the pattern set by the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination.”

Mormon officials aren’t discussing Kelly’s case specifically. They say they are open to questions and sincere conversations about the faith, but that some members’ actions “contradict church doctrine and lead others astray.”

“In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions,” church spokeswoman Ally Isom said. “But how we ask is just as important as what we ask. We should not try to dictate to God what is right for his Church.”

Melissa Mayhew, 31, traveled about 40 miles from Orem to attend Sunday’s vigil and to support Kelly’s right to advocate.

“We are all of us people who see things that we would love to improve about the church that we love deeply and dearly,” Mayhew said.

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