The decision made by a Mormon bishop’s council in Virginia on Monday is making national headlines this week, as the founder of a group advocating for the ordination of women in their faith has been officially excommunicated for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.”
Kate Kelly is a co-founder of the group Ordain Women, which was established in 2013 and calls for the ordination of women and “full integration into the governance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Following a series of meetings and communication with Church officials discussing the Church’s doctrine about priesthood, the decision was made to hold a disciplinary trial after Kelly “persisted undeterred” with her advocacy.
The council also cited Ordain Women’s series of documents entitled “Six Discussions” in its decision, which members felt was intended to proselytize others to support the cause. Kelly was charged with apostasy, or “the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.”
Bishop Mark Harrison of Vienna Ward was part of the three-men panel that held the disciplinary trial and wrote the letter informing Kelly of the excommunication. The letter states that the problem lies not with Kelly’s belief that women should be able to become priests in the Mormon church, but rather her “aggressive effort to persuade other church members to your point of view,” which they felt threatened to “erode the faith of others.” You can read the entire letter outlining the council’s decision here.
Under the terms of excommunication, Kelly is prohibited from certain activities with the Church, such as contributing tithes or offerings, taking the sacrament, giving a talk, or offering a public prayer for a class or congregation in a Church meeting.
The conditions are reportedly “almost always” in effect for at least one year, at which point Kelly can be considered for readmission to the Church through baptism and confirmation if she shows “true repentance” and demonstrates that she has stopped the teachings that led to the disciplinary action. She also has the option of appealing the council’s decision within 30 days.
Since her trial was held in absentia, Kelly submitted a letter outlining her defense against the apostasy charge, which you can read in full here.
Kelly told the Salt Lake Tribune it’s unlikely that she’ll be seeking rebaptism any time soon and will continue to be active with Ordain Women. She says she thought the council would “do the right thing” up until the last minute before the decision was handed down but contends that she’s “done nothing wrong and [has] nothing to repent.”
“It feels very much like a forced amnesia, where everything you thought you knew was gone and everything you thought you were isn’t the case anymore," Kelly said.
Despite her disappointment and sadness over the ruling, Kelly also urged people in a statement to stick with the Church and help foster the change she seeks.
“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,” she said. “I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better."