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By Michael Anderson Kruse
Kate Kelly, founder and leader of the LDS Women’s Rights group, was excommunicated on Monday afternoon. Ordain Women seeks to change the LDS church’s policy of only ordaining men to the priesthood.
Earlier this month LDS Church Officials in Oakton, Virginia, informed Kelly that a Church Disciplinary Council would be held to determine her membership status.
“I’m devastated and heartbroken that the church I love has chosen to cast me aside,” Kelly said in a press release after hearing she was summoned to a disciplinary council.
Kelly, who has moved to Utah, was unable to attend the council. While members of the LDS church are assigned a ward based on their geographic location, the Bishopric in Virginia has held her membership records and and continued the disciplinary action in Virginia. Wards are headed by a bishop and two counselors known within the faith as a Bishopric.
According to Nadine Hansen, a lawyer who helped Kelly make her case to the Bishopric in Virginia, Kelly was informed of the result of the disciplinary action on Monday afternoon.
Kay Jean, a supporter in Illinois, says she wasn’t surprised when she her heard the news but she said the whole process shows the gaping hole in gender inequality in the LDS church. She said just the fact that Kelly was judged by three men, where a male priesthood holder would be judged by 12 or 13 men, shows that the system that favors men.
“I am terrified of raising my children in this culture,” Jean said.
Kelly Sheppard, director of the Ogden LDS Institute of Religion near Weber State, said that the church becomes concerned when people who are members of the church or claim to speak for the church teach or promote things that are contrary to the official teachings of the church.
“Excommunication becomes a way for the church to protect itself from people who might not know that person is not speaking for the church,” Sheppard said.
Kelly and her allies held a vigil in Salt Lake City Sunday night anticipating a decision then. Around 200 people showed up delivering handkerchiefs and letters on the door of the Church Office building in Temple Square. Vigils were also held in Kelly’s home state of Virginia and other places throughout the world.
Hannah Wheelwright, a official spokeswoman for Ordain Women, placed a handkerchief and said, “I will not be silent, because the first time I asked God if women were equal, I was prepared to hear ‘No’ and that would be the eternal order of things. But now I know that’s not true.”
Amber Minagro-Condie, a resident of Clearfield whose husband attends Weber State, said that the vigil gave her hope.
“Their pain and their hurt are still there but to be around that many women fighting the same fight is comforting.” Condie said. She said she feared speaking her mind in her local ward would lead to same consequences that Kelly is facing and was hopeful Kelly would not be excommunicated. “I think it would really help the overall tone in the church when it comes to asking general questions.”
Hansen in a brief to Kelly’s bishop in Virginia argued that under current LDS policy a membership hold could be placed only with permission of the First Presidency, the ecclesiastical leaders who oversee the church on a worldwide basis. Hansen further argued that either the LDS local leaders in Virginia violated the standing policy or that the church’s repeated stance that leaders in Salt Lake had nothing to do with the discipline is false.
In a statement church spokeswoman Ally Isom said, “In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. 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.”
Jean Reid Norman contributed to this article.