Women’s Rights Activist Excommunicated From Mormon Church

Kate Kelly had been lobbying the church to ordain women as priests. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said she is guilty of apostasy.

Updated — 9 p.m. ET

Kate Kelly (center) in Salt Lake City on Sunday. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

A Mormon woman who pushed for female ordination to her church’s all-male priesthood was excommunicated Monday by her local church leaders.

Kate Kelly was ousted from the Utah-based religion following a “disciplinary council” — a kind of church trial — that was held Sunday in the Washington, D.C., area. Kelly had been charged with apostasy.

Kelly founded and led Ordain Women, an organization that has lobbied The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to open the Mormon priesthood to women. The church uses an all-lay ministry and only men are allowed to occupy top leadership positions. A spokeswoman for Ordain Women told BuzzFeed on Monday that Kelly was notified of her excommunication via email by a local leader in the Washington, D.C., area where she used to live:

Today, Kelly’s former ecclesiastical leader in Virginia, Bishop Mark Harrison, contacted Kelly by email to inform her that the all-male panel of judges who tried her in absentia on Sunday, June 22nd, has convicted her on the charge of apostasy and has decided to excommunicate her, which is the most serious punishment that can be levied by a Church court.

Kelly and Ordain Women twice tried to attend an all-male Mormon meeting but were turned away at the doors. The first attempt (pictured above) happened Oct. 5, 2013. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

Excommunication means that Kelly cannot participate in church rituals, wear certain religious clothing, speak or pray in church, or enter the church’s temples.

She may still attend weekly services in local chapels, but would have to be re-baptized in order to once again be considered a member of the religion. Kelly was told in her email that those who are excommunicated typically must wait at least a year before they can even be considered for readmission to the church.

In a statement issued to BuzzFeed, Kelly called her excommunication painful:

The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. 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.

Ordain Women supporters gathered in Salt Lake City Sunday evening for a vigil in support of Kelly. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The action against Kelly began earlier this month and was one of several taken against prominent liberal members.

In addition to Kelly, John Dehlin also has been threatened with excommunication, though his disciplinary council has been postponed. Dehlin is a prominent Mormon blogger who has encouraged the acceptance of LGBT members within Mormonism, among other things.

Both Kelly and Dehlin told BuzzFeed earlier this month they had no desire to leave Mormonism and had hoped to see the religion become more inclusive. Last week, Kelly wrote in The Guardian that she is being penalized “for the simple act of opening my mouth and starting a conversation about gender equality in the church and the deep roots of this institutional inequality.”

Rock Waterman, who writes the blog Pure Mormonism, also has been threatened with excommunication for his writing. A growing list of other Mormons, including Kelly’s parents, are facing lesser penalties for their support of Ordain Women, same sex marriage, and other issues at odds with the typically conservative religion.

Top church leaders in Salt Lake City have said the disciplinary efforts were entirely local and were not part of a coordinated effort. The church did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Responses to Kelly’s excommunication varied Monday, though many — including both supporters and critics — expressed sadness.

Any person celebrating Kate Kelly's excommunication is gleeful at someone losing the Holy Ghost and Temple Covenants. A terrible day.

— Joseph Stuart (@jstuart87)

#Excommunication is a 19th century solution to21st century issues.NOT smart. More people will leave in droves. #LDS #Twitterstake #KateKelly

— OntheEdgeofMormonism (@awhitneyln)

Kate Kelly is not welcome among Mormons. Cliven Bundy and Glenn Beck are. It gives one pause, no? #LDS

— Donnell Allan (@GrandmaAllan)

I am sad to hear #KateKelly got excommunicated. Sad that she didn't understand the proper role of Priesthood Keys. She can repent, happily.

— Clark LeRay Herlin (@clarkherlin)

I am satisfied with the verdict of Kate Kelly being excommunicated from the Church. It is a sad end, but she brought it upon herself.

— Courtney Peck (@courtyardpeck)

It's saddening to understand that the church is pushing further away from gender equality with the excommunication of Kate Kelly today.

— Michael King (@_Gink)

Heartbroken for @Kate_Kelly_Esq, @OrdainLDSWomen & all who challenge sexism in religion. This excommunication affects us all. #OrdainWomen

— Erin Saiz Hanna (@erinsaizhanna)

This is the letter Kelly received Monday via email informing her she had been excommunicated:

View this embed ›

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

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Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at jim.dalrymple@buzzfeed.com.
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