Sunday, June 22, 2014

Disciplinary Council Defers Decision On Kate Kelly's Membership Status For A Couple Of Days; Disfellowshipment May Be More Likely Than Excommunication

Update June 23rd: I was a bit too kind-hearted in my assessment; Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS Church on this date. In response, Kelly said “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.” Her response is similar to the approach taken by Denver Snuffer after his excommunication.

The leadership of Kate Kelly's former ward held the long-heralded disciplinary council on Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly on June 22nd, 2013, trying her for apostasy, and they notified her of their initial decision, which was promptly posted on the Ordain Women Facebook page:

Kate Kelly's Bishop just said via email: "After having given intense and careful consideration this evening to your membership status, and after carefully reviewing the materials you sent to us, we have decided that we want to prayerfully consider this matter overnight. I will notify you once we have a final decision, probably tomorrow or Tuesday."

This does not necessarily mean excommunication's off the table. What is most likely is that the members of the disciplinary council do not agree on the penalty. This increases the chance that disfellowshipment might be the penalty prescribed rather than excommunication. Kelly has repeatedly asserted her fundamental loyalty to the Church and its senior leadership throughout this entire saga, and this undoubtedly has influenced the council. In addition, over 1,000 letters supporting Kate Kelly were brought to the council, and perhaps they would like to review that correspondence prior to making a final decision.

The primary difference between disfellowshipment and excommunication is that in the case of disfellowshipment, one at least still remains a member of the LDS Church and thus doesn't have all sealings and blessings cancelled.

Vigils in support of Kate Kelly took place in more than 50 U.S. cities, including Salt Lake City (250 attendees), Seattle (25 at the Seattle North Stake Center), Denver, Albuquerque; the site of the hearing in Oakton, VA (60 people); Evanston, IL; Columbia, SC; and even far-off Anchorage, AK. It is unlikely that these vigils influenced the council. LDS Church spokeswoman Ally Isom issued the following statement after the Salt Lake vigil, which included a march from City Creek Park the the Church Office Building:

“In the church we want all to feel welcome, safe, valued, and there is room for questions but how we ask is as important as what we ask, we shouldn’t try to dictate to God what is right in this church”.

Church discipline is not the end of the world. The Deseret News published a story about six LDS members who made it back from various forms of Church discipline. The common denominators:

(1). The penitent valued a return to full fellowship and was fully repentant.

(2). The disciplinary councils played more of a pastoral than a judgmental role.

(3). All the council members cited in the story emphasized there was no command pressure from the General Authorities to decide on a particular outcome. This point has been disputed by some, most notably Denver Snuffer.

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