Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LDS Church To Hold Disciplinary Council For Ordain Women Founder Kate Kelly, Excommunication A Possibility

On June 11th, 2014, the New York Times reported that two dissident activist members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, face upcoming disciplinary councils and may be excommunicated from the Church. This post is about the Kate Kelly story.

Sister Kelly received an email on June 8th from the bishop of her previous ward in Virginia (she currently lives in Provo) informing her that she faces disfellowshipment or excommunication on the grounds of apostasy, and calling her to a disciplinary council hearing at the Oakton Virginia Stake Center on June 22nd. Disfellowshipment means limiting the participation of a church member, while excommunication is removing someone from membership. Kelly’s stake president had previously warned her in a letter in May that if she did not shut down the Ordain Women website, dissociate herself from it and repent, she faced excommunication for openly, repeatedly and deliberately acting in public opposition to the church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so. The letter said "you are not required to change your thinking or the questions you may have in your own mind", but that she must keep her questions private and resolve them by talking to her bishop. According to this comment posted on Millennial Star, Kelly was placed on informal probation at that time, the conditions of which she could not identify herself as a member in good standing, participate in temple or sacrament ordinances, pray or speak in church. Another source reveals that when Kelly attempted to appeal the informal probation up the chain of command, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Quorum of the Seventy said he could do nothing for her.

Kelly has posted a copy of this letter HERE, although I've not been able to get it to load successfully.

Kate Kelly describes this development in her own words on the Ordain Women website:

I was informed on June 8 that there will be a disciplinary council held in absentia by my former bishopric on June 22 to try me for "apostasy". I have moved away from the Washington, DC area, and after I left my former Stake President sent me a letter outlining what he called “informal probation” after meeting with me one time, while I was packing to move. The trial will be held in my former ward and I am not able to return.

I was open and honest with my bishop from the day we launched on March 17, 2013. I communicated with him each and every time Ordain Women did an action and asked that he come to me if he had any questions. While I was living in his ward, he never once personally called me in to meet with him. Nor did he email or call me with any questions regarding Ordain Women. Three weeks after I had moved out of his ward, and he sent me this letter. Convening a council in my absence, after I have moved, is both cowardly and unchristlike.

During two successive General Conferences, in October 2013 and April 2014, Kelly and Ordain Women announced their intention to line up outside the Conference Center and ask for admission tickets to the all-male General Priesthood Session. On both occasions, LDS authorities told them in advance they would not be admitted. Nevertheless, they showed up and lined up anyway. The latter implies that Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women activists went beyond merely advocating for women's Priesthood ordination, coming out in open rebellion against LDS Church authorities. Sister Kelly seems absolutely blind to the effects of this action and the futility of influencing Church policy through civil disobedience. Nevertheless, the LDS Church was willing to blow it off and turn the other cheek after the first incident in October 2013, although they rebutted five formal requests by Ordain Women to meet the Church authorities.

But Ordain Women chose to do it a second time in April 2013. This means they slapped the LDS Church's other cheek. Consequently, the LDS Church had no viable alternative but to initiate a disciplinary council and try Kate Kelly for her membership. But while this is just, it is no cause for joy. Those of us who believe she deserves ecclesiastical discipline ought not to be celebrating this occasion. It is a bit troubling that Kelly reports she will not be able to attend her own council, but perhaps that's a misunderstanding on her part, since it is a requirement that the subject of a disciplinary council be allowed to attend and speak in his/her own defense.

Since this post was published, the LDS Church has issued an updated statement on Church discipline which makes no specific reference to either Kate Kelly or John Dehlin:

"The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.

"Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church."

Ordain Women Responds: KSTU Channel 13 reports that Kimberly Baptista, public relations director of Ordain Women, stated in an email that they have two actions in response. The first is that they are asking supporters to submit a letter describing how the group has improved their relationships with the Church or strengthened their testimonies. Representatives from Ordain Women will deliver these letters to the Church Office Building and will also send them to those who make up Kelly's disciplinary council. The letters are being collected HERE. The group is also planning to hold a candlelight vigil on June 22 at 5 p.m. MDT, the same time as the hearing. The vigil will be held outside the LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and those who gather will do so to show their support of Kelly.

Other Reaction: Predominantly LDS reaction from a number of sources (after the jump):

-- Ordain Women Facebook Page: As expected, considerable support for Kate Kelly is expressed here.

-- KSL Channel 5: Most of the comments about Kelly's situation are supportive of the LDS Church.

-- Millennial Star: Reminds us that "Church disciplinary work is intended to help a person repent and come back to the Church and is not punishment. It is an act of Christ-like love". Of course, this depends upon the attitude of the excommunicant.

-- Wheat & Tares: Respondents tend to be somewhat sympathetic towards Kate Kelly, although some seem more put out with the possible excommunication of John Dehlin.

-- Clean Cut: Denies Kate Kelly is an apostate, compares her with Jesus.

-- LDS Freedom Forum: Most respondents are not surprised; one says Kate Kelly seemed very insincere from the beginning.

-- Sic Et Non: BYU Professor Daniel Peterson denies any insinuation that he's involved in this; he has never advised any Church leader with regard to either John Dehlin or Kate Kelly, nor expressed any opinion to any Church officer about how they should be treated. He's had no contact whatsoever with their local leaders.

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