Feminist Mormon says appeal against excommunication denied

Reuters/October 31, 2014

By Daniel Wallis

A feminist U.S. Mormon who was excommunicated after advocating for the ordination of women said on Friday her appeal against the ejection from her faith was denied by a panel of male Church leaders.

Kate Kelly, founder of the website Ordain Women, was excommunicated in June after Church leaders deemed her actions and public statements to have violated the "laws and order" of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and amounted to apostasy.

In a blog post, Kelly, 34, said she received the news in a pro forma letter by email on Friday from a regional Church leader in Virginia, where she lived until earlier this year.

"The notice that my appeal to him was unsuccessful does not come as a shock. However, I will admit, it is tremendously disappointing to see it on paper," she wrote.

Kelly, a former Washington human rights attorney, said she plans to appeal the rejection directly to the First Presidency of the Church in Salt Lake City.

Kelly's excommunication prompted widespread calls for clemency, including more than 1,000 letters of support that were sent to Church leaders deciding her fate.

Launched in 2013, Ordain Women has thousands of supporters worldwide and has pushed for greater gender equity in the Church and has asked the faith's highest leaders to seek direction from God on the issue of women joining the priesthood.

Mormon men ordained into the lay priesthood can perform religious rituals, including baptisms, confirmations or blessings, while women's leadership roles are limited to auxiliary organizations.

"I maintain to this day that I am not guilty of apostasy," Kelly wrote on Friday. "I have love for the gospel and its people. I have encouraged others to stay inside the Church, if they are able. ... it is not too late for my leaders to declare my innocence and restore me to full fellowship."

Disciplinary actions within the Mormon Church are said to be decided on a local level, but Kelly's dismissal in June drew a rare public comment from the faith's highest governing boards: the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

The Church leaders said members of the faith are free to question and "earnestly seek greater understanding." But they said advocating positions that ran counter to Church leadership, or cultivating a following, amount to apostasy.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham)

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