Two Mormon activists pushing their church to ordain women to the priesthood and accept openly LGBTQ members are now facing excommunication for apostasy, which the Church of Latter-day Saints defines as when "individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel." Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, and John Dehlin, a doctoral candidate in psychology who has written about issues faced by LGBTQ members of the church, each received notice this week that they were facing excommunication because of their activism.
As the New York Times reports, Dehlin was sent a letter by the president of his church region asking that he voluntarily resign from the church or face a disciplinary hearing. “Because of the love I have for you," the stake president wrote to Dehlin, "I have become concerned about some of your recent statements and actions regarding this church and your place in it."
Kelly received an email this week from her bishop in Virginia threatening her with “disfellowshipment or excommunication, on the grounds of apostasy,” and informing her that she will be required to attend a disciplinary council hearing later this month. As the Times notes, disfellowshipment means Kelly would have limited participation in the church, but excommunication means she would lose all the rights and privileges -- including the right to sacrament and the ability to enter the temple -- associated with membership. The notice about the disciplinary hearing arrived this week, but Kelly was informed in May that if she did not take down the Ordain Women website and cease her activism on the issue of women and the priesthood that she would be excommunicated 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 went on to note that Kelly wasn't required to change her personal views about the issue, but that she must resolve her "questions" about women's leadership roles in the church privately with her bishop. Kelly told the Times she is "heartbroken" over the letter. She responded to her stake president that the church's demand that she renounce her activism was tantamount to asking her to "live inauthentically."
"That’s not something I’m willing to do,” she continued.
Dehlin is equally dismayed by the church's position. “I worry that the church is kind of shooting the messenger,” he told the Times. “They’re shooting the people who are trying to help and be part of the solution.”