(KUTV) While Mormon church leaders weigh whether or not to excommunicate the founder of Ordain Women, hundreds of both women and men participated in a vigil on Sunday to support Kate Kelly and her organization that advocates for women's ordination to the all-male priesthood.
Participants gathered at City Creek Park in Salt Lake City, as disciplinary talks were underway in Kelly's former home of Virginia. Her bishop, Mark Harrison, and his counselors will decide what disciplinary action Kelly should receive, if any.
Kelly is charged with apostasy, or turning her back against the principles of the gospel. She refuses to take down the Ordain Women website, on which hundreds of Mormon women and men have posted profiles in the name of "gender equality" in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Distant supporters also attended dozens of other vigils across the world, Kelly said.
"It's wonderful to feel so supported, but at the same time it's hard for me, because I feel a huge burden," Kelly said. "This is hurting not only me, but it's hurting a much wider community; it's hurting people with questions, and it's hurting people with concerns, who really want to invest in the church and show their love by investing this way."
Harrison told Kelly on Sunday night that he and other local leaders would need more time to decide what discipline is appropriate.
The church provided the following statement by email on Sunday night:
"Bishop Harrison emailed Sister Kelly a few minutes ago and let her know that he and the council have given intense and prayerful consideration regarding her membership status. He has made a thorough review of her response and other materials, and wishes to prayerfully consider the matter overnight. He will notify her of a decision, probably tomorrow."
The church declined answering questions but spokesperson Ally Isom said in a rare on-camera interview that the church is weighing the decision heavily and "prayerfully."
"Tonight our prayers are with those who have to decide these difficult, personal decisions. We are also praying for those whose choices may place them outside our congregation," Isom said. "In the church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe and valued. And there is room for questions, but how we ask is as important as what we ask. We should not counsel God for what is right for his church."
Isom said in an interview with KUER's RadioWest last week that the church forbids recruiting others to turn away from church doctrine.
"I'm hoping that the verdict is no action," Kelly said. "I'm just checking my phone every 10 minutes."
Many participants of the Salt Lake City vigil were worried about the possibility of facing disciplinary action of their own because of their attendance.
"I am very concerned, but in my heart I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing," said Christina Ellsworth. "I'm really scared. My family doesn't even know I'm here. This is actually the first event like this I've ever been to, but what is happening is more important than me being... shunned."
Participants of the "Sisters in Silence" vigil sang hymns, heard speeches from organizers and then marched peacefully to the nearby LDS Church Office Building, where, one by one, they held pictures of their families and explained why they will not remain silent.
"I will not be silent, because Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have made me feel like I have a place in this church," said one participant.
"Mormon Stories" blogger John Dehlin also faces possible disciplinary action for publicly supporting women's ordination and same-sex marriage. He has questioned some of the foundations of Mormonism.
Many left handkerchiefs to be made into a quilt to honor the event.
By Christine McCarthy
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)
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