(KUTV) Mormon church leaders in Virginia decided on Monday to excommunicate Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, an organization that advocates for the ordination of women to the all-male priesthood.
"Our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church," said Kelly's bishop, Mark Harrison in a statement forwarded to 2News by an Ordain Women spokesperson. "This means that you may not wear temple garments or contribute tithes and offerings. You may not take the sacrament, hold a Church calling, give a talk in Church, offer a public prayer in behalf of the class or congregation in a Church meeting, or vote in the sustaining of Church officers."
A heartbroken Kelly responded to the decision by email, asking for some privacy to absorb the news and talk to her family who are supporting her.
"The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful," Kelly said. "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."
Ordain Women has very publicly advocated for women to hold the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members have posted profiles to the group's website, they have rallied and they have held vigils in the name of "gender equality."
The church charged Kelly with apostasy, or turning her back on the principles of the gospel.
The disciplinary council tried Kelly on Sunday in Virginia, where she used to live. Her local church leaders there refused to transfer her records to her current location in Provo. Kelly had been on informal probation before the decision.
Ordain Women organizer and spokeswoman, Hannah Wheelwright said she is heartbroken by the decision.
"It's a very devastating time for myself and for many women yet to be born who will find themselves unwanted in the Mormon church," said Wheelwright. "I think that there is a lot of fear with a woman speaking her mind publicly."
Wheelwright herself is on informal probation because of her position with the organization and her Young Mormon Feminists blog.
"I'm not allowed to take the sacrament, I'm not allowed to speak publicly in church and I'm not allowed to hold a calling," Wheelwright said, in tears.
A few women have chosen to remove their profiles from the Ordain Women website, fearing their own disciplinary action.
If Kelly repents while she is no longer a member of the church, she could be readmitted by baptism and confirmation, Harrison said. She must show her leaders that she has "stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood." But Wheelwright said Kelly refuses to take down the website and dissociate with the organization she started. Wheelwright, too, will remain in the group, despite possible consequences.
In a statement posted online, Young Women General President Bonnie Oscarson encouraged compassion among church members following the decision.
"Occasionally, some of our brothers and sisters may find themselves away from the fold because of personal choices," said Oscarson. "Without condoning those choices, it is important to remember the Savior's message of leaving the ninety and nine safely in the fold and reaching out with love, with kindness and with compassion to the one."
By: Christine McCarthy, follow her on Twitter @ReporterXtine
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)
Follow us on Twitter @KUTV2News
and LIKE us on Facebook