SALT LAKE CITY — The founder of a Mormon women’s group that is pushing for gender equality says the church is trying to excommunicate her.
Kate Kelly said she received a letter this week from the bishop of her Virginia congregation informing her of a disciplinary hearing June 22 to discuss the possibility.
In the letter, posted on her blog, the bishop says leaders are considering ousting her because of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.
Kelly said she recently moved to Utah and received the letter Sunday. A church leader in Virginia told her as she left that she was on informal probation, but she was not aware more serious action was being considered.
“I was shocked, dismayed and, once I got over the shock, I was just devastated,” said Kelly, a lifelong member of the church who served a mission and got married in a temple.
Kelly has led demonstrations of her Ordain Women group at the past two conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, objecting to women being barred from the all-male meeting.
Church leaders asked her group to stay off Temple Square in April, but she held the demonstration there anyway. That drew the ire of church officials.
Church officials didn’t immediately have comment on Wednesday.
John P. Dehlin, creator of a blog called “Mormon Stories” that provides a forum for church members questioning their faith, is also facing excommunication.
Excommunication is rare in the church, and it is handled at the local congregation level. Many transgressions and sins can be addressed through temporary punishment, but the church is required to hold disciplinary hearings for murder, incest and apostasy.
The most well-known example of the ousting of high-profile Mormons came in 1993, when the church disciplined six Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine. Five were excommunicated and a sixth disfellowshipped, a less harsh punishment.
Kelly said she doesn’t know what definition of apostasy the church is using, saying she stands behind everything she has done since forming Ordain Women in 2013. She says she has not spoken out against church leaders or church doctrine, simply pointing out publicly that men and women are not equal in the faith.
The bishop’s letter doesn’t include precise examples of why they accuse her of apostasy. Kelly doesn’t plan to attend the June 22 disciplinary hearing, calling it “both cowardly and un-Christlike” to hold the meeting after she had moved.
She does plan to send in a package of letters from friends, families and other members of Ordain Women about how they’ve been inspired and their faith strengthened by joining the group.
Kelly said the feminist Mormon movement won’t die even if she’s kicked out of the religion.
“Disciplining arbitrarily and unfairly one person is not going to stop this movement,” Kelly said.