Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 23, 2014

Mormon church excommunicates women's group founder

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon church excommunicated the prominent founder of a Mormon women's group, Ordain Women announced Monday afternoon.

Kate Kelly's former church leaders in Virginia notified her of the decision after weighing the high-profile decision overnight.

She did not attend the disciplinary hearing Sunday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instead holding a vigil in Salt Lake City with about 200 supporters.

As the leader of Ordain Women, Kelly is accused of apostasy, which is repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Mormon officials aren't discussing Kelly's case, but say that disciplinary hearings are held when members' actions contradict church doctrine and lead others astray.

Kelly is one of two well-known Mormons facing excommunication. John Dehlin, an outspoken advocate for gays and the creator of a website that provides a forum for church members questioning their faith, has a meeting with his stake president in Logan on June 29 to discuss his case.

Scholars who study the Mormon religion say Kelly and Dehlin are the most high-profile examples of excommunication proceedings since 1993. That year, the church disciplined six Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and kicking out a sixth temporarily.

Jan Shipps, a retired religion professor from Indiana who is a non-Mormon expert on the church, said church leaders are practicing "boundary maintenance," using Kelly and Dehlin as examples to show people how far they can go in questioning church practices.

Kelly said before the decision that she will always be Mormon.

"I don't feel like Mormonism is something that washes off," she said. "That identity is not something that they can take from me."

She was shocked to find out earlier this month from her bishop that she is facing excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a lifelong member. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

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