Excommunication of Mormon Activists

Two prominent Mormons are facing the possibility of excommunication.

I'm saddened, but not terribly surprised.  Kate Kelly, one of the members facing church discipline, is the founder of Ordain Women.  While I'd love to see women get ordained, either to the traditional patriarchal priesthood or to a separate matriarchal one, there's a huge problem with Ordain Women: it seeks female ordination regardless of God's will.

I'm happy advocating for the Prophet to seek answers on questions and for the Apostles to consider these issues, but at the end of the day, they lead the church.  No matter how I feel about the issue personally, I cannot receive revelation for the entire church. Promoting a substantial change unconditionally, like ordaining women, is not respecting the authority of the Prophet to speak for God.  We can suggest, discuss, and critique, but we must respect that authority, or else the entire premise of the church collapses.

The irony is that it's exactly this Priesthood authority that the Ordain Women movement seeks.  I think the request is reasonable, and worth, say, a church-wide fast.  It's a really important issue, and deserving of attention, but it cannot be demanded.  We need to have faith in our leaders, not just in the religious sense, but also in a human sense.  We need to hope that they're trying their best and want to guide us to the more perfect world we seek.

The biggest problem is that even the name of Ordain Women is a demand, or could be framed as such.  The start of their mission statement:
The fundamental tenets of Mormonism support gender equality: God is male and female, father and mother, and all of us can progress to be like them someday. Priesthood, we are taught, is essential to this process. Ordain Women believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of these teachings.
Perhaps I am too docile, but I think a softer approach would be more impactful. I believe that the earthly ordination of women could be very good, but I do not believe it is the only way to work towards gender equality, nor do I believe that it is unquestionably God's will.

Having worked in the temple and performed priesthood ordinances (the only place where in our church women do), I can say that those experiences are certainly special.  I can say that we need more female leadership and that there are some cultural practices that should be changed.  But while I can say what I think and feel, I must acknowledge that in my limited scope of experience, I cannot say what is right for the whole church.

So, I'm not surprised that Kate Kelly is facing excommunication; even from my sympathetic perspective, I feel that the Ordain Women movement is too sure of its initiatives, as any movement needs to be.  I'm saddened that the church didn't use this as an opportunity to discuss the issues, and took a more cowardly approach, but I hope that those involved on all sides can take the time to be introspective rather than defensive so that they can take advantage of the true purpose of church disciplinary counsels: to help us acknowledge our failings and become better people.

I've focused on Kate Kelly and Ordain Women, because I know less about John Dehlin and his Mormon Stories Podcasts.  I'm imagining that the "cause for concern" in his case is LGBT rights, but I haven't researched it thoroughly.

I am hoping that this results in a fruitful exchange between the church and its more liberal members about how to express concerns and suggest ideas.  Currently, our only recourse is to either limit ourselves to local impact or go incredibly public online.  There needs to be a way to faithfully express concerns in a way that it doesn't get stuck either at a local level or in a traffic jam to the top.


Rachael said...

Even though I'm not entirely surprised that this happened (the church, after all, has a precedent for this), it's still very sad to me. It feels like the church is telling people like me to either conform or get out. That may not be their intention, but that is the message I am getting. And I'm not alone in that.

I do think OW has been slightly misrepresented, and arguably because they didn't do a great job of controlling their message, and that makes me sad. I have an OW profile, and, like you, would love to see women ordained. My understanding of the group (and most in the group would agree) is that we are just asking for the conversation to happen. Some of Kate Kelly's statements have been worded more strongly than that, be even she has said she just wants the prophet to ask and the issue to be considered. (and if i wasn't so bogged down with work i would cite all this for ya).

And I don't get John Dehlin's thing at all. I listen to his podcast and see no reason to go after him. Honestly, he is one of the reasons I am still active. (as is Kate). So if the church wants to claim these 2 are pulling people away from the church, I'm gonna call BS on that one.

Anyways, I'm just super sad. It's hard enough to stay active as a young female with liberal ideas in a very conservative ward. I'm really disappointed by the conversations surrounding this issue. I'm trying to stay out of it (see: work load) but the little I have seen from members of the church is really disheartening. I am disappointed in the lack of empathy from my brothers and sisters.

It's hard to fight to stay active in a church that seems to not want me, from the top leadership down to the local peeps.

ajbc said...

I think we *should* feel saddened by this, but I think there's also the chance that the timing is a coincidence and these decisions were made locally. Most likely, there was probably a letter to local leaderships about something general, and certain folks took it to this extreme.

While OW might be misrepresented in some ways, I think they're also just sending a lot of mixed messages, ranging from "we just want this considered" to "this is the way it should be." The former is great, the latter not so much. Unfortunately, there's enough of the latter to give a decent case against Kate Kelly.

As for Dehlin, I've heard it go both ways: it's faith promoting for some but encourages others to leave. I hope that on the whole it's faith promoting, but I can't say for sure.

I can imagine that it's a really hard blow for people like you who have used these communities to build your faith. I've not really been involved, so my emotional reaction is small. All I can say is: have courage. You are wanted and loved.

I think the lack of empathy may stem from folks making sacrifices to be obedient and then being frustrated when other people aren't making the same sacrifices but getting the same blessings.

Maybe you live in a deeply conservative ward, but in my experience there are hidden liberals everywhere. Perhaps I've just been lucky, but I've had many surprisingly liberal conservations with Bishops, members of the Stake Presidency, and lots of people that I initially thought were really conservative.

In Berkeley I was taught that you need to be the kind of person that puts away the chairs in order to discuss real issues and cause real change. if you *want* to be faithful, then be really involved while speaking out about your concerns, always with an air of wanting God's will. Plus, people like to agree with each other; the more of us that are public about our ideas, the more other folks will agree. :)

You are wanted. You have a place. And you don't need to make that place; it's already there.

Shaughanie said...

Allison, I really appreciate your perspective. Rachael, I would like you to be in my ward!