The LDS Church has excommunicated Kate Kelly, leader of a movement within the Mormon church calling for the priestly ordination of women:
Bishop Mark Harrison informed Ms. Kelly by email that she had been excommunicated “for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church,” according to a partial text of the decision shared by an Ordain Women spokeswoman.
The bishop said in the email that Ms. Kelly may not take the sacrament, hold a voluntary position or give a talk in the church; vote for church offices; contribute tithes; or wear the sacred Mormon undergarments.
To be considered for readmission to the church, “you will need to demonstrate over a period of time that you have stopped teachings and actions that undermine the church, its leaders and the doctrine of the priesthood,” the email to Ms. Kelly said. “You must stop trying to gain a following for yourself or your cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the church.”
I know next to nothing about Mormon theology, so I don’t know whether or not this action by church leaders was justified. But in principle — which is not the same thing as “in fact” — I support the bishop’s decision. That’s because every church or religious community has the right to decide its own boundaries. Remember the Episcopal priest who decided several years ago that she was also a Muslim? Her bishop ultimately defrocked her:
It was an incredibly painful experience, said Redding.
“My priesthood has been so interwoven with my identity that to imagine not being able to exercise the privilege of being involved intimately in the lives of believing people — helping them sort through and understand their relationship and calling … It’s a huge loss,” she said.
Well, the Episcopal Church cannot have one of its priests trying to help people “sort through and understand their relationship and calling” by telling them that they can belong to another religion and yet affirm Christianity. I may be wrong, but I cannot imagine that the defrocked priest has much luck finding Muslim congregations who buy her shtick. She can call herself citizens of both the United States and Saudi Arabia, but the US and Saudi governments are the ones who ultimately make that call.
Again, I don’t know how these things work within the LDS Church, so I have no idea if her excommunication was justified or not. But I suspect the usual suspects will scream bloody murder over this, on the grounds that religion is entirely an individualistic, subjective thing, that it makes no objective claims. It is understandable to have doubts about one’s faith, and it is permissible, as a general matter, to talk about them publicly. But at some point, if one persists in publicly denying an aspect of one’s faith that is not up for discussion, and if one continues to challenge the legitimate authority of the church on matters of defined doctrine or dogma, one should not be surprised if that authority casts one out of the fold.
At some point, a believer in any religion will dissent so much from the teachigns of that religion that they have excommunicated themselves. The act by the religion’s authority may be just a formality. Please correct me if I’m wrong, Mormon readers, but it seems to me that the issue in the Kelly case is not so much women’s ordination as her implicit denial of church teaching and defiance of the church’s legitimate authority. Again, every religion has the right to set its own boundaries, and to defend them.