Well…was that really unexpected? Come on folks, let’s be real for a minute. Advocating for women’s ordination is one thing, something that I’m not necessarily against…but I’ve explained that before on here. I don’t get bound up about it either way. No, I should say that it’s fairly obvious that it was the demonstrations that led to this. She seems like she wants to continue attending church…I hope she really keeps going. I guess the truth with this situation is that while the communications within the church and talk about leaders and so forth has changed in recent years with social media and blogs, there is a limit to what is acceptable. I think we’re seeing just how close we can get to a boundary before we go too far.
The Church issued the following statement today in response to questions from the news media regarding Church discipline:
“The Church is a family made up of millions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions. There is room for questions and we welcome sincere conversations. We hope those seeking answers will find them and happiness through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs. This saddens leaders and fellow members. In these rare cases, local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.
“Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior. Ultimately, the door is always open for people to return to the Church.”
This statement is not unexpected. It also reads like something of a “canned” message, which is also not unexpected. The Church has long ago established that disciplinary hearings are not public information. The difficulty with this situation is that it’s being played out in the public news and the only side that will be heard is that of the accused individuals. The sides of the situation are also fairly well established already, the liberal groups supporting the individuals in question and the conservatives supporting the Church proper. Moderates will be torn, I suppose.
Ms. Kelly has a couple informative posts up on the Ordain Women website if you want to look at them. Again, the problem here is that this is her side only. Her Bishop will almost certainly not comment on the matter, nor will anyone else. In this situation, I stand by my comments last night that her hearing is the result of the organized actions in Salt Lake City during General Conference. Without those, I suspect she would not be here.
There seems to be less information out there from Mr. Dehlin. At least a couple of websites in the ex-Mormon community indicate that he has gone through periods of inactivity in the past. Here and here. This seems to be something that is not new to him. In the New Order Mormon forum, Mr. Dehlin posted that he no longer believes (or believed at the time) in the Restoration of the Church, Priesthood, and so forth. To say that belief in that is fundamental to the church would be an understatement. It’s equivalent to one of my United Methodist friends not believing in the teachings of Wesley. I guess I find it difficult to self-identify as a Mormon while lacking belief in such a fundamental church teaching. If that belief, or lack of belief, is still the case, it should come as no surprise that this is happening to him.
In this same sense, I would say that I suspect supporters of these organizations, along with supporters of organizations like Affirmation, will be fine. I actually just “liked” the Affirmation New York City page on Facebook today. At the core of all of this, regardless of female leadership or the Church’s acceptance of the LBGT community in a membership context, WE, as members, must be willing to accept them into our congregations.
To me, the outcome of the situations with Ms. Kelly and Mr. Dehlin is not really in question. Truth is, believing something that is different from orthodox Church teachings and even writing about it is different from actively recruiting people to stage a demonstration on Temple Square or freely admitting that you no longer believe in the Restoration. I think we all need to remember the difference during this time.
So I read an article from the New York Times a little while ago:
Then I saw a blog post by LDS blogger Jana Riess:
I wonder if this entire situation might have turned out differently? My personal view is that the problem here has been the methods of “protest” rather than the message. My thought is that Ms. Kelly advocating something of a sit-in at General Conference got her here, not the message of asking for the ordination of women. I have nothing really against the ordination of women. It is not really something that would “bother” me. I do have some serious questions for the organizers about how they would propose reorganizing the entire church if we went to a universal priesthood, i.e. would Relief Society go away and ladies meet with the equally aged men, would Young Men and Young Women become a single youth group, does the Priesthood become “diluted” if everyone has it, etc? But I am not against this as an idea. I was, however, against them attempting to attend General Conference. I think the first time they tried to do it was something of an oddity. They were politely told that they would not be granted admission. Coming back for a second time became something different. My view is that had they stopped at the single appearance and then taken back to words, I do not think this would be happening.
I am not quite as familiar with Mr. Dehlin’s situation. I know from his public Facebook page he self-identifies as a “Cultural Mormon” rather than simply “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint.” I also know that he runs the website Mormon Voices. The New York Times article said that a letter from his Stake President dated June 7 that “cited an Internet posting in which Mr. Dehlin wrote that he no longer believes many fundamental “truth claims” the church makes.” Personally, I think Mr. Dehlin erred in providing that letter to the New York Times. I also do not think providing the letter will help his cause. I also quite honestly wonder why he attends if he “no longer believes many fundamental ‘truth claims'” of the church. Now, I am not trying to say that he SHOULD leave, simply asking the question. I would also as this question of a United Methodist who no longer believed the teachings of John Wesley, a Presbyterian who no longer believed the teachings of John Calvin, or a Lutheran who no longer believed the teachings of Martin Luther. It is difficult for me to understand how a person who does not believe in or accept the fundamental beliefs of a denomination would still attend that particular denomination. Perhaps this is not quite the case with Mr. Dehlin, but it seems that way to me. It seems to me that this is the “problem” that the Church may have with him.
His message of acceptance for the LGBT community seems to be a good one. We certainly need to be more welcoming of these people. I feel that we fall short in this area quite a bit. I am not necessarily trying to say that we should baptize an openly LGBT person, this is a highly divisive issue in the Mainline churches, while the modern Evangelical churches, along with the Roman Catholic church, are generally against the practice. Same goes with same-sex marriage. These issues are divisive, to a degree, in the LDS Church as well, we can’t deny that. What should not be divisive, however, is that we should welcome ALL persons into our congregations if they wish to attend. The sign on the front of every building says “Visitors Welcome.” I would sincerely ask if they really are? Not by the Church as a body, but as members. Do members really welcome the odd and strange people into our mix? In this way, his message was right on. We, as a church community, need to be more welcoming of the people who don’t fit the standard mold of our church. They need to feel welcome to attend and hear the message of the Gospel. If they are not then we, as members, are doing something wrong. I have to wonder if there is information about Mr. Dehlin what we do not know.
Truly, it’s a shame either way that these folks may no longer be a part of the church membership. Obviously the majority of liberal LDS bloggers will come down on the side of these individuals while the conservative bloggers will be against them. I suppose I am in the conservative camp, but because of their methods (at least Ms. Kelly’s methods) rather than their message. We will have to see how this turns out.