From the New York Times, June 23, 2014…
“Kate Kelly, who unsettled the Mormon Church by founding a movement to advocate opening the male-only priesthood to women, was excommunicated by her bishop and his two counselors in Virginia on Monday….
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.”…
Mormons believe that excommunication breaks the eternal ties to one’s spouse and other family members who were sealed together in temple rituals.”
What is written above can be true not just of Mormonism but of many faiths who come to view themselves and their ordained as gate keepers. From outbreaks of unspeakable violence between Sunnis and Shiites on down these kind of events should signal a caution about the dangers of organized religion when it comes to no longer value an inclusive humanity but instead holds that there is but one path and one way. Something then as incredibly beautiful and helpful as organized faith can degenerate rapidly in such a toxic environment.
And how do we know when faith has crossed that line? How do we support religion in holding to the necessary bonds on human conduct that actually allow for a healthy flourishing while at the same time being appropriately wary of the extremism that a fundamentalist approach can engender? Some ideas.
In this denomination, we believe that the greatest of evils grow out of a love of power for selfish reasons. We flip consequently from seeing ourselves as servants to instead seeing ourselves as entitled to be served. We are no longer embedded in a world of fellow travelers on life’s journey but instead become band leaders knowing both the tune and the formation in which all should march.
That kind of narcissistic orientation works it way out into both distorted reasoning and distorted action where we come to truly believe that “killing” in its various forms somehow serves God.
And God’s Word is co-opted by that whole process, a process where the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Koran is used to legitimate and rationalize behavior that falls far from the clear spirit of a loving God. The wisdom of revelation is “recruited” and then “distorted” as Emanuel Swedenborg noted. (Divine Love and Wisdom 274) It can be”transformed step by step into something false.” (275)
So truth, if it is distorted, no longer serves as the protector but instead serves as a way to mask what in not of God.
Love then remains the ultimate answer. But this is not sloppy love. This is not “anything goes” or “nothing matters” or “everything is relative.” This is agape love …. “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.” (Thomas Oord) Agape love creates a wisdom that returns religion to its best self and in so doing turns us towards God and each other.