Last year, Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer and Mormon, began a campaign to open the priesthood to female leadership. Ordain Women attracted support but also significant controversy within the community, and last month the Church excommunicated Kelly – a decision she’s appealing. Cadence Woodland, a lifelong Mormon, sees (NYT) such stifling of dissent as a sign that the Church’s “Mormon Moment” – “not just the frenzy of interest that rose (and largely faded) with Mitt Romney’s campaigns for the presidency, but a distinct period of dialogue around and within the Mormon community” – has faded. She explains she stopped attended services in December:
The church will continue to lose members like me until it realizes that messages about diversity and inclusion are hollow when excommunication and censorship are the responses to dissent. While the church invests in missionary work, especially overseas, an unwelcoming posture is likely to hinder its growth.
The true legacy of the Mormon Moment might just be that the church was given the chance that many religious institutions desperately need to stay relevant in the 21st century: the opportunity to open itself to criticism and inquiry. The church has chosen not to. And it has killed its own moment by doing so.
Citing Woodland, Hemant Mehta suggests that “Mormons aren’t alone in screwing up their golden opportunity”:
For all the power evangelical Christians, Southern Baptists, the Catholic Church, and the Mormons have today, can you imagine how much more they would have if they supported marriage equality and abortion rights a decade or two ago? Instead, their own actions have forced young people to leave the institutions, drop their religious labels, and search for more welcoming communities.
Woodland is upset about that. She shouldn’t be. She did herself a favor by leaving a Church that shows no desire to improve. If more people followed suit, maybe these institutions would finally rethink their policies.
But in an interview, Kelly explains that she hasn’t given up hope:
How has the campaign been received? Has there been much support within the Church?
We have had a huge outpouring of support from men and women in the Church. It has been amazing to watch this movement grow so quickly. There has also been negative feedback and repercussions, but the good outweighs the bad, by far.
Did excommunication come as a shock?
I was completely shocked. I have lots of faith in humanity and in justice. So, I thought there was no way they would excommunicate me. There was no way they would do something that was just so plainly wrong. …
Will you give up the Ordain Women campaign?
I will not give up speaking on behalf of female ordination. Not because I refuse to do so, but because I am not able to do so. I cannot live an inauthentic life and that is what my leaders are asking of me.