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Mormon Gender Equality Advocate Facing Excommunication Holds Vigil

As Kate Kelly's former church leaders met in Virginia on Sunday night to decide if she will be ousted from her church, about 200 supporters of the founder of a prominent Mormon women's group held a vigil in Salt Lake City.

Kelly has decided not attend the disciplinary hearing in her former congregation. Instead, she has sent in a letter she wrote and about 1,000 letters from supporters.

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It's unknown when Kelly will be notified of the decision, but she could find out by email Sunday night.

Whatever the outcome, Kelly said she will always be Mormon.

"I don't feel like Mormonism is something that washes off," she said. "That identity is not something that they can take from me."

Image: Kate Kelly, center, walks with supporters to the Church Office Building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a vigil
Kate Kelly, center, walks with supporters to the Church Office Building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a vigil Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer / AP

She was shocked to find out earlier this month from her bishop that she is facing excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a lifelong member. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

Women can hold many leadership positions in church, but aren't allowed to be bishops of congregations or presidents of stakes. Stakes are made up of up to a dozen congregations, known as wards. The church's highest leaders, called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, are also all men.

The church says only men serve in the lay clergy as prescribed in "the pattern set by the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination."

Mormon officials aren't discussing Kelly's case specifically. They say they are open to questions and sincere conversations about the faith, but that some members' actions "contradict church doctrine and lead others astray."

Kelly's group drew rebukes from church leaders in April when they marched on church property in downtown Salt Lake City's Temple Square. The women asked to be allowed in a meeting reserved for members of the priesthood, which includes most males in the church who are 12 and older. Church leaders had previously told the group they wouldn't be let in and warned them not to disturb the faith's biannual general conference that weekend.

Scholars who study the Mormon religion say Kelly and Dehlin are the most high-profile examples of excommunication proceedings since 1993. That year, the church disciplined six Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and kicking out a sixth temporarily.

—The Associated Press