Monday, September 22, 2008

High Priest Threatened with Excommunication in Marriage Row

Excerpts from an EDGE article by Kilian Melloy

A Hastings, Neb., Mormon man has been threatened with excommunication by his bishop for working against an anti-gay amendment in Calif.

Andrew Callahan, who says that he is "a high priest in good standing" in the Mormon church, contacted the media by means of an email, dated Sept. 21, in which Hastings claimed that his efforts to counter the Mormon leadership's instruction had included co-creating a Web site "where Mormons, former Mormons, and friends of the Mormon Church could write letters and post them online to state their opposition to the Mormon Church's political stance."

The result, Callahan said, was a visit from his bishop that amounted to a threat of excommunication from the Mormons.

Callahan recounted, "In late June the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints... issued a letter to its members in California encouraging them to support Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution that will eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry.

"The letter asked members to do all they could to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating both money and time."

Continued Callahan, "Although I'm a resident of Hastings, Nebraska, not California, I almost immediately began trying to get the Mormon Church to change its position on the issue.

"This just reminded me so much of the racial bigotry that Mormon leaders have historically been so famous for.

"Our past leaders insisted that racial bigotry against blacks was God's divine idea," Callahan continued, adding, "now current ones are promoting this same kind of bigoted nonsense about gays and lesbians."

Stated Callahan, "I'm a Mormon high priest in good standing and have served in many local leadership positions in my more than 20 years in the Mormon Church."

In that capacity, Callahan not only helped to create the Web site where pro-marriage equality Mormons could speak out, he "also wrote hundreds of letters to middle level church leaders stating this opposition to the plan put forth by top leadership in the Mormon Church, and invited the middle level leaders to join with me in that opposition."

The church's leadership seemingly took note of Callahan's efforts; claimed Callahan, "On August 18, the Mormon Church headquarters in Salt Lake City disseminated a 'Notice' to virtually all of the Mormon ecclesiastical leaders in the United States, directing them to 'disregard' communications from me.

"The Notice also directed that the lay membership of the Church be told to disregard me."

Nonetheless, Callahan recounted, "I continued my efforts, contacting lay members directly in several states, and also starting a petition online that asks the Mormon Church to immediately discontinue its political organizing activities and financial support of the California amendment."

Callahan's continued efforts on behalf of preserving marriage equality seemingly led to a visit from his bishop.

"On September 11, 2008, my bishop, Bryan Woodbury of Clay Center, Nebraska visited me stating that he was there by assignment of higher authorities in the church," Callahan recounted.

"Bishop Woodbury offered me a chance to resign my membership in the Mormon Church, and when I declined, the bishop stated that there would be disciplinary action and that my membership in the Mormon Church was 'not mandatory.'

"Bishop Woodbury indicated that he would be back 'pretty quick' with a letter from the next higher level ecclesiastical leader," Callahan continued.

"This was clearly a threat of excommunication, because bishops have full authority to discipline high priests in the Mormon Church with every form of church discipline except excommunication, which must be done at the next higher level."

Continued Callahan, "Bishop Woodbury stated that the reasons for the excommunication would be that I am 'going in a different direction' from the church, and I am in 'opposition' to the Mormon Church."

Added Callahan, "The bishop gave the analogy that if I were a member of a gay and lesbian organization and collected signatures on a petition supporting Proposition 8, that organization would probably kick me out, and suggested that the Mormon Church was about to do that to me now."

The entire article can be read here.

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