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LDS officials in Virginia have denied Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly's appeal to be reinstated to the Utah-based faith after her June excommunication for "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church."

The discipline came in response to Kelly's push to open The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' all-male priesthood to women, including twice leading a group of OW supporters to Salt Lake City's Temple Square to seek entry to the priesthood session of the faith's General Conference.

The feminist appealed her excommunication to her former LDS stake president, Scott Wheatley, a regional leader who oversees several Virginia Mormon congregations, including the one she attended.

In a letter dated Oct. 30 and emailed to Kelly, who now lives in Kenya, Wheatley and a stake disciplinary council upheld the June 23 decision of Bishop Mark Harrison's council.

Wheatley's letter, however, says Kelly was ousted from the church for "apostasy."

"I maintain to this day that I am not guilty of apostasy," Kelly said in a statement posted on the OW website. " ... I have love for the gospel and its people. I have encouraged others to stay inside the church, if they are able."

Wheatley told Kelly she has the right to appeal the stake decision to the church's highest authorities — the governing LDS First Presidency.

To do so, she needs to "specify in writing the alleged errors or unfairness in the procedures or decision" within about a month, Wheatley wrote. "I will then forward your appeal and any associated materials to the First Presidency."

Kelly said she intends to do so, hoping the leaders will "rectify this egregious error."

"It is not too late for my leaders to declare my innocence," she wrote, "and restore me to full fellowship."

Kelly was not surprised by Wheatley's denial of her appeal, she wrote, but "it was tremendously disappointing to see it on paper."

OW continues to stand by Kelly and to work toward gender equity in the 15 million-member LDS faith.

"We call on our leaders to send a message to women throughout the church," current OW chairwoman Debra Jenson said in a news release about Kelly's appeal, " reassuring them that asking questions and participating in faith-affirming direct actions are not grounds for punishment."

The group, run by an eight-member executive board, will continue its work addressing religious gender inequality, Jenson said. "Ordain Women's goals and message remain the same."

Twitter: @religiongal

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