Cross posted from OW Blog-- Bryndis and Kristy story is there as well.
How do you keep attending a public worship place when your local leaders and your own congregation tell you that you are not welcome?
My Bishop and Stake President have been very understanding and loving towards me from the day I moved in. I've been nothing but open and honest with them about my involvement with Ordain Women and in the past they have told me that they would like everyone to "listen more, judge less and love more." It's been my mantra and constant reminder to see things from both sides ever since.
The week before conference my Bishop stood up in sacrament meeting to make a special announcement. "...If anyone not invited to attend Priesthood Session is still planning on attending please see me." I debated for an hour before I decided to take the bait. I texted my Bishop, "Sounds like we need to talk. I am planning on reverently and respectfully attending priesthood session on Saturday." I was in his office less then 15 minutes later....
First thing I was told, "I can tell you that you will not be turned away but, the Stake President has asked that I remind you that you are not invited. This is a meeting for the Men and Boys." I smiled and said, "Bishop, you know me. I will be there." He smiled and then he told me he's been praying for me all week, he wanted to propose a solution. He was worried that while I might still be let in at the stake center that I would just be tolerated. He didn't want me listening to the words of our leaders in that type of environment "because tolerated is a lot different then welcomed". He invited me to attend with him at the local ward building. He offered to pick me up so that everyone knew I was there as his guest. He even texted me later in the week to let me know of an ice cream social the Elders Quorum usually does before hand and wanted to move the time up so we could participate in that as well....
On Wednesday when I recieved a few texts from my Bishop, asking to meet with me as soon as possible I knew it was too good to be true. We met that afternoon and I was told that the Stake President was not comfortable with the Bishops offer. The Stake President wanted to be obedient as possible. He did extend another offer though. The Stake President and Bishop offered to watch the Priesthood Session with me, at my home or theirs and I could invite anyone I'd like. We could watch it together. I politely declined that offer telling them that I respected their views but I didn't feel it appropriate to worship in a closet or be ashamed of my faith and watching it at home with them is very hidden and private. I told them I still wanted to be obedient to them so I would just try to attend at another stkae building. "No," he said, "that seems like the least desirable option. You can come to the stake center or ward building. We'll leave the decision up to you but please let us know what you decide."
I texted my Bishop Saturday morning and told him I was planning on trying the Stake Center that night. His response was beautiful, "ok. Whatever the results, you're in my thoughts and prayers. I love conference weekend and hope that even in spite of any extra excitement that you have a great conference weekend too! (If you need a change of scenery, we'd love to have you join us at our place for any of the sessions.)
Last night, I got on my Sunday best and went to my local stake center with other faithful LDS women. We watched a short OW video before entering and prayed. The sign on the building says The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints VISITORS WELCOME... The Stake president was pacing the halls as we opened the door. "You are not invited here." He told us that we were not invited. He told us he asked HIS priesthood leaders and they said No. He told us that he hopes "someday we can watch this session together as brothers and sisters in Christ, and he will be thankful for that day AFTER his leaders tell him that it is okay". He told us to watch it at home or online. He told me he loved me and turned me away. Yes, of course he was nice, but the kindness that I have always seen from him was not there. The Christlike countenance that I have testified I constantly see in him was not there. He was nervous and fidgety and everything he said to us was very 'scripted'. I walked away feeling betrayed and set up to fail. I walked away disappointed that I had faith in my leaders. I walked away mourning the growth that could have been.
My Stake President chose obedience over integrity. The culture of rule following runs so deep that the doctrine is lost in our everyday practices. My Stake President was "just following instructions," so in his mind it wasn't about ME it was about obedience. But I was there, I was asking to worship with my fellow stake members and it so it was about me. Unfortunately, All too often members of the church feel like it is okay to tear down the person to build the kingdom.
How do you keep attending a public worship place when your local leaders and your own congregation tell you that you are not welcome? I do not know the right answer but I can tell you I will try to remember the multiple personal answers to prayers I received leading up to attending this event. I will remind myself of the spiritual confirmation I had when writing my profile. I will respect my husbands request that priesthood leaders are no longer welcome in our home. I will remember the advice I recieved from temple matrons in the past telling me "The Lord has too much work to be done in The Kingdom to have only half of his saints administering, Keep The Faith.", I will remind myself that sometimes it's okay to have growing pains. I will remind myself that my leaders are human and make mistakes and I will try to continue to have faith in them. I will try to understand that everyone is on a different point on this journey and I will continue to pray that this is the plan my Heavenly Parents have for ME.