Mormon agency delays meeting with Affirmation

The Associated Press/July 25, 2008

Salt Lake City » An August meeting between a gay Mormon support group and a church-run social service agency has been indefinitely delayed pending the appointment of a new director for LDS Family Services.

In a letter sent Wednesday, outgoing director Fred C. Riley said the matter would best be handled by his successor, who hasn't been selected. LDS Family Services is an arm of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Riley was to hold the meeting at the request of church president Thomas S. Monson. It was seen by leaders of Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons, as a sign that church leaders recognized a need to better support gay Mormons and their families. Affirmation has no direct affiliation with the church.

"We feel badly about this but believe that for this to be the best experience for all parties and to ensure appropriate consistency and continuity of the process, it would be best to postpone the meeting until the new commissioner is named," Riley wrote to Affirmation's Assistant Executive Director David Melson.

Melson said Affirmation regrets the church's decision to put the meeting on hold. It was the result of a February appeal to Monson to open dialogue between the church and gay members.

"We've now written to President Monson and asked if another general authority can be designated to meet with us on the eleventh," Melson told The Associated Press.

It's unclear how soon the meeting could be rescheduled. Melson said he understood a replacement for Riley could be picked in three to six months.

Affirmation hopes the delay is unrelated to the church's efforts to help pass California's Proposition 8, which would define marriage in that state's constitution as being only between a man and a woman. Church leaders have asked members to make contributions of time and money for the campaign.

On Friday, church spokeswoman Kim Farah confirmed Riley's departure from LDS Social Services and said a search is underway for a replacement.

"The reason the August meeting with Affirmation was postponed is clearly given in the letter," Farah said, adding that the church had initially proposed a meeting date earlier than August. "The meeting was put on hold until August at Affirmation's request."

Melson said both sides agreed to meetings in August because the all-volunteer Affirmation executive committee already had plans to travel to Utah for a conference.

Many gay Mormons have struggled to find a place in their church, which teaches that homosexual activity is a sin and that traditional marriage is an institution ordained by God.

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