By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The Florida-based editor of a Mormon-themed website facing disciplinary action and possible excommunication over his writings said on Thursday his Orlando-area church leaders had suspended a hearing to decide his fate.
David Twede's posts on MormonThink.com offer his account of the history of the church's political involvement, criticism of fellow Mormon and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the author's take on Mormon beliefs about the nature of God and temple ceremonies.
Twede, a 47-year-old, fifth-generation Mormon and MormonThink.com's managing editor, has said that church leaders had accused him of apostasy and described his recent posts as anti-Mormon. A disciplinary hearing had been set for Sunday.
But Twede told Reuters by email that he was later informed by a senior church official that the hearing before 15 regional leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been postponed.
"He emailed me and simply said they they couldn't hold the court and would possibly reschedule later, " Twede said. "They will let me know."
Mormon Church disciplinary decision are made at the local level and outcomes can include probation, disfellowship, excommunication or exoneration. Public excommunications are rare. But several high-profile scholars and feminists had their memberships revoked in the 1990s.
Excommunicated persons can still attend church, but cannot receive the sacrament, hold church callings, speak at services or enter Mormon temples.
Twede's possible discipline has drawn national media attention, something that could have prompted the church to back down, said Grant Palmer, a Utah-based author and Mormon historian, who was disciplined by the church in 2004.
ATTENTION ON MORMON FAITH
That's particularly true since Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom Twede has criticized, is also Mormon, ramping up the amount of attention placed on Mormon beliefs and practice, Palmer said.
"If I were a betting man, I would say yes, this is probably at work in the David Twede situation," said Palmer, who resigned from the church two years ago when facing his own excommunication hearing.
In a statement released through the Utah-based church's public relations office, the senior official said the postponement was "due to a scheduling conflict" and would be rescheduled.
The church has declined to comment specifically on Twede or his blog, saying disciplinary matters were confidential. Church spokesman Michael Purdy said last week it would be "patently false" to suggest a Mormon would face discipline for having questions about their faith or for expressing political views.
"The church is an advocate of individual choice. It is a core tenet of our faith," Purdy said. "Church discipline becomes necessary only in those rare occasions when an individual's actions cannot be ignored while they claim to be in good standing with the church."
Founded about eight years ago, MormonThink.org aims to explore aspects of Mormon history, belief and culture. Its writers include current and former church members, Twede said.
Palmer said the site's growing influence maybe be an issue, saying that with the interest in Mormonism on the rise, monthly hits grew to a million in July, and have since surged further.
"I guess the leadership doesn't like having any of this out there in public," Palmer said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)