The president of the Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the second-largest grouping in the Mormon religion, has resigned, citing “inappropriate choices” in his personal life.
After serving in the post for eight years, W. Grant McMurray’s resignation is unprecedented in the church’s 174-year history.
In his November 29 letter, he said that for “several years I have struggled with personal and family issues that have impacted my ability to function unreservedly in my office and calling”.
In an allusion to personal failings, he wrote: “I have made some inappropriate choices, and the circumstances of my life are now such that I cannot continue to effectively lead the church.”
Mr McMurray also asked that the church release him from the lay priesthood of the faith.
He also broke with tradition, which requires that the president select his successor, with the consent of other senior leaders and the general membership.
“On the matter of succession in presidency, our tradition anticipates that I would designate a successor. In my present situation, I do not feel it is appropriate to do so,” he wrote.
The Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Community of Christ, is the second largest of the Latter-day Saint faiths, often referred to as Mormons.
With its headquarters in Independence, Missouri, it is independent of the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the US state of Utah.
Both churches trace their origins to the 19th century religious leader Joseph Smith.
They split in the mid-19th century after disagreeing over who should succeed Mr Smith following his murder in 1844.