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Tuesday, April 4, 2006 • 2:23 pm

The weird and relentless creep of paganism into the Episcopal left.


UPDATE: Maury Johnston has responded to this article, and I have replied.

by Greg Griffith

It seems almost quaint now, but nearly two years ago there was a gathering of pagans in Michigan that shocked Epicopalians with seminars such as “Sex & Spells: Gender and Political Activism in the Witchen Community.” It was sponsored by Oasis, the California-based pro-gay activist group devoted to advancing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered agenda in the Episcopal Church.

Then there was the much-publicized dust-up over William Melnyk, the Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, who was asked to resign his post as rector after it became clear he was moonlighting as a Druid priest, alternately going by the names “Oakwyse” and “Bran.” Melnyk’s Druidism was revealed when he and his wife submitted a decidedly pagan liturgy - complete with references to raisin cakes and sweet red wine (associated in the Old Testamant with worship of the pagan god Baal) - to the Episcopal Church’s call for “women’s liturgies.” The Episcopal Church’s web site published the liturgy, but later pulled it under pressure from traditional Episcopalian web sites.

Now, thanks to some research by commenter Liz at TitusOneNine, it turns out that Maury Johnston, author of Gays Under Grace: A Gay Christian’s Response to Homosexuality and the recent widely-publicized essay “Facing the Spectre of Schism” [Louie Crew has since removed the essay; a visit to the original page confirms this], is also known as “Shadwynn” and belongs to a Wiccan order called “Keepers of the Cauldron.” The coven is described as being in the “grail quest tradition,” based on the Arthurian legends and featuring a strong Eucharistic theme. Mr. Johnston claims to have “married” nine couples in his 18 years as a Wiccan priest, and his other writings only underscore his bizarre notions of how to “blend” Christianity and Wicca.

Mr. Johnston’s essay “Facing the Spectre of Schism” was also reprinted with much enthusiasm in this post at “Father Jake Stops The World” and on - surprise - the Oasis blog. Father Jake posted another Johnston essay here.

These are not the only examples of Episcopal priests and prominent lay activists on the left dabbling in - and in some cases, immersing themselves in - polytheism, paganism, and witchcraft. They are simply some of the more well-known examples.

Many of us have taken solace in humor whenever we read of Episcopal clerics and prominent lay activists heavily involved in paganism, but it has not been without the knowledge that there is a sinister core to these peoples' alternative beliefs. Many pagans and Wiccans insist that they don't worship the devil, and that may be true as far as it goes, but it's small comfort to those Christians who have put their spiritual trust in those who, at best, profess contradictory beliefs and, at worst, are willing to serve up a potion of part Christianity, part Wicca to unsuspecting seekers.

But now it is time for us and for revisionist Episcopalians to have a serious discussion about the matter of paganism in the Episcopal left. It has become increasingly difficult to shrug off events like Michigan's seminar, and people like William Melnyk and Maury Johnston, as fringe cases, especially when the likes of Louie Crew and Father Jake - two of the Episcopal left's most visible activists - see fit to rely on Mr. Johnston's words to make their case that ECUSA should open its doors as widely as possible, to welcome in God only knows what.

It is time for Episcopalians everywhere - especially those in the "middle" who may just now be waking up to the crisis in their church - to know that there are more than a few pagans among the left, and that they are uniformly in support of the gay/lesbian/transgender agenda. There is much overlap between pagan views of sexuality, and the LGBT agenda; and while it's incorrect to assume that one who supports the LGBT agenda also supports paganism, it should give reasonable Episcopalians serious pause when they ponder why it is that the opposite is true - that it's safe to assume that if someone supports paganism, he also supports the LGBT cause in the Episcopal Church.

It is time for the Episcopal left to admit it has pagans in its midst, and to admit that this is a problem it needs to address.

It is time for Louie Crew, Father Jake, Oasis, and the clergy of the Church of the Holy Comforter to tell us what they think of Mr. Johnston's 18-year association with Wicca - and as a priest, no less... not just a curious bystander.

Is this the first they have heard about Mr. Johnston's life as a Wiccan priest? If so, may we assume that they will take this opportunity to disavow themselves of Mr. Johnston's practice of Wicca, and to begin seriously to confront the influence of paganism among their fellow travellers?

If this is not the first they've heard of it, what may we assume about their failure to mention it? Was it mere oversight? A calculated omission? Or is it tacit approval?

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Comments:

Shadwynn is also the author of a book entitled “The Crafted Cup”, one reviewer of which describes thusly:

“This book has some vaguely Christian flavor, but is also VERY Pagan, and I feel is a true Pagan tradition.”

[1] Posted by Marty the Baptist on 04-04-2006 at 04:11 PM • top

Even worse, the official ECUSA website actually offered a pagan fertility rite as an acceptable alternative service for feminists. It was only removed after it became associated with the Melnyk affair.

the snarkster

[2] Posted by the snarkster on 04-04-2006 at 04:21 PM • top

Whatever happened to Mr. Melnyk? He used to post on sfif, but maybe he is keeping a lower profile these days.

[3] Posted by Tony on 04-04-2006 at 05:17 PM • top

Second last I heard, Mr. Melnyk had repented of his pagan ways, and returned to the fold.

And about a month later, we heard that he had repented of his repentance, and went back to Stonehenge to become a fulltime druid. 

And not a peep since, that i’ve heard. 

Kindof reminds me of those neo-pagan bumper stickers you see every so often, that reads “Not all who wander are lost”.  We pray that you eventually find your way back to the narrow path, Oakwyse…

[4] Posted by Marty the Baptist on 04-04-2006 at 06:14 PM • top

snarkster,

You’re right. Thanks for reminding me. We were one of the places leading the charge against the unfortunate liturgy. I added a mention of it to the article just now.

[5] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-04-2006 at 07:45 PM • top

There is a certain irony in Johnston/Shadwynn’s statement, “Conservative Anglican blowhards who never miss an opportunity to demonize the GLBT community, portray our Christianity as a posturing of Satan in the sanctuary . . .” 

The unity of Christian believers is ultimately dependent upon the oneness of God—“one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.”  I suppose, therefore, that it is no surprise that someone who is affiliated with both Wicca and Christianity would advocate schism.
I worry that as our trinitarian faith continues to be eroded into a unitarian faith, we will see more neopaganism. I’m no theologian, but it strikes me easier to shift to paganism and pantheism from a god of ‘impersonal oneness’ than from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

[6] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 04-04-2006 at 08:53 PM • top

IMPORTANT CORRECTION!  The link to Holy Comforter is incorrect.  Holy Comforter in Richmond is where Mr. Johnston belongs.  That website is http://www.hoco.org

[7] Posted by Virginia Anglican on 04-05-2006 at 07:09 AM • top

Thank you - fixed now.

[8] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-05-2006 at 07:32 AM • top

A lot of people missed the Office of Women’s Ministries response to the pagan liturgy brouhaha as it was buried in the OWM report to the Executive Council in February 2005. Here it is (copied exactly from the report):

“THE LITURGY PROJECT
The work of the liturgy project took a different turn given the response to some of the liturgies offered as resources.  We learned the limits of technology and the importance of being clear about what we are doing.  We also learned that technology has its limits.  Our hope to create a conversation space for liturgical innovation is perhaps not possible in this particular venue.  Our office experienced, for the first time during my tenure, the hate mongering and divisiveness which too often claims that it is the way of Christ.  Our response was to be open to critique as well as to the many letters of support we received. The hope is to create new ways for sharing liturgies responding to women’s needs and the passages of women’s lives. This will continue through our web site, and through small group meetings.  Collaboration with the Clay Morris in the Office for Liturgy and Music on this and the use of SLC liturgies is ongoing.”

Also of interest to Mississipians is that one of the pagan liturgy’s principal defenders was a seminarian intern under the sponsorship of the Diocese of Mississippi.

the snarkster

[9] Posted by the snarkster on 04-05-2006 at 08:39 AM • top

ROFL!

We also learned that technology has its limits.  Our hope to create a conversation space for liturgical innovation is perhaps not possible in this particular venue.

If anything, the internet allowed a very candid, spirited, and enlightening conversation to take place on the topic of liturgical innovation.  Now why on earth do you think they would consider that a failure?

Because, as we have seen so many times, “dialogue” is a very one-sided affair, in the ECUSA.

[10] Posted by Marty the Baptist on 04-05-2006 at 08:51 AM • top

Hmmmmmmm. Those who care about such things might want to investigate the advanced initiation rituals of one Alister Crowley. It’s my understanding that this can involve (guess what) same-gender sex…

Also, I’ve heard of someone who told young boys that he could initiate them as Druids by having sex with them.

[11] Posted by Ralph on 04-05-2006 at 10:39 AM • top

From 815:
“Our office experienced, for the first time during my tenure, the hate mongering and divisiveness which too often claims that it is the way of Christ.”

This is an interesting comment and we have no way of knowing what these folks received that they have termed “hate mongering and divisiveness.”  I personally hate that pagan rituals are presented on ecusa’s website.  I think that they divide the people of God into Christians and those who worship another god (pagans).

[12] Posted by Tony on 04-05-2006 at 10:48 AM • top

We should all remember here that ECUSA is a church that voted down a resolution (B001 GC2003) affirming the most basic tenets of Anglicanism: the Creeds, the authority of scripture, the 39 Articles, et al. It should surprise no one that a church that doesn’t believe its own basic theology would allow almost anything.

the snarkster

[13] Posted by the snarkster on 04-05-2006 at 11:01 AM • top

“Our office experienced, for the first time during my tenure, the hate mongering and divisiveness which too often claims that it is the way of Christ.”

As one of those who helped “out” Melnyk (when I was writing the late, lamented Ecumenical Insanity), I can’t help but be amused by the OWM report. Evidently criticism of OWM materials is now defined as “hate,” as is objecting to the posting of pagan materials on an allegedly “Christian” denominational site. I agree with Tony, and would suggest that the OWM leadership look in the mirror when it talks about “divisiveness.”

[14] Posted by David Fischler on 04-05-2006 at 12:39 PM • top

Louie has yanked the article from here:

http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/dojustice/dojustice.html

[15] Posted by anthill on 04-05-2006 at 08:22 PM • top

Very Good, Louie!!!!

Now, dis-avow the WICCAN!!!!

YOU AN DOUIT!!!!

(what a coward louie is if he doesn’t do his “Christian” duty!)

[16] Posted by Milton Finch on 04-05-2006 at 10:54 PM • top

Whoa, folks… No name-calling. This is serious stuff.

Let’s give Mr. Crew a chance to gather his thoughts and say something. He took down the essay - that’s a good first step. let’s give him the benefit of the doubt - at least for a few days - until we hear from him.

[17] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-05-2006 at 11:01 PM • top

True, Greg.

“If” he doesn’t dis-avow…

Peace!

(and sorry)

[18] Posted by Milton Finch on 04-05-2006 at 11:06 PM • top

Just wanted to say this was a good review of the neo-pagan difficulties we face.  One question though, not to be a pedant, but weren’t the raisin cakes associated with Ashera/Astarte?

Blessings

[19] Posted by Jody+ on 04-05-2006 at 11:53 PM • top

not to be a pedant, but weren’t the raisin cakes associated with Ashera/Astarte?

Ashera/Astarte…Bel…Ba’al… It’s hard to keep those pagan gods and their foodstuffs striaght.

[20] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-06-2006 at 12:30 PM • top

I was just lookin’ around the Holy Comforter website and discovered a troubling entry on the church’s calendar.  A meeting of something called “Sisters of Pelagius” is scheduled for April 9 at 7pm.  I know that the Pelagian heresy denied the doctrine of original sin (as well as the need for grace)—what kind of organization could this possibly be?

[21] Posted by Liz on 04-06-2006 at 02:56 PM • top

Greg—I guess you’ve seen Jake’s counter in his current post.

http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/

[22] Posted by anthill on 04-06-2006 at 08:07 PM • top

Yes, I seem to have touched a nerve.

I thought for a moment about where to respond to Jake - his place or mine - and I decided not to leave a comment at a place where the administrator so freely deletes them.

Jake makes two pretty serious mistakes in his post - one is a problem of reading comprehension; the other of a factual nature, something easily checked, which Jake really have should have known I would do before posting my original piece.

Problem 1: Jake accuses me of calling all liberals pagans. He quotes me:

It is time for Episcopalians everywhere - especially those in the “middle” who may just now be waking up to the crisis in their church - to know that there are more than a few pagans among the left, and that they are uniformly in support of the gay/lesbian/transgender agenda…

And then goes on to say:

So, liberals are pagans, eh?

No, Jake, that’s not what I said. What immediately follows those ellipses you put after my quote is this statement:

There is much overlap between pagan views of sexuality, and the LGBT agenda; and while it’s incorrect to assume that one who supports the LGBT agenda also supports paganism...

2. Jake claims that Mr. Johnston hasn’t been a Wiccan priest in years:

Some years ago, Maury was a practicing Wiccan “priest”. This bit of his past was discovered by the extremists through a google search.

I don’t what the point is of calling us extremists, or pointing out the fact that we found out about Mr. Johnston’s sideline as a Wiccan priest through a Google search. 95% of Episcopalians are extremists when compared to Jake; and finding something through Google makes it neither false, nor mortally wounds the discovery by confirming it’s the work of “extremists.”

Anyway, in this post at Yahoo! Groups, a woman from the “AnamTuras” group writes on January 13, 2006 at 9:40 AM:

... I am curious…are any of you aware of a Celtic saint named St.Senara who as legend would have it, a mermaid before her conversion…so I am also thinking about my Book of Saints from the Catholic church and wondered if there was a book of saints specifically Celtic?

Thanks and have a most wonderful weekend,
Gaye

Mr Johnston/Shadwynn replies:

Dear Gaye,

Having been a Wiccan priest for 18 years, I am very aware of the kind of information which you are seeking.  While there are numerous books…

The date and time of the entry is: Fri Jan 13, 2006 9:27 am. I took this screen shot of the page… “just in case.”

Now, it may be that Mr Johnston’s syntax was meant to convey that while “having been a Wiccan priest for 18 years,” he didn’t necessarily mean the last 18 years, but look at this statement from the Richmond Times article I posted in the original piece:

Johnston, known in the Wiccan community as Shadwynn, has performed nine legal marriages for his order since 1988, when Henrico granted his license.

Surely Father Jake can subtract, and if he subtracts 1988 from 2006, he will almost certainly get 18 - the number of years Mr. Johnston claims to “have been a Wiccan priest.” Is this pure coincidence? Did Johnston get his Henrico license years and years after he became a Wiccan priest? Something’s not right here, and while I’m sure we’re all sensitive to Mr. Johnston’s having been “deeply hurt by these ugly attacks,” surely he could clear some things up by chiming in at any of the several venues open to him. He has been, if anything, both very prolific and very aggressive in his essays - surely he’s not too delicate to make an appearance somewhere and set the record straight.

Jake reprinted Johnston’s essay on February 16th - just 5 weeks after Johnston’s post on the Yahoo! message board. So if in fact Johnston did repudiuate his Wiccanism between the time he posted at Yahoo! and the time his essay appeared at Jake’s, that represents a grand total of less than five weeks that he was “Wicca-free.”

So, Jake - you’re not only mistaken in your accusation that I called all liberals pagans, but I went out of my way to point out the fact that to assume so is fallacious. However, the left still has a problem, and I stand by my original assertion that you and the rest of the fringe left have a problem in the form of pagans in your midst.

And as far as Johnston’s repudiation of Wicca, somebody’s not telling the truth. Or, Jake should explain how we’re supposed to view five weeks as sufficient “healing time” after which someone who was a Wiccan priest for nearly two decades is suddenly someone to whom we should give any credence at all.

Jake can pull Johnston’s essay or not. he can repudiate Johnston’s past, or not. He can explain the… umm… “curious” timeline of Johnston’s career as a Wiccan priest, or not. It’s his choice. Jake’s “you’re not the boss of me” claim is 100% correct, but then again, I never claimed to have any “authority” over him at all.

Looks like we’re in for a lot of “listening” in the coming days. Looks like John Wilkins at the Salty Vicar, and Tom Jackson, a spokesman for Oasis and commenting at Drell’s site, have both chimed in with hundreds of words apiece.

[23] Posted by Greg Griffith on 04-06-2006 at 09:36 PM • top

hi de hi,
Just for those who may be wondering, Oakwyse is still active; “http://www.llynhydd.org/oakwyse.html”
JonR

[24] Posted by JonR on 04-07-2006 at 03:30 AM • top

Jon, thanks for the link. I really loved this:

In 2005 elements in the leadership of The Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania required him to renounce his work in Celtic spirituality, and leave the worldwide Druid community, as conditions of remaining in the Episcopal Priesthood.

“Elements in the leadership…” That would be his bishop, the hardly orthodox Charles Bennison. What a joke.

On another note, thanks, Greg, for your response to Jake. Damage control is a tough job, and I appreciate your making it tougher on him! (BTW, I got your e-mail; been a busy couple of days, a response is coming your way this afternoon.)

[25] Posted by David Fischler on 04-07-2006 at 07:37 AM • top

It seems that the closer you get to the truth, the louder the squeals of outrage from the opposition. Judging from the volume of the sqeals I am hearing, Greg must be right on the old bullseye.

the snarkster

[26] Posted by the snarkster on 04-07-2006 at 08:34 AM • top

What a joke. You respond specifically to his suggestion that witchcraft is a thing of the past, and he responds by ending the discussion.

This is a very old pattern. First, there is a shocking relevation. Second, there is a response by someone on with the church or the offended church related group (Bishop, ECUSA spokeswoman or Priest) saying that the article is inaccurate and overstated. Next, the person who published the original story offers a specific and well documented rebuttal to the institutional response. At that point, the institutional spokesman becomes silent.

This pattern extends back to the eighties. I am reminded of ECUSA’s distribution of “Sexuality: A Divine Gift"which was written prepared by the churches Task Force on Human Sexuality and Family Life. Columnist Mike McManus blew the whistle of this piece of propoganda in one of his national columns, which resulted in Bishops sending letters to parishes claiming that his allegations were untrue.  I recieved one of those letters. In response, McManus was forced to quote directly from the offending publication, which among other things enouraged sexual experimentation among our youth. The response from the Bishops?  Silence, because they were BUSTED. The same thing occurred with the outing of the Wiccan liturgies on an ECUSA website, and now the self-professed Wiccan connections of one of the most quoted authors in the current debate over the future of the church.

[27] Posted by Going Home on 04-07-2006 at 11:07 AM • top

Maury Johnston’s response has been posted here.

So Episcopalians are “Post-Christian” nowadays. is that it?

[28] Posted by Marty the Baptist on 04-08-2006 at 02:12 PM • top

Photo of Melnyk at archpagan site
http://www.wildhunt.org/2005/04/episcopagan-scandal-update-back-in.html

See also their coverage of Greg’s expose.

[29] Posted by anthill on 04-08-2006 at 02:23 PM • top

Marty, thanks for the link. I’m not sure what is more disturbing: Johnston’s deluded self-exoneration (in which he essentially justifies syncretism, having been driven to it by Christian “homophobia”), or the hosannas he receives from his admirers in the comments column.

[30] Posted by David Fischler on 04-08-2006 at 03:23 PM • top

“a post-Christian believer in the luminous Jesus who transcends the religious niches that both culture and the Church have attempted to place upon him. Ultimately, this makes me a post-modern, post-Wiccan, post-Christian, Christocentic mystic who worships at the feet of the One Who Was, And Is, And Is To Come (Revelation 1:8).”

Well, I am sure glad he cleared up the confusion as to what he believes.

[31] Posted by Going Home on 04-08-2006 at 03:36 PM • top

He says he is no longer a wiccan.  Well and good.  Why can’t he give us a time frame of how long he has been out of it? 

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm?”

[32] Posted by Milton Finch on 04-08-2006 at 03:45 PM • top

his defense reads more like an apology/defense for interposing a decidedly pagan paradigm onto the person of Christ.

[33] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 04-08-2006 at 04:15 PM • top

Never said a word abour Greg’s well-founded statement that this “former” Wiccan had only been out of it, at most, five weeks—sounds for all the world like he’s pulling a Melnyk here (making like he’s just seen the error of his ways, which he’ll return to in short order when no one’s looking). Of course, I could be way off base, but we can’t know unless he tells us, can we?

[34] Posted by David Fischler on 04-08-2006 at 07:48 PM • top

Blessings and A happy Easter to you all.
Greg ,
By reading the post in this blog I am so Glad to be in the REC. But in the same breath so sad for my brothers and sisters still in ECUSA. Snarkster
you bring up some very good points about ECUSA throwing out the 39 Articles etc. All I can say is even though the REC is only about 12,000 + members nationaly they have been a foot hold to the communion in the USA. I know we are not with the SEE in England , we are still Anglicans, and the larger communion has been in contact with our Archbishop. I know that just burns the higher-ups at ECUSA’s butts. Did you guys know that we couldn’t even get our Christmass ads in the local news papers here in Jackson Ms? Though they were bought and paid for, and they some how got lost?
That folks is how scared ECUSA is of the REC.
I look forward to seeing all of you at church in the future.
Blessings
Bro Paul

[35] Posted by bropaul on 04-13-2006 at 08:28 PM • top

Ten days later . . . no disavowal.

[36] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 04-14-2006 at 07:16 AM • top

“I suspect in this case they’re simply treating Wicca like Buddhism, Islam, Aboriginal Spirituality etc—just another religion—and stocking up on its literature.”

Uh-huh. Kind of like Catholic book stores keeping a supply of Maria Monk “novels” and the collected works of Paul Blanchard.

I guess it’s a liberal thing.

[37] Posted by Dan Crawford on 08-28-2006 at 04:20 PM • top

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