A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, November 05, 2004

A number of thoughts and issues I'd like to work out but it will probably take a number of days to find the words and time to post on them, especially as they pertain to the election. But there was a controversy which erupted during this last week in the Episcopal Church and it was over a liturgy which used goddess language and it's posting on the website of the Women's Division of the church. The response of the right was quick, furious and over the top, accusing the Episcopal Church of promoting idol worship

How was this idol worship? The feminine language, lifted from the Bible, "The Queen of Heaven" in particular, are subject to idol polemic throughout the Old Testament. But in the liturgy these names are recast. Instead of refering to foreign gods, they become recast as feminine images of God. Given this how can one read this as a call to "worship pagan deities"? Isn't there a difference between: believing that certain feminine images are distinct deities versus believing that certain feminine images can be used to refer to the one God?

I wonder if there wasn't a distinction, which would have been helpful for Christianity Today and other's who issued the charge of idol worship. The distinction between the words which we use in worship and God. Our words are not God, they may point us in this direction but they can't be collapsed together. And yet people spoke as if there was a christian deity and a pagan deity and a muslim one as well. A committment to monotheism would suggest that there is no such thing as a "Christian God" or a "Muslim God"...there is just God and the ways that particular religious communities have sought to interact with such a reality. And we can disagree on what is the most appropriate language, but that's what this is about, not about different deities.

But the sad part of the story was the effort to go after the two Episcopalian priests from Pennsylvania who were the source of the liturgy: Rev. Glyn Lorraine Ruppe Melnyk, and her husband Rev.Bill Melnyk. Apparently they were also involved with a local druidic society and calls for investigation against these two folks were taken up by their bishop Charles Bennison who is regarded as a liberal within the Episcopal Church. The investigation could lead to some sort of church discipline, I'm not sure but within days the Philadelphia Inquirer had an article about the 2 minister's resgination from that society and an open letter to Bennison confessing their sins in this affair. Does the letter have a feel of something coerced?

I repent of and recant without qualification anything and everything I may have said or done which is found to be in conflict with the Baptismal Covenant, and the historical Creeds of the Church

I suppose it's hard for someone outside of these events to know, but given the vigorous defense these two folks were just recently giving over their activities, to have this letter immediately come out with the claims it makes (even thanking the right wing blogs for pointing out their errors) makes me wonder. I wonder about a church which could force people into this position? Are the concerns of the institution trumping conscience? Is our religion taken to be the object of devotion so that any other expression of faith must be at odds (as opposed to seeing worship as that which points us to God)?


At 2:01 PM , Blogger Joe G. said...

Some people seem to forget that the birth of Jesus was grafted onto a pagan festival. OOPS! :)

At 6:39 PM , Blogger Karen said...

I have to disagree with your assessment. A Eucharistic celebration in the catholic tradition, which for all intents and purposes is a rememberance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrection, needs to be centered on this memorial and thanksgiving. A Eucharistic liturgy which never mentions Jesus is completely out of place in Anglican liturgical theology. This is why even progressives like me were upset about it.

Furthermore, it was clear day that this liturgy had not been written for a Christian audience; it was written for use in a Pagan ritual and was simply lifted off a website by someone who was not thinking theologically about the implications of this action. Liturgy written for a specific intention often does not transfer well from one tradition to another because there is so often a different spiritual understanding of what is going on. This was clearly the case in this instance and that is why there was such a strong reaction.

Anglicans/Episcopalians are extremely sensitive about liturgy. Unlike most Prostestants and Roman Catholics who rely on a body of systematic theology, Anglicans tend to enact their theology in liturgy. As we say, lex orandi, lex credendi: as we pray, so also we believe.

At 8:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can only speculate. But if there was any coercion, I think it was more likely from the lynch mob on the conservative blogs who were out for blood. He answered them with the same amount of grace as he expressed in his letter.

I think he did what he needed to do, and that was to publically reaffirm his beliefs.


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