The druidry story transmogrifies

Oath_of_druids_1Newspapers in greater Philadelphia have begun reporting on the past Druidic interests of the Rev. William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Lorraine Ruppe-Melnyk, but some have lost the story’s finer distinctions.

"The online editor of Christianity Today magazine accused the church of ‘promoting pagan rites and pagan deities’ and the Melnyks of idolatry," David Bernard of the Chester Daily Local wrote on Nov. 6.

The same sentence appeared again three days later in a story attributed to "Staff and Wire Reports."

Ted Olsen of Christianity Today Online focused his critiques both on the rites composed by the two priests and on one rite’s distribution through the Episcopal Church’s Office of Women’s Ministries website. These are the only two paragraphs, in his varied comments on the rites, in which Olsen used the word idolatry:

But in this case, we’re not talking about something that’s merely unorthodox, or even heresy. We’re talking about pagan worship of Old Testament idols. We’re talking about a mock Eucharist, the center of Christian worship, that directly references a biblical text about idolatry–and stands proudly, "defiantly," with the idolaters.

One would have thought that the Episcopal Church USA might have argued whether it was really practicing a different religion. Instead, their challenge to [Nigerian Archbishop Peter] Akinola’s statement might be that it’s not new at all: Their idolatry has been around since Old Testament times.

Olsen wrote pointed critiques of the Melnyks’ rites, and wondered online whether Bishop Charles Bennison would have anything to say about the matter. But it should be clear to anyone who read Olsen’s articles that he saw the problem of idolatry as more widespread than the activities of two priests in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Further, both Olsen and Erik Nelson of the Institute on Religion and Democracy — who first called the rite’s attention to several bloggers — both commended the Melnyks for their letters of repentance to Bishop Bennison.

"I will not allow this situation to turn into a witch hunt of any sort," Bennison said in his first statement (PDF) on the conflict.

It never was a with hunt. It was, instead, another case of the blogosphere being a few weeks ahead of mainstream media in breaking and reporting a news story.

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  • Darrell Grizzle

    I never understood the “witch hunt” statement. Obviously, if the Bishop was launching an investigation, he was hunting something. Was he trying to make a distinction between witches and druids? Or was he trying to deny the efficacy of his own investigation?

    BTW, cool druid graphic. :o)

  • Joe Perez

    Let’s see. On the basis of an online posting of a liturgical ceremony that may or may not have ever been performed, and without regard to the theological intention of the ceremony in question, Ted Olsen and other conservative bloggers accuse two priests of being druids, idolators, and promoting the worship of “Old Testament idols.” This is an accusation that, if true, could be career destroying. Of course this is a smear campaign and witch hunt! The smears may or may not be true. I have no idea. Bennison’s statement in the PDF seems quite sensible and sane. LeBlanc’s denial of witch-huntery seems bizarre.

  • Tom Harmon

    “The smears may or may not be true. I have no idea.”

    Well, that seems to me to be a rather key issue to understand before you pronounce judgment on either Olsen or Bennison, don’t you think?

  • Fr Joseph Huneycutt

    The Episcopal priest who, with his wife, faced discipline from the church after the couple’s leadership of local Druids became public has resigned from his Downingtown church. The full article will be available on the Web for a limited time:

  • Paul Barnes

    It sounds like sincere repentence. I am glad that they are humble in their discipline. God grant them peace.

  • Darrell Grizzle

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer…

    [begin quote]

    Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison said yesterday that he would not suspend the local clergy couple found to be involved in Druid activity – and he blamed the scandal on “right-wing” groups out to destabilize the Episcopal Church USA.

    [end quote]

    The article is at (requires registration)

    After reading this article I finally understand the “witch hunt” reference: some folks in the right wing of the Episcopal Church are trying to “out” those on the left-wing theological fringes. I think he may be right.