Doing the Druidic hokey pokey

OathODruids.jpgTerry wrote yesterday about “the dreaded passive-voice paraphrase quote.” Today I turn to another vexing problem in journalism: the dreaded one-sentence summary of a complex history.

Kristen E. Holmes of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an engaging update on Tuesday about the Rev. William Melnyk, a former Episcopal priest who has been involved in Druid liturgies. Melnyk recently informed the Institute on Religion and Democracy (the IRD’s Erik Nelson first brought this story to light) that he had renounced his vows as an Episcopal priest to further pursue his interest in Druidism.

Holmes wrote this about a rite composed by Melnyk’s wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk:

The controversy had begun after a feminist liturgy written by Ruppe-Melnyk was posted on the Episcopal Church USA Web site. The liturgy, which had references to “God the Mother,” was characterized by conservative watchdog groups as pagan and Druidic when they discovered it also posted on a Web site created by her husband.


In the first article he wrote on this matter, which mentioned neither of the priests, Ted Olsen of Christianity Today described the rite as pagan and Druidic because of its content and not because it appeared on Melnyk’s on-again, off-again website, OakWyse (it’s temporarily disabled).

Olsen wrote:

“A Women’s Eucharist: A Celebration of the Divine Feminine” is taken almost completely (without attribution) from a rite from Tuatha de Brighid, “a Clan of modern Druids . . . who believe in the interconnectedness of all faiths.” But who cares where it’s from? Look at what it says. Here’s how it begins.

We gather around a low table, covered with a woven cloth or shawl. A candle, a bowl or vase of flowers, a large shallow bowl filled with salted water, a chalice of sweet red wine, a cup of milk mixed with honey, and a plate of raisin cakes are placed on the table.

You might be wondering: What’s with the raisin cakes? Is it just Communion wafers with raisins? No.

The plate of raisin cakes is raised and a woman says,

“Mother God, our ancient sisters called you Queen of Heaven and baked these cakes in your honor in defiance of their brothers and husbands who would not see your feminine face. We offer you these cakes, made with our own hands; filled with the grain of life–scattered and gathered into one loaf, then broken and shared among many. We offer these cakes and enjoy them too. They are rich with the sweetness of fruit, fertile with the ripeness of grain, sweetened with the power of love. May we also be signs of your love and abundance.”

The plate is passed and each woman takes and eats a cake.

So those raisin cakes have a historical reference: Those “brothers and husbands” banned them. Sound familiar? It’s a reference to Hosea 3:1:

And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Yes, Olsen and other bloggers subsequently wrote about the priests’ composing and participating in Druidic rites. But this was not a case of guilt by association. It was, and remains, a critique of two priests’ liturgies and actions that challenge the boundaries of orthodox Christian teaching.

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  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    Latest news: Melnyk has flip-flopped back to church:


    One suspects he has some very interesting psychological “issues”…

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ gratefulbear

    I’m confused. First Melnyk renounces his Druidry, then he renounces his renunciation — and now he has renounced renouncing his renunciation?

  • Stephen A.

    I was, when I first read the posting, going to congratulate him for at least discovering the incompatability of practicting the two faiths together, and making a decision (unlike those “nominal” christians who simply keep the label and practice otherwise.

    Now…with the renunciation of his renunciation, I don’t know what to think of this very confused person.

    Wonder why he changed his mind, again? Maybe his priest-wife had something to do with it.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    I recall the line directed to Roper in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: “We can only pray that when your head is finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

  • http://pietist.blogspot.com/ Eric Swensson

    I think these things are just the tip of the iceberg! People seem to think he’s an oddball (issues), but I wonder if he is not one of many clergy and lay alike who have assorted loyalties–to Baal for instance!

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  • Bill Melnyk

    The problem you all are having is that you are basing your assumptions upon what you have read in the blogs and the legitimate press. Neither has covered this story with any degree of accuracy. Neither have been able to wrap their minds around the theological details.

    To paraphraze Mark Twain, “The rumours of all my supposed flip-flops have been greatly exaggerated.”

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Good to see your comment here, Bill. Actually, this post does not count the number of times you have changed your mind. It refers to one message you sent to IRD, and to the Inquirer‘s overly simple retelling of the story to date. You’re certainly welcome to elaborate here as much as you like about how the media (or various blogs, including this one) have missed the details of your story.