Terry Mattingly's religion column for 04/13/2005
Our story begins with a liturgy entitled "A Women's Eucharist: A Celebration of the Divine Feminine," posted among the online offerings of the Episcopal Church Office of Women's Ministries.
Digital sleuths easily connected this rite to Tuatha de Brighid, a "Clan of modern Druids." Then before insiders could say "Episcopagans," critics found links between its use of milk, honey and raisin cakes and Asherah, Astarte and rituals banned in the biblical book of Hosea.
As a rule, rites connected to Baal are frowned on in Christian churches.
The Internet trail led to the Rev. William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. In Druid circles, he is "Oakwyse" and she is "Glispa." Soon, Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr., agreed to discipline the Melnyks -- who publicly repented.
It was crucial to avoid a "where there's smoke, there's fire" response, the bishop told the media. "I will not allow this situation to turn into a witch-hunt of any sort."
A bishop does not, after all, have to hunt witches when he has already found his druids.
However, the priest previously known as "Oakwyse" is now the druid formerly known as a priest. In a recent online post, Melnyk has withdrawn his letter of repentance and resigned from the priesthood. Those seeking Druidic rites and weddings may visit http://www.oakwyse.org for details.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people think religion news is boring. Year after year, I mark this column's anniversary -- this is No. 17 -- by rounding up strange bits and pieces that didn't fit anywhere else during the previous 12 months.
Believe me, I would never dare to make this stuff up.
* Alabama radio preacher Paul Morehead is pushing the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) condom. Thus, this quotation: "When a young man and a young woman give in to Satan, when they strip down like animals in the wild and prepare themselves for a lusty round of heavy petting and full-blown sex, what better reminder for them to buck up than a WWJD condom with the image of our Lord and Savior right there on the package?"
* The most amazing faith quote of the 2004 White House race was on the left, when Sen. John Edwards said: "If we can do the work that we can do in this country -- the work we will do when John Kerry is president -- people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."
* Charleston, S.C., church sign: "Stop, Drop and Roll Does Not Work in Hell."
* In the year of the "values voters," I am amazed that no one chased the religion angle in the ABC News poll that said 56 percent of Republicans were "very satisfied" with their sex lives, compared with 47 percent of Democrats. Who has worn "something sexy" to bed? That would be Republicans, 72 percent, and Democrats, 62 percent.
* Someone at Time magazine needs a dictionary. Its recent list of the 25 most influential Evangelical Protestants in America included Father Richard John Neuhaus and Sen. Rick Santorum -- who are Roman Catholics.
* How tough is life on the Jewish dating scene? It seems that MarryBlaire.com is still in business.
* Here's evidence that there is a God: Microsoft's Bill Gates receives 4 million pieces of e-mail per day -- most of it spam.
* Amen! Four Catholic parishes in Monterrey, Mexico, have installed Israeli-made electronic devices that jam cell telephones.
* Note to President Bush: You know that pro-Texas "hook 'em, 'horns" gesture you do by raising the pinky and index fingers on your right hand? Apparently that has another meaning in Norway -- it's a salute to Satan.
* I thought this was an urban legend, but wire service reports indicate that the Rev. Jack Arnold, 69, really did collapse and die at a suburban Orlando Presbyterian church, immediately after saying the words, "And when I go to heaven. ..."
* During CNN's coverage before the pope's death, Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete said that he told Pope John Paul II that he had agreed to speak to the network about the pontiff when he died. The pope replied: "How do they know I'm going first?"
Terry Mattingly (www.tmatt.net) teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is senior fellow for journalism at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. He writes this weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service.