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Just the Facts: Witchcraft in the UMC

by Michael Gonzalez

From: Michael L. Gonzalez gonzoml@concentric.net
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2000 1:10 AM
Subject: [Jude-NewList] Just the Facts! (witchcraft in the UMC)

In this E-mail you will find a logical progression that will demonstrate (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the UMC had better be prepared to start discussing the introduction of witchcraft into the Church, just as has been the introduction of normalization of homosexuality.

Here is the logic of the evidence presented in this E-mail:

  1. UMC pastors conduct a pagan ritual; they write about the ritual in a magazine--a magazine directed to UMC clergywomen; the pastors acknowledge openly that the "croning ritual" is based in witchcraft; obviously, the rituals have absolutely no basis in Christianity.

  2. The pastors conduct the rituals in a fashion which almost perfectly duplicate the rituals documented by today's pagan/witchcraft practices.

  3. A wary person in the UMC brings attention of the witchcraft to the Bishop

  4. Bishop has sat on this for over 9 months now.

  5. Greg Dell (the pastor suspended in our conference for disobedience for conducting same-sex marriages) joins forces with the witchcraft pastors.

  6. If you've never heard of the "Re-imagining" movement, it's another instance where paganism and witchcraft get "too close for comfort" in the UMC. This topic happens to be brushed by one of the writings below, but detail discussion of this topic is too extensive and beyond the scope of this E-mail (you'll have to wait for a future presentation on this topic).

Bounded by nothing but human imagination, how long will it be until the liberals challenge Christian churches with pagan worship and witchcraft (currently called Wicca)? Read this link to see that it's already being introduced into the UMC (here's an excerpt): http://ucmpage.org/articles/wicca_story2.html  

In fact, Atchason positively identified for Insight [magazine] a Wiccan practice gaining currency in many churches. It is documented in two articles in Wellsprings, a defunct journal for Methodist clergywomen. The articles, "A Croning Ritual" and "Reflections from a New Crone," were written by the Rev. Nancy Webb, minister of education and children's education at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington -- which the Clintons attend -- and by the Rev. Mary Kraus of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington. Webb and Kraus provide details of the Wiccan croning ritual in the articles from their own eyewitness accounts.

Connie Alt, a former Methodist cleric, is one of those concerned. Alt left her church partly because of what she perceived to be a lack of discernment in the matter of witchcraft by the church's leadership.

When Alt read the Wellsprings article she telephoned Foundry Methodist to speak with Webb. Alt tells Insight that Webb informed her that she found Northern European practices of Wicca very helpful. She then recommended that Alt read a book called The Spiral Dance, by a Wiccan high priestess who calls herself Starhawk. [following this excerpt is a link to Starhawk's website]

Disturbed that a professing Christian and Methodist minister would admit to any relationship with witchcraft, Alt called her friend Karen Booth, pastor at Long Neck United Methodist Church in Delaware. They had reason to believe that their bishop, Susan Morrison, herself had taken part in the croning ritual. When questioned, however, Booth tells Insight that Morrison said she could "neither confirm nor deny having taken part in the croning ritual, but that she had witnessed many croning rituals."

. . . last fall [1998] . . . Booth, along with Long Neck's lay leader, Elaine Wood, reluctantly filed charges against Webb and Kraus for practicing a spirituality contrary to the teaching of the Methodist church.

In the spring of this year [1999], Bishop Felton May of the Baltimore-Washington conference acknowledged the charges in accordance with the Methodist Book of Discipline and presided over two meetings between the women and appropriate witnesses. Booth and Wood tell Insight that Webb claimed that the croning ritual was just a birthday party but grounded in paganism and Wiccan belief and practice.

Of particular concern to Booth was a blessing mentioned by Webb at the end of the Wellsprings article which she noted bears a striking resemblance to a blessing mentioned in Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, except that Webb's blessing omits a line about "the Goddess." When May asked Webb why she left this line out, says Booth, Webb told him she had said the blessing from memory and she would have inserted the line about the goddess had she remembered it.

In the meetings Webb and Kraus maintained that the croning ritual had been a private party and therefore should not be subject to public scrutiny. Kraus told Booth and Wood that she should be free to choose which ritual activities are meaningful to her.

. . . Bishop May did not take disciplinary action . . . but instead recommended a mediator to assist the parties in reaching a settlement. Both Webb and Kraus remain at their jobs.

Much of the media attention about goddess worship in churches first focused on an event held in Minneapolis in 1993 called the Re-imagining Conference, but more-isolated incidents such as the "croning ritual" have not received a great deal of coverage. Most mainline denominations sponsored the Re-imagining Conference, at which a group of Methodist clergy, among others, encouraged participants to reject traditional notions of Christ's death to atone for sin because "in light of women's experience, such as slavery and female sexual abuse, understandings of sacrifice, atonement and martyrdom are being re-examined."

According to a report by Methodist clergy who attended, as many as 2,200 conference participants shared in a communion of milk and honey and recited a feminist liturgy: "To our maker Sophia, we are women in your image, with nectar between our thighs we invite a lover, we birth a child, with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations." Sophia was honored at the conference as "our creator Sophia." "Sophia" is the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for wisdom. Some feminist philosophers claim that wisdom is portrayed as a woman in the book of Proverbs.

So why do observers say feminism and goddess worship is growing in popularity in the church?

"Women are looking for empowerment and a safe place to explore these things and a place to rebel against God," explains Donna Hailson, author of the Goddess Revival and visiting professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass., and Eastern Baptist Seminary in Philadelphia. Hailson tells Insight she does not believe that God is female, but beyond gender. Hailson does acknowledge that the church has not always behaved in ways that are honoring to women. "But that does not mean that we should re-imagine God!" she says.

========= end of excerpt

So here are the original articles written by the two pastors who performed the croning rituals (presented in full):

UM Clergywomen Share their Wiccan Witch's Craft In Official UM Clergywomen's Publication

from Wellsprings: A Journal for United Methodist Clergywomen, by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church

A Croning Ritual [Wiccan Witchcraft]

It was not just any New Years Eve, otherwise known as Old Year's Night. Seven women gathered at the beach house to celebrate the 50 years of life with which two among them had been gifted. Within the first twelve days of the year to come, both would celebrate their 50th birthdays.

In women's tradition, the fiftieth birthday is especially revered as being the year in which a woman becomes a "crone." Fifty years of wisdom have been gathered through all of the richness of joy and sadness, gain and loss, planting and reaping, springtime and harvest. These two clergywomen represented such wisdom to the circle of seven.

For those who organized the croning ritual much of the fun occurred in the advance preparations. A few gathered with another sister who had been croned the September before, to hear of some of her experiences. She proudly shared her memory book her circle had prepared. We then began to gather names and addresses of family members and friends of both sisters. A letter was composed, inviting them to send pictures, cards, notes, poems and embarrassing stories that they would be willing to share for this auspicious occasion. A memory book was compiled for each of them, using as much color and imagination as possible.

Since members of the circle had a clear understanding that crones have generally gotten a bad rap over the years, and that crones were nothing more than very wise women who understood the ways of the earth as well as being healers, we believed that our two sisters were crones in the finest sense of that term. Fifty inch tall crones were made from brightly colored paper, one in pink and one in purple. One sister in the group made a luminescent, stained glass kaleidoscope for each.

The evening was finally ready to begin. After gathered, whispering, and giggling on the part of those who would orchestrate the evening, favorite foods were prepared for a feast which officially began the ritual. After the feast, the two crones-to-be were asked to leave the room so that the alter could be prepared. With pink and purple crones looking on from the edges, an elegant purple patterned cloth was laid on the living room floor. Candles were placed upon it in the four directions marking north, south, east and west - the four points of the compass. Many purple candles of various sizes and shapes were lit all over the room.

The guests of honor were called, and purple cloaks were placed around them. The chorus began, "There's a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings" from Libana: "Circle is Case." Harmon rose and swelled, then faded and stilled. We said aloud the names of the crones who have gone on before us as well as those who still lead us forward to "Stepping Out" on the promises (words and music by Susan Beehler).

The memory books were then presented to each crone and they each read aloud the cards, letters and poems, and giggled at the pictures. Tears and laughter was abundant as the richness of the two lives created a beautiful tapestry.

Cowrie shells are a special part of many native African rituals. They are used to symbolize blessings and gifts. The others in the circle then gathered a good handful of cowrie shells and with the Spirit leading, gave verbal gifts and blessings to our new crones, simultaneously dropping a cowrie shell into their glasses. We concluded this part by singing:

"Be like a bird, who pausing in her flight on a limb too slight, feels its give way beneath her, yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings; yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings." Libana: "The Fire Within."

These two sisters surely have wings and much, much more. They are sisters who have known how to "sing the Lord's song in a strange land" in the days when clergywomen were rare.

Though we didn't want to close, we said good-bye to each of the four directions, thanking them for the gifts they brought to the festive evening, closing with this blessing:

"And now, by the earth that is Her body and the air that is her breath and by the bright fire of Her Spirit and the water of Her womb, may Her Spirit go with you. The circle is open, but unbroken. Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again. Blessed be."

There is nothing magic about this croning ritual. Hymns, scripture, recorded music, smells, bells, water, flowers, earth, candles or anything that would contribute to a festive time of rejoicing at the 50 years of wisdom bestowed upon the celebrant is highly appropriate. Use the gifts She has already given you to create your own evening of storytelling. May the spirit be with you always.

Nancy J. Webb & Rebecca Ruth Richards Baltimore-Washington Conference

Reflections From A New Crone [Wiccan Witchcraft Participant]

I live in a culture that values youthfulness, especially youthful looking women. So as I approach my 50th birthday, I became more aware that I needed to mark that transition in a way that would contrast society's view of aging. A new wrinkle cream product was not the answer!

Fortunately, I have some wonderful friends who were more than willing to help me make this transition. We had discussed the importance of telling the stores of our foremothers, and how the names given to some of the strong women of history have been assigned very derogatory meanings like: witches, hags, spinsters, crones. Yet, isn't it interesting that the women gifted with sensitivity and perceptions that were called witches by men who assumed that these gifts were the work of the devil! The word "hag" comes from the Greek word "hagios" whose root meaning holy; "spinsters" were the spinners and weavers of fabric and of stories; "crone" comes from the same root as "chronios" which means time.

My life felt like it was passing all too quickly and so I needed help in pausing for a moment to reflect on that half century, and all the mix of pain and joy that had filled those hours, days, and years. Aware of some of this, my friends began their spinning and weaving, which culminated in the following ritual:

First, I was reminded that I am not the first woman to reach the age of 50 and I won't be the last! I stood in a long parade of women who have walked this way before me and who have taught me much and will teach me more. In the transition, I joined them! I was now one of the crones, one who have lived over half her life and learned many valuable things in the process. I had become a "foremother." It felt a little strange to think of myself in that way, but after trying it on, I began to like it, it felt good.

Second, I was reminded that my life is part of all creation. As we gathered in the middle of the four directions, my Native American ancestors were very much present, reminding me that I am inextricably linked to Mother Earth and Father Sun, to the elements of nature which surround me all the time, and to the moon whose cycle influences my own body's cycle. The Creator God of all this, gave me life and one day will claim that life and return it to the good earth. Yes, Mary Kraus is part of all time and creation! That woke me out of my 50-year limit!

Third, it was wonderful to be with people who love me just the way I am. One of the women in this circle has known me over 30 years. My friends have held my hand in painful times and celebrated with me during moments of great joy; always they are there when needed. In the vulnerable moment of completing half a century of living it was good to have some accompaniment. They celebrated that milestone and then moved me right into the next half century reminded me that time does not stand still.

As more and more of us are privileged to live long lives, it is important that we help each other through these transitions. It is important that we reclaim our foremothers and their influence in our lives. It is important that we develop new symbols and ways of marking these transitions; and it is important to celebrate the wisdom that comes with living. It is wonderful indeed. Blessed be!

Mary E. Kraus Baltimore-Washington Conference

Excepts from: Wellsprings: A Journal for United Methodist Clergywomen, Fall 1994 * Vol. 7 No.2 is published periodically by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 871, Nashville, TN 37202-0871

======== end of Wellspring

Analysis of Wellspring (courtesy of Tom Graffagnino)

Compare the ceremonial liturgy in the article above with this one below taken from Dianic wiccan priestess Starhawk's book, "The Spiral Dance":

"Opening the circle. The circle can also be opened with the "short-form" ending, the first part of which, like the "short-form" circle casting, I learned from Victor Anderson*:

By the earth that is her body And by the air that is her breath And by the fire of her bright spirit And by the living waters of her womb, The circle is open, but unbroken May the Goddess awaken In our hearts Merry meet, and merrypart And merry meet again.

[Notes to page 170] p.242, "The Spiral Dance, A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess" (Rituals-Invocations-Exercises-Magic), 1989, Harper Collins)

*[Victor Anderson is a "Faery Priest", according to Starhawk. Starhawk quotes Mr. Anderson : "White magic is poetry, black magic is anything that actually works."]

For those who might be more interested to know more about the "circle" that is being "opened" in this croning ritual, Starhawk explains it this way in a chapter called "Creating Sacred Space":

"In Witchcraft, we define a new space and a new time whenever we cast a circle to begin a ritual. The circle exists on the boundaries of ordinary space and time; it is "between the worlds" of the seen and the unseen, of flashlight and starlight consciousness, a space in which alternate realities meet, in which the past and the future are open to us. Time is no longer measured out; it becomes elastic, fluid, a swirling pool in which we dive and swim. The restrictions and distinctions of our socially defined roles no longer apply; only the rule of nature hold sway, the rule of Isis who says, "What I have made law can be dissolved by no man." Within the circle, the powers within us, the Goddess and Old Gods, are revealed. "....In Witchcraft, the function of the circle is not so much to keep out negative forces as to keep in power so that it can rise to a peak. [This is known as "the Cone of Power"] You cannot boil water without putting it in a pot, and you can't raise power effectively unless it is also contained...." ("Spiral Dance", pp. 71-72)

Note this excerpt from the above Wellspring article:

"After the feast, the two crones-to-be were asked to leave the room so that the alter could be prepared. With pink and purple crones looking on from the edges, an elegant purple patterned cloth was laid on the living room floor. Candles were placed upon it in the four directions marking north, south, east and west - the four points of the compass. Many purple candles of various sizes and shapes were lit all over the room."

A bit more background about the "circle" or "magic circle" which the ladies mentioned above were operating in and (finally) "opening" in this Croning Ritual:

"In Witchcraft, the magic circle provides a sacred, purified space in which all rites, magical work and ceremonies are conducted. It offers a boundary for a reservoir of concentrated power and acts as a doorway to the world of the gods.....

"The Witches' circle is customarily nine feet in diameter....The circle is ritually cast DEOSIL with an athame, though sometimes swords or wands may be used....The working space of the circle actually is a three dimensional sphere, with candles placed on the floor or ground at the four quarters, or cardinal points. The coneners are invited inside through the gate, which is then closed. The circle is then consecrated with the four elements [earth, air, fire and water].....

"Each cardinal point [North, South, East and West] of the magic circle is associated with an element, ritual tool, color and attributes..."

("The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft", p. 219, 220)

========= end of Wellspring analysis

In order to understand the definition of the word croning, I looked at the following source: DICTIONARY OF TERMS ŠEileen Holland, from The Wicca Handbook http://www.open-sesame.com/dictionary.html

Croning: A ceremony held to mark a woman's transition from Mother to Crone, the final phase of a woman's life.

If you don't think that a croning ritual is rooted in witchcraft, then research it yourself on the Internet (it's easy and fast). I did a random search of the Internet to see what croning is all about, and quickly stuff like this popped up:


here's a site with links to 411 witchcraft sites (and these provides links to even more) http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=witchhaven;index

Here's an indication that a "croning ritual" is common today. This statement is an example of how easily witchcraft will encroach into mainline Christian denominations (it's a harmless ritual; it's a common ritual; it's no big deal; etc. etc.) http://www.paganism.com/ag/articles/wvsw.html". . . traditional witches just (informally) think of themselves as being a maiden, matron (mother) or crone. It is interesting to note that "croning" ceremonies are in vogue amongst baby-boomers of all religions."

Even USA Today features articles about the croning ritual and it makes the whole thing sound very harmless. As a matter of fact, it is suggested to have the ritual in YOUR CHURCH. So, here we have the pagans trying to slip witchcraft in the backdoor of the Church. http://www.usatoday.com/life/enter/books/leb401.htm  

And here is the motherload of all links about croning: http://advocacy-net.com/seniormks.htm  

I know what you're thinking, I'm thinking it too. Wow! What an off-the-wall accusation. Saying that ordained UMC clergy are involved in witchcraft, and when it's brought to the attention of the Bishop, it's covered up! Come on; don't be ridiculous. Well, I have only one reason to suggest that this can happen in the Church, and you won't even know about it.

Unlike our secular world, where investigative news journalists perform the watchdog function to uncover everything, there is no watchdog in the UMC! There certainly are no investigative journalists; as a matter of fact, most of the religious news sources bow down to the religious leaders from whom they derive their livelihood. Don't count on the secular news media to investigate something like this. For one thing, from a secular point of view, it's not illegal, immoral, unethical, and in fact, it's not even newsworthy enough to broadcast, much less investigate.

ADDING TO THE SAGA: Where does Greg Dell (suspended minister from our Conference) end up with his campaign? Why, the same Foundry UMC that is the site of the witchcraft. Don't act surprised as you read the following from the homosexual advocates' news service Cornet:

From: U.M. Cornet umcornet@hotmail.com
Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2000 7:14 AM
Subject: Greg Dell Speaks at Foundry UMC

Donations will be accepted at the door. Suggested minimum donation is $30.00 per person.

Foundry United Methodist Church 1500 16th Street NW (corner of 16 and P Steet NW) Washington, DC

7:00 PM - Keynote address and service 8:00 PM - Reception

HEAR REV. DELL'S CHALLENGE to the United Methodist Church, calling for legislative action that will fully welcome homosexual persons, provide for liturgical support for covenant commitments between same-gendered couples, and call for the ordination of gay men and lesbians who are otherwise called to and qualified for ordained ministry.

MEET AND EXCHANGE IDEAS with individuals and organizations from all around the Baltimore-Washington area who are devoted to achieving these goals within their families and communities on both national and local initiatives.

DISCOVER new energy, resources, and allies in the struggle to build an all-inclusive church.

Sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Group of Foundry United Methodist Church

If you want to read from Starhawk, one of the leading names in witchcraft, here is her website: http://www.webcom.com/cauldron/starhawk/

If you think that I'm being ridiculous by inferring that witchcraft will be one of the next intrusions into "christian" churches, then read the following interview with Starhawk, and then tell me that this type of "dialog" would be taboo in the UMC (it's sounds VERY politically correct, and at times it appears that our main objective in the UMC is to encourage ANY type of politically correct dialog).

Full interview may be found at (below are excerpts from this) http://underwire.msn.com/Underwire/social/millenium/62millenium.asp

Starhawk - Why be Pagan Now?

Now don't get all excited about the word "pagan." Starhawk is a soft-spoken teacher and writer with a fine sense of humor. She's more likely to be waving garden pruners than magic wands. She grew up Jewish, attended fine colleges and embraced the ways of old because she found them healing. Call her a witch if you please, but don't ask her to cast evil spells or help you get an old boyfriend back.

Isn't paganism a bit old hat for 2001? In some sense paganism is a kind of new space age religion because it's really about saying, 'Hey, nature is what's sacred.' That doesn't mean that we bow down in front of every tree, but we're saying what we have to value and honor.

How are pagans marking the millennium? That's a Christian marking of the calendar, so it's not really something that's deeply rooted in pagan tradition.

What will you be doing when 2001 rocks in? We do a big ritual at the end of every year--the Spiral Dance, a ritual of rebirth and renewal. We honor the people who have died during the year and we dance the spiral and chant and visualize bringing in what we want for the coming year.

You say rituals should be fun? At our rituals we have lots of things that we sing and chant . . . They're fairly simple so everyone can learn them all at once and sing them together.

We always have music at parties. We middle-aged folks put on Aretha Franklin or the Grateful Dead, and then the younger people sort of grab our stuff and put on rave music or something else. There are a wide variety of approaches to food in the pagan community, from vegans to devout meat-eaters.

You call yourself a witch. Doesn't that word scare people? Yes. Some people have adopted the word, Wiccan, because witch has been used for so many different things for so long and people have a lot of misconceptions about it.

A witch is someone who has made a life commitment to spiritual traditions based on the goddess, who is our conception of the wheel of life--birth, growth, death and regeneration.

What are some common misconceptions about witches? . . . really, witches were the healers, the wise women and men who knew the use of herbs because they were connected with nature. They knew how to shift your fate a little bit. If you had a problem, these were the people you'd go to for help or advice.

So why do witches bother with spells? To open up possibilities, to shift reality. But you have to do it with a sense of ethics.

Do you wave magic wands? Well, I do have a wand but I never seem to actually use it. My garden pruners are one of my major magical tools, because I do a lot of work with herbs and with plants. I carry them everywhere. My drum is a very important magical tool . . .

Can you predict the future? I do read tarot cards.

When the dead appear to you in dreams, are they really there? . . . yes, that person can return and can visit and can communicate.

Candace Dempsey, lead editor of UnderWire, conducted this interview. She is a regular contributor to The Chicago Tribune and a food critic for Seattle Sidewalk. Her adventure tales appear in Travelers' Tales Women in the Wild, Solo: On Her Own Adventure and Gifts of the Wild.

========== end of excerpts

Is all of the above significant? Well, if you are comfortable with all of the above practices becoming a part of the UMC and Christianity, then you should support every liberal movement and concept that enters the realm of the UMC. On the other hand, if you believe that the above practices have no place in the UMC and Christianity, then I suggest that you denounce liberalism vehemently. As for you fence-sitters, if you think that a conservative point of view (for example inerrancy of the Bible) is too strong for you, then you need to figure out how you can draw the line in a discussion with a liberal when the liberal wants to introduce one or more the above practices. What argument will you put forth to say that witchcraft is not acceptable? Keep in mind that quoting the Bible will do you no good, because you will be termed a hypocrite because you, yourself have already discounted some portions of the Bible, so why can't the next liberal discount the portions of the Bible that they wish to discount?

Without the Bible as the authority of Christianity, you will be hopeless to stop any of the practices described in this writing.

[I like this sentence from someone else] The culture has crept into our denomination and has more influence than scripture does.

[and one more] This support's the adage that if you can define something, get anyone to agree with you, then you've created a "truth"

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