Imagine for one moment that you're a leader in the Episcopal Church USA. You know that within the next few days, a global commission is going to release a report on how the global Anglican Communion should respond to your church, and is likely to be critical of the ordination of an actively homosexual man as bishop. You know, and have said yourself, that the debate isn't just about sexuality: It's about how one views the Bible. And you know that all eyes will be on your denomination over the next few weeks. What do you do?
What the real leaders of the Episcopal Church did was to take an action that makes ordaining a homosexual man as a bishop almost a non-issue. They started promoting the worship of pagan deities.
This is not a joke nor an overstatement. In all truth and seriousness, leaders of the Episcopal Church USA are promoting pagan rites to pagan deities. And not just any new pagan deities: The Episcopal Church USA, though its Office of Women's Ministries, is actually promoting the worship of idols specifically condemned in Scripture.
"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 lifescattered 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So those raisin cakes have a historical reference: Those "brothers and husbands" banned them.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."
Now there are other biblical references to raisin cakes, but this is the only reference (except possibly this one) to them having any kind of role in worship.
Many scholars believe they were offerings to the goddess Asherah, the female counterpart to Baal, but in this context it may be more directly tied to Ishtar/Ashtoreth/Astarte, the "Queen of Heaven."
Then all the men who knew that their wives had made offerings to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who lived in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: "As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine." And the women said, "When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands' approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?"
In other words, it wasn't their brothers and husbands that the women were defying: It was God.
And now Episcopal Church leaders want you to do the same. Defy God. Worship pagan deities. There is no other possible reading of this "Eucharistic" text.
It should be noted that the pagan rite isn't on some hidden page in the deep recesses of the Episcopal Church's web site. The site is actually promoting this. The main pages of the web site (there are three: one for members, another for visitors, and a third for leaders) all link to an Episcopal News Service article on the "The Women's Liturgy Project." The article says, in part:
The Office of Women's Ministries is working towards creating a resource to be used by women, men, parishes, dioceses, small groups, within the context of a Sunday morning service, or any other appropriate setting where the honoring of a woman's life passages and experiences beckons a liturgical response. These can include, but are not limited to, liturgies/rites pertaining to: menstruation, menopause, conception, pregnancy, any form of pregnancy loss, childbirth, forms of leave taking, and many others. There is already a working section on the Women's Ministries website that contains worship resources that are currently available to be downloaded and used by all.
Go to that worship resources page, and there are only nine offerings, the second of which is the "Women's Eucharist." Another troubling entry is the Liturgy for Divorce, which includes this theology:
While the couple have promised in good faith to love until parted by death, in some marriages the love between a wife and a husband comes to an end sooner. Love dies, and when that happens we recognize that the bonds of marriage, based on love, also may be ended . God calls us to right relationships based on love, compassion, mutuality, and justice. Whenever any of these elements is absent from a marital relationship, then that partnership no longer reflects the intentionality of God.
Such a view of love and marriage is profoundly unbiblical, but at least there's no prayer to fertility goddesses. (Commenters over Midwest Conservative Journal are discussing both rituals.)
The Anglican Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, has been explaining that the difference between his church and the Episcopal Church USA isn't your standard intradenominational infighting. The Episcopal Church (along with other western churches, he says), isn't even Christian any more. Instead, he says, it's "embroiled in a new religion which we cannot associate ourselves with."
One would have thought that the Episcopal Church USA might have argued whether it was really practicing a different religion. Instead, their challenge to Akinola's statement might be that it's not new at all: Their idolatry has been around since Old Testament times.
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