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Episcopal Priest Turns Druid, Changes His Mind

This is an odd little drama that’s been developing in suburban Philly since last fall:

In a rapid change of heart, a local Episcopal priest is abandoning Druid spirituality – a decision made one day after it was reported that he had renounced his Episcopal ordination and become the founding priest of a Druid group.

The Rev. W. William Melnyk notified Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison of his turnabout in a telephone message Friday evening, Bennison said yesterday.

Melnyk did not say whether he would seek reinstatement as an Episcopal priest. He lost his post as rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Downingtown in November when the news of his Druid involvement first came to light.

In a voice mail to The (Philadelphia) Inquirer, Melnyk said he had removed the Druid group’s Web site from the Internet and was cutting his ties with Druid spirituality. He attributed his decision to “events that have transpired in the last 24 hours.”

Melnyk did not elaborate, and said he would not comment further. He and his wife left over the weekend for a vacation abroad and were not available for comment.

The story broke at the end of October when Christianity Today’s Weblog column wrote about an overtly pagan liturgy posted to the website of the Episcopal Church USA. The liturgy, which was lifted nearly verbatim from the website of a neopagan druid group called Tuatha de Brighid, was quickly yanked from the ECUSA’s site. The explanation given by the ECUSA was that the liturgy was not officially approved, but was “intended to spark dialogue, study, conversation and ponderings around women and our liturgical tradition”.

As Christianity Today made clear, this “women’s eucharist” was pure goddess worship, a devotion to the ancient Queen of Heaven, known in biblical days as Asherah, Astarte, Ashtoreth, or Ishtar.

Authorship of the liturgy was attributed to William Melnyk’s wife, the Reverend Glyn Lorraine Ruppe-Melnyk. Mrs. Melnyk remains as rector of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Malvern, Pa., where “thou shalt have no other gods before me” has apparently been downgraded from a commandment to a suggestion.

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