Published "Croning" Leads To ComplaintsPossible Cover-up Leads To Complainants "Going Public"
|Some Commentary on the Wellsprings Articles
First of all, please be aware that spiritual feminisms beliefs and practices are an eclectic mix from many different (often pagan) sources. In addition to witchcraft, it borrows freely from Native American, African and Asian traditions - usually shamanism or animism - as well as from Judaism and Christianity when it suits. Sometimes it is difficult to separate out the various roots or influences. However, most writers on feminist spirituality acknowledge that witchcraft (modern day Wicca) was the first spiritual influence and that it remains the strongest.
Here is my commentary on the two articles in Wellsprings. The original text is in bold print, with my comments in italics. Especially problematic items are underlined. All of this can be discovered and verified by reading any pop Wiccan literature (found at just about any local bookstore) by such authors as Starhawk, Z. Budapest, and Silver Ravenwolf (who is especially into targeting Christian teens.)
A Croning Ritual
It is this circumstantial, yet strongly compelling evidence which led Connie Alt, Karen Moore and myself to speak with Bishop Susan Morrison about her probable involvement as the second woman croned. Morrisons fiftieth birthday occurred within this specified time frame. She has been and remains close friends with clergywomen in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. And just recently I have confirmed that she shares residence in a Rehoboth beach house with Mary Kraus, the other woman who was croned. In our conversation, Morrison would neither confirm nor deny her participation in this particular ritual. She said it was "None of our business." She said she had "observed" many croning rituals, did not have a problem if they came from pagan/Wiccan roots as they could be "Christianized," and that she expected them to be included in the next Book of Worship. Connie, Karen and I took our concerns to Bishop George Bashore (then president of the NEJ College of Bishops.) When he questioned her, Morrison answered Bashore as she answered us in correspondence (and as she has recently answered Mark Tooley in his correspondence with her) that she has not and would not be involved in Wiccan practices. However, Bishop Bashore has acknowledged to me that he did not specifically question her about this particular ritual. (Even though that was the basis of our concern in our letter to him.) To this day, Morrison has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny her participation as the second woman croned in this ritual.
"Womens tradition" is doublespeak for feminist spirituality, usually Goddess centered and witchcraft based. In Gardnerian Wicca (the first and classic brand of American witchcraft), a croning takes place when a woman is 52. Croning corresponds to the triple aspect of the Goddess - as Maiden, Mother and Crone - which also corresponds to the three reproductive cycles of woman - which also corresponds to the phases of the moon. "Wisdom" is an important concept within witchcraft (and Sophia worship!) The word "witch" is said to come from the same root word as "wise," meaning "to bend or shape reality." Witches are the "wise ones" of the world. In classic witchcraft, practitioners usually meet in 12 member groupings called "covens." Less structured groupings are called "circles." In all fairness, however, circles have been and can be utilized by non-witchcraft folks - UMWs for example.
This is the classic spiritual feminist (also Wiccan) ideological basis for the purported need to rediscover and embrace witchcraft. It is nothing more than true womanly religious tradition which the Patriarchy squelched. "The ways of the earth" is probably more doublespeak for "nature worship/animism."
In correspondence with the editorial circle of Wellsprings, and in further written and oral correspondence, those involved have continued to insist the Croning was nothing more than a birthday party. However, it was called a "ritual" and "an altar was prepared." That would seem to indicate that it had spiritual/religious significance. In classic witchcraft, the four directions are the four "cardinal" directions which correspond to North, South, East and West on the compass. They also correspond to the four "elementals" of earth, air, fire and water. (See closing prayer.) Each direction has specific qualities and is an animistic "something" or "force" that is invoked, invited into, and has an effect upon the ceremony. This happens right before or as a "circle is cast." (See below.) This, I understand from Buck Linton, is different from the way that the directions are utilized in Native American spirituality. Candles themselves have a prominent role in witchcraft practice. Purple is the sign of age and wisdom.
Libana is a womens vocal group. Their work is usually found in the New Age or feminist or witchcraft sections of catalogs and music stores. "Circle is Cast" is a reference to one of the portions of witchcraft ritual. After the four directions are summoned, a circle is symbolically drawn, purified and consecrated. It is within this circle that power is "raised" or created and the ritual completed. A circle has to be "closed" after the ritual is over. The ending prayer to the Goddess (see below) is a prayer for closing a circle. Susan Beehler is a clergywoman in the Baltimore-Washington Conference (or at least was when the articles were written.) She is a close friend of Susan Morrisons. She was one of the three editors of Wellsprings.
Again, I believe that "native African rituals" is or can be doublespeak for pagan animism. Cowrie shells are also highly symbolic in witchcraft. Again, notice the reference to Libana. "The Fire Within" probably refers to the internal presence of the Goddess.
Notice that the four directions are bid good-bye and thanked - which if not outright witchcraft is nonetheless pagan animism. Notice also the correspondence to earth/air/fire/water. (In our meetings with Bishop Felton May, I questioned Nancy Webb about the four directions. She said they were not "gods or goddesses," but were "forces" or "entities" one could interact with.)
The final prayer - other than omitting a line with direct reference to the Goddess - is verbatim from Starhawk. It is in her book Spiral Dance, which is a witchcraft primer of sorts. Even though the language says that "the circle is open, but unbroken," it is a prayer used to close a circle of raised power. (When Felton May asked Nancy Webb why she had not included the line about the Goddess, she answered that she had written the prayer for her article "from memory," and that she had no problem in addressing God as Goddess - it was just one of the myriad ways we can name the Divine.)
The phrases "Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again," and "Blessed be" are classic Wiccan phraseology. Notice below that Mary Kraus closes her article with "Blessed Be." The COSROW report to 1996 General Conference in the Daily Christian Advocate closes with the same phrase.
Who is She? Good question.
Reflections From A New Crone
Again, this is the classic ideological excuse for recovering/practicing witchcraft. In order to keep women powerless, the Patriarchy put down (and continues to put down) something which comes naturally to women and is critical to their well-being - namely, witchcraft. The feminist idea of "naming" is that women are also empowered when they can define and give meaning to words, concepts or ideas as they choose. Mary does some very creative "naming" herself in the following paragraph.
Here is a good example of feminist "naming," which I think is primarily an exercise in wishful thinking. Only in Marys imagination does the word "hag" come from the Greek word "hagios." Hag derives from a Middle English root word which means "witch" or "spell." Neither does "crone" come from the Greek root "chronios" (which should be "chronos.") It comes from either a Middle English word which means "old ewe" or an Old Northern French word which means "carrion."
"Words," said the Mad Hatter to Alice, "mean exactly what I want them to mean."
I dont know enough to comment too fully on the Native American connections. Again, I have been told by Buck Linton that there are major differences in Native American usage and feminist/Wiccan usage of the four directions. Im very sorry she doesnt seem to find hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life in Him.
Mary Kraus is senior pastor at Dunbarton UMC in Washington DC. At one time she was a District Superintendent in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
In December of 1998, my lay leader, Elaine Wood and I [Rev. Karen Booth] filed charges against Nancy Webb and Mary Kraus under the following paragraphs in the Book of Discipline:
The complaints resulted in three supervisory meetings which included myself, Elaine Wood, Mary Kraus, Nancy Webb, Bishop Felton May and their DS, Alan Stewart. Each of us were permitted to take one person with us. Connie Alt and a man from my church, David Keesey went with me and Elaine. Phil Wogaman was at the first meeting with Nancy. I do not remember the names of the other women who came with them.
At the first meeting, both Nancy and Mary disavowed any knowledge of, let alone practice of Wicca. Phil Wogaman argued that while it seemed that some of the parts of the ritual were Wiccan, and that seemed to present a problem, it didnt really because done "in a different context" it was all OK. Most of this meeting was spent analyzing and attacking me and Connies characters and motivation. Felton May was particularly troubled that Susan Morrisons name was mentioned.
The second meeting began much as the first - with ad hominem attacks against me, Elaine and Dave: We were afraid, we were angry, we were hateful, we were akin to people who practice ethnic cleansing. Finally we got around to discussing the ritual and Wicca again. At one point, Bishop May left the room to take a phone call. At this time, Nancy acknowledged that there were Wiccan elements in the ritual. (She had previously confirmed this with Connie Alt in a phone conversation.) She argued that "ancient European practices" (doublespeak again) were an important part of her heritage as a Scots-Irish, and that she could separate out what was good from bad in this tradition and use only the good. I told her that presented a problem to me in that she may still be engaging in these practices. She would not answer me. At this time Felton May came back into the room. I told him what had happened and that Nancy would not answer my concerns. He said, "She doesnt have to .. she isnt on trial."
As this second meeting was ending, I challenged Bishop May for his failure to shepherd me adequately through this supervisory process. He answered, "You have other people shepherding you through this process." He would not clarify what he meant - though I think he believed I had one of the renewal groups pulling my strings. I also wonder how he could pretend to be "neutral" with that kind of comment. In a later one-on-one meeting, he claimed he had just said it to see how I would respond.
Our third and final meeting (last Spring) was ostensibly to hear Bishop Mays decision. He told us that we had not presented enough of a case for him to move the complaint on either to trial or to the Baltimore-Washington Board of Ordained Ministry. He offered us the "gift" of further conversation through a mediator. Elaine and I declined this "gift," believing that to engage in further conversation would assume common ground could be reached - which it cannot. It was in this final meeting that I questioned Nancy about the four directions and she admitted she treats them as animistic forces. It was also here that she acknowledged she knew the Starhawk prayer to the Goddess (used to close a circle of power) "from memory."
We have heard no further from Bishop May. Nor has he given us his decision in writing.
All of us at the Supervisory meetings were put under a "gag order" (Discipline paragraph 358.b .) Elaine and I realize that we are possibly in violation of that paragraph by publicly disclosing our concerns. I do not believe, however, that the intent of that paragraph was to allow those practicing feminist witchcraft to hide behind the Discipline.
FYI - UMNS has known about this issue - and even Susan Morrisons probable involvement - since the summer of 1997. Connie and I did a workshop at the Good News Summer Convocation in Lancaster PA. UMNS reporter Dan Gangler was there and talked extensively with Connie. She also talked later with Diane Huey Balay. Why UMNS decided not to pursue the story is anybodys guess.[United Methodist News Service Silent About Witchcraft Practiced From Bishop, DS, Pastors To Children's Minister]
Mark Tooley is going to run a short article about this in his February IRD newsletter. Kraus, Webb, Morrison and May have all been informed of this.
Please pray for Elaine and me as we decide what further action to take.
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