Foreword

Acknowledgements

Julie

Visible Problem Indicators

Stewardship

Agents of Change - Issues

Institutional Dynamics

The Institutional and the Local Church

Operative Theology

Prognosis for the Future

Revival - What is Needed?

Closing Remarks

Appendix G
Timeline of the Sophia/"goddess" Theologies

Following is a Timeline for the goddess theologies that have become an influence in the United Methodist Church. Unless otherwise noted, all entries in this Timeline have been reprinted courtesy of Mr. Eric Umile of the JCL Task Force in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (EPC). This is not a comprehensive list; other events have occurred.

[Note: The chronology contained here is more extensive than is contained in the book The Church in Bondage.]

Following is a Timeline for the Sophia/goddess theology that has become an influence in the United Methodist Church. Unless otherwise noted, all entries in this Timeline have been reprinted courtesy of Mr. Eric Umile of the JCL Task Force, Eastern Pennsylvania Task Force. It should be noted that this is by no means a comprehensive list; other events of this nature have happened, but a lack of space precludes our including them on this list.

Mid- to late- 1970s - The Rev. Hal Taussig, pastor at Calvary UMC in Philadelphia, discovers that women in his congregation are dissatisfied with the predominance of male images of God. They feel that God's message is a male one and not applicable to their own experience. Responding to these concerns, Taussig introduces them to the Biblical figure of Wisdom or "Sophia".

Early 1980s - Led by Rev. Taussig and the Rev. Susan A. Cady, several women at Calvary UMC start a Sophia study group. They develop and experiment with various Sophia Bible study materials. In 1983 they begin to experiment with the Gospel accounts, and replace Jesus' name with the name of Sophia. This leads to an "explosion of interest" among the women at Calvary, and creates a gap between women who are vitally interested in Sophia for their own identity and the rest of the congregation. Recognizing this gap, Revs. Cady and Taussig repeat and intensify the introductory Sophia materials with the congregation.

March 10, 1984 - Revs. Cady and Taussig lead a seminar entitled, "Who is Sophia?" at Arch Street UMC. Sister Marian Ronan also participates. The seminar is sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (EPC) Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW).

1986 - Revs. Cady and Taussig, together with Sr. Marian Ronan, publish their first book, Sophia: The Future of Feminist Spirituality. The book is dedicated to the Rev. Sandra Forrester Dufresne, who also served at Calvary from 1976-81.

June, 1987 - Bishop F. Herbert Skeete transfers Revs. Cady and Taussig from Calvary UMC to the Ridge Group Ministry in Roxborough.

February 13, 1989 - An article in Newsweek entitled "Feminism and the Churches" states: "Putting more women in the pulpit is no longer the prime goal of Christian feminists. Rather, their aim is a thorough and comprehensive transformation of the language, symbols, and sacred texts of Christian faith - and therefore of the faith itself."

February 19, 1989 - Front page article appears The Philadelphia Inquirer entitled, "Women Creating Ritual to Fill a Religious Void." The article speaks of feminist theology and describes a "Sophia Eucharist" which took place in Rev. Cady's home in Germantown. Seven other women and Rev. Taussig took part in the ceremony where bread, milk, fruit, and a pot-plant were lifted up in gestures of consecration, and where hymns and prayers were offered in the name of Sophia.

February 21, 1989 - Eric M. Umile, lay leader at Emmanuel UMC, Roxborough, reads the Inquirer article. Disturbed by the news that his pastor is involved in goddess worship, he begins to investigate the matter.

March, 1989 - Umile reads Sophia: The Future of Feminist Spirituality, then addresses the issue i.e. book of the book with his church's PPR Committee and northwest district superintendent Claude Edmonds. No feedback is given in either case. A personal discussion of the matter with his pastor, Susan Cady, leads to an impasse; she makes no mention of her upcoming new book.

Spring, 1989 - Revs. Cady and Taussig establish "Sophia House", "an organization dedicated to education spiritually focused on the Biblical figure of Wisdom/Sophia." Sophia House holds monthly meetings in Germantown and offers workshops led by Revs. Cady and Taussig. The organization has ties to the Daughters of Wisdom, a Roman Catholic order.

May 8, 1989 - Umile writes lengthy letter to Bishop Susan Morrison stating his concerns about Revs. Cady and Taussig's book, and asking for episcopal leadership and guidance.

May 25, 1989 - Bishop Morrison responds, saying she has not read the book yet affirms the ministry of its authors, saying, "Our church is blessed in its diversity and openness to new "theological perspectives."

July 12, 1989 - Harper and Row publishes Wisdom's Feast: Sophia in Study and Celebration, an expanded edition of Cady, Ronan, and Taussig's earlier book. The publishers describe book as follows: "This practical handbook combines theory and practice of the worship of Sophia in one indispensable volume, introducing her importance to Christian feminist spirituality." (Harper's Torch Letter, May 90). It contains litanies, a Eucharist, prayers, liturgies, and steps for introducing "Sophia" theology into church practice. Sophia is "a goddess that reigns coequally with God", but knowledge of her has been suppressed by "patriarchy", which is a "demonic aspect of classical Western spirituality". Sophia replaces Jesus in portions of rewritten scriptures, "walking on water toward her disciples", etc. Christianity is "patriarchal in spirit, and, hence, unacceptable and dangerous to the feminist cause."

In one passage from the book, Revs. Cady and Taussig speak of their past activities: "Some may find it surprising to realize that Sophia has been successfully integrated into the worship and preaching of a number of mainline churches over the past decade...it is possible for a number of congregations to accept and celebrate Sophia within the regular rhythm of Sunday worship. Because of our direct exposure with three such congregations as well as our secondary involvement with at least a dozen others. ..our reflections, therefore, are not theoretical propositions about how Sophia ought to be useful in regular Sunday morning settings but rather observations about the way Sophia has functioned in the worship life of real congregations." (Wisdom's Feast, p.191)

"Fairest Sophia, Ruler of all nature,
0 Thou in whom earth and heav'n are one,
Thee will I cherish, thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown."
- Found on page 185 of Wisdom's Feast
- From an actual review of the book itself by Allen O. Morris, Concerned Methodists, Inc.

October 5, 1989 - An article written by Umile entitled "Why silence about heresy?" is published in the national edition of the UM Reporter, decrying the contents of Wisdom's Feast.

October 27, 1989 - Rebuttal by Sandra Forrester Dufresne appears in the UM Reporter, defending Revs. Cady and Taussig and their right to offer a "fresh articulation of God's self-disclosure."

November 24, 1989 - Umile writes to Bishop Jack Tuell, President of the Council of Bishops, stating his concerns about Wisdom's Feast.

November 27, 1989 - Bishop Tuell responds to the Umile letter, saying he has not read the book and that the Council of Bishops exercises no authority over individual bishops.

December, 1989 - Robert Grow, a member of Emmanuel UMC, Roxborough, writes to Bishops Morrison and Tuell stating his concerns about the book and asking for episcopal leadership.

December 15, 1989 - Bishop Morrison responds to the Grow letter. "I have received your letter of concern about statements made and books written by the Rev. Susan Cady. At this point, I have not had a chance to read the books, thus am not really in a position to respond."

December 15, 1989 - Bishop Tuell responds to Grow letter: "This is a matter which needs to be dealt with in the Annual Conference there in Pennsylvania."

Winter, 1990 - The Lay Coalition For Doctrinal Integrity (LCDI) is organized by United Methodists in the Roxborough area for the purpose of "educating the EPC about Wisdom's Feast.

April 1, 1990 - LCDI sends 4-page letter to all EPC lay leaders, informing them about Wisdom's Feast.

April 24, 1990 - LCDI submits resolution 9023 to Annual Conference denouncing Wisdom's Feast as incompatible with the Christian faith and asking Bishop Morrison to state the official position of the EPC on the book.

June 9, 1990 - Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference: Bishop Morrison rules Resolution 9023 out of order, saying she does not rule on positions for the EPC. The Rev. Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., submits resolution 9022 asking the EPC to develop a forum to explore the issues raised by Wisdom's Feast and other issues. It passes. Revs. Cady and Taussig distribute literature and hold question-and-answer sessions. Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) denounces the efforts of LCDI and praises Cady and Taussig for being "in forefront of relating the biblical faith tradition and the feminist movement to each other."

July/August, 1990 - Good News magazine publishes cover story on the Sophia controversy in the EPC. Of LCDI's efforts, Bishop Morrison is quoted as saying: "People have a right to be concerned about what is written. We are a diverse church, but I have been somewhat concerned by the process they have used." Another unnamed church leader says, "There is a grievance procedure. There is a way air differences. They have not followed that."

Summer, 1990 - LCDI disbands when frustrated members cancel their membership in the UM Church.

January 15-17, 1991 - Hal Taussig speaks at the Winter Convocation on Ministry, sponsored by the EPC Board of Ordained Ministry. His topic is the evolution of liturgy and worship in the New Testament, and on modern liturgical evolution, especially through the use images of Sophia.

February 1-3, 1991 - Revs. Cady and Taussig lead seminar, "An Introduction to Sophia: Wisdom Ways" at Kirkridge Retreat Center, Bangor, Pennsylvania.

March, 1991 - The Jesus Christ is Lord (JCL) Task Force is organized for the purpose of educating United Methodists about the Sophia controversy. The group chooses not to make use of the grievance procedure. A Task Force newsletter is published and sent to all EPC clergy, EPC lay members, and all UM bishops worldwide. (Note: Six newsletters have been published to date.)

March 9, 1991 - In accordance resolution 9022, the EPC's Theological Issues Task Force holds a forum on Wisdom's Feast at Holy Cross UMC in Reading. Charles Yrigoyen Jr., John Oswalt, Heather Elkins, and Hal Taussig give presentations. Audience's questions to presenters are screened by forum moderators. Discussion is limited to small groups. The question of the compatibility of Sophia worship with UM doctrine is not addressed.

April 9, 1991 - Writing to V.E. Maybray of the Mission Society for United Methodists, Bishop Morrison says of Wisdom's Feast, "I understand the book to be exploratory theology not doctrine. Certainly it is on the edges of mainstream Protestant thought, but our church has a rich tradition of people experimenting with ways of interpreting and experiencing their faith." She expresses deep concern about the "divisive negative energy around the issue."

April 15, 1991 - Bishop Morrison writes episcopal letter to the EPC clergy offering reassurances of her responsiveness to the Wisdom's Feast issue, and wondering why UMs are spending "valuable time attacking and condemning each other within the Community of Faith." She gives assurances that Sophia theology is not taught in local churches, and recommends channeling the time and energy around the issue into more "positive steps".

April, 1991 - JCL Task Force submits two resolutions to Annual Conference. Resolution 9114 affirms historical statements of the UM Church regarding the oneness of the Church under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Resolution 9115 calls on the Annual Conference to ask Bishop Morrison and the Cabinet to clarify their stand on Wisdom's Feast and to give their understanding of pluralism.

May 6, 1991 - An article in Time magazine entitled, "When God was a Woman" maintains that worshipers of Mother Earth are part of a goddess resurgence. The article states, "A book by two United Methodist pastors proposes experimental Bible readings about the crucifixion that replace Jesus with Sophia (Wisdom), a name for the divine personality used by Goddess-minded Christians."

June 8, 1991 - Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference: On motion of district superintendent J. Dennis Williams, resolution 9114 is replaced by a substitute motion which is then defeated. Resolution 9115 is amended with a statement asking the new district superintendents to state their position on Wisdom's Feast. The resolution is defeated.

Resolution 9147, submitted by Saint Andrew's UMC, Havertown, states that its Adult Sunday School Class has completed a 4-month study of Wisdom's Feast and "as one voice have found the book to have Biblical and theological integrity, thought provoking and relevant ideas and sound spiritual discernment." The resolution urges the EPC to affirm the book as a useful resource for Biblical and theological interpretation, and to encourage local churches to read and study it. (This resolution is subsequently withdrawn after the Task Force resolution 9115 is defeated. Three other resolutions giving explicit or implicit approval to Wisdom's Feast and/or the ministry of its authors are also withdrawn after the defeat of Resolution 9115, "in interest of promoting the spirit of reconciliation.")

Educational forums are held by JCL Task Force and MFSA. Both groups distribute literature. The Daughters of Wisdom Order holds a dialogue session.

June 14-15, 1991 - Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference: WPC petition P35 reaffirms United Methodism's doctrinal positions and denounces Wisdom's Feast as "contrary to the doctrinal standards of the UM Church and the plain teachings of Scripture." It is adopted and referred to the 1992 General Conference for adoption. WPC petition P36 asks the Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy for a report on the facts of the Wisdom's Feast matter and how it was resolved by Bishop Morrison. This petition is also adopted.

July 1, 1991 - Bishop Morrison appoints Sandra Forrester Dufresne as district superintendent of the Lebanon-Reading district.

November 30,1991 - Susan Cady leads workshop, "Wisdom Ways: An introduction to Sophia" at a 3-day seminar entitled, "Celebrating Women in Ministry," sponsored by First UMC of Germantown in cooperation with COSROW. Bishop Morrison is a principal speaker at the seminar. (COSROW later claims it knew nothing about the Sophia workshop.)

January 14, 1992 - The Northeast Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy responds to the Western Pennsylvania Conference's petition (P36), saying that it is not a disciplinary function of the committee to investigate the Sophia controversy or Bishop Morrison's handling of it.

March, 1992 - The JCL Task Force sends 3 petitions to General Conference. The first calls for reaffirmation of UM doctrinal standards; the second; the calls for an investigation of Sophia theology; the third calls for establishment of mechanisms to hold pastors and seminaries accountable for what they teach and preach.

May 15, 1992 - General Conference: WPC resolution P35 (adopted on June 14, 1991) is defeated by a vote of 621-290. The three JCL Task Force petitions disappear into oblivion.

June, 1992 - Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference: JCL Task Force holds two forums under appalling conditions because of conference officials' refusal to provide facilities (requested far in advance). JCL Task Force submits resolution 9225 asking Bishop Morrison and the cabinet to clarify their position of Wisdom's Feast. The resolution is defeated 346-250. Susan Cady is elected as vice-chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministries. She is also elected chairperson of the Joint Review Committee (among the duties of which is to oversee grievance procedures).

January 4,1993 - The Rev. Mark Rains, an EPC pastor working independently, files a grievance against Wisdom's Feast at Bishop Morrison's Valley Forge office. Bishop Morrison refers the grievance for arbitration with a mediation team consisting of 2 prominent EPC clergypersons.

April, 1993 - The mediation team reportedly reaches the conclusion that Wisdom's Feast is a scholarly work dealing with speculative theology and there is no grounds to pursue further action against the authors of the book. Rev. Rains contends that the matter has not been settled or the two parties reconciled to each other. Nevertheless, Bishop Morrison will not move the grievance to a complaint.

June 7, 1993 - Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference: A resolution submitted by Glenside UMC calling for Bishop Morrison to repudiate Sophia worship is tabled before it can be voted on. Action on this resolution is postponed to Annual Conference, June 1994.

July 19, 1993 - In a letter to a member of Glenside UMC, Bishop Morrison states that the Rains grievance was "processed to a mediation team but will not go any further. That is all I can say, since grievances filed are private matters."

August, 1993 - An article appears in Christianity Today entitled "Encountering the goddess at Church." Written by Dr. Thomas C. Oden, the article describes a Holy Communion service which took place at the Theological School at Drew University. The service was led by a "highly visible feminist leader" with an "uncommon fixation on the worship of the goddess Sophia." During the service, the hymn "Sophia" was followed by a "Victory" sermon celebrating the speaker's triumph over "pious" lay people who dared to challenge her authority to offer the Lord's Supper in Sophia's name. The service culminated with an invitation to commune, not in the Lord's name, but in Sophia's name. The Task Force later received written confirmation from Dr. Oden that the speaker at this event was the Rev. Susan Cady.)

October 6, 1993 - Rev. Mark Rains mails research document to EPC clergy and to active and retired Bishops. In a cover letter, Rev. Rains writes: "Unfortunately, (Bishop Morrison) has decided not to move his grievance to a complaint...After much prayer and consideration, I must now inform you that I am in the process of filing a grievance against Bishop Morrison."

November 4-7, 1993 - The "Re-Imagining" Conference is held at Minneapolis, in recognition of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (an initiative of the World Council of Churches). Sophia is openly worshiped at a service of milk and honey, and the "miracle of being lesbian, out, and Christian" is celebrated. The doctrine that God and humanity are reconciled through Christ's death on the cross is downgraded. Many participants "bow to the divine in the other person" during worship. The conference's daily newsletter features a question and answer section about Sophia/Wisdom containing quotations taken verbatim from similar materials written by Hal Taussig and distributed at the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. The newsletter also names Cady, Ronan, and Taussig as being among "a wide range of other theologians and exegetes (who) have written about Sophia/Wisdom. Some Presbyterians and 391 United Mehodists attend the event, including Bishop Susan Morrison. The Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) calls "Re-Imagining" its major theological workshop of the 1992-1996 quadrennium and sends its directors and staff to the event all expenses paid.
- RENEW, the evangelical UM Women's network, in addition to personal interviews with Mrs. Dottie Chase, Ms. Susan Cyre, and Mrs. Kathy Kersten by Allen O. Morris.

January 3-6, 1994 - At the Congress of Evangelism in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, retired UM Bishop Earl G. Hunt states that the Christian worship of Sophia is a heresy that "staggers the religious mind" and "must be eliminated." He also says, "No comparable heresy has appeared in the church in the last 15 centuries." Bishop Hunt calls upon active UM bishops to act "forthrightly and firmly" to eradicate Sophia worship from the Church.
- The United Methodist Reporter

January 28, 1994 - The UM Reporter highlights the parallels between Gnosticism and Sophia worship. It states that Gnosticism and Sophia were banished as heresy about 200 A.D. but are now enjoying a resurgence of popularity in feminist circles. The Reporter cites Wisdom's Feast as an example of how modern feminists are trying to "pull Sophia into the 20th century." Of the "Re-Imagining" conference, the article states", "Any attempt to dilute or eliminate Jesus from the core of our faith is, by definition, anti-Christian. That places the burden on church groups that sponsor events promoting Sophia to justify doing so."

January, 1994 - In a prepared statement, Ms. Joyce Sohl, chief executive officer at the Women's Division of the GBGM, denies that the Women's Division was an official sponsor or funder of the "Re-Imagining" event (However, the conference's own handbook lists the Women's Division as a funder).

In addition, from the evangelical women's network, we have:
  1. The decision of the Women's Division to fund the attendance of any staff members or directors whose schedules would allow attendance showed a willingness to make a substantial financial commitment. Thirty-six directors, nine staff members and eleven United Methodist Women conference vice presidents attended, all expenses paid, according to the "Fact Sheet" released by the Women's Division. Connie Takamine, Treasurer of the Women's Division, has indicated that the total cost for these attendees was $35,081.

  2. In addition, a grant of $2,500 was given to the Minnesota Conference United Methodist Women for the "Global Theological Conference Re-Imagining." The Women's Division has indicated that this grant was for Minnesota scholarships."
- RENEW, the evangelical coalition for United Methodist Women's

January/February, 1994 - The Presbyterian Layman magazine condemns the use of $66,000 in Presbyterian funds for the "Re-Imagining" Conference. The headline lead article reads: "Declaring their allegiance to the goddess 'Sophia', participants (at Re-Imagining) catapulted their rhetoric well beyond commonplace themes of women's equality. Instead, they heralded a more radical agenda: to promote a new religion with a new god."

February, 1994 - Joyce Sohl and Carolyn Johnson of the Women's Division of the GBGM mail a "video letter" to all conference and district UMW in which they discuss the importance of attending ecumenical gatherings. "Four days in November, 96 hours, is not something that will totally change, eradicate, reshape, transform, or throw away United Methodist Women as we know it." As for the flap over Sophia worship, Dr. Johnson expresses her trust in the ability of UM women to discern diverse theology for themselves. No public apology for "Re-Imagining" is given.
- RENEW, the evangelical coalition for United Methodist Women; the video "A Time of Hope, A Time of Threat"

Spring. 1994 - A religion course (REL 485) taught at Methodist College, Fayetteville, North Carolina, features books entitled When God was a Woman and The Once and Future Goddess with themes of goddess worship and pantheism.
- Books given to Concerned Methodists by the irate parent of a Methodist College student.[Note: The family left the UMC and joined Village Baptist Church.]

April 9.1994 - The Miriam Conference held in Urbana, Illinois featured goddess worship, pantheism, and New Age beliefs. On pages 2 and 3 of the Spoken Litany were:

FRONT:in Genesis, when your Spirit brooded over the face of the waters and created heaven and earth and you gave us the gift of water which nourishes and sustains all living things....

SIDES: in the breaking of the waters when life comes forth from the womb, your gift of life and love...

BACK: in the Gospel of John, when Jesus made water a sign of cleansing and rebirth, and promised to be living water springing up in all who believe.

Leader: Eternal One, we need your living water here today. May the water from Miriam's well return to your people...

ALL: God our Mother, Living Water,
River of Mercy, Source of Life,
in whom we live,
and move,
and have our being,...
be for us always a fountain of life...
Honor and blessing,
glory and praise
to You forever. Amen.

- From the program bulletin. The litany is from "Women prayer, Women Song: Resources for Ritual" by Miriam Therese Winter."

In the Acknowledgments section, listed at the top was: "Sponsor: Baker Board, Ministry with Women Wesley Foundation & McKinley Foundation..."

This comment was placed on the same page:
The Re-Imagining Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November, 1993 has become a subject of controversy within some denominations. Those of us on the Baker Board who attended the Re-Imagining Conference want to witness to the positive influence this event has been in our lives and to acknowledge the contribution of the conference to the shape and feel of today's program.

During the Litany, another woman came to the table, took the water from one of the pitchers and poured it out completely into the large bowl on the table. While she was doing this rather slowly everyone except Virginia and I (we did not participate in any of the readings, songs, etc. but were only there to observe), said the following prayer: "God our Mother, Living Water, River of Mercy, Source of Life, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, who quenches our thirst, refreshes our weariness, bathes and washes and cleanses our wounds, be for us always a fountain of life, and for all the world a river of hope springing up in the midst of the deserts of despair. Honor and blessing, glory and praise to You forever. Amen."

During her time of preaching, she said, "The Bible is not a rule book of what we should or should not do." "The Bible is born in patriarchy, there should be a caution label on it saying, 'Caution, reading this could be dangerous to your health and survival.'..."
- Letter from one of the attendees at the "Miriam Conference" dated April 11, 1994; program of the event itself.

June 4, 1994 - "People Keeping Faith with Creation" in Western New York State features pantheism and New Age beliefs.

August, 1994 - The North Carolina Conference summer school held at Methodist College offers books authored by "Re-Imagining" speakers. In the UMW mission theme "Glimpses of God, Reflections of Christ" we find ideas from the "Re-Imagining" Conference. Under the title "Naming the Holy One" "The naming of God is a sacred act; the words we use give meaning to our imagining of the Divine..." In addition, a litany quoted by the class "Biblical Concepts of Family," alternatively refers to God as being in "everyman, hanging on street corners, tasting the grace of cheap wine and the sting of the needle, who is pregnant without husband, who is child without parent, who has no place to play, who can't read nor write, who is on welfare and who is treated like garbage, who knows that he/she is nobody, whose belly is huge and whose clothes burst with the new life, cares for her children at night and dreams of better days, and is alone...."
- Conference material.

October 12-13, 1994 - HEARTSOUNDS forum, held in Cambridge, Ohio, features goddess worship, pantheism, auto-eroticism, lesbianism, and "women-as-victim" themes. It compares the suffering of women with that of Christ and the blood of women with the blood of Christ, referred to the Holy Spirit as "Her." Delores Williams is a featured speaker, and a bibliography of suggested resources included Wisdom's Feast, She Who Is and Called into Her Presence.

October 29 1994 - A "Re-Imagining Reunion" held in Minneapolis sponsored by a permanent, non-profit group called the "Re-Imagining Community." Re-Imagining its first quarterly newsletter is published. Response magazine features a three-part series on the holy Spirit, written by Catherine Keller (speaker at the original conference); she identifies the Holy spirit as a "cosmic Spirit' which is present in "...the life of the blade of grass, and of the grasshopper."

December 28, 1994-January 1, 1995 - A Bible study for college students, held at St. Louis, Missouri with Rita N. Brock and Edwina Gateley as featured speakers, received $10,500 UM support. Gateley, who urged students to get in touch with the "God of the belly button" also characterizes, "A big God is black and white and brown and yellow and gay and straight." She is the author of A Warm Moist Salty God: Women Journeying Towards Wisdom.

February, 1995 - Re-Imagining Community's second newsletter Re-Imagining subtitled "Re-Imagining: Body and Soul" is published.

February 10-11, 1995 - A Re-Imagining event sponsored by Church Women United was held in Southern California.

February 18, 1995 - Joyce Sohl, keynote speaker for the "Re-Imagining Revisited" meeting at St. Lukes UMC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma named her address "Goals of the Re-Imagining Conference."

May 4, 1995 - A "Service of the Word" is held at UM-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. It included a service at the chapel of the Unnamed Faithful in which the following words were repeated by seminary students as an act of worship:

People: 0 Prehistoric Goddess, reveal to us Your names so we can call You when we need You.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One? How have Your daughters named You?
Voice: I am Ishtar and Inanna.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One? How have Your daughters named You?
Voice: I am Isis of Egypt, manifest wisdom, eye of Re the sun god, Universal Goddess.
People: Isis, show us Wisdom in everything and in everyone.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One? How have Your daughters named You?
Voice: I am Hathor, Egypt's Golden One. Look for me in the sycamore. Look for Me in the sky.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One? How have Your daughters named You?
Voice: I am Cybele, Great Mother goddess of ancient Anatolia.
People: Fill us, Cybele, Great Mother Goddess, with your long lived nurturing Spirit.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One? How have your daughters named You?
Voice: I Am Nut of the sky, of Egypt, Goddess of Affection.
People: Nut, we call upon your name and long for Your affection.
Caller: Who are You, 0 Holy One?
Voice: I am Anath-Astarte, and Lady Asherah of the Sea.
- "LANGUAGE", The Evangelist, May/June, 1995; published by Rick Bonfirm Ministries.

August 7-11, 1995 - At the UM Clergywomen's Consultation in Atlanta, Miriam Therese winter used "Sophia," "Shekinah," and "Shaddai" as synonyms for God and refers to God as "She." She also invited the 800 women to sing to the tune of "Swing Low! Sweet Chariot" "Sing lo! Sing oh, Sophia! Wisdom come abide in my heart."

August 11-12, 1995 - The third annual Native American Theological Forum at the School of Theology at Claremont featured concern for the environment: "Natives want to defend Mother Earth because they are a species that is part of her, not because they are superior to her," said Jace Weaver of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

August 26, 1995 - North Carolina Conference Summer School held at Haymount UMC in Fayetteville, North Carolina featured a litany to "Creator God" with "Ever-Creating God, You call us to be your Co-Creators of a good and just world"; "struggles for profit"; "We pray for our conversion from exploitative economy"; etc.
- Material from the event itself.

September 4-15, 1995 - The UN Fourth World Conference on Women features seminars such as "Lesbian Activism from an Interfaith Perspective"; "Women, Religion, & Culture"; "Goddess and Women Hand in Hand"; and "Religion and Culture - Force for Women" which offered the story of a woman who left her Catholic faith to find "peace, justice, harmony, and joy as a wiccan." The Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), headed by Bella Abzug, and funded by the UM Women's Division, sponsored a series of daily meetings entitled "Daughters of the Earth." The first session was dedicated to the Chinese goddess Nu Kwa and featured a ritual which offered various fruits to Mother Earth. Abzug gave the call to worship with, "Welcome, daughters of the earth." Subsequent programs were dedicated to goddesses such as Songi, Athena, Tara, Pasowee, Ishtar, Ixmucane, Aditi, and Nanshe.
- The Institute on Religion and Democracy

1995 - 1996 - Increased use in UM circles of books such as Seasons of the Feminine Divine by Mary Kathleen Speegle Schmitt, In Memory of Her by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and Jesus, Miriam's Child, Sophia's Prophet also by Fiorenza. This last book contains statements such as "By naming Jesus as the child of Miriam and the prophet of Divine Sophia, I seek to create a 'women' - defined feminist theoretical space that make it possible to dislodge christological discourse from their malestream frame of reference."[emphasis added]

October 5, 1996 - "Accessing the Divine Light." A workshop by Connie Griffith at Indian Run Church, Dublin, Ohio. It stated in part:

"Every form of spiritual discipline is a pathway by which we draw nearer to the Divine Light. According to Connie Griffith...The greatest discipline of all is the joyous living of our lives!"

It is advertised as follows:
"Connie is an ordained spiritualist minister..."
"Place: Indian Run Church, at the corner of Avery and Brand Roads in Dublin, Ohio. ..."

"This event is sponsored by Epiphanies, Inc. Epiphanies is a not-for-profit organization that exists to build bridges between traditional and emerging expressions of spirituality, and to expand awareness of the divine-human connection."

- From a descriptive flier on the event itself
[Note: Paul E. Miller was listed as the pastor of Indian Run United Methodist Church in Dublin and president of Epiphanies, Inc..."]

October 13, 1996 - "Food for the Soul" - The event was described as follows:

"An afternoon to whet the spiritual appetite at Indian Run Church, Dublin, Ohio. Choose to attend one of these...workshops:

"Encounters with Angels and Other Divine Messengers." The holy writings of major religions include many accounts of angel visitations.... Leader: Paul E. Miller is the pastor of Indian Run United Methodist Church in Dublin and president of Epiphanies,Inc..."

"'At the Side of the Well: Buddhism and Christianity.'" ...In this workshop we will explore the common threads that exist between Christianity and Buddhism, with a special emphasis on the basic teachings of the Buddha. Leader: Susan Richie is the minister of the Dublin Unitarian Universalist Church. She has a long-standing interest in world religions and simply can't stop telling Buddhist parables."

"Eastern Spiritual Healing Coming West." We will explore two forms of Eastern healing becoming known in the west. Magnetic healing from the Philippines is able to remove tumors and disease by use of the hands and energy. Chi Lei Qigong is a 5000-year old Chinese healing practice. It uses life-force energy to enhance the body's natural healing capacity. Leaders: Suzanne Miller, preschool teacher, and Gayle Pelz, one of Columbus' most gifted intuitives, recently attended a three-day healing training session with Alex Orbito, the world's best known magnetic healer. Debra Weisenburger recently returned from the Quigong Healing Center in China... Place: Indian Run Church, at the corner of Avery and Brand Roads in Dublin, Ohio. ... This event is sponsored by Epiphanies, Inc. Epiphanies is "a not-for-profit organization that exists to build bridges between traditional and emerging expressions of spirituality, and to expand awareness of the divine-human connection."

- From a descriptive flier on the event itself

November, 1996 - The Fourth Re-Imagining Conference:
Naming, Claiming and ReImagining Power.

The two-day conference was titled "Naming, Claiming and ReImagining Power." Participants gathered under the themes of "Embodied Spirituality" (celebrating the power of women's sexuality), "Welcomed Differences" (developing relationships across racial and class lines) and "Ecclesial Subversion" (brainstorming ways to overturn a "patriarchal" Church). This reimagining was realized through "holy play" exercises, round-table discussions, music and ritual. A first-person account follows:

"I (i.e., The Rev. Donna Hailson) took my place at one of the nearly 70 round tables. The 'talking circle' around each table was supposed to provide a 'safe space,' where all had equal voice and any question could be asked. It was surprising then to discover that two-thirds of the conference had elapsed before the 'talking circles' were actually allowed to talk. At the first opening, I identified myself as an evangelical woman who had come in an attempt to understand the Re-Imagining Community. I said that I would probably be writing about my experience.

A woman, seated to my left, leapt up from the table and alerted the leadership to my presence. Two conference coordinators came to the table and asked the women what they wanted to do with me. Three said that, after the "hate mail" they had received over the first Re-Imagining conference (1993), they didn't want to take a chance with me. Others argued for my staying, but were overruled....Ironically, this all occurred during the segment on 'Welcomed Differences.' I pointed out to these women that they were doing to me what they claim the Church has been doing to women for 2000 years: shutting me out....

...the institutional Church must also, in faithfulness to God, challenge Re-Imaginers when they violate the absolute truth expressed in Scripture. Thus, the Church could not accept the "Goddess Wall," at which nearly 40 goddesses were depicted with details on how each has been worshiped. The Church could not affirm the reinterpretation of the Fall which celebrates the "freedom and wisdom" that, Re-Imaginers claim, Eve gained as she bit the apple.

The Church could not affirm the use of the biblical term 'Sophia' (Wisdom) as a non-'gender-specific' substitute for Jesus. The Church could not accept a 'paneroticism' that directly violates the Scripture's prescription for sex only within faithful, heterosexual marriage. And the Church could not affirm the community's exaltation of self over Christ."

- "No 'Safe Space' at Re-Imagining," by The Rev. Donna Hailson, FAITH & FREEDOM, Spring, 1997; p. 15.

December 6, 1997 - "A Course in Miracles" - The article quotes Deb Rummel as saying, "The main premise of the course is that there are only two issues in the is world, fear and love. As you move forward you realize fear is an illusion...." She is also quoted as saying, "One of the key things for me is that there are thousands of ways to God. A Course in Miracles is only one of them." The last paragraph of the article states, "The non-denominational group meets every Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the United Methodist Church parlor, located at 5th and Kansas Streets."[A more complete description is contained in the entry for May 24, 1998.]
- Lawrence County Centennial (Spearfish edition); Dec. 6, 1997; pp. 1, 2. P. O. Box 797, Spearfish, South Dakota.

April, 1998 - The "1998 Re-Imagining Revival" was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Approximately 170 United Methodists attended the event.

Enshrouded in darkness, the "Re-Imagining community" gathered in a Radisson Hotel ballroom on opening night to the throbbing of conference drummers. Overhead, light flashed from a rotating, mirrored sphere while flames leaped from a four-foot cauldron on stage. "We are the light of the world," announced Rita Nakashima Brock. "What we do with our experience makes us light to the world."

"What does it take for us to break rank with the slave masters' religion?" asked another speaker, Carter Heyward. She proclaimed that all of life is simply an extrusion of divine reality, and that no person can claim to be unique, not even Jesus: "While nobody, even Jesus, is divine in and of him or herself, every body, like Jesus, is able to god, and I use this [god] as a verb...That is what we are to do...to god, and that is what the Jesus story is all about."

As Brock and others appeared on stage to deliver their speeches, ritual leaders carrying lanterns escorted them while the audience sang, "You are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." then the crowd blessed each speaker, singing: "Now Sophia, dream the vision, share the wisdom dwelling deep within."

At a special denominational caucus at the event, United Methodists issued a statement commending and supporting those who have publicly stated their support for same-sex wedding ceremonies. "We understand these acts to be a faithful witness, calling the UMC to invite 'all persons to be full participants in the life of the church, both in policy and practice.'... The Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, a retired UM ecumenical executive from Minneapolis, and Inelle Cox Bagwell of Philadelphia, issued the statement on behalf of the Women's Caucus.
- Good News, July/August 1998, pp. 34-36.

May 24, 1998 - A Course in Miracles: Section B of "Life & Style"(p.1b).... the headlines read "Could there be a miracle in you?"; the subheading reads "Students of the spirit say they're learning how to find miracles in themselves." The depiction on the front shows a multicolored cloud with the faces of Jesus Christ, (what appears to be) Buddha, the Star of David, a crescent moon, and two closed eyes. Groups also meet in Hot Springs, Spearfish and other outlying towns.... The article goes on to say:

"When a co-worker and friend offered Boernke a copy Of the three-volume book back in 1986, she didn't know she'd just been given a book of sacred Scripture. But for Boernke and many other students of 'A Course in Miracles,' that's exactly what it is - divinely inspired material that reveals the highest spiritual truths, much as the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the I Ching or the Bhagavad-Gita do for the followers of the world's great religions.

Like those great books, 'A Course in Miracles' is a book you never really finish. But unlike those other spiritual writings, it is modern-day scripture, appearing in late-2Oth century America, written in English. through a woman who was, at best, a reluctant scribe...."

"Where it came, from"

"Helen Schucman was a self-described atheist teaching medical psychology at Columbia University in New York City in 1965. Like her colleague and boss, William Thetford, she was in search of a happier, more peaceful, more fulfilling life. When she started having intense visual images, she tried to ignore them until Thetford convinced her to write down what she was seeing and hearing. ... "

The course calls itself "spiritual psychotherapy," and while its students consider it a spiritual teaching, it isn't a religion. Its main themes are love and forgiveness, and chief among its many lessons is that there are only two ways to view anything: with love or with fear. Of the two, only love is real. Fear, it says, is an illusion....

Page B3 goes on to say: "Christians, Buddhists and Native Americans are equally comfortable with 'A Course in Miracles,' [Phyllis] Boernke says. 'The Christian concepts in it are broader and less limited than they are commonly used by most churches. They're not as narrow as traditionally Christian definitions.'

For many of its students, the course becomes their sole spiritual path, replacing organized religion in their life. Others see it as a guide to a better way of life, another lesson in forgiveness, healing' and inner peace, and in no way an obstacle to their chosen religion.

'For me, 'A Course in Miracles' is not an obstacle to organized religion,' says Boernke, who grew up in an evangelical Christian denomination. 'While many people use it as their main spiritual path, many others say it enhances their religious experience in other faiths....'

[Nano] Johnson, whose Catholic faith was replaced by 'A Course in Miracles,' she'll be a student for the rest of her because it give's her peace, joy and happiness through forgiveness.

'It gives me God in my life. ....'"
- The Rapid City Journal, May 24, 1998, Rapid City, South Dakota.

October 18, 1998 - A program bulletin from "United Methodist Church" in Spearfish, South Dakota, dated October 18, 1998, shows that "Course on Miracles" meets in the parlor of the church at 7:00 P.M. on Wednesdays; "Mysticism of Now: the Art of Being Alive" meets in the parlor at 7:30 on Thursdays.
- Bulletin from "United Methodist Church" in Spearfish, South Dakota, dated October 18, 1998.

November 5, 1998 - Eighth Annual Feminist Spirituality Annual Retreat, held at the Storm Mountain Retreat Center (located 11 1/2 miles south of Rapid City). The front of the flyer reads in part, "Deepening into our wholeness. Sponsored by the Commission On the Status and Role of Women - Dakota Conference of the United Methodist Church, Lutheran Social Services,..."

The inside of the brochure states in part...
"Come and join the circle for an experiential evening celebrating and nurturing the Feminine voice.

Many women have said that their shared experience with Judith Duerk in a group of women was one of the most profound experiences of their lives, and that they have never quite returned to the way they were before that experience...

Under the heading "Deepening into our wholeness" we find, "We will spend the weekend weaving a deep containing silence in which to share our deepest experience as women, naming into the silence our hopes, our pain, our fears. It is suggested that you read Judith's books, "Circle of Stones; Woman's Journey to Herself," and "I sit Listening to the Wind," before the retreat.

- Brochure advertising the event.

Spring, 1999 - The spring meeting of the Women's Division of the GBGM showcased attitudes of postmodern thought in several areas:

The Report of the Deputy General Secretary, Joyce Sohl, centered on the importance of spiritual formation or spiritual growth. She stated that, "Definitions of spirituality were as numerous as the writers and depend on the religious perspective whether Jewish, Christian, Buddhist or even New Age." While no definition of the uniqueness of Christianity was offered, Ms. Sohl went on to address her remarks toward Christian spirituality. She identified four possibilities (models or resources) for spiritual growth. Much to my surprise she listed Matthew Fox, among others, as a provider of contemporary writings that can, "serve as spiritual guidance for the individual seeker." Matthew Fox was defrocked by the Roman Catholic Church because of his heretical theology. He established the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality which advocates a pantheistic (God is all and all is God) earth spirituality. His teachings incorporate paganism and extreme environmentalism. Fox's book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, dismisses the idea of original sin, welcomes the Earth itself as a kind of Christ, and dismisses any theology that speaks of the unique revelation of God in Jesus.

One handout at the director's meeting was Sing Out New Visions... Prayers, Poems and Reflections by Women. This resource was produced in cooperation with the Justice for Women Working Group of the National Council of Churches. While many of the entries are acceptable, many are not. Earth spirituality is strong in many of the writings and syncretism (the blending of many religions) is very prevalent. One prayer begins, "Breath of Life, Holy Spirit, Our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, You are the God called by many names: El, Yahweh, Adonai, Grandfather Spirit, Allah, Buddha, Ruach...." Several prayers and litanies are addressed to the goddess Sophia. Included in this resource is a lament by Mary Ann Lundy, who lost her job with the Presbyterian Church USA over her involvement in the 1993 Re-Imagining Conference (but went on to be the Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches).
- Letter from Mrs. Faye Short, RENEW network, P. O. Box 889, Cornelia, Georgia 30531; dated July 1999.

May 15, 1999 - Farewell Open House for D.S. Sandy Forrester Dufresne [Eastern Pennsylvania Conference] of the Jacob Albright District. The flyer states in part, "Presentation of a cash gift and a Memory Tree will be presented at 11:00 A.M. We invite you to make a cash contribution..."
- Flyer advertising the event.

May/June, 1999. Enforcing inclusive language. [Note: This is included since past experience has shown that the issues and problems we face in the United Methodist Church parallel those faced in the Presbyterian Church (USA){PCUSA} and other mainline denomination, most especially those in the PCUSA. The "Overtures" mentioned here compare with the petitions we send to our quadrennial general conference; their Book of Order compares to our Book of Discipline.]

"Overture 99-24 from the Western New York Presbytery would amend the Book of Order to read, 'In its worship the church shall use language about God which is intentionally as diverse and varied as the Bible and our theological traditions.'...

[This would result in] the imposition of strict controls on the language Christians use to speak about God.]

If Overture 99-24 is adopted, it would make it possible for charges to be filed against a minister who baptized 'in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' Similarly, an elder leading worship who began the Lord's Prayer 'Our Father' would be liable to disciplinary action.

Overture advocates might argue that references to God as 'Father' are not forbidden but simply of references to God as 'Mother.' Similarly, 'Christ' would be permissible if 'Christa' (or perhaps 'Sophia'...) got equal billing."

- "Enforcing inclusive God-language" - an analysis, by Robert P. Mills; The Presbyterian Layman, May/June 1999; pages 1, 18.


Web Site Designed and Maintained by JCN

|| Home || Introduction || Stewardship Report || The Unofficial Confessing Movement || Lifewatch ||
|| Independent Committee on Alcohol and Drugs || News Update || Advisory Board ||
|| Case Studies || Testimonies || Interconnection into the United Methodist Church ||