(Originally published in 2006 by The Chalcedon Foundation)
“I inhaled deeply the earthy scent of incense … From the basket of rosaries I took into my hand a strand of vibrantly-colored beads with a silver goddess icon in place of the traditional cross … Once gathered, we began to recite together the ‘Our Mother’ and ‘Hail Goddess’ prayers … some rang bells or sounded the Tibetan bowls.”
The above is a description of a worship service at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, San Francisco, excerpted from an article on the church’s website (“Experiencing the Goddess Rosary” by Dalyn Cook, http://www.herchurch.org/id8.html). It comes with a picture of a “goddess rosary,” showing the stylized figurine of a nude, pot-bellied “goddess.”
Let it serve as the symbol of a neo-pagan movement that is corrupting America’s mainline Protestant churches — and spilling over into unexpected places.
A Christian Church No More? Robert Waters used to be a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Today he works for Wells Fargo and blogs on the Internet at watersblogged.blogspot.com.
Waters left the ministry 12 years ago “for reasons of conscience.” He explained to Chalcedon:
“The final straw was when the Synod Assembly voted to have the bishop appoint a task force to report on the issue of homosexuality. I sponsored a resolution to have both sides of the issue represented on the task force, and the Synod Assembly defeated it overwhelmingly.
“A previous task force in another synod had passed such a resolution, and that task force ended up being stacked in favor of the homosexualists. So, in consequence, was their report–they trashed everything the Bible says about sexual ethics. I told them I could no longer recognize ELCA as a church where the gospel is rightly proclaimed.”
Waters pastored at a church in Iowa for nine years.
“Goddess worship was never made explicit,” he said, “but there was always talk about it. Masculine language for God was almost, but not quite, proscribed..
“One of the bishops once said, concerning a pastor who questioned all this revisionism, ‘Your pastor values truth; I value unity.’ So for the sake of unity, there’s a willful ignorance, and a lot of denial. Among the ELCA leadership, there’s a great deal of loyalty to the denomination as an institution. So the leaders won’t confront any of this stuff — prayers to spirits of the dead, prayers to Sophia, and so on. Some of it goes on at synod assemblies. But it’s not stuff they’d ever come out and say.”
But at the Ebenezer ELCA church, they do come out and say it. In its sponsorship of “Goddess Rosary” services, the church boasts of “joining scholars like Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Letty Russell and a growing number of feminist theologians in reconceptualizing the canon and biblical authority.”
By way of explanation, “Our Goddess Rosary is not a prayer of contrition or an act of penance but a celebration and liberation as one enters into holy communion with ‘She Who Is’ in order to journey inward, journey outward and journey together with people of justice and faith.”
People like Letty Russell?
Russell, the keynote speaker at the 1996 “Re-Imagining Reunion,” is a former member of the Presbyterian Church USA presbytery and a self-avowed lesbian. At the reunion, she told her audience she was “retiring from the presbytery because of the [PCUSA’s] position on the ordination of homosexuals … As a lesbian, I had decided to use my energy on subversion and not on church committees” (http://www.layman.org/layman/news/news-from-pcusa/why-jane.htm).
Fiorenza, a self-identified postmodern devotee of Liberation Theology (incorporating Marxism economic and political principles into Christianity), denies that the Bible is the Word of God (http://www.philosophyandscripture.org/ElisabethSchusslerFiorenza.pdf).
These and many others like them have been quite busy with the subversion of the church.
Voices of Sophia The “Re-Imagining” conferences of 1993, 1998, and 2003 were gatherings of radical feminist clergy. The first one attracted 2,000 delegates; the last, 200.
“Sophia” is defined as either “the feminine face of God” or a full-blown “goddess” who is to replace the God of Scripture — or something in between.
“I went to that tenth anniversary Re-Imagining Conference in 2003,” said John H. Adams, editor of The Layman, the magazine of the Confessing Movement within the PCUSA. “We didn’t make the first one, in 1993. We had such trouble believing what we heard about it that we ordered the tapes they had for sale. Listening to the tapes, it was actually much worse than was reported in print.”
The conferences, Adams said, were the voice of what is now goddess worship within Christian churches. Conference speakers denied the divinity of Jesus Christ while affirming “the god or goddess within” every human being. (For details, see the previous article in this series, “The March of Sophia,” www.chalcedon.edu.)
The World Council of Churches sponsored the conferences. In 1993 the PCUSA contributed an extra $56,000 — diverted from church funds set aside for other purposes, Adams said.
“They [the PCUSA] lost millions of dollars that year, when we were part of it [Re-Imagining],” he said. “The people in the congregations raised Cain about it, and in 1994 the General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Re-Imagining as beyond the bounds of Christianity. They also cut off the funding.
Unlike ELCA, the United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church USA, the PCUSA has not been blatant in promoting goddess worship.
“They’d be very cautious about being open with goddess worship,” Adams said. “We still have the Voices of Sophia, but that’s only an ‘affinity group’ with the PCUSA, with a focus on ordination issues and a stray current of lesbianism.
“We can’t find PCUSA fingerprints on goddess worship because the denomination withdrew support for it. But some of it does go on.”
We can learn more from the Voices of Sophia website, voicesofsophia.org/Home.html. Although Voices of Sophia describes its members as “faithful, progressive, justice-seeking servants of the church” and claims that “Wisdom/Sophia language comes from a strong biblical tradition,” we have learned not to be so easily deceived.
Advertised speakers at recent Voices of Sophia events include Rev. Katie Cannon, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, and Dr. Emilie Townes. Cannon is a leading voice of “womanist theology,” a “theology of African-American women” who “oppose sexism, racism, [and] heterosexism” (http://www.blackandchristian.com/articles/academy/thomas-05-01.shtml). Brock was a keynote speaker at the 1998 Re-Imagining Conference: her theology rejects the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s atonement and compares the God of the Bible to a child abuser (see reviews of her books on amazon.com). Townes, another “womanist,” is also an advocate for lesbianism and associated with the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network” (http://lgbtran.org/).
Voices of Sophia also boasts of its advocacy for Rev. Jane Adams Spahr for a PCUSA Women of Faith Award. Spahr, another self-avowed lesbian and lesbian advocate, is a leading proponent of Sophia worship (http://www.pcusa.org/ga214/news/ga02049.htm).
So, although Voices of Sophia does not overtly promote goddess worship on its website, it engages speakers who do.
“I don’t know why we always find Sophia worship linked to lesbianism,” John Adams said. “They’re two different issues, but there doesn’t seem to be much space between them.”
Feminist theology is only one of many issues, Adams said, driving members out of the PCUSA “and causing the denomination to disappear from the face of the earth.” But in some ways, he said, it’s the most serious issue.
“This Sophia theology conflicts with the revelation of truth given to us by Christ in Scripture,” he said. “These women say they can’t deal with Jesus Christ as He is presented in Scripture, so they end up worshiping another god and violating the first commandment in the Bible. Their theology is a major deception based on what we want God to be, not on what He is.”
Even the Baptists With some 16 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America. It is also one of the most conservative, theologically and politically: the last place one would look for Sophia worship.
Lorna Tedder “is a Third Degree High Priestess trained by the Black Forest Clan, holds a Ph.D. in metaphysics, and is a best-selling author” of New Age and pagan thrillers, according to her website, spilledcandy.com. Her webpage identifies her as a former member of a Southern Baptist Church (http://www.spilledcandy.com/Lorna_Tedder.htm.) On another website (“Who are the recipients of pagan charity?” http://www.geocities.com/~lorna_tedder/recipients.html), Tedder identifies the First Baptist Church of Niceville, Florida, and the First Baptist Church of Donalsonville, Georgia, as recipients of pagan charity. The Niceville church is a Southern Baptist church.
In 2001 the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, Bob White, threatened to shut down a meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry (“Georgia executive threatens to ‘shut down’ women’s meeting,” http://www.baptiststandard.com/2001/10_15/pages/georgia.html) if he heard reports of “strange communication about Mother God, Goddess Sophia or any such thing.” He also warned BWIM not to invite as a speaker Dr. Molly Marshall, president of the Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas.
Dr. Marshall in 1994 was forced to resign as a theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/9221.htm). According to Dr. Russell Moore at SBTS, Dr. Marshall’s theology includes a denial of Christ as the only way to salvation, referring to God as “she,” and rejection of Biblical teachings on homosexuality.
Marshall moved to Central Baptist Theological Seminary the next year. CBTS is affiliated with the American Baptist Convention, a theologically liberal sect. But ABC is not the only Baptist group that welcomes goddess worshippers.
In a recent “Report to the Fellowship of Deacons, First Baptist Church of Dallas” (http://www.mcbible.com/fbc_summary.htm), a finance committee of the church described the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) as having “a tolerance …for those who embrace the feminist concept of a link between the goddess Sophia and Christ.” The committee also remarked that the BGCT is pro-abortion and pro-homosexual, and concluded:
“Finally, when there is a call for ‘unity’ despite unrestrained ‘diversity,’ let us never fall prey to the idea that being united in error is more honorable than being divided by truth.”
Conclusion “Feminist theology” and goddess worship have spread beyond the liberal mainline denominations, and so far, every effort to check it has failed.
The Episcopal Church USA, the United Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have taken no meaningful action to stem the tide of paganism. If anything, the leaders of those denominations have encouraged it.
The Presbyterian Church USA declared it outside the bounds of Christianity, but has failed to confront Voices of Sophia and other groups within the PCUSA friendly to goddess worship and complicit in its propagation.
Baptists have tried harder. The problem there is that every goddess theologian who is expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention can easily find a home with a more liberal Baptist group. These voices of Sophia have not been silenced: they have taken their show on the road.
In the final article in this series, we will examine what this apostasy portends for the future of the Protestant community in America.