- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

An Episcopal clergy couple from the Philadelphia area whose leadership in a druid circle caused a scandal in the Episcopal Church say they have “recanted” their actions.

In a letter dated Nov. 4 to Bishop Charles E. Bennison of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Rev. W. William Melnyk, rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Downingtown, Pa., said he was resigning his membership in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids “as a sign of my repentance.”

He added: “It was never my intention to engage in such error, but only to help others who had lost connection to that church to find a way to reconnect,” including educating Episcopalians on Celtic spirituality.

“I was wrong,” he wrote. “I repent of and recant without qualification anything and everything I may have said or done which is found to be in conflict” with church doctrine. He ended his letter by saying, “I ask for the mercy of the church and of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A diocesan spokesman Friday affirmed the veracity of the letter, which Mr. Melnyk sent to the District-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. It was posted on the group’s Web site, www.ird-renew.org.

The spokesman said Mr. Melnyk’s wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe Melnyk, wrote a similar statement.

The bishop is still discussing the situation “with many parties,” the spokesman said, and has not decided on whether or how to discipline the clergy couple.

The letter was the latest development in a monthlong controversy that began Oct. 8, when the Episcopal Church headquarters in New York posted a “women’s eucharist” on its official Web site. It was written by Mrs. Melnyk, rector of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Malvern, Pa.

The “eucharist,” which promoted pagan practices and referred to a “Mother God,” was listed alongside a liturgy for divorce for use by parishes. Neither are official church rites.

A network of Episcopal Web logs, along with Christianity Today magazine, discovered the two late last month and began a campaign to remove both ceremonies.

Although the Episcopal Church quickly removed both ceremonies from its women’s ministries page, a spokeswoman defended the rituals as experimental. However, Bishop Bennison began an investigation of the couple, who were summoned to a meeting.

During that encounter, the bishop “pointed out to me that it is the opinion of the church that my involvement, writings and activities go beyond the bounds expected of a Christian and a Christian priest,” Mr. Melnyk wrote.

Meanwhile, word of the ceremonies had spread to Anglican officials around the world, causing the Anglican archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez, to say the rites prove the American church “is on the path of destruction.”

U.S. Episcopalians “will have to decide whether they wish to remain with us or not, but we will not countenance that kind of behavior and we will say so very strongly,” he said.

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