Home / News / Are you Wiccan or Pagan? The Church of England has a place for you, but the Christian, Wiccan/Pagan community isn't so sure
Are you Wiccan or Pagan?  The Church of England has a place for you, but the Christian, Wiccan/Pagan community isn't so sure

Are you Wiccan or Pagan? The Church of England has a place for you, but the Christian, Wiccan/Pagan community isn't so sure

Summer solstice was celebrated on June 21st this year, and in England, Pagans and Druids gathered at Stonehenge 20,000 strong to watch the sunrise at the famous monument after a 27 million (pounds) restoration of the site.  And in light of that celebration, the Church of England got a revolutionary idea: to make a place in Anglicanism for Pagans.  The Telegraph reports:

The church is training ministers to create “a pagan church where Christianity [is] very much in the centre” to attract spiritual believers.

Ministers are being trained to create new forms of Anglicanism suitable for people of alternative beliefs as part of a Church of England drive to retain congregation numbers.

Reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a researcher and adviser in new religious movements told the BBC: “I would be looking to formulate an exploration of the Christian faith that would be at home in their culture.”

He said it would be “almost to create a pagan church where Christianity was very much in the centre.”

The Church Mission Society, which is training ministers to “break new ground”, hopes to see a number of spiritual people align themselves with Christianity.

Commenters on the article were not impressed. Some saw it as trying to put a Christian gloss over Paganism which has already been done by the Catholic Church. One commenter said:

given that much of Christian culture is the result of putting a monotheistic gloss on pagan ritual, this seems like the only way that Christianity will survive in England (or did you think that a Xmas tree was part of the nativity)

Another added:

Then again, maybe this is just what we need. Converting the pagans by coopting some of their beliefs worked wonders the first time, and made Christianity a whole lot more fun in the bargain. Where would we be without Christmas trees?

Then again, its worth pointing out that the Church of England seems to think they are dealing with real druids here.

Excuse me while I go watch the wicker man. The old one, not the Nicolas cage version.

Another expressed indignation that once again, Christians of another stripe were dissing Paganism out of one side of their mouth while trying to co-opt Pagan beliefs:


Let's see if I have this correct? The Anglicans are trying to co-opt their religion to get people who believe in a god or goddess or gods and goddesses who is/are not the Christian god and who don't believe in Jesus, to drop their existing religious beliefs and to follow the Christian god and to believe in Jesus?!

I have a prediction on how this will result: MASSIVE FAIL!

It sounds like it will be quite a deity mash-up, doesn't it?   The American Anglican, in its article entitled "Are Pagan practices meeting an increasingly receptive audience in the Episcopal Church" from 2010 adds:

Wrapped around a rite for “croning”, the meditation embraced a history of mystical women and offered prayers to “Mothering God” and “Eternal Wisdom.” But the article was not in a new age publication or Wiccan blog: it was on the pages of the September newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Entitled “Crone Power”, the meditation innocuously sat opposite a story about choosing a children’s Bible and next to a column on St. Jerome. The newsletter quickly drew the attention of Anglican bloggers, many of whom found the placement of what appeared to be a Wiccan ritual to be jarring in an official church publication. But intentionally or not, the publication and placement of the rite were reflective of a new reality: one in which practices drawn from or inspired by pagan belief, including witchcraft, are increasingly finding acceptance within the ranks of the Episcopal Church.

“Croning rituals have been a part of modern day witchcraft since [English occultist] Gerald Gardner invented it in the 1950s,” explains Catherine Sanders, author of Wicca's Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality. Sanders, an evangelical Christian, spent several years researching pagan practices and witnessed their incorporation into the church during the writing of her book. Sanders said that croning, the practice of honoring a woman who has gone through menopause, became more popular in the 1970s with the women’s movement.

“Most of the mainline denominations had people within them experimenting with pagan rituals,” Sanders said. “A lot of these people were searching for a way to affirm what they were going through in their lives.”

While the croning ritual was notable for its prominence in a diocesan newsletter, such pagan-inspired practices are not new in the Episcopal Church. In 2005, Pennsylvania Episcopal priest Bill Melnyk was outed as a Druid (he belonged to the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) after posting a druid ritual to an Episcopal Church Women’s website. Melnyk, who had taken the name “Oakwyse,” was forced to resign by his bishop.

In 2009, at the National Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral, held a Sacred Circles ceremony in which the feminine divine was honored. The Institute of Religion and Democracy roundly condemned the ceremony, even though they call themselves "ecumenical," calling it "idolatrous:"

As the conference opened, the assembled were led through a breathing exercise and a responsive chant: “Holy is the silence and Holy is the sound. Holy is each one of us and Holy is the ground.” Aside from displaying a vague spirituality worthy of Oprah, the silly chant was minor compared to the next activity: a Native American ceremony offering a gift of smoking tobacco to welcome the spirits from the four cardinal directions. Originally scheduled to be led by the Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, the retired assistant bishop of Newark (and a Cherokee Indian), illness had instead required a Lakota medicine woman to lead the offering.

“To the sacred guardians of the West,” the medicine woman cried. She identified the west as the place of great mystery, the vision quest, and death, “The place of finding your own divinity.” The congregation faced each direction as brightly colored streamers on tall poles swept through the air, symbolizing the invited spirits.

While this activity at best was inappropriate for an Episcopal cathedral, and at worst was blatant pagan idolatry, it is important to emphasize something about the women who gathered on Friday night. Each was an authentic seeker, someone who was in good faith attempting to respond to the “God shaped vacuum” in her heart.

In a society where Christians struggle to evangelize an increasingly secularized and disinterested populace, these women had traveled of their own means to an Episcopal cathedral in search of God. The tragedy is that they were greeted on behalf of “the spirit of many names” rather than the life-changing Savior, Jesus Christ.

It certainly doesn't sound as if this will be a match made in heaven.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • AKHF

    Not exactly "breaking news" — articles from 2010? And IRD and AAC are not Episcopal sites but people who left years ago and still spend a lot of energy on hating the Episcopal Church

    • Diane Yoder

      The 2010 article shows a trend in the Anglican church. This isn't meant to be breaking news, it doesn't say "breaking news," so perhaps it's time to get over yourself a bit.

  • Yes, they do or at least the Episcopal Church I last attended before leaving religion had a Wiccan priest serving with the Episcopal priest. However, AKHF is right, AAC is hardly Episcopalian, even though it is within the Anglican Communion. I'm surprised the AAC accepts Wiccans, because, if I remember right, they are one of the breakaway branches that had a fit over LGBT rights, such as ordaining gays and same-sex marriage, as well as women priests.

    • Diane Yoder

      Shades of grey so far as I am concerned.

      • Well, yes and no. You have your liberal, far left, love is the only Commandment Episcopal Church and then you have your traditional "reformed Catholic, but still very Catholic-ish", far right, ultra-Conservative Anglican Church. Everything in between is the shades of grey, but all them fall within the Anglican Communion and often answer to the Archbishop as though he were the Pope, even though he's not suppose to come down to the States and tell the Episcopal Church what to do, as though he were Pope. It all can get a little confusing, so much so that one could throw their hands up and say, "They're all the same" or "Shades of grey".

  • Jimmy Top

    Here's the deal…Paganism is here to stay. We pre-date Judaea-Christianity by more than 6000 years. Much of our knowledge was lost during the Dark Ages, as were our rituals, but the fundamental understanding and spiritual foundation remain unchanged. As a more and more educated society emerges in the world, mainstream religions that rely on ignorance, subservience, and absolutism will wane. Anyone who takes a look at the world around them and beholds the wonders that exist, then combines that with what we know from archaeological evidence, understands the ridiculousness of an earth that is only 6000 or so years old. Ignorance of the world is what created the mainstream religions. Knowledge and light are what will finally tear them down after thousands of years of oppression. The attempt by the Church of England to integrate Pagans into their way of thinking will fail because we are free-thinkers. And we have no place in Christianity without Christianity becoming something other than what it is. You could no longer call it by its name because it would be so changed, that by the laws of the Holy Bible, you wouldn't be Christians any longer. Judaea-Christian mythology is very clear on the matter of altering anything in the book (absolutism). So, the dying gasps of a religion that was doomed to eventually fall, are finally beginning to occur. Will it fall tomorrow? No. But it will eventually happen. And when it does, you will all be welcomed into the light of truth by all Pagans regardless of what your path, beliefs, or ideals may be.
    Bright blessings to you all.

    • I think many Pagans realize this, as well as many of the so-called "saints" being taken over and corrupted by the Church. I am truly amazed by what archeologists reveal, esp various texts and related information that get released to the public. Many Xians do not want to face the fact that Jesus, as represented in the Bile, never existed and is a bastardization of previous beliefs. Even the Islamic religion is a bastardization of ancient tribal beliefs, more so than Xianity. Animism to anthropomorphism to a complete denial of such an evolution to the point of oppressive violent force to believe in real person deities. I think, if we went back far enough, we'd find that if we started appreciating nature, not as a god, but as something we need to care for and nourish (as well as each other), we'd be better off. I'm not saying we all need to become Pagans, I'm just saying we need to see modern religions for what they real are- controlling and domineering patriarchy, that will try anything to gain and keep control of the Vulgar (masses), to the point of denying nature and humans. The source of life is not a mythical deity that we find in modern religion, but the sun, the earth, and even each other- not as a god though. However, that (the appreciation of nature and other living beings) isn't [necessarily] Paganism though, but I think it does sort of touches on it, but not in a religious manner.

      • Jimmy Top

        The word pagan has its roots in the Latin word "paganus" which means of the country or rural, one who lives in rural (nature). I don't view Paganism as a religion but as a discipline. It doesn't require the ritual that many practice. The rituals can be of help as a focus for your spiritual energy though.

        As to the borrowed nature of Judaea-Christianity and Islamic mythology you are absolutely correct. The virgin birth is derived from Isis and Osiris of the ancient Egyptian mythology which the Israelites were indoctrinated with while enslaved there. Islam borrowed many beliefs from the various tribes that Mohammed married into in order to consolidate his power base.

        I firmly believe that Jesus lived, taught, and died. What I don't believe is that he ever declared himself the son of God. I think, that like the Buddha, he was deified after death in order to keep men in power through religion.

        The power of faith is a very effective tool for controlling people. And back then most people couldn't read or write so they were at the mercy of those who could.

        Here is a fact: We are beings of light in that we are made up of uncountable numbers of light particles. Our bodies are constantly generating energy. Einstein proved that energy can never be created or destroyed, you can only change its form.

        Druids understood this over 10,000 years ago (not on the level; of Einstein of course) and knew that our spirit is never ending…eternal.

        While the entire universe is in a constant state of entropy the energy in it remains. The same amount of energy now is as it has always been and always will be. It wasn't created….It just always was.

        Thank you for listening to my rant Mriana. I would dearly love to have coffee with you some day.

        • You are welcome and yes, I sometimes confuse the actual rural meaning with those who call themselves Pagan in a religious sense, but be that as it may rural people to this day often, but not always, center their lives around the various seasons, esp when planting or harvesting. They just don't have fertility rituals or alike and I don't think that was ever required, just practiced by some Pagans.

          • Jimmy Top

            I grew up on a farm in Kansas and yes its very much attached to the seasons. And not just the Solstice and Equinox. There are points in between when you have to tend to the crops based on their time of growth. This is knowledge humans have had for more than 10,00 years since we first left the caves and started to become an agrarian culture. We have cultivated and furthered our crops into the relatively monster fruits/vegetables they are now. Corn for instance was originally no bigger than your pinkie finger. But humans discovered it was a great source for meal and sugars so they bred it over thousands of years to be only the biggest and hardiest strains. Not entirely unlike what marijuana growers do to make their stuff more potent.
            (Disclaimer: I don't actually smoke marijuana but I know people who do)

            • I grew up on a farm too and saw when there was flooding, it either destroyed a crop, like winter wheat, harvested in spring, or delayed planting, such as corn, an early frost disturbed farmers, where as a late one seemed to elate farmers. I don't smoke marijuana either, but I've read it is more potent than it was in the '60s. My grandfather slept via the sun, most often rising with it and going to bed "with the chickens", as they say, just to feed his animals on a schedule. Sometimes he'd be up just before the sunrise, even, esp in winter. With their garden, there was always this big rush to cover the plants, if frost was predicted, while my grandmother did a lot of canning, esp in late summer and early fall. They didn't go by the calendar to plant, but rather by the apparent season. The Farmer's Almanac was not uncommon reading. I think it was read more than their Bible.

        • ChaosRose100

          "The virgin birth is derived from Isis and Osiris of the ancient Egyptian mythology which the Israelites were indoctrinated with while enslaved there."

          There isn't even any archaeological evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt. A ton of this pagan origins stuff has been debunked, especially the stuff coming from those ridiculous Zeitgeist videos. Similarity doesn't prove derivation, anyway, and even if it did…so what? Everything was made up at some point. There's no evidence that pagan gods ever walked the earth either.

          Syncretism has happened since the beginning of time, and it will continue to happen. It's not necessarily sinister. And honestly, with your comment about people "seeing the light of truth" and swarming to paganism, you sound just as fundie as many Christians. Just because someone changes jewelry, it doesn't mean they are suddenly different on the inside.

          • Jimmy Top

            We never claim that our "gods" walk the earth. And since there is no set dogma that says with absolutes that things must be done a particular way the word "pagan" is applied in a very general way. So yes…we pre-date the mainstream religions by several thousand years. They are constantly digging up ancient sites of worship that point to an understanding and reverence of the natural world. I don't practice religion of any kind. I live my life by the same tenet that Jesus of Nazareth and many druids and pagans of ancient times taught. And that tenet is to love each other, be good to each other, and help each other without thought of reward. I have seen with my own eyes the power of prayers and putting forth positive energy.
            I would say to you Rose that you should look at this not from a "my religion is better that yours" but from what feeds your spirit and promotes happiness and health in your life.

            • ChaosRose100

              Ancient paganism predates mainstream faiths. Neo-paganism of any sort is new. And again, what does it matter? The fact that something is older or not doesn't make it better or worse. It's all just people trying to understand their world.

              You say you don't practice religion, but you also identify as pagan and Druid. That's all well and good. Identify as you please. Just don't try and claim that other faiths are failing, when it isn't really true, and that they should all flock to paganism. If that doesn't smack of "my religion is better than yours," I don't know what would. And that is what I really took issue with. That, some pseudohistory, and an apparent persecution complex, which neo-pagans do seem to cling to with incredible fervor…the likes of fundamentalism.

              It's fine not to like certain aspects of Abrahamic faiths, and to realize that the history of these people isn't squeaky clean. The tendency, though, is to whitewash ancient pagan history, which was plenty bloody, too. It's like people still cling to this idea that there was some sort of ancient utopia that was spoiled by patriarchy and the Abrahamics. That's ridiculous. The Abrahamics hardly invented patriarchy and war. Humanity was warring and brutal back then. We still are, but at least some civilizations have gotten past the slavery and some of the subjugation of women.

    • ChaosRose100

      Ugh. Since the majority of what ancient pagans actually practiced is lost, you can't claim to have a religion that is 6,000 years old. Much of what neo-pagans practice is about 70 years old and stems from ceremonial magic that is loaded with Abrahamic overtones. There's also Crowley in your Wicca. He initiated Gardner.

      As far as Christianity waning and paganism rising, actually the hugest rise is in people who don't have any religious affiliation at all. Pagans still make up less than 0.4% of the population in England. And not all Christians are fundies who believe in the Young Earth Theory. Certainly not Anglicans/Episcopalians. Way to show your vast knowledge base.

      What I see is people trying to be a bit more accepting of alternative belief systems and so-called pagans having a problem with it. Good show on being a "free-thinker."

      • Jimmy Top

        I am not Wiccan…I am an initiated Bard in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Gerald Gardner began with OBOD as Ross Nichols' friend. There was however some difference of opinion on the institution if hierarchy and Gardner went on to found the modern Wiccan movement (this is what I was led to understand, my knowledge is not first hand). I do not dispute what you say about many neo-pagan beliefs being based on newer knowledge and that it is only around 70 years old. The foundation for that belief is many thousands of years old. When the ruling powers make it a death sentence to practice what you believe it has a tendency to drive those practitioner's underground. Much of what was lost can be found embedded in old stories and songs as well as in the rituals that were integrated into Christianity to make it less bloody to convert Europe. I would recommend The Book of Druidry by Ross Nichols if you want a good idea of the beginnings of modern druidry. (And yes…its about 70 years old (-:)

        • ChaosRose100

          There is literally next to nothing known about what ancient Druids actually practiced. I consider what you do to be neo-paganism, as well. There is no proof of any link to ancient practices, nor does there need to be. Proving something is older doesn't make it any more or less valid than something new. So why not just admit that it's new? Why the need to cling to the idea that it's somehow better because there used to be ancient Druids? Or in the case of Wicca, because back then Barbie used to be a rock.

          There's this competition over whose religion is superior that just doesn't seem to come from an "enlightened" place, in my opinion. Why the need to have Abrahamic faiths fail? It's not as if the persecutions of ancient peoples (if indeed they were persecuted) are somehow yours. You didn't get burnt at the stake or hung, and the Christians of today have not done those things. Why not bury the hatchet and be more ecumenical? Not everyone has to believe the same way you do.

          I have no issue with people believing what they want. As long as they're not messing with me, personally, it doesn't effect me. Naturally, I get all in the face of those who would push a discriminatory agenda, but that's hardly all Abrahamics. There's a tendency to lump them all together, and generalizations are rarely correct.

          As you can see from the link below, provided by Matt Arnold, this article contains quite a bit of misinformation. Apparently, they weren't out to convert pagans after all, so why try to insinuate that everyone should be pagan? You're just turning into what you hate, or maybe you have always remained that. I'm not sure. That's something you have to ask yourself. At any rate, the largest rise is in folks not claiming any religious affiliation at all, not in those claiming paganism.

  • Matt Arnold


    Why not consult the chap himself before posting your response to an article written by the world's media machine? You may find out just how untrue the story is
    by visiting his response above.

    Matt Arnold

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  • Brandon1978

    "Dissing"? You actually used the term "dissing" in this article? Noooo. It is "disrespecting".

    • Diane Yoder

      Brandon, last time I looked this isn't the New York Times. We are a bit more informal here. Yeesh. Grammar police much?

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