DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. – Two Episcopal priests face possible punishment from the church after it was discovered that they were leaders of a local society of Druids, people who follow a pre-Christian practice of worshipping the sun and venerating the Earth.
While directing parishes in Malvern and Downingtown, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk and the Rev. William Melnyk, a married couple, were also spiritual guides to local Druids (search).
On Thursday, after national Christian groups and Internet bloggers accused the Episcopal Church USA (search) of promoting paganism through the priests' activities, the two wrote letters of apology, saying they "recanted and repudiated" their connection with Druidism.
Ruppe-Melnyk, rector of St. Francis-in-the-Fields parish in Malvern, and Melnyk, rector of St. James' Church in Downingtown, said in letters to Bishop Charles Bennison of the Diocese of Pennsylvania (search) that their involvement in Druidism was an effort to "help others who had lost connection to the Church to find a way to reconnect."
In the letters, the Melnyks — in Druid circles, she used the name Raven, he the name OakWyse — affirmed their belief in the historic creeds of Christianity and asked for "the mercy of the Church and of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Their involvement in Druidism came to light last month after the Episcopal Church's women's ministry listed two of the couple's Druidic liturgies on its Web site, for possible use in developing feminist liturgies.
The church removed the liturgies, but several Christian groups and bloggers accused the church of promoting pagan rites to pagan deities. The church denied it.
Jeffrey Brodeur, a spokesman for the four-county Diocese of Pennsylvania, said Bennison had accepted the apologies but "continues to review his options" as to discipline. That could include removing or suspending the two from their parish posts, he said.