The druidry story transmogrifies

Newspapers in greater Philadelphia have begun reporting on the past Druidic interests of the Rev. William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Lorraine Ruppe-Melnyk, but some have lost the story's finer distinctions.

"The online editor of Christianity Today magazine accused the church of 'promoting pagan rites and pagan deities' and the Melnyks of idolatry," David Bernard of the Chester Daily Local wrote on Nov. 6.

The same sentence appeared again three days later in a story attributed to "Staff and Wire Reports."

Ted Olsen of Christianity Today Online focused his critiques both on the rites composed by the two priests and on one rite's distribution through the Episcopal Church's Office of Women's Ministries website. These are the only two paragraphs, in his varied comments on the rites, in which Olsen used the word idolatry:

But in this case, we're not talking about something that's merely unorthodox, or even heresy. We're talking about pagan worship of Old Testament idols. We're talking about a mock Eucharist, the center of Christian worship, that directly references a biblical text about idolatry--and stands proudly, "defiantly," with the idolaters.

One would have thought that the Episcopal Church USA might have argued whether it was really practicing a different religion. Instead, their challenge to [Nigerian Archbishop Peter] Akinola's statement might be that it's not new at all: Their idolatry has been around since Old Testament times.

Olsen wrote pointed critiques of the Melnyks' rites, and wondered online whether Bishop Charles Bennison would have anything to say about the matter. But it should be clear to anyone who read Olsen's articles that he saw the problem of idolatry as more widespread than the activities of two priests in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Further, both Olsen and Erik Nelson of the Institute on Religion and Democracy -- who first called the rite's attention to several bloggers -- both commended the Melnyks for their letters of repentance to Bishop Bennison.

"I will not allow this situation to turn into a witch hunt of any sort," Bennison said in his first statement (PDF) on the conflict.

It never was a with hunt. It was, instead, another case of the blogosphere being a few weeks ahead of mainstream media in breaking and reporting a news story.

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