The following originally appeared in a recent Anglican Action e-newsletter. If you would like to receive our monthly e-newsletter, click here and select “Anglican Action.”
This past weekend I visited the Washington National Cathedral to attend their bi-annual interfaith women’s conference, “Sacred Circles: a Celebration of Women’s Spirituality.” This was the fifth time that the Episcopal cathedral had hosted the event, which brings hundreds of women from across the nation to hear from female religious speakers. Some claim a Christian faith, some do not.
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.
The Episcopal Office of Women’s Ministries underwrote all of the scholarships to attend “Sacred Circles,” and a paid staffer of the cathedral served as the convener of the event. To read full coverage of the conference by IRD’s Rebekah Sharpe and discover what Episcopal tithes are supporting, click here.
In other news:
IRD President James Tonkowich and I appeared on Christian talk radio in Detroit, MI and Saint Louis, MO to discuss the nomination of Buddhist ordinand Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan. The election will be held this weekend at the diocesan special convention in Escanaba, MI.