PAGANISM AT THE RE-IMAGINING CONFERENCE
IN MINNEAPOLIS (1993)
Volume 29, Number 3
In this issue of the BRF Witness you will read about the Re-imagining Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November, 1993. The women who gathered at Minneapolis set out to re-imagine God, the church, and the family. The whole Conference applauded heresy and celebrated blasphemy. Some of the statements were in extremely poor taste. For example, speaker Delores Williams referred to the biblical account of the conception of Jesus by saying that "the Holy Spirit mounted Mary." But even more appalling than the poor-taste-statement was the applause and laughter which followed.
Many basic doctrines essential to the Christian faith were repudiated at Minneapolis, often in an atmosphere of disrespect. These include the doctrine of God, the deity of Christ, His atoning death, the sinfulness of humanity, the Genesis account of creation, the authority of Scriptures, and the biblical understanding of human sexuality.
The entire Conference was an assault on the Gospel and a trampling under foot of key tenets of the Christian faith. The new religion promoted at the Re-imagining Conference soundly rejected the incarnation of Jesus, as well as His atonement on the Cross. The reporter in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said that the conference leaders were "re-shaping the Christian understanding of [the] foundations of theology." Participants and speakers alike angrily denounced the Christian church, charging that its teachings about Jesus Christ constitute the chief source of women's oppression, human violence, racism, sexism, classism, and the abuse of the earth.
Faye Short, in the United Methodist Good News magazine, says that the Conference speakers praised every imaginable religion or spirituality except orthodox Christianity, and recognized the power of every deity except Jesus Christ.
It is our belief that most Church of the Brethren members would respond with shame and dismay if they had an opportunity to hear the tapes of the speeches, seminars, and celebrations which took place in Minneapolis.
The WCC Solidarity with Women
Near the end of 1993, more than two thousand delegates met in Minneapolis for what was called the Reimagining 93 Conference. The delegates were primarily national leaders from mainline denominations associated with the World Council of Churches. The attendees included more than twenty members from the Church of the Brethren. The Conference grew out of The World Council of Churches Decade of Solidarity with Women. The Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in 1988 voted to support the WCC movement which aims to elevate the status of women. (It was at this Conference that 20 women and one man from the Church of the Brethren announced that they could no longer use the word "Brethren" and presented a new name for the denomination. They chose to call it the "Church of Reconciliation").
The agenda of the Minneapolis Conference, however, went well beyond the commonplace themes of women's equality. The speakers seemed set to try and destroy the traditional Christian faith--by adopting ancient pagan beliefs and rejecting the divinity of Jesus and His blood atonement on the Cross.
THE ATONEMENT OF JESUS CHRIST
Delores Williams, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, told the group, "I don't think we need a theory of atonement at all...atonement has to do so much with death...l don't think we need folks hanging on crosses, and blood dripping, and weird stuff...we just need to listen to the god within." Another speaker, Virginia Mollenkott, who serves on the National Council of Churches commission to prepare an inclusive language lectionary, claimed that the death of Jesus was the ultimate in child abuse. She said that the commonly accepted view of Christ's atonement pictures God as an abusive parent, and Jesus as an obedient child.
The Minneapolis Conference trampled under foot the Gospel of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ, and attempted to reconstruct the Christian faith without the offense of the cross.
THE ALL-ENCOMPASSING GOD
Speaker Chung Hyun Kyung drew many of her ideas from Eastern pantheistic religions, in which God is an all-encompassing energy force uniting and permeating all that exists. Chung led the delegates in an exercise that she called "pranic healing," and said that "this life-giving energy came from god and it is everywhere; it is in the sun and in the ocean; it is from the ground and it is from the trees...lf you feel very tired and you feel you don't have any energy to give...go to a big tree and ask [the] tree,'Give me some of your life energy.'"
The religion promoted in Minneapolis was New Age pantheism and monism, in which a universal divine energy permeates all matter. This world-view looks at the material world, including human beings, as sacred and divine. At one point, the participants were led by Aruna Gnanadason in putting red dots on their foreheads. The red dots were to represent the divine within them. Then they bowed to each other, that is, to the divinity within human beings. (Throughout the Conference, music leaders repeatedly led the group in singing, "O great spirit, earth and wind and sea, you are inside and all around me.")
THE UNDERSTANDING OF FAMILY
Speakers at the Minneapolis assembly tried to re-imagine the family by suggesting "sex among friends," and proposed that such activity should be considered normal and appropriate. They declared that sexual pleasure is "a human right" and implied that fidelity in marriage is a kind of old-fashioned idolatry.
Mary Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the 'Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual," sensed a need to reinvent the family." She suggested that we "imagine sex among friends as the norm" and that we substitute "friendship as a metaphor for family." She told the audience further to 'imagine valuing genital sexual interaction in terms of how it fosters friendship and pleasure." She said that "pleasure is our birthright, of which we have been robbed in religious patriarchy...responsible relational sexuality is a human right." In addition, she said, 'I picture friends, not families, basking in the pleasure we deserve because our bodies are holy and our sexuality is part of creation's available riches."
THE WORSHIP OF GODDESS SOPHIA
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Minneapolis gathering was the worship and adoration paid to Sophia. The Greek word for "wisdom" is "sophia," and the name "sophia" is a feminine name. At the Re-imagining Conference, as each speaker took the podium, she received a chanted blessing from the entire assembly. The women chanted, "Bless Sophia, dream the vision, share the wisdom dwelling deep within."
Those who promulgate Sophia-worship claim that they are using "Sophia" as just another name for God, and that they are simply trying to show that there is a female side to God. From their point of view, God must no longer be referred to by male names alone. Speaker Barbara Lundblad raised a few eyebrows when she declared that she "did not need Jesus" as long as she had Sophia.
The new teachings about Sophia are actually drawn from the apocryphal books of Baruch, Sirach, and Ecclesiasticus. The only place in the entire Old Testament where wisdom is personified is in the early chapters of Proverbs. And these chapters make it clear that the literary device of personification is being used, and that there is no intent to view "wisdom" as a divine creator god or goddess. The 'wisdom" of Proverbs 1-8 does not speak of a Hebrew goddess who supports 20th Century feminism, but instead, refers to that sound course of action which urges us to cling to important principles for living that will bring blessing to human life.
A closing communion service was replaced with a service of milk and honey, and prayers and songs addressed to "Our Maker, Sophia."
A leader sang,'Our mother Sophia, we are women in your image; with the milk of our breasts we suckle the children..."
The audience sang in refrain, "Sophia Creator God, Let your milk and honey flow. Sophia, Creator God, shower us with your love." The leader continued,'Our sweet Sophia, we are women in your image; with nectar between our thighs we invite a lover, we birth a child; with our warm body fluids we remind the world of its pleasures and sensations."
The crowd responded, "Sophia Creator God, Let your milk and honey flow..."
THE CELEBRATION OF LESBIANISM
As if pantheism and debunking Jesus were not enough, an added insult included the celebration of lesbianism. The lesbian theme was heard repeatedly from major speakers. During a workshop entitled "Prophetic Voices of Lesbians in the Church," one speaker said that the biblical Mary and Martha were not actual sisters, but lesbian lovers. One presenter at the Conference concluded her speech by declaring that her theology is first of all informed by "making love to Coni" her lesbian partner. At least ten of the 34 speakers at the Minneapolis Conference identified themselves as lesbians.
In an unscheduled rally, one speaker said, 'My name is Melanie Morrison, and I am co-convener of the CLOUT Council. CLOUT stands for 'Christian Lesbians Out Together."' This announcement was followed by applause. Morrison said, "We are keenly aware that the world is not safe for lesbian women, and often the least safe place is the church." She asked, "How can we together re-imagine our churches so that every woman may claim her voice, her gifts, her loves, her wholeness?" Then Morrison said, "We invite at this time, every lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual woman who is willing and able, to come forward, quickly, and encircle this podium, facing out as a circle." About 100 women went forward, and as they came forward, applause erupted and lasted for 1 1/2 minutes.
As far as we know, no Church of the Brethren members had part in planning the Re-imagining Conference. However, the question that keeps annoying us, is: Why should the Church of the Brethren continue its membership in the World Council of Churches when time after time unorthodox programs are promoted as valid activities of the church?
The men and women in Church of the Brethren congregations across the denomination should denounce what took place at the ReImagining Conference. It is important that many voices be heard. If anyone doubts the accuracy of what is reported in the foregoing paragraphs, the 24 official tapes of the Minneapolis Conference can be ordered for $60.00 from Resource Express (612)-891-3069.
RENEWAL LEADERS RESPOND TO RE-IMAGINING 93
A fellowship of renewal group leaders (Association of Executives of Renewal Groups) from mainline denominations has been meeting annually since 1979. The 1994 meeting was held at The Holy Spirit Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The entire agenda for the 1994 meeting focused on the "Re-imagining" Conference held in Minneapolis in November, 1993. The Association of Executives of Renewal Groups has been reluctant to issue any statements in behalf of the representative constituencies. However, there was unanimous agreement concerning the need to make a statement about the substance of the "Re-imagining" Conference. The following statement was released to Christianity Today, The Christian Century, Time magazine, and the Associated Press in New York.
CHURCH RENEWAL LEADERS
RESPOND TO THE "RE-IMAGINING" CONFERENCE
Beginning with the premise that Christianity needed to be reformulated, 2,000 women gathered to re-imagine God, the Church, and the family. The fourday 'Re-imagining" Conference was held November 4-7, 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The renewal leaders declared the conference a trampling under foot of the Christian gospel, an attempt to reconstruct Christian faith without the offense of the cross.
The event included prayers and a "milk and honey" communion-like service to the goddess Sophia. In addition, speakers denied basic Christian tenets including the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ, and the transcendence of the God of Israel.
Some speakers proposed that God is one with trees, mountains, and rivers; and one speaker urged conference participants to harness divine energy in nature through the New Age process known as "pranic healing."
Participants also joined in a celebration of lesbianism, bisexuality, and transsexuality. Other conference speakers denounced the traditional family structure and proposed the acceptance of sex among friends as a normative expression.
Renewal leaders issued the following statement:
"We call upon all Christians to reaffirm their faith in God the Holy Trinity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and to confess that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the risen Lord and only Savior.
While affirming the contribution and role of women in the Christian Church throughout the ages, we call upon the participants and supporting denominations to renounce the idolatrous worship, false teachings, and syncretism of the 'Re-imagining' Conference.
We affirm the full and sufficient revelation of God in Christ through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and that the Christian faith is a gift of God and not a human invention to be reformulated or reimagined."
The above statement was signed by Harold Martin (Church of the Brethren); Richard Bowman, Kevin Ray (Disciples of Christ); Roger Boltz, Todd Wetzel (the Episcopal Church); Tom Brock, Toni Freer, Tom Parish (Evangelical Lutheran Church); Susan Cyre, Diane Knippers (Institute on Religion and Democracy); Barbara Byron, Greg Collison, Harold Kurtz, Betty Moore, Terry Schlossburg, Parker Williamson (The Presbyterian Church USA); Steve Beard, James Heidinger, Ron Houp Jr., Faye Short (The United Methodist Church); and nine members of renewal movements in the United Church of Canada and the Presbyterian Church of Canada.
--Harold S. Martin
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