Episcopal priest who turned Druid changes his mind

Philadelphia, USA - In a rapid change of heart, a local Episcopal priest is abandoning Druid spirituality - a decision made one day after it was reported that he had renounced his Episcopal ordination and become the founding priest of a Druid group.

The Rev. W. William Melnyk notified Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison of his turnabout in a telephone message Friday evening, Bennison said yesterday.

Melnyk did not say whether he would seek reinstatement as an Episcopal priest. He lost his post as rector of St. James' Episcopal Church in Downingtown in November when the news of his Druid involvement first came to light.

In a voice mail to The Inquirer, Melnyk said he had removed the Druid group's Web site from the Internet and was cutting his ties with Druid spirituality. He attributed his decision to "events that have transpired in the last 24 hours."

Melnyk did not elaborate, and said he would not comment further. He and his wife left over the weekend for a vacation abroad and were not available for comment.

Melnyk's involvement with Druidism caused a scandal in Episcopal circles, and he had declined to speak publicly about it for months. But when the news of his formally becoming a Druid priest was reported last week, he briefly decided to comment.

In an interview Friday, Melnyk disputed widespread accounts that his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, also an Episcopal priest, was equally involved in Druid activity.

The controversy had begun after a feminist liturgy written by Ruppe-Melnyk was posted on the Episcopal Church USA Web site. The liturgy, which had references to "God the Mother," was characterized by conservative watchdog groups as pagan and Druidic when they discovered it also posted on a Web site created by her husband.

Melnyk said the Web site was aimed at people who wanted to practice both Druid spirituality and Christianity. Ruppe-Melnyk denied that the liturgy had any Druid-inspired content.

Soon after, Melnyk resigned at the request of his parish vestry. His wife has kept her post as rector of St.-Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Malvern.

After his resignation, Melnyk said he spent several months in reflection.

"I had been working on a ministry seeking to find common ground between two traditions, but the bishop of Pennsylvania and vestry of St. James said 'you can't do that,' " he said Friday. "So I decided I had to make the decision that had the most personal integrity for me."

That decision was to renounce his ordination vows and become a Druid priest. He called it a "joyous occasion." But by the weekend he reversed himself and cut his Druid ties.