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MICHIGAN: Episcopal Women Shamelessly Bare Breasts For Charity

Parishioners leave parish in disgust

By David W. Virtue

BATTLE CREEK, MI. (11/23/2004)--Fourteen Episcopal women aged between 55 and 82 recently bared their breasts for charity in a copy cat of the movie Calendar Girls, to raise money for breast cancer research.

Calling themselves The Belles of St. Mary's, the women bared nearly all in a photo pew op at St. Thomas Episcopal Church for a calendar they hope will raise money for the research.

But a mother of four, Helen Cook, who attends the parish was outraged and wrote VirtueOnline to say so.

"The calendar from the 'Belles of St. Mary' is the last straw for me. When I saw the brochure I thought the photos could very nicely fit into Playboy. That magazine sells because it has photos of naked women. Does anyone doubt that the "Belles of St. Mary Calendar" would not have sold quite as well had it also not been for pictures of naked women? In the end it is photos of naked women's bodies being used as objects."

"When the brochure is opened there sits Ms. September. Susan, is a Medical assistant to a physician in Battle Creek. I am an RN. She is completely naked, holding items strategically so that one cannot see her nipples, and sitting so that one cannot see her complete "business" but the picture would be a great Playboy picture were it not for the fact that she is a 60 something year old grandmother," she said.

"My husband is outraged; my two older children, 21 and 17 are perplexed and aghast. I can't even explain it to my youngest 9-year old. Friends that I discussed this with and showed the brochure to were just as flabbergasted by the whole thing as I was. So count a Catholic, a Presbyterian and a non churchgoer as disconcerted and disquieted as we are."

Cook said she wrote to her rector the Rev. Joy Rogers and the parish's assistant the Rev. Chris Yaw saying they would not be returning to St. Thomas explaining why. "I told them both that I found the calendar objectionable, inappropriate and that it ran counter to the morals I am attempting to instill into my children. 'Mother Joy', whose name takes on a whole new meaning to me now, never even bothered to answer me. No email, no phone call, nothing. Fr. Chris answered very briefly with the argument that there are two sides to everything and that if I reconsidered to get in touch with him."

Blasting her priest, Cook wrote, "Rev. Rogers you have taken the church out of the Body of Christ. You have violated the teaching of scripture by allowing essentially goddess symbols into your church. You have degraded women as a whole by allowing the female nude body to be made an object for mercenary purposes. You have violated the norms of morality that is basic to any society. It is not "shamelessly good fun" it is shameful for both you and the church."

Cook said she and her family had been worshipping at St. Thomas since 1999. All of my children were baptized in St. Thomas with the oldest also confirmed. I had expected the other two to also confirm there. I had thought I would see my children marry there and to see my grandchildren baptized there. In short it was the church home I expected to be available to me and my family for many years.

One of the reasons Cook said she and her family were initially drawn to the Episcopal Church was because the bible was being read in its historical and cultural context.

Cook also blasted recent revelations of pagan Druid worship in The Episcopal Church. "It was a light bulb moment. One of the reasons I did the online search was because I felt that there was little understanding on the part of those who participated in making the calendar or on the part of those who were buying the calendar, on bringing that kind of symbology into the church."

"The idea of a church, my church in particular utilizing the symbols of the 'Divine Female' is not only inappropriate, it is abhorrent. I cannot for the life of me understand why it is necessary to utilize symbols of female sexuality, (and photo's of naked women regardless of how tastefully done or how old the participants are as symbols of female sexuality), to raise money for anything."

"The process of our moving away from the church became even more accelerated with the consecration of Gene Robinson. I cannot even bring myself to call him either a Priest or a Bishop," she said.

According to an article in the December issue of Episcopal Life which features the story in a headline "Baring (almost) all for their faith" they reported that a second parish, St. Peter's-by-the-Sea in Narragansett, Rhode Island featured a group of "mature women" shoulder-deep in flowers outside the church with an upper back view of a clearly naked Michigan grandmother lifting her clothes-free infant granddaughter.

According to the story both calendars are selling well - nearly 1,000 in the first month in Narragansett, more than 2,000 in a month in Battle Creek.

The calendar features parishioners in their 70s and 80s.


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