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GC2009: This is a pagan celebration - leave

GC2009: This is a pagan celebration - leave

Mary Ann Mueller in Anaheim
Special Correspondent
July 13, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA---The traditionally red and white clad members of the Episcopal House of Bishops was escorted into Sunday's UTO Ingathering Eucharistic celebration by the racket of drums beating, cymbals clashing, and gongs sounding. Young Oriental children, dressed in black and white with bright yellow, red and blue sashes, were enthusiastically making the noise.

Preceding the Hansori drummers were swaying liturgical dancers waving eight-foot long blue and gold metallic streamers high in the air. (Hansori is a Korean term that loosely means, "presenting a unified voice.")

This was all very reminiscent of the Disney Parade over in Mickeymouseland the night before - the noise ... the colors ... the movement.

Earlier, silent white-gloved, black-dressed mimes were singing the prelude music by the Ubuntu Choir who moved with the beat of the music. Much of the music had an African flavor.

Finally, the three living Episcopal Presiding Bishops - reigning Katharine Jefferts Schori, and retired Frank Griswold with an aging Edmond Browning -- processed towards the make-shift altar.

The three top bishops were the only bishops not attired in the classic Anglican and vividly red chimera with the snowy white rochet draped with wide black tippets. Rather, they wore flowing gold and red vestments. The two retired presiding bishops were sporting plan white miters while Ms. Jefferts Schori had a gold and red miter on her head that matched her vestments. She clutched her bishop's staff in her left hand and service booklet in her right.

Once the Presiding Bishop stepped off, a fellow VOL reporter, The Rev. Michael Heidt, a priest from the conservative Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, leaned over and whispered in my ear, "This is a pagan celebration, it is not good for your soul. Leave."

I did.

Later Fr. Heidt reported that Dallas Bishop James Stanton also found that the strange liturgical style of the ECW Ingathering celebration was a bit too much for his soul's heath. He stormed out, fed up.

In my forty-plus years as a journalist, I have only refused to cover a story three times. Two of those times have been while covering Episcopal General Conventions. This is my third go around as a reporter on the Episcopal General Convention. My first Convention was the 1982 New Orleans version of things.

Early on, when I was a young cub reporter, Elvis Presley came to Tampa. The staff of the radio station where I was working at the time were all expected to attend his concert. I had absolutely no interest in the performer and told my news director I would not go. It was not a matter of conscience. The decision was based more upon the fact that I was not interested in the singer or his style and felt it a personal waste of time.

Fast-forward to 1991 and the Episcopal General Convention in Phoenix that was Barbara Harris' first introduction to the wider church as the bishop suffragan of Massachusetts. I was not impressed.

At the time, I was the photographer for the Episcopal Synod of America's daily convention publication called "The Source," which was being edited by Bill Murchison, then a widely read columnist for the "Dallas Morning News." I was supposed to cover one of the Eucharistic celebrations where Ms. Harris was officiating. I told Bill that I could not in good conscience do that. And I didn't.

I was honored to be a small part of "The Sources" staff, which drew such heavy hitters as Dr. Peter Toon, who most recently went on to meet his heavenly reward.

Now come to 2009 and Anaheim's General Convention. Barbara Harris is again here and I am just as unimpressed with her as I was in Phoenix. The years have not changed my mind, expect perhaps to make me realize how truly vile and foul-mouthed she really is.

A couple of nights ago, Ms. Harris team tagged with Bishop Gene Robinson. Together they wowed the Integrity crowd.

So, for a second time, while covering an Episcopal General Convention, I turned down an assignment. I could not in good conscience attend such an unholy affair. By doing so, it would give credence to the event. David Virtue understood my deeply held spiritual reservations and gave me a bye.

There is much of interest going on at General Convention -- outside of the sometimes-questionable liturgical celebrations.

Last night, I attended a Taize Evensong. It was my first experience with Taize and it was wonderful. So meditative, so quiet, so prayerful. There were no loud beating drums or clinging cymbals or indescribable colors. Just the restful sound of a flute with the gentle background of a quietly played keyboard while the mediators intertwined their voices in chant, sometimes using English, other times Latin and finally, at times, French.

I am sure God heard our quiet prayers sans all the gyrations and noise of the Disneyland-type productions of Ubuntu.

---Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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