Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scottish pagan gathering spells worry for some Christians

Some Christian groups in Scotland are anxious about druids, wiccans and other traditional religionists from across the UK gathering in a small north-east community this summer.

The Pagan Federation is intending to hold its first summer camp in Inchberry near Fochabers. The three-day event, scheduled for July 2008, will be a celebration of the ancient religion, which is based on the honouring of the natural order as an expression of the divine.

However a Moray church claims that the meeting may "encourage dangerous dabbling in witchcraft" - an idea which has been described as unfounded and superstitious by those planning to be involved, who point out that their commitment to human and natural well-being is in stark contrast to the popular image of "dark witches and ghouls".

The Rev Graham Swanson of Elgin Baptist Church, told the newspaper: "I have grave concerns and reservations about this event taking place. As a Christian I believe the Bible warns us about dabbling in such things as witchcraft."

But Moray resident Joanne Campbell, who is behind the event, said: "People like to sensationalise our gathering and speculate that we are up to all sorts of strange things. But the reality is that we really just want to get together and socialise with friends and like-minded people. There is nothing remotely sinister about it. In fact it is quite the opposite."

The pagan summer camp will take place between Friday 18 July and Sunday 20 July near the community hall. The event is open to "all witches, druids, shaman and other pagans of good". It will feature an opening ritual" as well as a host of workshops and talks.

Last year the Pagan Federation held its Scottish conference at Edinburgh University, to the annoyance of the evangelical Christian Union there.

Earlier this month, the Pagan Federation described as "a huge stride in interfaith relations" the election of priestess Angie Buchanan to a three-year term as Secretary to the Council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, one of the world’s oldest and most prominent interfaith organizations.

She is the first Pagan to serve as an officer on the Executive Committee. In October 2007, Andras Corban-Arthen of the EarthSpirit Community in Massachusetts, USA, was elected as a member-at-large to the PWR executive committee.

Along with humanists, pagans in Britain are denied official membership of many inter-faith bodies. The dispute is over the meaning and antecedence of 'belief', and the question as to the representativeness of bodies such as the PF.

Pagans argue that they are a growing tradition with ancient roots who should be recognised in bodies like the Inter Faith Network UK.

While some Christians remain anxious about wiccan, pagan and druid philosophies, others argue that the history of organised Christianity in demonising and suppressing ancient religions is something to repent of.


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