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Closing: First Church of Wicca

According to the website it seems that the First Church of Wicca has lost it's High Priestess to to the Christians.
This at first, seems to be a Bad Thing for the pagan community in general, and in Massachusetts in particular. I'm less convinced that this is as horrible as a lot of commentators seem to think. Let me try to explain some of my thoughts, and while I'm at it, look at some of the reasons why I think unloading Reverend Kendra is a pretty good deal.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Wiccan, I'm a Thelemite. But I have friends who are Wiccan, and we've covered most of the non-oathbound ground there is over the last 15-odd years. So, I know the shape of the religion. There are things about FCOW that never sat right with me, or my Wiccan friends.

Let's start out with a few matters of FCOW doctrine. Most of the pages can be turned up on the wayback machine at

from: Code of Ethics

Comment: First of all, there are such things as organizational codes of ethics which apply to behavior within an organization, when acting on behalf of the organization, or when attending organization functions. This particular code of ethics is an attempt to interpret and override the Wiccan Rede in a sneaky way- start with easily accepted principles, and then tighten the noose on the basis of wat was easily acceptable.

1. Remember that all life is sacred

Comment: I've got no beef with this one. Enjoy the moment, it's the last beef-free comment you'll read for a while.

2. Show appreciation and gratitude for what is earned

Comment:Appreciation and gratitude are for gifts. What you earn is YOURS. that's the whole driving force behind earning something. You did the work, you got the goods. To take the attitude suggested by this little aphorism is to accept that you are effectively a slave, at the mercy of the Powers That Be, in whatever form you recognize them. This is how modern Christianity makes slaves from free people.

3. Practice only monogamy which honors sacred union

Comment:I've never heard of any Wiccan organization that mandates monogamy from an institutional level until now. That one of the great things about paganism in general- very little doctrinal overhead about how you conduct your personal-life and relationships.

4. Be honest in all dealings and thus transcend the ego

Comment:Honesty is a good thing, but frankly, I'm not sure that it's the key to dissolution of the ego. Honesty is a virtue, something that is a good-in-itself, not a means to anything.

5. Exercise temperance which leads to responsible action

Comment: The thing that always gets me about advocates of temperance is that they forget that temperance only serves complacency. Temperance is the "virtue" of not making waves, of walking the middle of the road. Arguably, it's a negative virtue, the one that preserves the status quo. Take a look around you. Are you really that happy with the status quo? there's a difference between temperance and judgement. Learn what it is.

6. Employ self-discipline to uphold community values

Comment:Sigh. I could just say "see previous comment." I seriously don't read this as applying to traditional Wiccan values. In fact, I can't even read this with enough generosity to see something similar to the Rosicrucian doctrine of blending in in order to accomplish the Great Work. This is encouraging the the church members to become better sheeple. I just don't see that as a useful contribution to Wicca.

7. Display compassion knowing that it heals
8. Offer love and nurture all of creation
9. Share creative energy as it sustains us all
10. Extend generosity to unite all of humanity
11. Live humbly and attain higher consciousness
12. Demonstrate tolerance which fosters world peace

Comment:All well and good. As long as the virtues are kept in their place. However, this really does suffer from the same problems as the Wiccan Rede, when read badly - sometimes, one simply has to burn the wood to save the forest.

13. Hold the God and Goddess in the highest esteem and be respectful to Them through all your deeds and actions

Comment:This is a matter of opinion, but in my personal view, sometimes even Deity needs to be bitched out. Universe will out, but if no-one gets uppity with the management, the organization suffers. Blind trust is bad trust. Question your gods.

Compare these two versions of this page: About Us (old version)

About Us (last version)

(HDL archived versions)

4) We believe in the Law of Threefold. This law teaches us that anything we put out into the Universe will return to us three times as powerful; good or bad.

Non-doctrinal Petty Bitch: Law of Threefold? Grumble. Law of Threefold Return, or even Threefold Law. For fuck's sake, at least make an effort to be terminologically sane. Without an Object, threefold-ness is just hanging there. AWKWARD, and incomplete. Now that that one is out of the way, I'll go over the two documents in general terms.

The introductory paragraphs of the two documents are very telling about the nature of the changes that have been occurring in the FCOW. In the older document, we see a pretty straightforward, generic even, description of a Wiccan organization. it's the sort of thing that we pagans put out as press releases and so forth to explain what it is that we're generally about. In the later document, we see statements that the church is clearly no-longer Wiccan in orientation, but rather a Christian organization in Wiccan drag... to be absolutely clear, my own knowledge of Wicca is that it has fuck-all to do with Jesus and the Bible. If we subscribe to it's Crowleyan roots, via Gardner, the lack of extensive central dogma is in fact critical to the definition of Wicca, which is, at it's heart, a gnostic tradition. The introduction of a revealed Holy Book undermines the freedom that many people seek when they come to the neo-pagan traditions by defining the particulars of the Gnosis and constraining the seeker to a given form. Such constraint can be useful in magickal training, but in Christianity, it manifests entirely as a control mechanism.

Which, unfortunately, brings me to a place where I have to get a bit ad hominem.
The changes in the professed beliefs of the church support a case for a need to tighten control structures within the FCOW as a compensation mechanism, and a need to surrender personal responsibility. This is perhaps the single most popular use of the Bible in the last 2 millennia. Over the last several months, the rumor mill has been grinding and alleging that the FCOW and the Rev. Hovey have been having some financial trouble. If this is true, then it puts a lot of things into question, and would certainly explain a lot of what comes up in the rest of the changes in the two documents. If someone loses control in one part of their life, it's natural that they attempt assert control in another. If what the rumor mill has been pumping out is at all true, then it sounds like there's a strong case for a real badness shaping up, and Hovey's motivations require closer analysis. The fact is that she made a media event out of her baptism, and has a history of other attention seeking behaviors. If it adds up to anything at all, it adds up to a picture that doesn't inspire confidence, in either Hovey's conversion experience, or her motivations in opening a Christian church. She's going to have a hard row to hoe in order to clear the air, because the current situation makes it look an awful lot like she's seeking to minister to a community with deeper pockets, and raises questions about the sincerity of her former Wiccan ministry and her new Christian one.