The responsibility and training of Pagan clergy

Cara Schulz —  September 20, 2016 — 101 Comments

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It’s a situation that’s becoming increasingly common on social media. You’re scrolling through your feed and come across a post from a friend who appears to making a threat of suicide. For most of us, there are only moral questions we face in deciding what to do next. Should you try to contact your friend, or your friend’s family or local friends? Report it to the police and ask for a health and welfare check? For Pagans who claim the title of clergy, there are ethical and legal layers to this decision, as well. Are they considered Mandatory Reporters, and do they have a legal requirement to report possible suicide attempts? If they are ordained, does their governing body require them to report or ask that they maintain confidentiality, even outside of a counselling setting?

[public domain]

[public domain]

Rev. Kenya Davis, who received her ordination in 2011 by the Universal Life Church, experienced just such a decision on Sept. 15. A friend posted on Facebook what appeared to Rev. Davis as a serious contemplation of suicide. Believing she had a moral, ethical, and legal duty as Pagan clergy, she called police and asked them to do a health and welfare check.

The person is safe, but deeply unhappy with Rev. Davis’ actions. Others, including some who self-identified as Pagan clergy, were also critical of reporting a possible suicide attempt to police. They felt Pagan ministers don’t have the same obligations as Christian ministers. Others felt that friends don’t “snitch” on friends, and Davis should have stayed in the role of friend, rather than minister.

“The person I reported had a history of trauma and has a suicide plan in place that they shared at other times in their life. On the occasion of a personal trauma, they intimated that they no longer wished to live on in face of a loss. Due to previous episodes, and the depth of the loss, I felt the words that this person shared with me held the gravity that merited a call to ensure this person’s safety,” said Rev. Davis. She added that she remains convinced the person was seriously contemplating carrying out a suicide attempt.  


What are the moral, ethical, and legal issues Pagan clergy may face in situations such as this? What training do they receive and what value does that training have for the greater Pagan community? What do we mean when we talk about Pagan clergy and how is that different, if it is, from mainstream religions’ clergy?

Pagan Clergy
At its most basic, clergy are the formal leaders of any religious group. In the United States, our views of clergy, and how clergy interact with the State, have been modeled on the Christian concept. Clergy marry, bury, and carry (counsel persons or carry the burden of counseling).

Are Pagan clergy members the same as mainstream clergy? The answer appears to be both yes and no.

Some Pagan clergy don’t minister to persons, but instead maintain a temple dedicated to a particular God or Goddess. Others lead religious services, but do not counsel members and are not part of a specific group. Then there is the controversy playing out in city council chambers and courtrooms whether tarot reading is entertainment or a religiously-protected counseling practice. Although there are no official studies to definitively claim one way or another, Pagans appear to have a higher number of lay clergy (or those not ordained by a State but recognized by a religious organization) than other more mainstream religions.

Yet Pagan clergy are performing legal marriages, presiding over burial ceremonies, and counseling members. They are also pushing for greater acceptance within societal constructs, such as the military, hospitals, and prisons. They want the respect that is granted by default to Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy.

Rev. Davis says a fellow Pagan clergyperson told her if a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim person tells the public they are clergy, and their community accepts them as such, and their traditions accept them as such, there is no question. However, if a Pagan tells the state they are a priest or a reverend, the state demands proof of by a church body in order to accept them. She believes it’s unfair that a church organization can ordain a pastor, but a coven cannot ordain a priestess or reverend without being double checked.

While much of this attitude is part of a systemic problem of privilege by dominant religions toward those in the minority, she believes part of this is also because some Pagan clergy aren’t serious about their responsibility and are too casual about seeking out formal training.

“All clergy should know the laws of their state, and their articles of belief. Training in safeTALK, Mental Health First Aid, and other programs should be an ongoing learning,” said Davis. She believes that all Pagans who wish to take on the role of clergy need to be ready to assume all the duties and responsibilities of that role and that means being properly trained.

Responsibility and Training
Pagan clergy training runs the gamut from no training at all, self-training, and formal training by an organization. They may be ordained by a religious group or may not feel this is necessary for the duties they perform.

What training options are open to Pagans seeking to become clergy?

One of the only Pagan seminary currently operating is Cherry Hill Seminary. They offer a Masters in Pastoral Counseling, a Chaplaincy Master of Pagan Ministry, and A Community Ministry Certificate. The Community Ministry Certificate can then be used to apply for credentials through Sacred Well Congregation, an organization who recently became an Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organization for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Yet Pagans are taking other routes to becoming clergy.

Davis studied at Family Life Education at Spring Arbor College before she received her ordination through Universal Life Church. Neither the college nor the religious group through which she received her ordination are Pagan. She said there weren’t as many options back when she sought ordination.

Oberon Osiris went the self taught route, “My training was in the School of Experience, I learned by doing.” He said he began his counseling over 40 years ago as a tarot reader. After performing a few marriages, he began seeking out books specifically on counseling skills in the marriage and relationship field.

“Most couples I’ve married get that counseling and some work-ups and exercises on relationships as part of the package. I refuse to marry anyone I don’t know well enough to see how their relationship works.” Osiris said that he doesn’t often marry people anymore, but still keeps his credentials up to date and continues his self study.

Pagans wishing to become clergy can also take classes from programs such as Circle Sanctuary’s Ministry Training Program. This program takes a minimum of three years and includes distance training by telephone conference calls, online group discussions, one-on-one mentoring face-to-face, and more traditional classes at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve and Pagan Spirit Gathering.  After students complete training they can then apply for ordination through Circle Sanctuary.

Rev. Selena Fox, Founder of Circle Sanctuary, highlights that Circle Sanctuary’s clergy training includes teaching about Mandatory Reporting. Fox said that Rev. Dr. Paul Larson, psychologist and professor with The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, is among their Ministers who train students in this area.

[Photo Credit: Kelvin_Kevin/ GanFlickr]

[Photo Credit: Kelvin_Kevin/ GanFlickr]

Legal Considerations
Although state law can vary widely, in most states clergy of all types are considered mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters are selected classes of people legally required to report suspected cases of abuse to government authorities.

Clergy are a special class of mandatory reporters. While most states do require them to report cases of suspected child abuse or suicidal behavior, the laws vary on if they are required to report suspected abuse of adults or self harm and possible suicide attempts by adults. Clergy are shielded in most states from lawsuits stemming from breaking confidentiality if they choose to report abuse or self harm, so guidelines will sometimes tell clergy “when in doubt, error on the side of reporting.” Knowing your state’s laws is vital.

Clergy are also always considered to be clergy. They are never considered regular citizens or just a friend or not on the clock. Persons don’t need to be in a recognized counselling session for their conversation to be protected by confidentiality laws and for the clergy member to under mandatory reporting laws.

Ethics of Profession
In Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting: a Clergy Dilemma?, Rev. Marie M. Fortune explains that the profession is torn between the ethics of protecting people and the expectation of confidentiality in a spiritual setting.

But there is another set of ethical principles which enter into this discussion from a faith perspective. They have to do with one’s professional responsibility to victims of abuse. Within both Jewish and Christian traditions, there is the responsibility of the community to protect those in its midst who are vulnerable to harm.

Although this is usually talked about in the context of abuse, self harm can also be considered abuse within clergy circles and those experiencing suicidal thoughts may be categorized as vulnerable.

In the situation Rev. Davis encountered, Osiris said that he would have felt obligated to act, “I certainly would want to find out if they are being helped and by whom.” He stopped short of saying that he would have reported the situation to police.

Davis added that she feels saddened by having to execute what she felt was her duty. She said that while she is trained clergy she’s not a licensed counselor and felt proper authorities needed to assess the situation, “I think, no I know, that that is what I am supposed to be about. That, and being in the service of the Ones I committed to serve.”

Moral responsibility
Aside from the legal or ethical requirements of clergy, how are people to react when they see what appears to be a suicidal post on social media?

Experts suggest that you think the person is in imminent danger, dial 911. Have as much information about the person’s location as possible.

If the threat seems more vague, respond immediately with a brief, clear statement that offers help, such as the number to a suicide hotline. Then report the post to the social media platform. On Facebook, such a report alerts the Facebook’s safety team, which immediately sends an email to the user and starts a confidential online chat with a crisis worker. Your name won’t be shared with the user.

Experts also say to take every post that sounds suicidal seriously. Davis agrees, “I would rather have the hatred and derision of a living former friend than the good esteem of a dead one.”

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • David Oliver Kling

    When I served various Pagan groups many years ago I often felt like I was “winging it,” because I was… I have provided leadership to several local Pagan groups over the years and it was a struggle. Since I went to college and then seminary the demands of ministry are no longer a struggle (at least not the same sort of struggle), and clinical pastoral education (in a hospital setting) changed my life. Now I provide spiritual care and ministry to people who are dying on hospice (and their families) and not only do I love it but I am also good at (not my words, but the words of my peers — fellow chaplains). Education changed how I do “ministry.” Now I teach others in ministry skills at CHS and love that too, trying to give back to the community. Good essay!

  • I would be remiss if I did not remind folks that some people threaten suicide and self harm to get attention. Yes, I know that needs ministry of a different sort.

    And while it might not be very PC to say it, some people see victimhood as their only path to power. It is not wise to feed that victimhood.

    • Better to leave that call to professionals, I’d say. After all, if someone is “looking for attention” through suicide threats or gestures, that doesn’t imply they are not in need of help, does it?

      And the threat may be quite real and literal.

    • People who threaten suicide for attention still need help. Maybe they won’t commit suicide–but maybe they will, later, down the road. Maybe the threats come at a time before they’ve solidified any plans, and they really do want someone to stop them, and they really want help.

      Even if they don’t really want to kill themselves, it is indicative of feeling something is wrong in their lives, and they want and need help.

      • I know. That’s what I meant by my second sentence above.

  • Cat Treadwell

    Thankyou for such a thorough and thought-provoking post.

    As an active priest and prison chaplain in the UK, I’ve been so glad of help from clergy of other denominations in the practical aspects of the ‘job’. While Pagans get ‘taught’ certain skills, the need for much more people-based and practical learning is essential.

    I’ve also heard recently about issues with Pagan clergy abusing their power through bullying – so another issue is how we deal with that as a community. Priest-ing as an act of service, not ‘power over’, as Starhawk said.

    We may be answerable to ourselves and those we minister to, but no society/group is a ‘closed circuit’. Discussion is necessary as we grow, and I’m so glad of this space to do so without deterioration into flaming!

    • RevAllyson

      I was taught that “priesthood is pain” … an interesting choice of words that it took me years to understand. Being a minister is in many ways less painful, and more… I don’t have a word for it. I am freer to do certain things when acting as minister, as opposed to when acting as priestess.

      • Kenya Coviak

        Truth. Priesthood is pain.

    • friendlyprogrammer

      Yet you flame by suggesting Pagan Clergy are more abusive than Christians.

      This is a world of conscious creation. Many Christians are buying into the lesser “Law of Attraction” because they notice their thinking affects reality.

      Many Christians now use Tai chi, acupuncture, meditation, and Yoga as they are moving towards the sense of the notion this is all a common dream or what science now calls the simulation hypothesis.

      If-if-if conscious creation is real (and you can dissolve a simple cloud with your mind to realize your mind affects reality – This is authentic miracle/magik and would god give you a nose and ask you not to smell?) —-

      IF-if-if conscious creation is real (and it is) then that means that if you worry or fear then you can manifest worrisome and fearful things in your life….

      A Christian mother worried that her own daughter is living in a dangerous neighborhood may cause danger to manifest in her daughters life simply from that focused thought (miracle/magik). Her daughter may now be raped and murdered simply because the mother was a Naive Christian with an untrained mind.

      If- if – if conscious creation is real then all worry is evil and FEAR BASED RELIGIONS (pillar of salt, Hell, Flood the Earth Noah style, etc.) are all evil… If conscious creation is real then there is nothing more evil than christianity… Even Oprah Winfrey now teaches conscious creation full time (see her gratitude journal or secret movie videos on youtube)…

      That is just one way an evil Christian with good intentions (all christians are evil simply for endorsing fear based religions and thinking worrying is a nice thing) can kill their own kin without knowledge.

      Would you like to hear another way a Christian can kill their loved ones without intent… I have the time for at least one more.

      Tell me what prayer is better if a child is recovering from an accident?

      PRAYER A ) “please god do not let this child die in such a horrible way”


      PRAYER B ) “Please god let this child live long and happy life”.

      You are praying to your higher self and the image you hold in your mind is what you create (IF CONSCIOUS CREATION IS REAL).

      So prayer A can kill the child and yet to your belief… and your teachings you must say both prayers are identical…

      Even mother teresa subscribe to the Pagan concept of imagery in prayer… She has a famous quote “I will never attend an anti-war rally… but if you hold a peace rally then send me an invitation” and she was “Christian” somewhat… That does not belie her actions though.

      Prayer A can kill the child. Especially if you use a Rosary to repeat the prayer 500 times as apparently your deity is deaf.

      That is two ways an Evil Christian can kill their own child without ill will or intent.

      EXPECTATION (you call it faith) causes reality and you can prove this to yourself by learning cloud busting as I mentioned earlier. Would god give you the ability to dissolve a cloud with your mind and ask you not to use it?

      If you want the truth of your religion then it is MY religion…

      I am a Hermeticist (similar to Buddhist). Hermeticism is rooted in Egypt and was the main religion in Egypt during the time of Christ. We know this from Aristotle, plato, pythagoras, etc… the history of Egypt is well known and documented during those times.

      So where did your Jesus Christ come from? I mean where was he raised… what country did he live? You probably have not even considered that he lived over 80% of his life in Egypt according to The New Testament… You teach that Jesus grew up and lived and was a carpenter (mason – I was taught magik by a freemason) in Egypt. I mean we both know King Herod chased the King of The Jews to Egypt with his father before the age of two…. right? and when did he return from Egypt? You do the math…. over 80% of his life was in a land that taught magik is real in this common dream we all share… If you can do magik in a dream then you can also do magik in “real” life.

      Then Jesus said to the Jews in the market “YOU ARE GOD”…. I will also tell you that “YOU ARE GOD” – a portion of god at any rate with powers of creation in your mind.

      Can you imagine a baby in a third world country eating well, drinking well, getting a great education, and then living life as a high paid doctor? Probably not, and it is your thinking this along with millions of others that condemn these poor babies to their doom.

      Please take a moment to imagine that baby now receiving a computer and good meals do to internet and knowledge of w ells and farming helping out. It is important to reverse negative thoughts.

      The problem with Christianity/Catholicism is that it distances mankind from god. Followers of these twisted religions actually think their thoughts can be as corrupt and evil as they desire and it will not affect reality.

      Mankind NEEDS to realize that we are living in a mass consciousness/god mind where our mass expectations/faith comes true.

      In simple terms: God is everything, and could divide its mind into trillions of separate egos we call life.

      “God knows every sparrow that falls in the forest because God is every sparrow that falls in the forest.”

      Its a Zen we are all one type thinking.

      Many things Jesus said is now taught by many lesser law of attraction (christian magik) advocates.

      Jesus told them of reincarnation and somehow Christians think dunking a person in water is equivalent to being born again… To be born again… you must die and be born again….. The Christians of the day couldn’t charge ten shekels each for that type of “born again” though so it is snakeoil.

      Maybe Jesus Christ was a Hermetic like everyone else in Egypt was at that time… (greeks coined Hermetic, but THOTH started philosophy in Egypt and starte mystery schools attended by Plato, etc…)

      If we looked at the teachings of Jesus Christ, what were they?
      a) ask and you shall receive.
      b) the meek shall inherit the earth.
      c) Man is created in gods image (we are all creators)
      d) Knock, and it shall be opened up to you.
      e) Reap what you sow.
      f) If you had faith as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain to move from here to there and it would move.
      g) Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.
      h) Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given: for he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath
      i) Be not afraid, only believe. Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. According to your faith be it unto you.
      j) All these evil things come from within.
      k) believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
      and many more.

      I teach all of those things myself and could open up any lesser law of attraction or hermetic magik book and find the exact same teachings.

      Buddhist say dream.. Science says Simulation Hypothesis… Science is starting to understand what Hindu and Buddhists have been saying for 9000 years.

      This is easy to prove using an old Buddhist test.

      Simply walk outside and pick two fluffy white clouds.. Then paint one of them blue with your mind..

      The cloud will vanish completely and the control cloud will remain completely intact.

      This works because nobody has any notions about the solidity of a cloud… try to dissolve a brick using the same method and you will be up against the minds of everyone who has ever seen, heard of, or touched a brick.

      It may sound hokey, but this proves two things that are vital for our comprehension. If we can successfully dissolve clouds with our minds 20 out of 20 times (and it is fairly easy), then you prove…

      a) That the cloud is essentially imaginary
      b) That our imagination affected our group imagination.
      (This is called a Miracle to some and Magik to people like myself)

      If you invite a friend to watch your new magik then they could pollute and/or cancel your magik. Thoughts seem to operate in waves, and like sound if waves are on opposite wavelengths they can cancel each other out. So it is IMPORTANT TO DO THIS ALONE AND NOT FILM IT. (despite all the Youtube videos)… Do this only for your private belief and knowing.

      You may think this is too silly to even try (some do)… no skin off my nose… but it will work every single time … just make sure you do it alone to avoid skeptic pollution..

      If you do this 20 times in a row then you have performed 20 miracles/magik… How many miracles do you need to perform to convince you my words are true? Do that many…

      We do live in a giant imagination… NOW ABOUT TIME

      Even our time is not constant… If you are drowning in the ocean and are skeptic … you will drown… If you are drowning and believe in your own magik or a deity then your FAITH,EXPECTATION,BELIEF can cause a rescue…

      Suddenly three days ago (IN THE PAST) (IN THE PAST) (THE PAST CHANGED TO FIT THE PRESENT) a cruise ship and 3000 passengers get a “newer” weather report and alter course to rescue you… You could still be at home packing for your sailing trip the following day… and yet a cruise ship has already altered course to save you..

      Effect can and often does precede cause…. This is the basis for the mechanisms behind Hermetic magik (Which I teach). The delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment also shows science now understands effect can precede cause.

      My book “The Savvy Sorcerer” has many lessons like these… try to do them and still doubt religion…

      Feel free to diss Judeo-Christianity because that is hard hosewallop for anyone to swallow, but when the Buddhists and Hindus (you know the blokes who brought us meditation, Yoga, Acupuncture, Ayurveda, etc.) tell us we live inside a giant imagination for the past 9000 years… they were right..

      If you do the cloud busting experiment alone… then you will a) perform an authentic miracle/magik… and b) you prove that you are living inside an imagination where your imagination has influence.

      I was raised by freemasons and taught magik my entire life. I have seen more authentic miracles than most anyone.

      I have offered you proof… It is up to you to do or do not.

      It is so easy to melt a cloud, and even the worst novice should be able.

      I teach REAL magik… and you have just learned enough to alter your religion forever (unless you are Buddhist, Hindu, Hermetic, Wiccan already…)

      So… I will say that without a doubt Christianity is a plague upon our earth and if we could all stop worry and fear tomorrow this world would become a paradise… NOTHING IS MORE EVIL than Christianity. Nothing!

      Namaste (means: “I bow to the god in you”.. probably not something you were taught or can understand)



      Wayne Hilborn (author of “The Savvy Sorcerer”)

      • Franklin_Evans

        Call me superficial, but when you wrote that all Christians are evil, and took off like a rocket on a global track of circular logic, you lost even the default respect I automatically offer to total strangers.

        To offer a pompous remark of my own: one of my meditative techniques is dancing with lightning, used during storms. Your claims of “authentic miracle/magik [sic]” are laughable at best.

        • friendlyprogrammer

          I would laugh at you if you could not make a cloud vanish with your mind.

          You probably think it is too silly to try and if you think doubting such a feat is silly then you are in good company as half the world is Christian with untrained minds.

          However; … pick two clouds if you think it is just the wind and only make one vanish with your mind. It can normally be done in about ten minutes. George Clooney even parodied this Buddhist test of reality. Just to show that this is not an experiment of my own design.

          The trick of it in agreeing that you will not film or show YOUR cloudbusting to a friend. Maybe you think your magik is simply awesome when you realize it and you will be tempted to show family and friends.. But in this world that is essentially imaginary (buddhist say dream, science says simulation hypothesis) our collective thoughts create reality. This means that if you try to cloudbust in front of a skeptic then their skepticism can pollute and/or cancel your efforts.

          This novice experiment is fairly important as it teaches that your mind can affect reality…. but if you do not do it alone then you are polluting your attempt and it could fail.

          So… do.. do not.. no skin off my nose either way.

          Not only are Christians evil.. Every little old grandmother worrying about her granchildren is manifesting that worry into reality based on her focus and belief (aka faith).

          So… I am also saying most every nice little old grandma is also evil… without even knowing.

          If you do the cloud busting then you will see this is all truth.

          Stop worry … stop fear… Think positive…


          Even Oprah Winfrey (Christian) advocates Lesser Law of Attraction and has said she has known of conscious creation since the 80’s… Watch her tell you this in her “larry king/Secret/Oprah Winfrey” video on youtube….

          You can doubt all you want. The nature of our reality is simple and clear. We are ALL a part of the same divine mind sharing a common dream… That is my entire religion in one sentence…. Any person who ever says “Namaste” is also saying they know you are god…

          Too bad you do not.


        • friendlyprogrammer

          If you had taken the entire ten minutes it takes to try dissolving a cloud with your mind then YOU would perform an authentic miracle/magik.

          The rule is however that you cannot film, show a friend, or even report your results to others. This is a world of conscious creation period, and that means skeptics also manifest what they expect and if you invite a friend to watch your cloud magik then they can pollute or cancel your results.

          Instead you decide to scoff and jest.

          I teach meditation and Yoga techniques and have books on the topic. If you understand Buddhism then you must realize this world can be influenced by mind.

          Even Christian lesser Law of Attraction is just magik without the rules, understanding, or know how.

          If you accept law of attraction (obviously you do not.. even your christian Oprah Winfrey now teaches Law of attraction full time) then you must realize that worrying about bills, etc., will only make you manifest more bills and cause more costly repairs in your life.

          So conscious creation 101 dictates that worry can cause worrisome things. It is not that hard a concept to grasp… if you believe in conscious creation and all the proof you need is in the sky above you and in your meditations.

          I am not asking you to believe me.. I gave you a method to prove it whether you think it is silly or not.

          I think it is silly you’d rather scoff than do.

          I am not saying just Christians are evil (although they are and I was addressing a Christian minister) … I AM SAYING EVERY LITTLE OLD GRANDMOTHER WORRYING ABOUT HER GRANDCHILDREN IS EVIL… by worrying about our loved ones we manifest what we worry about into their lives as much as we manifest evil in our own if we worry about our own future.

          They do not mean to be evil, but our nature is not compatible with our reality… conscious creation creates what you think upon.

          I think it is you who is laughable if you cannot perform a miracle… I gave you excellent instructions, and by following them you could alter your view and improve your life.

          • kenofken

            It’s always better to write about one’s entheogen inspired wisdom AFTER the session, not in the midst of it! 🙂

          • friendlyprogrammer

            If you are pagan then you must realize that giving conscious thought to worry can manifest worrisome things. This is common knowledge among pagans who see magik daily.

            Worrying about yourself is fine… If you want to worry about yourself and manifest worrisome things into your life then that is your choice….

            IF you worry about another (loved one) then you can help manifest danger or worrisome things into their lives. THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF EVIL.

            I wrote a longer post for the christian minister… but pagans should understand conscious creation and the basics.

            So EVERYONE who worries about another is committing evil… Even expecting nice things to happen to another influences their reality and is thus “black magik” by many definitions.

            Christianity does not teach this and it is important if you do not wish to harm your loved ones.

            I have many students in many countries including Buddhist monks. I have many books on this topic.

            My pagan writing is normally well received except for among christians like frank here…

            Maybe you should look at my first comment here again. My teachings are very good and I am a very good teacher og magik… despite franks opinions here (and apparently yours)…

            Yes.. Christian types generally do not get it.

            That is sad.

            If you understand conscious creation even slightly then you know my words in this comment are true.

            I am Wayne Hilborn (author of “The Savvy Sorcerer”, etc.)

          • Franklin_Evans

            Oo, pompous AND condescending. I can do that!

            Look, son. You just don’t go into a group that includes experienced practitioners — I’ve got about 40 years under my belt — and expect to get away with lecturing and dogmatic assertions.

            Go practice your mandalas in the sand. Just don’t get too close to the water.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            Again. Your response probably took longer than actually trying the proof. That is all on you.

            Yes. I suppose I am condescending to Christians to emphasize and teach them… I have many books on these topics.

            “The Savvy Sorcerer” being my latest. This is a subject I have learned since birth so I have more experience than your 40 years.

            So I have no problem with angry christians because I’ve been calling them evil for a long time.

            Do you think your anger is more valid?

            I deal more with students than I do christians so I am not used to arguing as much as you seem to like.

            If you cannot do magik or perform a simple miracle then we are not trained in the same way. Despite your claims of practicing for 40 years.

            Exactly what have you studied for 40 years that leaves you with such little understanding of our reality?

          • Friendlyprogrammer, what people are trying to tell you is that you’re trying to teach your granny to suck eggs. It’s great you have found practices that work for you, but neither your assumption that you’re the most knowledgeable guy on the thread nor that others have not got equally valuable practices is backed by any observable evidence.

            It makes you look arrogant and foolish. If that matters to you, you might try dialing it back a notch.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            You are (another) jumping on a posting that was directed at a Christian minister who had insulted pagan clergy (which I am).

            I have taught for many years that Christianity is evil in my writing and with students. Not because they have ill will or intent but because they teach that worry and fear are acceptable.

            So having a Christian minister insinuate it is PAGANS who are off, I have and will defend.

            Christian mothers can kill their own children in the following ways. I do not think you have read my previous postings in full or will read my following postings on this thread. So I will spell it out AGAIN…

            Here are two ways a Christian mother can kill her own child without ill will or intent….

            Method 1)

            Pagans all believe in conscious creation… They should all know that if you worry about finances then you can manifest financial difficulty… This is fine… if you want to worry about your own finances then that is YOUR choice…. You can manifest all the troubles in the world and it would not be evil…..
            —- However; once you start worrying about your childs finances or anothers finances then you start to manifest worrisome things into their lives…

            This is a psychic attack…


            If a Christian mother THINKS (believes, expects, has faith) that her own daughter has moved into a dangerous neighborhood… then she may manifest that danger and her daughter could be attacked and killed because of it….

            Expectation causes reality (christians say faith).

            That is just ONE way Christians kill their own loved ones every day. So it is an important lesson.

            METHOD TWO (second method Christians kill their own loved ones)


            Christians are not taught imagery in prayer…

            Tell me… what is the better prayer after a child is in an accident….

            PRAYER A ) “please god do not let this child die in such a horrible way”


            PRAYER B ) “please god let this child live a long and happy life”

            Focused thought is the most powerful thing in the universe and Christians should not offer prayers without at least the knowledge of imagery. EVERY thought is a prayer… not just the ones on bended knee.

            If a person (anyone.. does not need to be a christian.. they are just an untrained group I use as an example)

            If a person uses prayer A they can kill their own child… especially if they repeat the prayer or use a rosary (their deity is quite deaf apparently) to repeat the prayer 500 times.

            Mother Teresa knew imagery (despite her Catholicism.. not a Catholic/Christian tenet)… she is quoted as saying “I will never attend an anti war rally… but if you have a peace rally then send me an invitation” (possibly paraphrased.. not looking it up right now).

            That is two ways a Christian (any untrained mind) can kill their own kin.

            You ALSO jumped on a comment that was meant for a Christian Minister…

            If you think the opinions in this comment make me arrogant or foolish then that is fine with me. It will not stop me from writing books, blogging (next website opens in October 15 – Supermoon)…. astrological forecast for oct 15 pretty special to start a business (btw).. in case you or others have projects you want to output on that date or start a business…)

            I was brought to this page because it is about pagan clergy intervening when someone posts a suicidal note on facebook…. Well I AM pagan clergy who had a depressed friend post a suicidal note on tuesday … on facebook…(do you want his name as proof? I’d rather not, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind… Im spending time with him today maybe or tomorrow.)

            So the synchronicity on this page is extraordinary and even shocked me and I am used to synchronicity. I certainly pay attention to it when I see it.

            My original comment was for a Christian Minister… that seemed to offend Frank who wants to defend Christianity..

            I will not apologize for trying to awaken Christians or anyone arguing their views.

            Since I do not expect you to read my former or further comments I will say that I also have youtube videos (my last book and Savvy Sorcerer Youtube channel are preparing for an FREE online magik school — Oct blog) that state Christians are evil and it was not at all inspired by EVIL (even if unintentional) Christian ministers here.

            You can read my book “The problem with Judeo-Christianity by Wayne Hilborn” if you want the long version …. but I teach for free.

            I have many students including Buddhist Monks. I am not as used to arguing as you people seem to be, but I do not mind sharing my views and can be quite outspoken.

            If I teach one Christian to avoid worry then maybe it was worthwhile.


          • Franklin_Evans

            Well, since you seem to want to see my qualifications…

            “Ah, well, I attended Julliard, I am a graduate of the Harvard Business School, I travel quite extensively, I lived through the Black Plague and I had a pretty good time during that, I’ve seen The Exorcist about 167 TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT! NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU’RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY! NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK?! You think I’m qualified?”

            Wayne, your primary fault here is a serious lack of comprehension of nuances. You make assumptions, many of them knee-jerk, betraying what could be a serious need to build your self-esteem on the denigration of others. I’m going to make it easy for you, and make just one statement in the clear without the sarcasm I’ve been using — and which you have been completely missing — throughout our exchange:

            Conscious creation is a very important concept. It permeates the beliefs and practices of nearly every person I know in our shared faiths and belief systems. It is not, by any measure, a single point of thought or limited either in definition or scope. You, sir, are limited. I strongly suggest you meditate on the concept shin mu-shin. It is liberating in ways I’m guessing you have not begun to imagine.

            Who knows what lurks in the Arts of Men? Only the Shadow Nose.

            By the way, one of my patron deities is Momus. If you really want to understand how my path developed and progressed, read up on him.

          • Yeah, it’s hard to find wisdom in such condescension and assurance, isn’t there?

          • Stars above, you went off the deep edge there.

            BEFORE you condemn Christianity, remember the old saying that all things have their purpose. Sometimes that purpose is to test belief and determination.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            If you are pagan and believe in conscious creation such as the lesser Law of Attraction then you must realize that giving conscious focus to things such as Bills or other worries will only serve to manifest worrisome things and more bills into your life.

            Worrying about yourself only causes bad to happen to you… That is fine and is a choice you made. IF you worry about your children then you can manifest danger into their lives.

            It is simple logic if you believe in conscious creation as anyone on a pagan page should.

            This means that EVERYONE who worries is evil. EVRYONE who worries is manifesting worrisome or fearful things.

            This means a little old lady could unintentionally manifest danger into the lives off her grandchildren if they give it conscious focus.

            Do you believe that worry affects you and not others?

            Maybe you do not agree with conscious creation at all … that at least would be an argument I understand, but any pagan should realize that focusing thoughts holds much power.

            It is MY purpose to convert people away from such a FEAR BASED (hell, pillars of salt, flooded earth as in Noah) religions.

            That is my profession.

            I am not just saying Christians are evil.. I am saying everyone who worries about someone is evil. Despite their intent.

            If the world could stop worrying and fear tomorrow then the world would become a paradise.

            That is a goal I think worth pursuing.

          • You spout the jargon, but you don’t understand.

            Just as one example, it’s very unlikely that any student of zen would condemn a group of people as evil. It’s even less likely that a student of zen would proclaim their mastery. Finally, absolutes don’t fit with zen.

            If you feel the need to convert others, perhaps those others are not a problem.

            Oh, one last thing. There are reasons why the World is not a paradise. One reason is because we silly humans can’t agree on what a paradise should be.

            Until then, maybe we should leave the place a little better than how we found it.

            Is that savy enough for you? Or do you want to see my secret decoder ring?

          • friendlyprogrammer

            I do not condemn any group of people as evil. The group in question teaches worry is a nice, caring, and thoughtful thing.

            I condemn anyone who worries about another as evil.

            If a christian wants to stop worrying and wants to stop teaching fear based religions to others then they are no longer causing harm to others.

            My feelings will not be hurt by another angered christian… You might even understand that I’ve heard Christian anger before however misguided.

            You do not believe in conscious creation… I at least understand that view. Skepticism is normal for people who have not experienced conscious creation.

            Even your christian Oprah Winfrey teaches conscious creation full time nowadays.

            Knowing this… Will you still worry about your loved ones?

            I hope not.

          • I wasn’t addressing your feelings, but your understanding.

            You assume you know what I believe, but you keep missing the mark. I suspect that’s true of many here.

            Perhaps if you had taken the time… But that’s not important now. You’ve chosen your mask and now you’re stuck.

            Sometimes I do what I call the reluctant advocate. I speak for those for those who are unwilling or unable to speak for themselves. Usually because they are not present.

            Your obsession is showing.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            Either you believe in conscious creation and can easily understand that worrying about another is equal to a psychic attack… or you do not.

            Either way you seem to be advocating that worry is okay..

            As long as you don’t worry about myself or my family then I guess I won’t lose any sleep over it but I do have a we are all the same divine mind mentality and I hope you understand that worry is evil.

            If you call my lifes work as an obsession then i would agree. I have had two member driven mind power websites with a third starting Oct 2016. I can say that I was teaching this same thing over 20 years ago… So I suppose it is an obsession.. I even have three youtube videos on the evils of Christianity on the savvy sorcerer youtube channel (to go with upcoming blog). Be sure to visit them all so you can again tell me how worry is nice on my channels.

            I teach people how not to kill their loved ones through evil christian thinking. I think that is something worth doing.

            That is my only job.

            I invented the only method in the world for practicing your intuition in a remote and scientific setting as was the purpose of one of my websites as it was also used for psychic research.

            I have my ideas endorsed by a Nobel prize winning (in quantum mechanics) physicist.

            You can read my “quantum mechanics of god by wayne hilborn” for that, but I’m surmising you’d rather argue over anything (reluctant advocate that you are) than concede that worrying on another is a psychic attack….

            Your argument is that worry is nice… Because the only opinion I have offered is the opposite and you seem to vehemently disagree.

            So I feel sorry for those you worry about.


          • *grins*

            That’s what I mean. If you had taken the time to learn about those who you preach at, you’d know that I’m one of the last people who would accept the dualism trap.

            And it is a trap. The moment someone offers an either/or, that’s the moment you should start looking for a third, fourth, and seventh alternative.

            You want validation. You’re trying to prove your “mastery” through complication. And you want scapegoats.

            That won’t work here.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            I understand your view. This article was about depressed friends posting suicidal notes upon facebook and how Pagan clergy should respond. I am pagan clergy and I had a depressed friend post a suicidal note on facebook this past tuesday.

            The synchronicity is pretty interesting as I have never seen an article like this, nor have I had a friend post a suicidal note before.

            As you may note my lengthy comment was addressed to a Christian minister and if you have not gleened it by now I dislike Christianity (despite the fact my own children are attending christian high schools – not much choice in spirituality here).

            So I know very well who I was preaching at.

            This seemed to offend Frank who then proceeded to tell me he has 40 years experience in something pagan and yet he does not believe in conscious creation. I do not think there is a pagan religion on the planet that does not accept conscious creation. Hindu, buddhist, wiccan, etc.

            I preached to a Christian preacher.. However if others wish to argue that worry is good then I must argue for their own sake and the sake of their families.

            If I can stop a single person from manifesting worry then it was worth it.

            While you are commenting, this is my profession.

            I am not insulting anyone unless they disagree with conscious creation in which case I feel they need to hear it.

            No offense was meant.

            If you read the comments from the beginning you will see my main post was dealing with a Christian minister who had insulted pagan “ministers”.

            I would do so again.


            If you re-read all my postings I was not self promoting, nor did I even mention my writing at first.

          • Franklin_Evans

            The only reaction I have towards your words and attitudes, Wayne, is pity. Your stated views, beliefs and assertions fall well short of that minimal importance that could possibly get my attention towards annoyance, let alone offense.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            Ditto. I was not trying to offend, but you did seem offended when I stated Christians are evil. They are and will always be.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Seeing a person lie, even when it seems that person is sincere in his ignorance, is not offensive. It is simply wrong.

            I stand in the Shadow. I am an agent of balance. That is all that I will offer of my path to you, and you are welcome to continue on in your headlong rush from ignorance to bigotry. I, or one like me, will be standing ready to bring balance to the detritus of your passing.

            Be well.

          • Neighbor, you’ve been preaching since your first post here.

            You’re so wrapped up in sharing THE Truth™ that you can’t see it’s a truth.

          • friendlyprogrammer

            My first post “here” was about a depressed friend who had posted a suicide note on facebook on tuesday … EXACTLY like the topic of this article I am commenting on. The synchronicity is what made me pay more attention to the comments.

            If you are referencing my preaching post above then you should also realize it was addressed to “cat treadwell” a Christian minister who had insulted pagans by saying…

            “I’ve also heard recently about issues with Pagan clergy abusing their
            power through bullying – so another issue is how we deal with that as a
            community. Priest-ing as an act of service, not ‘power over’,”

            This made my toes curl. A Christian telling us pagans can be evil….

            So if your feelings are hurt then I am sorry, but this was not a conversation aimed at you. Christians are generally non-logical in their arguments and I am a little tougher on them. If that sounds condescending or arrogant to you then i am okay with that. It was YOU who entered this conversation in defense of a Christian minister.

            I make no apologies for attacking the attitude of Christians because they kill their own kin without the understanding…

            Ad hominem… ad hominem… If you people want to turn this into a debate then at least make exact points I can counter or discuss. The only response I know works against ad hominem is the equal response of sticking out a tongue as a child would do.

            While you say I have been preaching … you are correct… I am pagan clergy and that is what clergy does… preach…

            I was preaching to a christian though…

            If you want to defend Christianity using your advocate stylings then feel free. I will simply continue to argue against it. I have many years ahead of me on that track.


          • Franklin_Evans

            Speaking of promoting a lie, the person you quote, Cat Treadwell, is not a Christian. Go back, read that person’s words, and find a small chink in your arrogance to offer an apology.

          • That’s the second time you’ve told me that your conversation was not addressed to me. If it’s on an internet forum, I can choose to comment or not. That’s the internet for you.

            Your assumptions make you look foolish. Assuming that I am “on the side of the Christians,” assuming that Cat Treadwell is a Christian minister, assuming that your “enlightenment” is great enough to teach others who you have never met, these are not wise actions.

            Just because folks here do not play your game by your rules does not mean they do not understand.

            This isn’t about feelings, neighbor. You seem to be ruled by misunderstandings and runaway passions. A good friend of mine would call that dweller issues. What it tells me is that despite your borrowed words, you don’t understand yourself enough to trust the universe.

  • I’m surprised to read that clergy are never considered to be “off the clock” as mandated reporters. While I’ve been out of the field and no longer associated with Cherry Hill Seminary for about a decade at this point, and may have missed developments in that time, or just not known them, I wonder if you could cite your authority for that, Cara? I would like to be sure of such an important point.

    As I say, that was not my understanding. If I misinformed others when I was teaching, I’d be very sorry to learn it. (And I’d question the wisdom of the legal precedent that established this point, too, though that’s another matter.)

    In terms of it being a violation of friendship or religious ethics to report someone seen as dangerous to themselves or others, whether we’re clergy or not, I would dispute that. Suicide threats should be taken seriously and reported as a rule… Though I would urge people to learn the local mental health emergency number, and use that rather than the police, in most cases of suicide risk. Police receive little or no training in mental health as a rule, and the mentally ill, in crisis, have too often been casualties of inappropriate violence against them by police for that to be an ideal contact in an emergency. Of course, that varies from place to place, but a general rule would be, if you’re worried, DO call. But call mental health emergency services, rather than 911.

    • RevAllyson

      In New Hampshire, where I live, everyone who is a professional (teachers, firemen, clergy, lawyers, police, etc) are mandatory reporters. All the time. Other states differ, but my seminary taught us we don’t get to “turn off” being clergy.

      • And my clinical psychotherapy training taught me something different, RevAllyson. Which doesn’t mean I’m right, but I hope I am. If I am not acting as spiritual leadership in my community, when I am with my family, or friends who are neither my students nor consulting me as clergy, my understanding is that I’m not acting as clergy and not a mandated reporter.

        As I said, I’d still urge people to report, with or without that status. But none of us can summon the impartiality needed to fulfill the trust relationship of clergy or counsellors in all our relationships at all times in our lives. Professional rules and boundaries are critical within those trust relationships, but neither practical nor desireable in ever relationship, at all times. I doubt we could live up to those expectations, or that we’d be very emotionally healthy if we tried.

        • RevAllyson

          I wasn’t speaking for anyone else, just to be clear. I was just saying what *my* seminary teaches. Others may and probably do teach other things, and that’s okay. I think that, so long as we’re all honest about it, there’s room for differences.

          As to being “on” all the time… there are many professions that are. I can and do take breaks, holidays, etc, where I pass my responsibilities onto another person. I also fill in for other ministers who are doing self care. 🙂 To each their own; no requirements necessary.

    • Blake Kirk

      I think it depends on the state. When we lived in Tennessee, the state law was clear that persons with a duty of care (essentially medical personnel, clergy, teachers and school counselors, and emergency services personnel,) were required to report abuse at any time and on any occasion that they became aware of it, regardless of the circumstances. Later on, state law was changed to make Tennessee a universal reporting state, where every adult in the state became a mandatory reporter. I’m not sure that that change increased the number of cases of abuse that were identified, but by making it a matter of law that there would not be any adverse legal consequences for anyone who made a good-faith report of suspected abuse, it did increase the likelihood that abuse would be reported.

      • RevAllyson

        This would be the case in NH, as well. However, those in professional roles who deal with adults and/or children in crisis are held to a higher standard. And I personally believe that’s good.

    • friendlyprogrammer

      Police can find an address using a cell phone number. Health services or Emergency Hotlines cannot.

      As a rule Health practitioners have no clue how to locate a suicidal person making threats.

      • Perhaps I was unclear? I was referring to mental health emergency services. As a former clinician with such a service, I can assure you, we are far more thoroughly trained than are police in how to evaluate and respond to suicidality. This is not to say that it is never a good idea to involve other first responders, but in many areas, police have no specific training in mental health. This may be part of the reason that it does sometimes occur that police respond to a mentally ill person as though they were dangerous to others when they are not. While most police do not escalate a crisis, it certainly has happened that a depressed or disturbed person has been shot or even killed by police not trained to deal with mental health.

        Know your local services, both mental health and police. We need to do our homework.

        • friendlyprogrammer

          Yes. I am Pagan Clergy and had a friend post a suicide note on facebook yesterday (Tuesday). This article has much synchronicity as I never had that happen before or saw an article like this before… I managed to contact his neighbor but would have called police to locate him. He is “fine” now but still suffers from depression.

          I shared a few depression posts on my facebook (Wayne Hilborn aka Savvy Sorcerer) yesterday (wed) because of this incident and was surprised to find this article that almost spelled out the entire incident a day after.

          Mercury Retrograde ends in 13 minutes… woot…

          Yes. I would rather a health professional show up at his door or at least a kinder ear than police might have.

          I had no idea of his address and police can track people by cell phones quickly enough now.

          • Sounds like you did a great job by your friend.

            Depression can be a terrible thing.

  • RevAllyson

    I am a Wiccan of 25 years, and a licensed, seminary trained interfaith minister of 5 years. My seminary is the New Vision Interspiritual Seminary, an offshoot of The New Seminary (which is the oldest interfaith seminary in the country). It provided a two year licensing program which provided a “little bit of everything”, and covered most of the main religions and as many little ones as possible. I was required to participate in a variety of religious exercises, for educational purposes if nothing else. It was fascinating, in depth, occasionally spiritually challenging, and emotionally stressful as I worked through my own internal demons.

    I spent my time as a priestess doing my best to be a minister. I felt called to a ministry that had no place in the world where I was initially trained. I was tossed into situation after situation that called for a level of training I did not have. Seminary and my internship with a seasoned minister gave me the tools to handle so many of those difficult situations. It also equipped me with enough knowledge to know when I am NOT capable of doing something on my own, and need another professional to step in.

    Had I been in Rev. Davis’ position, I would also have called for a wellness check. That’s my job. I am hurt when people are hurt by my concern, but THAT IS MY JOB. I don’t get butthurt over their anger – that’s their depression or disease talking, not them, and I understand that. I applaud Davis for doing what she did, and acting as the clergy she is.

    Which leads me to my second point – there is a very big difference between being a Priestess and a Minister. When I am acting as priestess, it’s often my job to tell people what to do. “Learn this,” and “recite that,” and “I don’t care, you’re going to finish that homework or we don’t move on.” As a minister, I have an entirely different set of responsibilities. Priestess me will say, “You don’t want to go to the doctor despite having a broken limb? Fine, let it turn black and fall off, then.” Minister me *cannot* be so blunt. I wear both hats, but there are some people that I am priestess for but NOT minister, and vice versa, and again, it’s my job to keep that boundary clear.

    In both positions, priestess and minister, I am a mandatory reporter. Suicide is not on the state list of things I am required to report, unless it includes a minor in some way. However, it is on my *personal* list of things I will report. I make no bones about it.

    We need clergy, at this point. Paganism, as an umbrella, has become large enough to have a laity, and that laity requires spiritual care. It does not matter that our spiritual care is as mediator (at best), and not as interface between Gods and men. What does matter is that we have a responsibility to people who choose us as their clergy. Those who choose the path of Priest or Priestess do not hold the same responsibilities, and that’s fine. Some of the responsibilities of priest/ess are considerably more arduous than those of minister, and vice versa. Juggling both is occasionally painful to me… but it’s what I’m called to do, and so I do it.

    We can’t keep burning our clergy at the stake of popular opinion. It dissuades our called clergy from performing their duties, and that’s a travesty all on its own. If you do not wish to have clergy, state it up front. Hang with those who are priest/ess instead, and you may find that you are both more comfortable, and better taken care of. There is room for both styles.

    • We can’t keep burning out our clergy, priests, or priestesses, either.

      • RevAllyson

        I suspect (though have no data for it) that you will find less clergy burn out than priest/ess burn out. When I was a priestess with no ministerial training, I had no idea how to manage my time, do self-care, set reasonable limits, etc. These are not things the average Wiccan is taught, at least not when I was learning (about 25 years ago). In seminary, I learned a lot about self-care, about carving out “me” time in each day, so that I could continue to not only function, but thrive.

    • Kenya Coviak

      Thank you. My cloak is smoking really well right now from those very flames.

  • Farrell McGovern

    A very good article, but it has one major failing, one that is common to most American based Pagans…and that they assume everyone operates just like the US does. The Pagan World is much bigger than the United States, but many American Pagans seem to be unaware of this fact! A website like Wild Hunt *should* be cognizant of it’s global reach, and should do a better job of editorial oversight, or at in least guidelines for it’s contributers.

    I ran headlong into this attitude when I was ADF’s Regional Druid representing Canada. A number of the legal obligations that ADF required of it’s Groves worked very differently in Canada compared to the US. Sometimes even terminology can be tricky. In the US, to “table a motion” means to put it aside, while in Canada (and other Westminster based governments) to “table a motion” means to introduce a motion for discussion.

    It would be nice if US based Pagan writers and groups would be more aware of their international reach and make allowance for different laws and procedures in other countries rather than assuming the world runs the say way the US does.

    Thank you.

    • Heather Greene

      Thank you for this input. TWH is US-based and that is true. But we are very aware of our international readership and support. This is why we’ve worked so hard to expand our international voice. We now have both a talented UK and Canadian news writer, who focus on those communities weekly. In addition, we feature columnists from other countries. We hope to continue to expand that coverage as resources allow.

    • Please beat your autocorrect about its head and shoulders–I know you meant the possessive ‘its’, but the program changed it to the contraction, ‘it’s’.

      I ended up firing all of mine when they kept changing my screen name, and I came near to smashing my equipment.

      Now, on to the

      • Farrell McGovern


  • Jules Morrison

    I’m gonna raise this because I’m not seeing other people here raising it, but disclaimer, I am not any sort of minister, and I’ll try to stay out from underfoot in that regard.

    Is it safe to call the police? This is more of an issue in the USA than in the UK where I live, but even so. If the person is black, will the police make the situation worse or even shoot somebody? Will they break in, smash things, shout and wave guns and wreak trauma? If the person has a mental illness, will the police misread it as noncompliance or hostility, and respond with fatal violence? If the person is visibly LGBT, will the police be homophobic bullies? Will the person suffer “trans broken arm syndrome” in which doctors insist on relating unrelated problems to what they are? There have been incidents where EMTs have flat refused to treat trans people. If the person is female, will they face misogyny and belittling in the psychiatric system? Even just being out as pagan might be enough for the cops to see them as a weirdo.

    Not that all of this means “definitely don’t”. It’s just a consideration that needs weighing.

    • RevAllyson

      I think it really depends, and those of us who are ministers weigh those things carefully. I know for me, I know my neighborhood, I know my local police and fire and ambulance by sight if not by name. That won’t be true in all places, but each of us has a better grip on where we live. I agree with one of the other people above, though, in that calling 911 is not necessarily the right thing. Again, it has to be weighed.

      I might call social services if I’m afraid for the life of a child. Or I might call their parents (though only if I think the outcome will be good, because sometimes parents are part of the problem). I might call police if I think a firearm is involved, because that could cause harm to more than just one person (even if unintended). Likely I’d call the suicide hotline instead, and work through things with them. But it all depends.

    • kenofken

      Some police departments are finally getting some good quality training on mental health intervention, but in too many jurisdictions, calling 911 for a mental illness episode is essentially signing that person’s execution order.

    • You’re correct to wonder. Around San Jose, mental illness is not something well handled by police. If one calls a mental health hotline or department, who do they call to do a health check?

  • Kenya Coviak

    I have to say here, the person and I had private chat conversations that solidified my decision. They have access to weapons which could be used for selfharm. In Michigan, you don’t get to be off the clock. Also, for a wellness check, police are the option.

    Regrading Priestessing, that is a different mode of application of faith, yet if ordained, the person is still mandated to report.

    Interesting thing in Michigan, if a mandatory reporter fails to make a call as legally required, any other mandated reporter who is made aware of the situation is not only mandated to call in regarding the at-risk individual, but also they are to report the reporter who failed to execute their obligation. Period. Full stop. There is no loop hole. Michigan is s hard state with a hard line.

    • Kenya Coviak


    • RevAllyson

      I’m not sure if NH does that or not. Since I don’t ask if other people reported things, it’s never come up. I’ll be honest, I hope it doesn’t ever come up. 🙁

  • kenofken

    There is a dimension to the suicide question which has not been mentioned. Many of us feel that the decision to ends one’s own life, as an adult, is a matter of absolute and non-negotiable personal autonomy. Now, I’m certainly in no hurry to leave this world, but if someday due to illness or simply weariness of living I decided to, it’s none of the state’s damn business unless I put others directly in harm’s way. I get having to report abuse of minors or domestic/elder abuse or whatever, but not this.

    I have had deep reservations about a separate caste of “clergy” within Pagan religion, but this seals the deal. I will never, ever take into my confidence someone whose first loyalty is as an agent of the state.

    • mdyer

      I agree with most everything you express, but if you or I decided on a dignified death, we wouldn’t be posting on Facebook about how awful we felt. It’s all in the context.

      • kenofken

        There is something to be said for that. If and when I ever make the decision to end my own life, it would not be broadcast all over the place. Arrangements would have been made and those who needed to know would find out after I had gone. At the same time, it’s terrible that people cannot even discuss these things in earnest with a minister of one’s own religion without having your door kicked in the by the police.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I truly honor your words and meaning, but you do need to acknowledge one crucial difference: suicide in this context, and in the vast majority of cases of similar context, is a consequence of mental illness.

          Like it or not, “agents of the state” are usually people of good will tasked with a sometimes overwhelming responsibility. More on that from a personal perspective in a separate post.

          • Kenya Coviak

            Yes, it is a behavioral heath and mental health issue. This is why correct and continuous training is important. This is why many of us are certified in Mental Health First Aid training for adults and children, safeTALK certification, and continuous field work.

        • Kenya Coviak

          In truth, no one “kicks in” a door on a wellness check if you answer the door.

    • RevAllyson

      I agree with others. There is a vast difference between choosing willfully to end one’s life (which I agree with tentatively), and committing suicide (which is a symptom of an illness and should be treated as such). People choosing to end their lives sometimes do so silently, and sometimes have parties to say goodbye, and probably much of what’s in between as well. What they don’t do is call or text people and say, “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to kill myself!” That broadcasting of the attempt, in public media or such, is a cry for help and not a reasoned person making a decision with all faculties in place.

      I realize that there are likely places where the two touch gently against each other. That’s where those of us who are mandatory reporters have to use our best judgment. At the end of the day, we’re just humans, like everyone else. We also have to live with our decisions.

    • Kenya Coviak

      A dignified death is a different matter than a situation where extreme despair leads to suicidal ideation. Also, the first loyalty is to the life of the person, and recognizing when their judgement MAY be compromised to the point where they commit to complete a course of action that is irrevocable and would not have been made in a stable state of mind. And the equivocating of abuse reporting to suicidal reporting in this case is inappropriate.

      • kenofken

        The law aside for a moment, no adult has a proper loyalty to the life of another adult person, nor the right to presume to interfere in it, unless that power has been specifically granted by that person or unless you happen to be the person’s legal guardian/holder of medical power of attorney etc. Acting as someone’s spiritual counselor does not, in my opinion translate to guardianship.

        There is a fundamental boundary in question here, and crossing that boundary, even for the best of intentions, is profoundly unethical to my mind, even though the state mandates it. At a bare minimum there needs to be full disclosure about this law/practice up front, and there needs to be a very clear definition of what constitutes a pastoral relationship and an affirmative process for entering and leaving a pastor’s spiritual care.

        This is not meant as a personal attack on you. You have to answer to your own state’s laws and your community/pastoral charges, not me or anyone else here. I’m just one un-ordained priest speaking for a congregation of one – myself. So long as this fundamental boundary is not recognized in law or custom among ordained clergy, they can have no place in my spiritual journey or life.

    • I will never, ever take into my confidence someone whose first loyalty is as an agent of the state.

      Please try to keep in mind that that so-called “loyalty” to the state is forced and accepted only grudgingly by many whose work you are disparaging. As I said in my other comment, this is a huge conversation inside the psychological community. A lot of us don’t like it. We feel mandatory reporting is more detrimental than helpful. But we also do not want to go to jail. We’re not helpful to anyone if we go to jail.

      It’s a fine line psychologists are being asked to walk–and clergy too. Mandatory reporting laws–as most laws are–were created by people without any actual psychological training who don’t really understand the complexity of the issue they’re making laws about… and in doing so, they’ve tied the hands of a lot of good people who genuinely want to help.

      • Franklin_Evans

        From my volunteer training, a balancing point of view: mandatory reporting is indeed arbitrary, but so too is the motivation for many laws. It gives neither opportunity nor credence to even a professional’s judgment — as in this context with mental illness and suicide — because if a crime is imminent or has been committed, mental illness becomes evidence or a mitigating factor only after the fact of the crime.

        It’s helpful to review the legal definitions of malfeasance and misfeasance. They differ by state. Here in Pennsylvania I know of a few cases where good intentions did not prevent conviction and punishment. Fully credentialed physicians on down to emergency techs all walk a razor-edged fine line, and it truly sucks.

    • Why do you think that the state mandating something makes the state into the first priority for that person?

      While I have held three different roles now with associated legal requirements, and I support mandated reporting as a general principle, that in no way means I’ve taken my own conscience offline. If simply creating a legal duty made obedience the first priority for everyone, there would be no such thing as civil disobedience.

      Being clergy or a counselor, like being a citizen, comes with legal conditions. But there are some few circumstances–like suicide in the face of incurable and fatal illnesses–in which there are plenty of practitioners who will follow their consciences, not the letter of a statute.

      • RevAllyson

        This is very true. If I feel the need to report something, it’s still my judgment. I have only once had to do a report, and it hurt my soul to do it, but it was the right thing. I didn’t just go “Oh hold on, let’s stop this counseling session so I can call the cops on you!” It took several hours of soul-searching, prayer, asking my Gods, before a decision was finally made. There are indeed clear-cut times when I’m going to report (beating a small child, etc… those “obvious” ones) without all the breast beating, but the rest of the time, I need to TAKE time to make sure I’m judging, and not pre-judging.

  • Damiana

    ULC clergy taking themselves seriously is a joke.

    • RevAllyson

      There are some who simply fill out the online paperwork to do a marriage or on a lark. There are, however, people who aren’t sure how to become what they want to become, and go that route, and are quite serious about it. ULC has a long history of jokers in its midst, but also has quite a number of impressively trained folk, as well. Don’t be too quick to dismiss – judge people on their character and training, not on their licensing bureau.

      • Damiana

        I judge them on both. When someone only mentions ULC, but is pretentious enough to refer to themselves as a minister and thinks that they have been treated as such even though they lack training, they’re conning people.

        • RevAllyson

          For a while, I was ULC only (in certification). I still did 8 years of training as a High Priestess in Wicca. I did countless counseling courses, on my own. I went to workshops on how to do better weddings, and how to deal with families during funerals.

    • Kenya Coviak

      In the days when some of us were ordained, many covens shunned
      ecclesiastical incorporation due to doxxing. I will gladly stand by my
      training and collegiate coursework any day, as well as my experience as a
      Family Service Worker. But thank you, it is precisely attitudes like
      this that need to be placed into the open light of day.

      This is the same derision and contempt that has stood in the way of legitimizing alternative faiths in the eyes of the general public. How incredibly disappointing, yet not surprising. The arrogant assumption that everyone who seeks this ordination is a comedian or dilettante is shocking.

      • RevAllyson

        Are you responding to my post, or to Damiana’s?

      • Damiana

        Of course it’s not shocking, given the idiocy that’s run rampant via pagan “clergy”. I’m basing my opinion on my extensive experience of the past 30 years in the community.

    • I filled out the papers and submitted in order to be able to marry LGBT+ couples in my area, because there’s not a lot of churches here that will do so. Sorry if that’s a joke.

      Not really. Not sorry.

      • Damiana

        Aside from performing marriages, do you consider yourself actual clearly?

        I’m also a ULC “minister”, which isn’t really even necessary anymore in most places to perform a marriage. I’ve worked with a lot of actual clergy and I’m very clear that they’re well trained and more knowledgeable than I am about religion, how to lead a spiritual congregation and the rights and responsibilities of being a minister. Most pagan “clergy” lack training.

        • The answer to that depends on the day. I have a tendency (as was pointed out to me by several lovely people recently) to minimize my own accomplishments. I have the paperwork, I could clearly act in a ministerial capacity in many official ways, like funerals and such, not only marriages. I have some training in psychology–a B.S. degree. I’m working on a Master’s, but not in Counseling. I am not a licensed counselor, though I do plan one day to be trained specifically to work with people who are terminally ill and dying, and also with grief. That’s in the future, however.

          Do I sometimes find myself in situations where later I look back and think “Oh, huh, I was actually kind of priestessing for that person in that moment”? Yes. And it makes me feel strange and weird. Because they are always spontaneous moments where I feel not entirely in control of what I’m saying.

          My point, however, was that it’s unkind to unilaterally make fun of people who take their duties as a ULC minister seriously. Some don’t. Some do… and some took the step for reasons they believed would be helpful to various communities.

  • Avery_Jenkins

    I am currently in the Clergy Training Program of ADF, which is a fairly comprehensive program. Requirements of this program include courses on ethics, crisis management, and clergy and the law, which are fairly comprehensive in their scope.

    I do have some basis of comparison, as I have been a doctor for over two decades, and issues surrounding suicide, domestic violence and mental health are ones that I have had to wrestle with in my patient population. Outside of mandatory reporting, when do I call for help for a patient? Would outside involvement actually increase the risk to this individual? If I do not choose to get outside assistance, what should I do? What are my responsibilities, not only as a doctor, but as a person — and, eventually, as a priest?

    As it is my intent, as a priest, to serve those who are in extremis — men in prison, and people coping with their own death or that of a loved one — I am confident in that the training I am receiving from ADF, in combination with my previous experience, will serve me well as I serve the Folk. I encourage all priests of any tradition to seek out both education and support on these issues, regardless of whether it is part of your core training.

    • RevAllyson

      One thing our seminary encouraged (but did/does not require) of us was to form bonds where we could be “confessors” of sort for one another. Not so much in the “getting sin out” way (though for some, that too) but more in the way that we needed one person who we could ask to be minister TO US, to listen to us bitch about parishioners, or to tell those funny stories from weddings to, or even just to have a session to talk about our spouses. One of my besties from seminary does that for me, and I for her, and those sessions are never talked about outside of the sessions. We “wear the mantle” for each other about once a month, and have for five years. It’s been a very wonderful thing.

  • maggiebea

    Thanks for this article. Important topic, and one that doesn’t get much attention especially in small circles of self-taught practitioners. It’s a thorny subject even for seasoned professionals, because we never really do know what the far-away police department will do with our request.

    I have a small quibble, though:

    “Pagans appear to have a higher number of
    lay clergy (or those not ordained by a State but recognized by a
    religious organization) than other more mainstream religions.”

    Um, ‘ordained by the State’? What state does ordinations?

    I think I see what you’re trying to say here, but I’m not sure I agree … and depending on what we mean by ‘more mainstream religions’ we may be playing into current dominant-culture mythology.

    Consider, for example, that in the 1990s (I haven’t looked since then) the state of Texas authorized “any Christian minister” to perform a wedding but required an assortment of proofs of ordination and other fitness from any officiants who did not declare themselves Christian. Some of the ministers the state accepted on their own say-so were clergy to congregations of 20 who met in living rooms — you know, just like so many Pagan groups. Meanwhile, the Rabbi of a large temple had to jump through a bunch of paperwork before every wedding.

    Most of our clergy are indeed better trained than that.

    • RevAllyson

      I SO totally agree with this. Here in NH, you can check the box “minister of the Gospel” and be done with it. That’s all that is needed. And I could, indeed, check that box since I am also a deacon in the United Church of Christ (which is a whole other story LOL). But I never do, because the one that’s important to me is my seminary-trained ordination, the one that made me an interfaith minister.

      Now, I will say that I’ve never been challenged on my ordination except as an out of state minister in Vermont (and I understand they do that to most out of staters, not just interfaith or pagan types). I check the box, write in my seminary’s ordaining body’s name, and I’m done. That’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve officiated at maybe a hundred weddings or more in NH alone, and never had a single problem.

    • Franklin_Evans

      I’m wondering if “certified by the State” is a better phrasing here. I also know from reading about such things that the State’s “interest” is very clear, because without that people will be easy prey and have no recourse for being the victims of charlatans and fraud.

  • Franklin_Evans

    The necessary caveats: I am not clergy — I would not seek this out for reasons that would take too much space to describe — and I am not a credentialed practitioner of any sort, let alone for mental health. What I am is a dedicated learner who unconditionally accepts the ethical burdens of a task for which I’m trained and expected to do.

    Personal aside to Kenya: I am wondering, out of absolute respect for your actions, if you considered going personally to the friend’s location. There are reasons to not do that — your mention of firearms being a big one — but it was my first reaction to your quoted statements in Cara’s article.

    I volunteered for a crisis intervention hotline service (Madison, WI and affiliated with the University at the time, late 70’s). The volunteers received limited and focused training on the specifics of our tasks: anonymity to be absolutely respected, personal emotional engagement to be avoided at all costs, our legal responsibilities (printed in large font and hanging in sight of every phone), and the basics of the prevailing wisdom around suicide and mental health.

    The gist of it all, echoed by the professionals training and advising us, is that over the phone (and I would assert online) it is simply impossible to be sure of anything. That before anything else is why we had specific actions we must take, objectively based on clearly defined criteria, and to Hades (my phrasing) with how anyone might react later. Lives are at stake. One pro said, paraphrasing from memory, that he’d rather be sued or go to jail than believe that his inaction lead to a person’s death.

    We had no comparison to clergy, beyond sharing a place on the mandatory reporter list. Our training was mostly what we could not do or say. It was liberating in a way. The volunteers with whom I became close all shared with me a sense of empathy that I didn’t find in the wider world. In a manner of speaking, we were called to employ that empathy even in the very uncertain circumstances of voice-only interaction.

    • Kenya Coviak

      I am not geographically close enough to have reached her in a time frame that, I believe, would have been acceptable for me to intervene in what I felt, and still do, was a situation that needed a quick time response. Also, I have been in a room when a life was ended quickly and unexpectedly, and do not wish to be responsible for mishandling something in the heat of the moment that I trust those who are professionally trained to do. I am referring to the personnel accompanying a wellness check in this case.

    • Franklin_Evans

      Some further thoughts from my volunteer experience, in no particular order.
      it sometimes became clear during a phone conversation that the caller was primarily motivated out of a need for human contact, the “to get attention” thing, and mentioning it and even criticizing it are valid… but having been on that “front line” a few times, if getting attention gets them past something deeper and more threatening, even just for one night, then that they used deception to get my attention is trivial at the most.

      A first principle from my training: there are two required steps a person must take before treatment for mental illness is going to be effective (please remember, I’m repeating what I learned). First must be the conscious, rational realization that I have a problem; the second is the picking up of the phone or the walking into an office and asking for help. Both can look like insurmountable obstacles to a person. My job, as soon as possible on every call, was to sincerely validate both accomplishments by the caller.

      For some, rational thought as we all assume it to be defined is not what is happening in the mind of an ill person. What is happening looks and feels rational to them. There is no small voice we all might hear saying “Whoa there, partner. That’s just not right.” Many suicides take action out of that perceived rationality.

  • Kenya Coviak

    Just as an addition, Universal Society of Ancient Ministry in Michigan also has an ordination program for clergy.

  • This is a question in the field of psychology, as well. In my Ethics class, we discussed this issue a lot–is mandatory reporting of expressions of suicidal ideation beneficial, or actually detrimental to the patient, and the therapist/counselor’s relationship with them? Many people won’t even seek counseling at all if they realize that reporting is mandatory, and during the initial phase of beginning counseling, psychologists are required to basically “disclaim” their services. This is what we will do, this is what counseling is, this is what it isn’t, by the way I’m legally required to report if you express intentions to harm yourself or someone else, also this is how I expect to be paid.

    Meanwhile, if psychologists didn’t have to report, there’s the possibility that through therapy, a person could be able to work through their suicidal ideation and come out the other side. If they’re reported, however, and have to go through forced admitting into a facility, then any trust they may have had in the therapist or counselor is damaged, if not completely gone. Will they go back to therapy? A five-day hospital stay, or even a 90-day stay in a facility isn’t going to have any long-term beneficial effects. Therapy takes time–and mandatory reporting can completely destroy any chance of having that time.

    • JB

      One thousand times this. As someone who has been on both sides of the reporting coin, I can attest that it is in many (if not in most) cases a deeply misguided attempt to avoid responsibility while allowing ourselves to feel as if we’re being responsible. It has the effect of destroying trust at best, and all too often, retraumatizing already vulnerable people by way of psychiatric incarceration (the criminally inflated expense of which the victims or their guardians are billed for—at least in the United States).

      Mandatory reporting obliterates our ability to make decisions that take nuance into account. Someone who, for example, practices non-suicidal ‘cutting’ as a mechanism of stress relief in the absence of any suicidal intent or plans (even taking such precautions as using clean, relatively harmless safety razors intended for shaving, and sanitizing the scratches to prevent infection) and makes the mistake of being honest with a therapist or doctor during their commendably healthy and self-responsible search for healing counsel is likely to be locked up in a ward with folks in varying states of utter misery, drug withdrawal, or alternatively, heavy pharmaceutical intoxication, and stripped of their autonomy for the duration of their ordeal.

      • And involuntary committal to a psych ward or facility, let’s be honest here, is really for the peace-of-mind of the people on the outside. Not for the benefit or well-being of the patient. They’re locked up so they can’t be “of harm” to anyone, forced to take medication that gets them stable, and then released as though that’s all they need to get well. Even psychotic patients who need medication also need therapy to help them work out why the medication is something they should stay on, and what it means to their lives, and a whole host of other issues.

        We really suck at helping people with mental health problems here in the U.S.

        • Franklin_Evans

          Not always. My anecdotal offering is my father (I was 13 at the time) agreeing to evaluation. The clinical diagnosis was paranoia (not further qualified, but it’s a very old memory), and the judge found it insufficient for involuntary committal.

          The context was a preliminary hearing for a divorce case. I won’t go into further detail, not looking for sympathy, but it went ahead and was finalized. Emotional abuse was admitted as evidence.

          • He was never actually involuntarily committed, though, according to your anecdote. Evaluated, yes, but not committed. So it’s not relevant. I am sorry you and your father had to go through that.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Thank you for your consideration. For the prevailing American culture of the time, he was not sane. For his home culture — Serbia — he was well within the normal range. Shrug.

            I was questioning your peace-of-mind and well-being points, and doing it poorly. I have no doubt that you have plenty of valid evidence to support your points, but I can’t accept the implication that both points are true in every case.

            I certainly can bear witness to the poor quality in some institutions, particularly government run ones. During my stay in Madison, the state rather abruptly closed its facility near the city, and the city council and local mental health authorities (with my volunteer group watching nervously from the sidelines) were forced to create support for the ex-patients out of thin air because their immediate transition would be to homeless, with winter approaching. If you don’t know what a typical Wisconsin winter can be like, you can depend on their seriousness when debate points were made including statements like “frozen corpses in the shopping district”.

  • friendlyprogrammer

    Synch. I had this occur yesterday on facebook (first time) and I’m Pagan Clergy. I would have contacted police had I not reached several of his friends within the hour. Depression is a chemical imbalance that can result in suicide and people suffering it may not be responsible for their actions (suicide) even though that is not their normal desire. If a person reaches out to facebook or in any form then they are giving permission for intervention. —- You should NEVER ignore a suicide threat. (The person in question is okay).

  • Chas S. Clifton

    It’s pretty common in the study of new religious movements (which most contemporary Paganisms are) to talk about the process of “Protestanization.”

    Regardless of how they start, social and legal factors push religious leaders in the US toward the model of Protestant (not “Christian” merely, but specially Protestant) clergy. In that model, service to a deity and ritual leadership are minimized, while the pastoral role (and don’t forget, the word means “sheepherder,” as we say in the West) is emphasized.

    As Sinclair Lewis wrote in his satirical novel about clergy, ELMER GANTRY, the Protestant Christian minister is supposed to a “professional good man.” (The book came out in 1927, but you will still chuckle and recognize certain “types” in it today.)

    So yes, what about the priest/ess of a deity who maintains a shrine? Are they not also “clergy”? But what if they don’t want to be a “professional good wo/man”? Are they considered to be something less?

    When today’s Pagans take on a clergy role, the pastoral model is the only one out there, and it is codified in law and social custom.

    But why make the mistake that Protestant Christians do and expect one person to fill both the priestly and the pastoral roles? How do we keep them in balance?

    • RevAllyson

      Can’t speak for elsewhere, but I don’t feel I was expected to fulfill both roles. I just happened to be wired/called that way, and so I have chosen to. I do think they need to be separate, and those who choose to do both, can, but it isn’t assumed they *will*.

      The definition of ‘clergy’ is everyone who’s ordained… without any real definition of what that means. For me, I use the term ‘clergy’ to mean the more professional side, the person who stands up and says, “I’m Rev. Soandso”, who leads services and does weddings and funerals and such. Priest and Priestess are terms for those who serve the Gods first, and the people second.