Monday, December 24, 2007

GUEST BLOG: Problems with Goddess Temple of Orange County

[Note from Medusa: In 2006, author Barbara Ardinger wrote a two-part series for this blog about the Goddess Temple of Orange County which you can find here and here.]

by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., guest blogger

Winter solstice, 2007

I no longer support the Goddess Temple of Orange County.

For the past six months, and especially since September, “Rev. Ava” has surrounded herself with mainstream metaphysicals, whom I call the Yes-Avas. The temple is now a very pretty New Age church. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, Rev. Ava was required to have a board of directors; her first board was the two women who were with her from the beginning. They held community meetings every two months and anyone who cared to attend was welcome. As of June, 2007, these two women—both Dianics—were made so uncomfortable that they both left the church.

I was present at the member meeting in June where Rev. Ava wrote “president,” “vice president,” “secretary,” and “treasurer” on scraps of paper and handed them at random to the three new board members present. One is a worshipper of fairies, another who was ordained by a “psychic to the stars” some years ago, the third changed her name because her spirit guides told her to, and the fourth is an astrologer. (The latter was not present at that meeting. She got the left-over title.) Rev. Ava then announced that the board had hired her as director for $1 a year and that she would continue to direct the affairs of the church.

In August a young woman became the center of dispute in the church. This young woman—whose partner (a woman) actually told me she was a goddess—has had a wretched life full of abuse and (no doubt to protect herself) presents as a male and was not allowed in Church services on Sundays because men are not allowed. On August 19, when the topic of the day was “sacred rage,” she wanted to be let in. I was present. I witnessed what happened. Sunday services normally last 90 minutes. At 11:00 Rev. Ava began haranguing the audience about this young woman. I was watching the clock. At twenty minutes into the harangue, I called out, “Let her in.” Other women echoed my call. Rev. Ava spent another ten minutes on the subject. Then the young woman was let in. She bowed before the altar and took a seat in the audience. Now let’s be clear: as a woman, she could have just walked in and sat down at any time. She chose not to. And from that day, she has never sat in the congregation.


A mid-September member meeting focused on this same young woman. Until that time, everyone had been instructed (a) that she had been born intersexed (probably not true) and (b) to call her “him.” But it’s a woman-centered church. So with Rev. Alva’s help, the young woman in question prepared a statement that was read to the members of the congregation present at that meeting. Her statement specified that she wanted to be “female in the temple” and “female among other things” outside the church. Members were then asked to vote on the gender of this young woman. As if declaring gender by vote were possible! The Dianics abstained from voting and walked out.

The church has always professed respect for all faiths. On Thanksgiving Sunday, they read a Native American prayer. Immediately after the service, their only Native American woman (a Cherokee) was banned from the church because—like us Dianics—she was a “troublemaker.” A troublemaker is someone who holds and expresses opinions of her own. For at least two years, this woman had faithfully served the church in many capacities. But she is also fairly outspoken. The church now has a “concordance counselor.” If they need someone to mediate quarrels, what does that tell us about interpersonal relations in the church? It was this concordance counselor who accused and interrogated the Cherokee woman. More than that—they wrote her a letter ostracizing her and banning her from the church for a full year (she can’t come in the doors) and said they’re moving a “prayer card” from altar to altar during the year to facilitate her “healing.” Now in a business, when there is a disciplinary action, it is held confidential between the employee and the supervisor. In this case, Rev. Ava read the letter to the church’s service circles (which now meet in her living room). Gossip being what it is, the letter was almost immediately known to everyone else in the church.

Among other things, the letter says that Rev. Ava was a “grieving witness” to the interrogation. This is nonsense. Since the beginning, Rev. Ava has been the founder, director, and proprietor of the Goddess Temple. Nothing happens without her knowledge and direction.

A week later, the Cherokee woman came to a public solstice fair where I was selling books. She had copies of her letter with her. She handed these copies to several of her friends, who were gathered around her just in front of my sales table. The Goddess Temple had a table clear across the room. A young woman working the church’s table saw us and came charging across the room to confront the Cherokee woman: “This is a small community,” she said, “and you’re not allowed to talk about the letter.” She said more, too, none of it friendly.

Among other things, it’s a First Amendment issue. The Goddess Temple did not copyright that letter. It is the property of the woman to whom they sent it, and she can do whatever she wants to do with it, including disseminating it to everyone in the pagan community (which she has not done). I sent an email to Rev. Ava containing the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and asked her to please restrain her Temple world girls from trying to suppress the exercise of free speech in public places. They can do whatever they want to in their church, but they cannot violate the First Amendment in public places. Rev. Ava has not replied to me.

With a few exceptions, the members of this church are white, thin, upper-middle-class housewives. People who do not fit that pattern are generally not comfortable for very long at the church. The church is patriarchal in every way but gender. The Nice Metaphysical Ladies who run and attend the church are not pagan, nor do they know much about the Goddess, nor do they have a clue about the energetic of casting a circle or holding energy in a circle. They are New Agers who like the idea of “divine feminine” because they crave power over others. They can—thanks to another provision of the First Amendment—conduct their church any way they want to, but they do it now without the support of most of the pagan community in Southern California and without the support of most local Goddess worshippers and witches…though some covens rent the space for their sabbat rituals and invoke gods in the so-called Goddess temple.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D (
http://www.barbaraardinger.com), is the author of Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives (RedWheel/Weiser, 2006), a unique daybook of daily meditations, stories, and activities. Her earlier books are Finding New Goddesses, Quicksilver Moon, Goddess Meditations, and Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. Her day job is freelance editing for people who don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. Barbara lives in southern California.

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Goddess Pagan Goddess Temple Spiritual Feminism Dianic Witchcraft

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12 Comments:

At Monday, December 24, 2007 3:29:00 PM, Anonymous flutterby said...

so sad :-( about the Temple,,,i have a question about the letter,,,are you sure that the person who received the letter has the copyright? i thought that the person who writes things has the copyright...some sights i googled say that the person who writes an email has the copyright (not the person who receives the email).... wouldn't it be the same thing with a letter?

 
At Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

In response to questions I've been receiving, I want to state that I'm not taking a stand on any side of this issue because I've never been to the Temple and don't have
any first hand knowledge of its policies and activities. Medusa Coils is publishing Barbara Ardinger's post because she has previously written two articles in support of the
Temple on this blog and wants to set the record straight regarding
her current (lack of) support for the Temple. I like the idea
that such issues can be discussed on Medusa Coils. I also direct readers' attention to the statement in this blog's sidebar that "Opinions expressed by staff bloggers and guest bloggers are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others who blog here."

 
At Friday, December 28, 2007 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Ardinger,
I think its hard for people to judge about what happened with the Cherokee woman without knowing more details about what she said or did that people found offensive. I mean some things fall within the framework of protest or speaking out and some things (i think the usual term is like yelling fire in a crowded theatre) is unacceptable and may even physically endanger people. I'd want to know if someone who wasn't native american did the same thing would she have been treated the same way? Are you suggesting that the Native American woman be given extra consideration because she is the only native American woman church member? That she be allowed to do things that wouldn't be acceptable if other (white) church members did them? I guess you could call this Affirmative Action.

 
At Saturday, December 29, 2007 3:05:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Lunaea Weatherstone has given me permission to quote part of a post she made to a discussion list after reading Barbara Ardinger's post here.

LUNAEA WRITES:
Is someone who "worships fairies" less worthy of respect than someone who, say, makes a study of the Celtic faery faith? Is someone "who changed her name because her spirit guides told her to" less worthy than someone who takes a new name because her Goddess told her to? I really felt I must throw out a friendly word here to remind us all that spirituality is an individual and intimate experience, and that just because someone talks to fairies, chooses a new name, knows "psychics to the stars," or is an astrologer, that
does not in any way necessarily diminish the depth or sincerity of
her devotion to the Goddess. Judge people by their behavior, if you
must, not their beliefs -- lest ye be likewise judged. We must give
respect to get respect.

Lunaea blogs at http://ssbpriestess.typepad.com/lunaea

 
At Saturday, December 29, 2007 11:33:00 PM, Anonymous M. Ashley said...

I know it can be frustrating when you feel like your spiritual community should know better, but, at the very least, I think we might be able to find a small amount of humorous comfort here--whether Pagan or Christain, Dianic or Alexandrian, Druid or Devotee of Celeb Psychics, people are people, and church politics, it would seem, are the same church politics everywhere.

Gods be patient! We do try so very hard. :)

 
At Monday, December 31, 2007 11:03:00 PM, Blogger vajrama said...

When a woman criticizes other women with the type of sarcasm, condescension, trivialization and sweeping generalities that Ardinger has, it says more about the critic than her targets.

I encourage women who read Ardinger’s blog to consider the tonality of the language as the most important clue to who and what this blog is really about—crave power over others...patriarchal in every way..."Rev Ava"...Temple world girls...Yes-Avas...Nice Metaphysical Ladies…very pretty New Age church…nor do they know much about…nor do they have a clue…

This is not the kind of language that fosters bridges between people in conflict. Such attacks, unfortunately, are not uncommon in the feminist spirituality/Goddess movement. The wounds between women are deep and often manifest irresponsibly in horizontal (verbal) violence in our community. I have had confidential conversations with a number of well known leaders in the movement and they all have said the same thing, that they have been at the brunt end of this kind of attack. This helped me get a more resourceful perspective, as, alas, I've had my own personal experiences with this, also.

Regarding this particular attack: I have been active in The Goddess Temple of Orange County for three years, have known Barbara since the early 90’s and am a close friend and associate of Ava Park's. I know about these incidents through conversations with Ava and with some of the women involved (and I know all the women involved in the incidents). I know directly from Ava her feelings, perspective, intentions and thoughts about these incidents. It is useless to "defend" anything point by point, as no resolution will be found by writing emails/blogs and people will believe what they want to believe for their own reasons. I do, however, want to go on record saying that Ardinger's characterization of Ava is completely off the mark. And her characterization of the women, the Temple and the incidents themselves is incomplete, in many places inaccurate and overall irresponsible. Furthermore, wrapping it in the red, white and blue of the First Amendment is disingenuous. As is identifying one of the women by her heritage.

I appreciate what Ava and the women of the Temple have created. They deserve to be spoken of with common, everyday respect, just as we all do. I invite women to come to the Temple, contribute and co-create. When we have conflicts and challenges, we can approach each other with respect. When we reach an impasse, we can part with respect.

 
At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 1:45:00 PM, Blogger docu-guru said...

I haven’t known Barbara Ardinger as long as some of you, but it strikes me as disconcerting that a woman professing to have served women’s cause for as long as she has suddenly turns to such vitriolic verbiage against another woman. It indeed says more about her than it does about any one she writes about.

But most of all, it says to us: BEWARE of all your helpers and enthusiastic cohorts! BE DAMN SURE you have a clue about their agenda. Because if something can break out as vehemently and rampaging as what we read here, then it must have been a deep resentment, harbored for a long time under whatever cloak of politically correct outward behavior.

It is a sad that nearly anyone who achieves anything will be subject to envy. “People put you on a pedestal so they can better shoot at you!” Sour grapes come in many shades and many colors.
It is one of the most destructive patriarchal characteristics internalized by women. The amount of resentful projections hurled at any woman leader in any field – by other women! - is the tip of an iceberg.

This is not about the catchwords, nor about Ava’s slim body and her controlled interactions – obviously well advised – or people of diffuse sexual origins and their role in a temple for and by (as I understand it) woman-born women. This is really more about people not growing up and then leaving bad smelling packages at other people’s door steps.

This is also about people professing to serve a Temple dedicated to the “natural spiritual authority of woman” and then, in the event of a non-contained grudge, hurl about themselves with flags, with minorities, with any sort of appropriated power but show no “natural spiritual authority” whatsoever. What are we to think of someone’s books and public persona and claims of desiring healing in the world under those circumstances?

What makes women perpetrate this type of horizontal violence? Obviously a sense of disempowerment. An alienation from what makes Woman the originator of civilization: her capacity to hold, to create, to rest, to be in right relation, to be with!

I’m not a shrink, but someone better figure this out soon because without women entering into their real power and being responsible among each and to the world, this planet soon is going to be toast. That is the real deal, Sisters! That is the really upsetting part, that we have no more time for sibling kindergarten rivalries.

Enough of this

Wolfgang Nebmaier

 
At Thursday, January 03, 2008 4:52:00 PM, Anonymous DReyes said...

I have known Rev. Ava for nearly four years. She has always encouraged me to step into my power and authority as a woman and a priestess. She is a friend and mentor who has always guided me in the most matriarchal ways.

I think that any place where witches, New Age women, and Christian females can sit together in circle and discover the commonalities they share as sacred women (regardless of their profession or lack of one—although housewife or stay-at-home mom is probably the oldest and most difficult job that exists, if you ask me) is a marvelous gift to the planet that can only help to heal the wounding that women continue to inflict upon themselves and each other.

I am a woman of more than one color who happens to be a little curvy. I feel very comfortable at the Temple. Anytime I go to the temple, I am transformed in some way—all of it good.

 
At Monday, September 19, 2011 4:20:00 AM, Anonymous orange county said...

I am really thankful to you for the information you have provided. You are helping others to grow their knowledge by sharing such a valuable information you have. This post is amazing & I'm glad for it.

 
At Monday, September 19, 2011 2:58:00 PM, Anonymous Wolfgang Nebmaier said...

"interesting" way of stirring the pot, without really saying anything specific. We don't even know who "thankful for you" is supposed to be. The fact, however, that it is placed anonymously (link goes nowhere!) indicates a less than constructive intention. I personally would suspect someone unstable.

 
At Wednesday, February 08, 2012 4:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tched Ava over the years become more and more dogmatic and dictatorial to the point that I had to ask myself why I was even putting up with it. I saw her on so many occasions abuse women that I finally stopped my own delusion about the temple. I was with Ava at a pagan festival one time and she clearly had nothing but disdain for the Native Americwn booth, encouraging me to just ignore it. and her attitude about men is equally hateful. I personally think that Ava needs psychological help and should not be running the Temple at all. by the way, she recently chased away some long serving board members from her animal group and had quite a scandalous affair there too. the woman's simply not fit to run an organization. And don't even get me started on finances, she has no accountability there at which also makes her a fraud. I 'm sorry, but when it comes to equality we women need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard before we claim that we are better.

 
At Wednesday, August 10, 2016 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Medusa said...

Anonymous comments are no longer being accepted on this post, as the situation happened in 2007 and we need to know who you are and that you really know something about the subject or are just out to make trouble. If you want to leave a comment on this post, please include your name and the url of your webpage or email. Thank you for understanding.

 

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