By Joe Kovacs
© 2011 WND
High priestess Loreon Vigne of Isis Oasis
Among the scheduled participants is Loreon Vigne, high priestess of Isis Oasis – a temple, retreat and animal sanctuary Vigne founded in 1978 in Geyserville, Calif.
"I personally see Isis as Mother Nature," Vigne told WND, "and that she encompasses everything with her wings. She's a winged goddess. She encompasses any other goddess from any culture."
Vigne, who plans to bring several other priestesses to the conference, will conduct prayers, songs and meditation.
"Guided meditation is where the audience closes their eyes and you take them on a little journey," she explained. "I've taken people to their past lives in Egypt, as [that culture] had all the secrets. They're the ones that knew. Their main concept is to know thyself, know thy heart, know thy soul and know thy purpose."
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A depiction of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her son Horus
She says the belief system is based on the ancient Egyptian concept of balance, with 42 laws that are actually 42 ideals.
"It's kind of like a Ten Commandments, but all done in a positive concept," she said. "'I shalt not kill,' [is rendered as] 'I honor all lives as sacred.'"
But the San Francisco event blending non-existent, heathen deities with the Christian faith is leaving some outraged.
"You can't make this stuff up!" exclaimed Dan Skogen of Marion, Iowa, who describes himself as a Lutheran fed up with the "constant mockery of God's word" by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, which boasts some 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations.
"God tells us in Exodus 20:3 'You shall have no other gods before me.' Yet this ELCA church brings followers of other gods in to speak and teach at their conference!"
Skogen said the ELCA leadership "accepts and promotes the thought that salvation is secured even for people who do not have faith in Christ."
"So bringing worshippers of Isis to this conference to teach is acceptable to them," said. "Of course, this is a distinct departure from the orthodox teaching of the Christian church."
Throughout the Bible, there are many warnings against worshiping false gods.
The Israelites were nearly exterminated by God when they made a golden calf to worship, but said it was a "festival to the LORD." (Exodus 32:5, New Living Translation)
And they were later warned: "But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed." (Deuteronomy 30:17-18, NLT)
Skogen said, "Over the years, the ELCA has been drifting farther and farther away from the truth and authority of Scripture. When a church does not trust, adhere to and believe what the Bible clearly states, heresies emerge, resulting in false teachings and blatant disobedience."
Rev. Megan Rohrer, an openly transgender Lutheran pastor
Defending the event is one of its organizers, Rev. Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender Lutheran minister ordained in the United States.
"I think the world is much more interested in interfaith connection than exclusivity," Rohrer told WND. "It's really not that unusual. Christianity was founded in the time of the beginnings of lots of things."
While acknowledging concern about mixing paganism with Christianity is a "hot-button issue," the pastor said, "Christians that say that probably don't know what paganism is."
"Anything that's not what anyone's church teaches is against God's ways," she added.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "pagan" as "heathen, especially: a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)." It defines the word "heathen" as "an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible."
This particular Lutheran church in San Francisco is far from what many might consider mainstream.
For instance, it heavily promotes a female identity for God, with a giant banner hanging from its purple exterior declaring "God/dess welcomes all her children."
"We are a diverse community, standing firmly within the Christian tradition in order to re-image the divine by claiming her feminine persona," the church proclaims.
"Our Christian/Lutheran feminist prayers and liturgy reach back into the storehouse of tradition to bring forth names as Mother, Shaddai, Sophia, Womb, Midwife, Shekinah, She Who Is. They do so out of renewed insights into the nature of the Gospel empowered by the risen Christ-Sophia."
The Ebenezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco calls itself "herchurch."
Asked to explain the church's theology, Rev. Rohrer said, "Being Christian and being feminist are not two opposite ends of the spectrum."
She said her church is "creating caring economics and creating a world where every person's identity is held up with its integrity, creating equal playing fields for every human being."
"The U.N. continues to say if we're able to educate women globally, we will probably eliminate poverty," she added.
Other events at the conference include a chanting workshop with another Isis priestess, Katie Kethcum, "inclusive" hymns, sacred walks, sacred drums, sacred dance and Kundalini Yoga mantras, which the church says "are composed of basic phonetic sounds common to all languages and have been used to invoke the presence of the Divine for centuries."
Also speaking at the conference is Mary Streufert, director for Justice for Women at ELCA's headquarters in Chicago. She refused comment when asked about her participation.
Interest in the Egyptian goddess is certainly not new in the U.S. In the mid-1970s, she became a flying superhero on the CBS Saturday-morning TV series "Isis."