Monday, April 3, 2017

United Church of Canada-affiliated St. Stephen's College offers courses in Wicca, mindfulness, and Jungian psychology

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; I Timothy 4:1

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

As the late Dave Breese said, when you depart from the faith, you don't just take a step down, but you drop into the dark abyss. Submitted for your disapproval, more evidence that the United Church of Canada isn't in any biblical sense a Christian church (links inserted by blogger).

St. Stephen's College, founded and governed by the United Church of Canada, is affiliated with the University of Alberta:

St Stephen’s College is a graduate school founded by The United Church of Canada and an Affiliated College of The University of Alberta in Edmonton. An Act to Incorporate St Stephen’s College (April 27, 1927; amended 1968) authorizes St Stephen’s College to confer degrees in theology, including masters level divinity programs in pastoral psychology and counseling. These degrees include: Doctor of Ministry, Master of Theology, Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality, Master of Theological Studies, and Bachelor of Theological Studies. We are an Associate Member of The Association of Theological Schools in The United States and Canada;

According to their statement of Missions and Values:

Mission & Values

Our Mission
To be an interfaith community that offers sacred spaces for learning and transformation.

Our Values
We are deeply committed to the values rooted in our experience and those that shape our response to changing rural, urban and global perspectives. These values help define our life together and are characterized by:

High standards and commitment to scholarship and academic excellence, with academic freedom to explore theology and spirituality;

Academic programs and policies that are grounded in adult learning principles and are learner-centered;

Accessibility to theological education through a multi-faceted program that creates communities of learners;

Integration of theory and practice;

We seek to achieve these values through:

Inclusivity and justice in language and practice for all persons, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation and sexual identities or physical abilities;

Commitment to social justice and ecological responsibility;

Honoring and understanding the need to be in care of one another;

Resiliency and creativity in the presence of a constantly changing social climate;

Consultative ethos, including academic planning and decision-making processes characterized by open communication, widespread consultation, and transparency;

Mutual respect for and honouring of diverse cultures, locally and abroad;

Openness to risk-taking, innovation and flexibility in offering of programs, in our relationship to the communities around us, and in supporting faith communities as they undertake theological reflection;

Shaping of our theology by the contexts in which we live and work and have our being, and solidarity with those who suffer;

Financial stability and accountability.

Updated: April 22, 2013
Courses offered for credit at St. Stephen's College include the following:


Psychotherapeutic process and spirituality is explored in the context of Jungian analytic thought. This course integrates key concepts such as projection, transference, and typology in exploring the individuation process. Further exploration will be made of dreams, the numinous and the psyche-soma relationship as they relate to psychological development and the Jungian therapeutic process.


“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.” []This course will help you develop and nurture the energy of mindfulness in your own life and in turn in the lives of your students. In this course you will:

Increase body/mind awareness by practicing various forms of meditation

Develop your ability to be ‘present’ with your students

Explore the possibilities of contemplative play

Develop mindfulness exercises for students of varied age levels

Consider how the arts can be used for contemplation and transformation


Introducing foundational ideas and practices of the New Religious Movement of Wicca. Wicca is polytheistic, syncretic, and experiential. It draws from Western occultism, European folk magic and tradition, feminism, ecological theology, and queer theory. The course mixes lecture, discussion of readings, writing and practice.

Carl Jung is popular with New Agers--especially those who claim to be Christians--but was a man whose "wisdom" came from a "spirit guide," i.e., demon, named Philemon. For more on Carl Jung, see PsychoHeresy: C. G. Jung's Legacy to the Church.

Mindfulness is a word that's been receiving a lot of publicity in recent years. A good description is provided by Mark A. Burch of the Simplicity Institute, an organization that appears to include those who are ostensibly Christian, but who follow Eastern religious practices (which is a subject for another post). From Mr. Burch's report Mindfulness: The Doorway to Simple Living (2012):

Mindfulness, or Right Mindfulness, is one precept drawn from a set of interdependent precepts called The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. (p. 3)

Formal mindfulness practice consists of sitting meditation with attention focused on one’s breathing, either by counting breaths or by silently witnessing the act of breathing, to the exclusion of all other internal or external distractions...

...Practices that specifically develop stable states of mindful awareness often entail formal meditation or contemplation. In Buddhist Vipassana (mindfulness of breathing) practice, for example, attention is focused on the breath with the intention of slowly developing concentration, cultivating inner stillness and eventually an ever deepening insight into the activities and dynamics of one’s own conscious awareness ...

...Christian “Centering Prayer,” while differing from Buddhist Vipassana in its intention, is nearly indistinguishable in its method. The Buddhist is intent on liberation from suffering and growing in compassion whereas the Christian practitioner of centering prayer is intent on cultivating a state of inner stillness and spiritual receptivity to the action of the Holy Spirit. The Buddhist “anchors” attention on the breath while the Christian anchors it on a “prayer word,” not unlike a mantra, expressing the contemplative’s intention to open themselves to intimacy with God (Keating, 1998). But otherwise, all the physical postures, preparation, attitudes and activities that one brings to the practice are nearly identical.
(pp. 4-5).

The reader will notice that Mr. Burch admits that mindfulness comes from Buddhism, and that Christian "Centering Prayer" is indistinguishable, in practice, from the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. The inevitable conclusion for those who indulge in such practices is that since the experiences are similar regardless of one's religious tradition, they must derive from the same source, leading the practitioner toward universalism.

The course in Wicca--advertised as an Arts option--is taught by Sam Magar. According to the course syllabus:

Sam Wagar MA, Wiccan 3rd Degree Initiate, is the author of four books and numerous published papers and articles. He has founded an international Pagan pacifist network, a religious retreat, five Temples, and several covens. He is a Doctor of Ministry student at St. Stephen's College and the Wiccan chaplain to the University of Alberta.

It comes as no great surprise, but is nonetheless disturbing to this blogger, to see that not only does the University of Alberta now have a Wiccan chaplain, but this publicly-funded university is offering credit for practicing a pagan religion ("practice" is said to be part of the course). I don't think the university is offering credit for practicing Christianity now, and if such credit was offered when I was a student there in the 1980s, I wasn't aware of it.

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