Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator and writer of Midwest Conservative Journal, has a knack for coming up with bizarre stuff from the Episcopal Church. Today, it’s the story of the Parapsychological Pastor, also known as the Rev. Dr. Paige Blair, who is rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church,York Harbor, Maine. She has just been announced as a candidate for the episcopal seat in the diocese of El Camino Real in California. She is the leading exponent (indeed, perhaps the originator) of the U2charist, a worship service in which all of the music comes from the band U2. She’s a supporter of gay bishops and same-sex unions, though that’s hardly unique. She does polity-speak pretty well, too. But what’s most interesting about her is that she has a “Ph.D” (mentioned on the “bishop search” page of the diocese) from that internationally known university called the American Institute of Holistic Theology, which is a very interesting school. For instance, here’s it’s accreditation information:

AIHT is accredited by The Certification and Accreditation Board of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP).

The AADP includes among its “accredited” schools such fine institutions as the Academy of BioEnergetics, the Aliveness Now Coaching Studio, the Ayurveda Holistic Center, the Charleston School of Massage, Florida Vedic College, Gulliver’s Living and Learning Center, the International Institute for Trichology, the Pennsylvania Center for Intuitive Studies, Transformational Energy Healing, and the Universal Church of God & Institute of Applied Religious Sciences. You get the point.

But lest you think that I’ve unfairly lumped the AIHT in with a bunch of New Age crackpots, check out some of the courses the Rev. Blair had to choose from for her six hour elective:

Explores the ancient philosophy and the modern use of the mandala, including its specific uses for self-healing.
6 credit hours

Investigates the ancient philosophy and modern use of feng shui as the use of energy flow in design.
6 credit hours

Focuses on the shift from the more masculine approach to health, the external, to a more feminine approach, the internal system of guidance, as it is related to specific health issues and treatment alternatives.
6 credit hours

Introduction to the tools of divination, the I-Ching,Tarot and Runes, as ancient methods of accessing the self and its wisdom.
6 credit hours

Learn what a labyrinth is and how to make your own, while discovering the effects that walking a labyrinth may have on one’s body, mind and spirit.
6 credit hours

Presents concepts and dispels misconceptions about Native American lifestyles, focusing on the thoughts and philosophies behind Indian medicine and healing, including food, indigenous herbs, humor and a positive mental state.
6 credit hours

Focuses on expository writing, the kind of writing essential to college course work and most professional fields.
6 credit hours

Study the book and learn its specific tenets regarding life, love and happiness.
6 credit hours

Identifies concepts of the conscious versus “unconscious” marriage and offers interventions to assist the couple in healing their relationship.
6 credit hours

A study of the origins, development, doctrine and philosophy of Buddhism.
6 credit hours

Of course, her “Ph.D” is in Holistic Ministry. At the same school, it could just as easily have been in “Parapsychic Science,” in which the required courses include DPP301 (“Astral Projection”), DPP307 (“Advanced Psychic Intuition”), DPP308 (“Channeling”), DPP311 (“Atlantis: Fact or Fiction”), DPP310 (“Business Management”–for those who want to make a buck off suckers), and of course, DPP304 (“General Theology”), in which students learn how to channel the spirit of the famed Civil War leader General Ambrose Theology.

For further insight into this “educational institution,” check out their newsletter. In the current issue, they offer a laudatory article about New Age author Neal Donald Walsch (Conversations with God), as well as an announcement about the appearance at their next Holistic World Expo of New Age guru James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy).

You can also check the faculty biographies. The only “Ph.Ds” on their faculty got their degrees from…AIHT! (Surprise, surprise.) Among these scholarly giants we have:

*Sonia Choquette: “A world-renowned psychic, alchemist, healer, teacher and AIHT graduate. Sonia’s focus is in Psychic Arts and Metaphysical Law.”

*Reginald Ashby: “Dr. Ashby is an ordained minister, author, pastoral counselor, researcher and yoga teacher. He founded the Sema Institute and the Sheti Association, which are dedicated to the teachings of mystical spirituality and the rich, reverent traditions of ancient Egypt and India.”

*Jerry Bartholow: “Reverend Bartholow founded the Humanistic Institute in Atlanta, Georgia teaching Alpha Theta Meditation, nutrition and metaphysical studies and yoga….[He] is minister of Unity Church of Birmingham, Alabama.”

*Shelley Kaehr: ” With a name whose pronunciation reflects the “care” she gives to thousands of students each year, AIHT alumna Shelley Kaehr, Ph.D., is a nationally renowned expert in metaphysics, paranormal psychology, hypnotism, energy modalities, and crystal and gemstone healing.”

*Joan Scott Lowe: “She has an active practice in Birmingham, Alabama as a homeopathic consultant/educator and a Licensed Massage Therapist.”

*Annette Reynolds: “Annette has presented hundreds of workshops and events nationally and internationally including the American Art Therapy Association, The Labyrinth Society, American Society of Dowsers Convention, Journey into Wholeness, Inc. and the Omega Institute.”

Sad to say, the AIHT doesn’t list the dissertation subjects of its “students,” and I haven’t been able to find Blair’s title on the Web, not that it really matters. This is obviously a combination New Age nut-hatchery and diploma mill (cost for the full “Ph.D” program: $600, “includes all of your books and materials, plus the embossed diploma that you receive upon graduation”). By nominating “The Rev. Paige Blair, Ph.D.” for bishop, the diocese of El Camino Real makes her fair game for public examination. A few of the questions she ought to be asked are:

1) Why did you get your “degree” from a New Age school with worthless accreditation rather than a real university?

2) What was your dissertation on, and would it be recognized as doctoral level work by any university? Did the subject have anything to do with Christianity, or Christian ministry, and if so, how were you able to undertake it given that there are no Christians on the AIHT faculty?

3) Is including this “degree”in your CV not a form of resume inflation?

4) How much of the AIHT’s New Age approach to health and wellness issues do you subscribe to?

5) Where was your bishop when you were engaging in this “course of study”? Is there any meaningful monitoring of clergy continuing education in Maine? Would you do any here?

As the old saying goes, I couldn’t make this stuff up. But if the Episcopal Church is going to keep pumping it out…

UPDATE: Welcome to the readers of Stand Firm, and thanks to Sarah Hey for posting over there a link to this site.

UPDATE: She is indeed the creative mind behind the U2charist, for whatever that’s worth (though I do think it’s a virtual certainty to have played a large role in her getting nominated for the episcopacy).

UPDATE: This is a significant correction–the actual cost of the full “Ph.D” in “Holistic Ministries” is $4000 (hat tip: commenter Conrad at Stand Firm), not $600 as I’d previously written. This nevertheless makes for another question: who pays $4000 for a “degree” from a basically unaccredited school?

UPDATE: To get an idea of what a joke it is to call Blair’s degree a “Ph.D,” here are some excerpts from the “dissertation handbook“:

Be sure that you will be able to provide at least five books and/or scholarly journal sources by several different authors for your research.

I’ve used four times that number of sources on Doctor of Ministry course papers, much less a “Ph.D dissertation.”

One of the earliest and most crucial steps in writing your paper is coming up with an effective thesis statement. Think of it as the whole paper in a nutshell. If you were going to tell someone the point of your paper in one sentence, that is your thesis statement. Your thesis statement will usually appear somewhere in the first paragraph, or introduction, of your paper. Every single sentence in your paper must have a connection to your thesis statement.

Just as my 9th grade English teacher said.

However, if your topic is one which is highly unique [“highly unique?”–I shudder to think of what my 9th grade English teacher would have said to that–Ed.], there may be some background information which the reader will need in order to understand a concept. Make sure to define unusual terms and concepts. When you have gathered your information, it is helpful to outline your paper. Organizing your thoughts and your research will help you create a well written paper.

As my daughter knew in the fifth grade.

The body of your paper should have an introductory paragraph which contains a thesis statement explaining the aim(s) of your research. The body of your paper should elaborate on your topic, presenting research to further your ideas and prove your point(s). This research should be liberally scattered throughout your paper, adding strength to your observations. A conclusion that reiterates major points and ties up all the loose ends should complete your dissertation. The length of the body of the paper should be a minimum of 25 but no more than 30 pages in length [sic]. [Emphasis in original.]

(Hat tip: commenter kb9gzg at Stand Firm.)