Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who is behind the effort to split the Episcopal Church?

I haven't waded into church politics for many weeks, mostly because there isn't much new to wade into. But politics is always lurking beneath the surface, and as Episcopal dioceses hold their annual fall conventions the politics is back on the front burners in many places. In Virginia, our annual "council" is held in January, so the intensity of politics here is fairly low for the moment.

Here is an item that could ripple throughout beyond our Episcopal world: The Diocese of New York, at its convention, passed a resolution calling for a joint task force with the Presbyterians and the Methodists to develop a joint strategy to repel the efforts of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

This shadowy organization, that you probably haven't heard of, apparently has had an outsized impact on our church in recent years. In the interest of fairness, the IRD has a reply to the Diocese of New York which you can read by clicking HERE.

According to its critics, the IRD has been behind much of the effort to split the Episcopal, Presbyterian and United Methodist churches over homosexuality (we are not alone on this issue). We've seen the impact of this split here in the Diocese of Virginia with 11 churches that are attempting to break away from the Episcopal Church and take property with them. The lawsuits continue.

One of the blogs I follow, Father Jake Stops the World, keeps up with this topic far better than I, and he posted this summary the other day:

From Father Jake Stops the World
You don't remember the IRD? Check out this report, or review Jim Naughton's Following the Money.

If you want a shorter version, here's a summation, from the specific perspective of an Episcopalian.

Keep in mind that most religious fanatics are Theocrats, or Dominionists, with their goal being to make their brand of religion the law of the land. Most Anglican Dominionists will never publically admit to their ultimate goal of making the United States into a theocracy. Such matters are discussed only when they are alone with their own kind. This makes it rather difficult to track such troubling ideas. However, it does not make it impossible.

The most extreme form of Dominionism is "Christian Reconstructionism," which strives to incorporate all 613 laws from the biblical code into secular law. That would include capital punishment for adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, and sorcery. R.J. Rushdoony, author of The Institutes of Biblical Law, is credited as the founder of this particular sect.

One of Rushdoony's most devout followers was Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., a reclusive millionaire from California. Ahmanson served on the Board of Rushdoony's Chalcedon Institute for 23 years, and was at his bedside when he died.

Howard Ahmanson, and his wife Roberta, became members of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. The rector of that parish was Canon David Anderson.

In 1995, the American Anglican Council was formed, in response to certain developments within The Episcopal Church. It was funded primarily through a group of large donors, of which Ahmanson was one. Ahmanson's support was considered so important to the AAC that there was some discussion about including his name in the letterhead of their stationary. Internal memos revealed that the leadership of the AAC were willing to do almost anything to keep Ahmanson on board. Soon after that, Ahmanson's rector, David Anderson, became President and CEO of the AAC, a postion he still holds today.

The AAC moved into an office in Washingtom DC with another organization, the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Dianne Knippers, President of the IRD, was the original treasurer for the AAC. Roberta Ahmanson served on the board of the IRD.

The IRD has a long history of anti-communist activity, especially during the Reagan era. At one point, the rhetoric from Knippers resulted in the erroneous identification of a group of missionaries in Nicaragua as being a communist front. Their clinics became targets for terrorists.

The primary goal of the IRD is to replace the leadership of the mainline churches with their own conservative leaders. A reading of some of their material makes it clear that they continue to be active players in the Religious Right, and are very clearly of the Dominionist mindset.

Now that the IRD and the AAC were, for all intents and purposes, one organization (sharing board members, wealthy donors and the same mailing address) they began to focus on tearing down The Episcopal Church. After this alliance was formed, one of their early moves was to launch a smear campaign against Gene Robinson, who had just been elected as bishop of New Hampshire. In 2003, Ahmanson gave the IRD funds for this campaign, which was launched by Fred Barnes, a member of the IRD's board, Fox News commentator, and a member of Falls Church. Robinson received the necessary consents in spite of the IRD's efforts.

Such techniques were used against the leadership of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well. Eventually, the outrage expressed towards the IRD by a number of people within the mainline denominations was cause for the AAC to distance themselves from the organization. They set up their own office in Atlanta. It is also worth noting that Ephraim Radner, affiliated with the Anglican Communion Institute, also resigned from his seat on the IRD board, which he had occupied for many years.

The American Anglican Council, which the IRD helped create, was made up of the same core group that became the Network, which then morphed into the shadow province now known as ACNA. Same names, same goal; to destroy The Episcopal Church by any means necessary.

David Anderson became a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria in 2007.

The IRD continues to attempt to have an impact within TEC, with limited success.

Here endeth the summary.

Well done, New York!


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