Rick Warren Loves Him Some Religious Righties
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 23, 2009 at 06:21:24 PM EST
Rick Warren, Barack Obama's favorite Religious Right leader, is back in the news, enthusiastically fanning the flames of division and discord in mainline Protestantism as he has for years.

Rick (abortion is a "holocaust" and prochoice pols are "holocaust deniers") Warren was the featured speaker at the first conference of American rightist, breakaway Episcopalians, who now call themselves Anglicans, and are seeking recognition as a legitimate member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  

Warren, a Southern Baptist, has, according to the Associated Press,

"extended support before to conservative Episcopalians and Anglicans and has offered space to seceding Episcopalians at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California."
(4 comments, 459 words in story)
The First Radio Preacher, Part 1
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:22:51 AM EST
It is Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.  The famous pastor by the name of J. Frank Norris enters the pulpit carrying a broken quart bottle with him.  It is the early part of the 20th century and the church is relieved that their pastor was just acquitted in court of allegations that he had torched the church.  With fervent passion the preacher is proud in his exoneration from the accusations.  He preaches a sermon from the text, "Thou are weighed in the balances and found wanting."  He tears into the attorney who brought charges against him. The lawyer has just met a horrible death driving his Cadillac on North Main accompanied by a lady companion. His vehicle is full of liquor and is driven head on into the streetcar.  Pastor J. Frank announces to the congregation that in the broken bottle there is whiskey and brains from the lawyer. The story is a splendid portrait of the life and ministry of J. Frank Norris.
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Akinolan Apocalypse Now!
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 06:31:35 PM EST
We have written much about Archbishop Peter (The Persecutor) Akinola here at Talk to Action. We have discussed his role as a fave of the IRD set, and his apparent involvement in an infamous massacre of Muslims in Nigeria -- among many other things.  

Episcopal Cafe reports that The Persecutor is back -- advocating draconian criminal penalties for anyone who enages in same sex marriage -- that is already illegal in Nigeria. The church is even busing supporters to the hearings on the proposed national legislation.  (It should be recalled that eleven Episcopal Churches in Virginia left the Episcopal Church USA and placed themselves under the authority of Archbishop Akinola.)  Episcopal Cafe has the scoop as well as the text of The Persecutor's letter (PDF), in which he declares that same sex marriage could create a "moral and social holocaust," "extincting mankind," (sic) as a result of "annihilation that will follow the wrath of God."

 Excerpts on the flip.

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The Plank in Michael Gerson's Eye
Jim Naughton printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 01:51:11 PM EST
In light of the dust-ups over the Poverty Forum and the peculiar partnership between Jim Wallis and Michael Gerson, I thought it would be helpful to remind ourselves about Gerson and his life as an Akinola Anglican. And for this, there is no better refresher than Jim Naughton's guest front page post from May 2 of 2008 -- FC

We are very pleased to welcome guest front pager Jim Naughton, who is the editor of Episcopal Cafe, where this post first appeared. -- FC

In today's Washington Post, columnist Michael Gerson once again takes Sen. Barack Obama to task for his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In breaking with Wright, Gerson writes, Obama has woken from a theological slumber. But contrast Wright's words and actions with those of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the leader of Gerson's church, and ask yourself who has been sleeping.  

Gerson is a member of the Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. His congregation and the nearby Truro Church, played the key role in leading 11 Virginia parishes out of the Episcopal Church after the Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man as bishop in 2003. Most of these parishes joined the Church of Nigeria, which Akinola leads.

(23 comments, 1591 words in story)
Baptist Editor Wants State Funds to Win Converts
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 09:25:19 AM EST
In what is a radical departure from Baptist protocol, an editor of a Baptist splinter group in Texas has called for state funding of religion.  Baptists used to champion the  cause that govenrment should not prop up religion.  Baptist in early New England did not want to pay taxes that went to supporting religious doctrines they did not agree with.  Things are changing.
     Gary Ledbetter, editor of the news magazine for Southern Baptists of Texas, a group that left traditional Baptist work in the state, has a new view of Baptist life.  Gary wants the state to give money for church ministries and that money be used to discriminate against other faiths in hiring practices.  He also sees nothing wrong with the state funds being used to win converts.  Writing in the December 31, 2008 isue of SOUTHERN BAPTIST TEXAN, Gary fears the new president will reverse a practice instigated by current President Bush.
    Most of the money handed out by Catholic Charities comes from the government.  Many denominational social programs have government funding.  These groups practice a separation of ministries.  They historically have not used state funds to promote their faith or discriminate in hiring.  Bush and his administration promised to allow this.
     This is the same magazine that claimed that the reason a gun man shot and killed several church members in Fort Worth is because of the separation of church and state.
Akinola Anglican Leader Officially Joins the Religious Right
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Sep 26, 2008 at 01:51:26 PM EST
In the minds of many observers, the schismatic former Episcopalians aligned with the Institute on Religion and Democracy had not really migrated into the Religious Right. The Religious Right was more the terriory of fiery Southern Baptists and apocalyptic Pentecostals than starchy Episcopalians. But times do change.

Chunks of the American Episcopal Church have broken off (including the church of Washington Post columnist and former Bush speechwriter Michael ("Axis of Evil") Gerson) and placed themselves under the authority of the fiercely anti-gay, anti-Muslim Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria. Akinola's missionary bishop to the United States is the Rev. Martyn Minns -- who recently spoke at the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in DC.

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Southern Baptists Define Key Voting Issues
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Sep 03, 2008 at 02:46:40 PM EST
In Kenneth Bailey's SOUTHERN WHITE PROTESTANTISM, Bailey reminds the reader about historic ethical stances taken in the South among Baptists.  In l920 the Southern Baptist Convention's Social Service Commission condemned teen dancing as a grave social evil.  The Convention also had a chance to take a stand on the abuse of child labor practiced by many industrialists in the region.  They declined to take a stand but instead passed several resolutions against tobacco and alcohol.  Living in the midst of  a two tier social system based on Jim Crow social justice. the convention was strangely silent.  That is until people like Foy Valentine led the Convention to think in terms of a deeper Christian ethic. Richard Land took Foy's place and drug the Conventon back into an ethical system of justice limited to below-the -belt social concerns.
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PRA to Investigate Attacks on Mainline Denominations
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Aug 12, 2008 at 03:48:42 PM EST
Over the years there have been few institutional commitments to investigate and to counter the Scaife/Olin/Ahmanson funded efforts to disrupt and divide the historic communions of mainline Protestantism. We have written a great deal about these matters here at Talk to Action, and therefore I am pleased to report that Political Research Associates has recently launched a major research project. (PRA has reported on these struggles over the years in The Public Eye, including my 2006 article The Battle for the Mainline Churches.)

The full text of the announcment follows on the flip.

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A Problem Pastor Worse than Hagee: Peter Akinola
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 09:47:04 PM EST
Peter Akinola is not exactly a household name, but he could well be the problem pastor of neo-conservatism. He is certainly less well known in the U.S. than John ("McCain threw me under the bus") Hagee, but he is every bit as consequential.

He is the spiritual leader of thousands of Americans, including many Washington insiders who attend schismatic Episcopal churches that have placed themselves under his authority in recent years. He is Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a cruel and ostentatiously anti-gay cleric and a driving force in the widening schism in the worldwide Anglican communion, who makes James Dobson seem liberal and Hagee a relative man of peace.  

(5 comments, 1848 words in story)
Some Recent Baptist Revelations
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 02:59:59 PM EST
While right-wing Baptist emails are buzzing with rumors of Obama being secretly Muslim, or even worse the anti-Christ, writers are wondering what role if any the group will play in the next election.
(2 comments, 522 words in story)
Maligning the Faith of Others for Political Profit
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 04:29:31 PM EST
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is holding its bi-annual national meeting in San Jose, CA this week. Staff from the Institute on Religion and Democracy will be on hand along with their allies in Presbyterian division and discord. In light of this, I decided to reprise this post about IRD's Presbyterian point man, which I think says alot about what Presbyterians gathered in San Jose can expect. -- FC

Over at the Berkley Blog -- that's the blog of Jim Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action at the infamous Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) -- the eponymous author has provided us a window on the methods of his employer.  IRD is, of course, the agency that for a quarter century has sought to disrupt and divide the leading churches of mainline Protestantism. In this they have enjoyed considerable success and will no doubt be noted for their efforts in the history of Protestantism.  

But things seem to be unraveling a bit for IRD, as we have seen in their recent inept attacks on their critics -- which revealed so much about thier methods and their character.  Jim Berkley was similarly revelatory in a May 22nd blog  post in which he harshly denounced the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

(5 comments, 1705 words in story)
Unscrubbing the IRD's Past
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 08, 2008 at 01:56:38 PM EST
The notorious Institute on Religion and Democracy recently launched a new web site. Some changes naturally, do not necessarily acknowledge aspects of the organization's past. But it is also fair to say that the site changes, have the effect (intended or unintended) of scrubbing and sanitizing some aspects of its past it would probably prefer we not remember.

For example, the organization once featured prominent conservative Catholics and Jews on its board and advisor board -- until many of them quietly disappeared after Andrew Weaver  exposed their involvement. (There are still a number of Catholics, but not as many as before.) Also missing is the Association for Church Renewal, which was organized under IRD's auspices in 1995 and whose membership included leading Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist and UCC "renewal" groups. Fortunately there is a terrific searchable internet archive called the Way Back Machine. It is not comprehensive, but it is a helpful research tool.

For our purposes, it unscrubs some important dimensions of the not-so-way-back past of IRD and its affiliates.

(1 comment, 634 words in story)
National Review's Smoggy View on UMC General Conference
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 01, 2008 at 01:33:17 PM EST
It must be so much easier to write for the rightwing press, where ideology trumps facts and wishful thinking casts a dark haze as broad and deep as summer in LA.

For an excellent example -- look no further than the fresh screed served up by the National Review Online, which falsley attributes Steve Martin's independently financed and produced film Renewal or Ruin? The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church to... Talk to Action. True, Steve recently posted the film and transcript in its entiretry here, but that does not mean that this site had anything to do with the production of the film. The NRO article also claims that the film just came out, when in fact the film was released more than a year ago. (But never let the facts get in the way of a good smear!) More importantly, in his effort to undermine the credibility of the film and interviewees,  NRO staff writer Mark Hemingway manages not to mention the title of the film; that it is about IRD; or even address the substance of concerns expressed in the film or the underlying facts. But he does manage to quote IRD staffer Mark Tooley as an authoritative source about the UMC.

Like other of the various slimings produced by IRD staff and their friends over the past year or so (even recently), Hemingway is engaging in dishonest diversionary tactics.

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IRD Blows Smoke in Response to Expose Film
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 02:04:01 PM EST
The oxymoronically named Institute on Religion and Democracy for a generation has sought to disrupt and divide the major denominations of mainline Protestantism, as well as the wider ecumenical communions, the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.  Even more remarkably perhaps, while presenting itself an agency dedicated to reform and "renewal" of the churches, IRD's leadership and staff have been substantially populated by men and women who are not even members of any of the churches they say they seek to "renew."  

I mention all this, because IRD Methodist program staffers Mark Tooley and John Lomperis recently issued (and sent to all UMC General Conference Delegates) a sliming of Steven D. Martin's DVD discussion of the agency:  Renewal or Ruin:   The Institute on Religion & Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church.  Martin has written:

I was able to produce "Renewal or Ruin?" using only personal funds. I wanted to avoid the accusation that it had been made by someone with an agenda. I wanted to be as fair, and as firm, as I could be. You can see the results of the project by visiting www.ird-info.com, and by viewing the trailer  for the video.

The sliming of Martin, the film, and those of us who were interviewed for it is a study in distortions, ad hominem attacks and perhaps most remarkably, the vainglorious knocking down of straw men. This post is a response to their screed.

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IRD Advisor to Be Nominated as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 11:55:12 PM EST
I recently referenced Andrew Weaver's report of last year in Media Transparency, which detailed the role of neoconservative Catholics close to the Bush administration in the leadership of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.  IRD is, of course, the Washington, DC-based organization that busies itself trying to disrupt and dismantle the major denominations of mainline Protestantism in order to, according to its own internal documents, "discredit and diminish the Religious Left's influence" (as Max Blumenthal reported on Salon.com a few years ago.) Weaver, a Methodist minister, called the role of leading neoconservative Catholics in IRD
"...the most grievous breach in ecumenical good will between Roman Catholics and Protestants since the changes initiated by Vatican II."

Imagine the outcry from Catholic leaders, a fully justified response, if a highly influential group of Protestants obtained a million dollars a year from left-wing sources to generate a propaganda campaign against the leadership of the Catholic Church over the issues of the ordination of women and divorce. Moreover, this Protestant-directed group constantly sought to undermine Catholic leaders and missions through twisted and demeaning distortions of what they said, while seeking no reforms in their own communions. This is exactly the situation we have at IRD.

One of the Catholics Weaver cited in his article was Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon.  The Associated Press reports that President Bush plans to nominate her to be U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.

(6 comments, 604 words in story)

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