Shadow War: Methodism Under Attack
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 21, 2006 at 12:38:44 PM EST
[image left: partial map of IRD associations with media and religious organizations. click here  for full version from Media Transparency]  As material - mostly courtesy of Andrew Weaver's leadership in guiding research efforts - has acrued on John's Dorhauer's ongoing series I've created a new Talk To Action anthology dedicated to IRD associated attacks on the United Methodist Church
. Why would the IRD want to attack the mainline Protestant Denominations ? Andrew Weaver, in his review of Hardball on Holy Ground, by Stephen Swecker, explains:"Think about this: While the members of churches affiliated with the National Council of Churches account for about a quarter of the population, approximately half of the members of the U.S. Congress say they are members of these communions. NCC church members' influence is disproportionate to their numbers and include remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business, and culture.... Moreover, these churches are some of the largest land owners in the U.S., with hundreds of billions of dollars collectively in assets, including real estate and pension funds. A hostile takeover of these churches would represent a massive shift in American culture, power and wealth for a relatively small investment. "

see here for a Talk To Action ongoing discussion on this topic [ scroll down page for discussion ]

Attack on The United Methodist Church : Articles and Books.

Special Report : "Follow the Money"
Documenting the Right's Well-Heeled Assault on the UMC

-Andrew J. Weaver and Nicole Seibert

Excerpt: "Six months ago, we reviewed in these pages an unsettling book titled United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake Up Call by Leon Howell (see Zion's Herald, July/August 2003). The book exposes an orchestrated attack by the American political and religious right on The United Methodist Church (UMC) and other mainline Protestant denominations that have been sufficiently vigorous, socially involved and politically effective to garner its wrath (Howell, 2003).

In response to the ensuing criticism of the book and our review, we organized a group of researchers to check the facts and found the volume to be well documented and reliable. In the process, we also reviewed hundreds of documents published by the key organization involved in the assault on the church, namely, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). Our findings as outlined below are very disturbing.

The IRD is affiliated with no denomination and is only accountable to its own self-appointed, self-perpetuating board of directors. According to public sources, the IRD focuses its principal expenditures and most of its efforts on The United Methodist Church.....

When Good News is Bad News, or Working on a Coup D'etat

By Andrew J. Weaver, Nicole R. Seibert, and Fred W. Kandeler

[ excerpt ] The January/February 2004 issue of Zion's Herald published a special report on the activities of the Washington "think tank," the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).  It documented that The United Methodist Church (UMC), other mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the National Council of Churches of Christ have been the targets of an orchestrated attack by determined right-wing ideologues since 1981 (Weaver and Seibert, 2004a).

IRD has relentlessly used unethical propaganda methods to carry out the radical political agenda of a handful of secular benefactors opposed to the churches' historic social witness (Weaver and Seibert, 2004b).This is particularly true of Mark Tooley, director of its UMAction arm, who worked for the CIA for 8 years immediately preceding being hired by IRD (UMACTION, 2003).

In 1996, in a characteristically misleading fundraising letter, Tooley claimed that the UMC was supporting "Marxist guerrilla movements in Central America, violent revolution in southern Africa, halting U.S. defense programs, government-funded abortion, expanding the role of the federal government in the lives of ordinary Americans."   He then asked, "Did membership in the United Methodist Church require loyalty to a political program of the far left?"  Dr. John M. Swomley, Emeritus Professor of Social Ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, observes that "Tooley, did not -- and could not -- document any of these assertions" (Swomley, 1996).

According to California-based investigative reporter Matt Smith,
IRD and its allies' use of right-wing nonreligious foundation money to smear liberal church leaders through mailings, articles in IRD-aligned publications, press releases, and stories in secular newspapers and magazines has more in common with a CIA Third World destabilization campaign than ordinary civilized debate (Smith, 2004).

Church & Scaife: Secular Conservative Philanthropies waging unethical campaign to take over United Methodist Church

Excerpt: "The United Methodist and other mainline Protestant churches are the targets of a continuing, orchestrated attack by determined right-wing ideologues who use CIA-style propaganda methods to sow dissention and distrust, all in pursuit of a radical political agenda.



[ image above maps IRD assocations with media and religious organizations. click on image for the full version, courtesy of Media Transparency ]

The leader of this attack is an organization called the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a pseudo-religious think-tank that carries out the goals of its secular funders that are opposed to the churches' historic social witness.

The IRD works in concert with other self-styled "renewal" groups like Good News and the Confessing Movement. IRD answers only to its own self-perpetuating board of directors, most of whom are embedded in the secular political right (Howell, 1995)."

IRD/Good News: How the right wing targets United Methodist women

Excerpt:"For the past two years, Media Transparency and the Boston Wesleyan Association have published research on a steady stream of attacks against the United Methodist Church (UMC) and other mainline American denominations carried out by conservative philanthropy sponsored institutions and people (Weaver, and Seibert, 2004 a, b; Weaver, Seibert and Kandeler 2005).



[ above: "Hardball on Holy Ground" , by Stephen Swecker. Andrew Weaver writes, in his review of the book : "why would Richard Melon Scaife, Adolf Coors, Howard Ahmanson, the Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and other secular political operatives care about funding a multi-million dollar crusade against mainline churches and the National Council of Churches(NCC)? Think about this: While the members of churches affiliated with the National Council of Churches account for about a quarter of the population, approximately half of the members of the U.S. Congress say they are members of these communions. NCC church members' influence is disproportionate to their numbers and include remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business, and culture. The prevailing ethos of American culture is and has been shaped by the leadership and membership of theses churches. Moreover, these churches are some of the largest land owners in the U.S., with hundreds of billions of dollars collectively in assets, including real estate and pension funds. A hostile takeover of these churches would represent a massive shift in American culture, power and wealth for a relatively small investment. If this sounds far-fetched, one need only consider how right-wing groups during recent decades have taken over and now wholly control the Southern Baptist Convention." ]

The primary actor in this unethical and mendacious attack is the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a political "think tank" that operates more like a shark in a fish tank as it attempts to undermine mainline Protestant ministries to form an unholy alliance with far-right politics (Swecker, 2005).

IRD has received millions of dollars from right-wing secular benefactors such as Richard Mellon Scaife, Adolf Coors and the Bradley and Olin foundations in an effort to muffle the prophetic voice of the church (Weaver and Seibert, 2004a, b; Weaver, Ellison, Kandeler, Binggeli and Clark, 2005; Media Transparency, 2003).

Methodist Ministers Andrew J. Weaver and Fred W. Kandeler recently wrote the following Talk To Action piece on one of the IRD's opening red-baiting salvos, in 1983, against the National Council of Churches

Being 60 Minutes Means You Never Have to Say You are Sorry - Except Once

Sixty minutes executive producer Don Hewitt appeared on the December 2, 2002, edition of Larry King Live (CNN) and was asked whether he regretted any shows that he had done in his 36-year career. Hewitt named only one, the 1983 60 Minutes double segment on the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. Hewitt told King that;

"We once took off on the National Council of Churches as being left wing and radical and a lot of nonsense. And the next morning I got a congratulatory phone call from every redneck bishop in America and I thought, oh, my God, we must have done something wrong last night, and I think we probably did."

The broadcast on CBS's 60 Minutes entitled "The Gospel According to Whom" began with Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, saying, "I am worried - I am outraged when the church lies to its own people." The camera moved from an offering plate in a United Methodist church in the Midwest to images of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and then to marchers in Communist Red Square. The lengthy segment over and over suggested that the National Council of Churches (NCC) was using Sunday offerings to promote Marxist revolution.

Methodism Under Attack [ source ]

Andrew Weaver:  "...although the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church total only about 14 million in membership, they have been and remain a powerful and influential voice for moderate and progressive social values in American society. Almost 30 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress belong to one of these three denominations as well as disproportionate numbers of well-educated  and progressive leaders who advocate for the poor, civil and human rights, environmental protection, and a responsible foreign policy. The activities and leadership of mainline Protestant churches are linked to the social  conscience of the nation and contribute to civil discourse.

The political right seeks to gain top leadership positions in the church by spreading misleading information and incendiary allegations against organizations and individuals. These groups employ the propaganda method of "wedge issues" like abortion and homosexuality to cause confusion, dissension, and division. Irving Kristol, father of William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the "godfathers" of the political right, summed up this strategy in the Wall Street Journal: "Attack the integrity, not the words, of those with whom you disagree." More recently, Grover Norquist, a conservative activist and long-time friend of top presidential aide Karl Rove, was even more blunt when he told the Denver Post that civility is out and nastiness is in among conservative activists. According to Mr. Norquist, "bipartisanship is another name for date rape."

By contrast, Methodists and other mainstream Protestants have held proudly to the "extreme middle" during most of their history, recognizing that self-righteousness is the bane of religion, be it the ideology of the left or right. Unless progressive and moderate members in the mainline churches muster the will to organize and battle for what they believe is fair and just, they are in danger of losing the historical values of these traditions to a determined cadre of ideological advocacy groups. It is time, in other words, for "fighting Methodists" to make a comeback lest their tolerance and Christian charity be turned against them and used to undermine their churches and further the social ends of the right wing's radical ideology.

FURTHER READING : see United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake-Up Call by By  Leon Howell and the  Information Project for United Methodists:  

"Organizations leading an ultra-conservative effort to control and reshape The United Methodist Church to fit their agenda are the focus of a book released today by active United Methodist lay and clergy leaders. United Methodism at RISK: A Wake-Up Call shares extensive research to show who is behind the campaign to force the denomination into a narrow political and theological framework.

The book was published by the Information Project for United Methodists, co-chaired by Bishop C. Dale White, widely known for his leadership on peace issues, and New York attorney and well-known United Methodist lay leader Beth Capen. Veteran Christian journalist Leon Howell is the author. The books close to 200 pages detail the rise of conservative renewal groupswithin United Methodism and sister denominations, and link their activity to right-wing activity in society.

"All United Methodists need to read this book to be fully informed on the tactics, ideological bias and theological restrictions evidenced in the life and work of the conservative renewal groups," Bishop White said in announcing the books release. The direction they would take our church demeans clergy and laity, he said."

Information on Ordering the Book




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