A Completely Hypothetical Series of Events...
It is late Sunday afternoon, and you are watching the Miami Dolphins dismantle the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game. It's late in the game, the Dolphins have it wrapped up 14 -0 with the clock ticking away the closing minutes, and you almost leave the couch to get another beer when a commercial comes on that catches your eye.
You hear the ticking of a second hand as a camera pans back from an offering plate in an empty church. You hear a voice-over speak words like these: "What would you say if we told you that the Methodist Church and the National Council of Churches was taking money you put in the Sunday offering and using it to fund Communist rebels around the globe?" The second hand ticks away again, and you are invited to watch the upcoming episode of 60 minutes as soon as the game ends.
You will have no idea that what you about to watch is the only show that, after more than 30 years of producing, Don Hewitt would look back on with regret. Here is Don's answer to Larry King asking him in an interview shortly after he retired if he had any regrets:
"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."
(You can read a transcript of the full interview here: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0212/02/lkl.00.html)
You are angry. Little do you know that, or how, this anger is about to be stoked.
Next Sunday in church, you are not all that surprised that your pastor has watched the same show, and uses it to preach about the evils of the National and World Council of Churches. Having only heard a week ago about the former, you are surprised to hear about the latter. Your pastor cites a number of references to an article in last August's Reader's Digest which you vaguely remember seeing, but not reading. You go home and look up the article, finding it on the floor of your closet where you keep your back issues of the Digest. It is entitled "Karl Marx or Jesus Christ? Which Master Is the World Council of Churches Serving?" (You can read the article yourself at this site: http://www.abbottloop.org/alconweb/pol_news/marxor.htm)
You get angrier.
You still have never heard of the IRD, and you will never know that they were behind the production of both the 60 minutes piece, and the article in the Reader's Digest.
You will also never know that Avery Post, President of the United Church of Christ, has just sent a letter out to all the Conferences of the UCC in which he writes:
"Make no mistake, the objectives of the Institute on Religion and Democracy are the exact opposite of what its name appears to stand for. The purpose of its leaders is to demoralize the mainline denominations and to turn them away from the pursuit of social and racial justice."
You will never know this, because your pastor is like the so many others who chose not to read that letter to you.
Now you want to do something, but you don't know what. Your pastor is helpful. He begins talking to you and a group of others about a new group in your denomination called the Biblical Witness Fellowship. You have never heard of them. Your pastor asks you if you are aware of the liberal agenda of your own denomination, and you confess that you have never really paid that much attention to things like that.
Your pastor asks you how committed you are to Biblical truths, and you say that your faith means the world to you, and that you have always relied on the Bible for direction and inspiration.
Over the coming months, your pastor begins to spend time with you and others teaching the Bible and its truths to you, laying the foundations of Biblical inerrancy - and always questioning you and the others about the level of your devotion to the sacred text. You reiterate over and over your devotion to God, to faith, and to Biblical truth.
You subscribe to The Witness, the publication of the Biblical Witness Fellowship. You have no idea what a Renewal Group is, nor do you have any idea how they are connected to the IRD - of which, you will recall, you have never heard. In each edition of The Witness you read horrible stories about what your church is doing that goes against the teachings of the Bible. And for the first time you hear your pastor in a sermon wonder whether or not the United Church of Christ is a Christian church anymore.
You go home and talk to your wife about this. You call your best friend in the church, who is asking himself the same questions.
You have never heard of Bill Johnson before, but soon you read about him in The Witness. You learn that he was ordained by the UCC in 1972; and that he is gay. Not sure what to think about this, you ask your pastor. He not only points you to the passages in Leviticus and Romans that decry homosexuality as an abomination, he uses this opportunity to preach about the evils of this particular sin - mentioning in this sermon the number of times that, by now, the UCC has abrogated this fundament of scripture. He questions aloud in the sermon what this might mean for your children.
You find you can't stop thinking about this. More and more people in the church are talking about it. Pamphlets begin to circulate. No one tells you who wrote them. One of them describes in great detail the passages from Scripture that the UCC does not accept. Another one describes some sort of women's conference held by the UCC in which women are invited to worship some Goddess named "Sophia" of whom you have never heard. Yet another one talks about how the UCC does not believe in the Virgin Birth. You get angrier with each passing month. Your own wife fails to confess to you that her cousin is a gay man, and that she has always questioned the Virgin Birth herself. She sees your anger and keeps her thoughts to herself.
The Witness continues to attack the UCC month after month. No one tells you that its Executive Director has direct links to the IRD (of which you still have never heard), signing letter after letter produced by them; speaking at one press conference after another organized by them; and speaking as a keynoter and workshop leader at a number of their events. No one talks about the help he receives from the IRD in composing the pamphlets that get circulated to your local church, or that Board member Mark Tooley spent eight years working for the CIA before coming to the Board of the IRD.
A few more years go by, and it is now 1996. The UCC announces that an endowment has been established to help fund the seminary education of gay and lesbian students interested in going into the ministry. It is called the Bill Johnson scholarship, named after the first man ever ordained as a practicing homosexual in 1972. Old anger gets rekindled, and sure enough your pastor is all over this one.
He preaches about a continuing deterioration of Biblical principles. He wonders out loud for how long good Bible-believing Christians are going to tolerate this, and for how much longer they think they can remain a part of such an apostate church. He tells you that the funds for this scholarship are coming right out of the money you put in the offering plate - and no one knows any better than to doubt this lie and point out to you that this fund was established independent of any offerings churches have made, and that it was a directed gift. You yourself, at his prodding, put the motion on the floor of the next annual meeting to cut all funding to the United Church of Christ. It seems the only right thing to do. The motion carries without dissent.
You write your first letter to the Conference Minister, who promises to come to your church and help you understand more about this. But at the next council meeting, your pastor shares with you why that would be pointless. You agree.
It is announced that two churches, one of which is just down the road from your small town, have left the UCC. You have a cousin in one of the churches, and you call her to find out what happened there, and why. She tells you.
You are the one at the next Council meeting who asks out loud if this church can leave the denomination. Your pastor is more than happy to answer that question for you.
It takes six weeks.
You still have never heard of the IRD.
note : this is part seven of an ongoing series.
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