Chuck Colson Whines about Critics of the Institute on Religion and Democracy
People have been getting wise to the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) -- that's the Washington, DC-based agency that has been waging a war of attrition, setting people against their pastors, their churches, denominational staff, and each other, for a generation. The aim has been to neutralize, divide and conquer the historic churches of mainline Protestantism -- apparently so that they could be displaced at the center of American political and cultural life by conservative forms of evangelical Protestantism and Catholicism. Unsurprisingly, people are writing and speaking out about all this -- and IRD doesn't like it. How can we tell? Well, the new president of IRD, Jim Tonkowich, who used to be the editor for Charles Colson's nationally syndicated radio commentary, BreakPoint
, apparently got his old boss to denounce his critics, using the same shopworn smear tactics that have fueled its propadanda war for a generation.
Chuck Currie sets Colson strait at his blog
and at Street Prophets
. Here is an excerpt:
Colson, (like his mentor Richard Nixon, wants to make one thing perfectly clear.)
So what's going on? Why the effort to drive conservatives out of the mainline church?
The New York Times explains it this way: "After years of turning the other cheek, the United Church of Christ, among the most liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations, has recently staked out a more pugnacious stance toward the Christian right." The Times speaks of "a growing impatience among the mainline denominations with their far-right brethren and an increasing willingness to take some of them on..."
Let's be perfectly clear about what's at issue here. The debate is not a political one. Rather, it goes to the very heart of what the Church is. The real issue is simply, do we follow the Bible and the orthodox teachings of Christianity, or do we rewrite our beliefs to be culturally relevant?
The UCC's answer to that question is clear--and what's also clear is that it's turning Christians away. If they want to be taken seriously again, they could start by listening to their own new slogan--"God doesn't reject people. Neither do we"--and then start by not rejecting people who happen to be Bible-believing Christians.
I'm a Bible-believing Christian and so are the people who make up the UCC. What I'm not is someone who confuses political allegiance with the Gospel teachings.
Colson, who became a "born again" Christian after serving time in prison for crimes committed against the people of the United States as an assistant to Richard Nixon, cannot see the difference between the message preached by Jesus and the Republican Party platform. Prison didn't seem to shake his total allegiance to a ultra conservative political ideology. He claims that the "debate is not a political one" but aligns himself with political advocacy groups like IRD.
Jesus preached a message that transcends political labels and partisan campaigns. Colson bears false witness against the United Church of Christ for suggesting that the people of our church - not to mention all other mainline Christians - are anything less than faithful followers. He may have done the IRD proud (with a dishonest attack Nixon would have loved) but he once again has put his own political agenda ahead of his God.
I'll just add one point in response to Colson's audio screed. First, Colson
In a prominent article in the New York Times, some members of mainline congregations attacked the IRD's new president, Jim Tonkowich, for belonging to a small conservative denomination instead of a liberal church. Now, I can tell you from personal experience that attacks on Jim are completely out of line. Until recently, he was managing editor for this radio program. Not only is he a good friend, but he is also an able pastor and Christian thinker, and well-qualified for this new position.
As it happens, I wrote the original story
highlighting Tonkowich's background. And I agreed with Colson, that Tonkowich is, "well qualified for this new position." Here is part of what I wrote:
You can tell a great deal about an organization by it's leader. That person is, after all, the person who was hired to carry out the agenda of the board of directors. That person is normally the principal spokesperson; the person who gives the speech; the person whom the reporter asks for even when he sometimes has to settle for someone else. And whenever an organization goes through a transition after the departure of a longtime leader, who the next leader is often signals the organization's direction. Thus, the announcement of the new president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington, DC-based organization with a 20 year history of seeking to undermine mainline Christian churches deemed "too liberal" -- is a bellwether moment.
The Rev. Dr. James Tonkowich was trained at the Gordon-Conwell evangelical seminary and has worked for the past five years for conservative evangelical Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship. He has zero experience in mainline denominations. [Those are the denominations IRD claims it want's to "reform" and "renew."] Perhaps most significantly, he is an ordained mininister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). PCA is a small, rightwing schism that broke with mainstream Presbyterianism in 1973 over the ordination of women and membership in the National Council of Churches. (Women are not allowed to be ministers or elders in the PCA to this day.) PCA is also member denomination of the National Association of Evangelicals .... It seems altogether fitting that IRD's new leader is a minister in a small, schismatic evangelical denomination whose best-known figures epitomize the Christian Right in the U.S.
One of the leaders of the PCA schism was none other than D. James Kennedy, who went on to become one of the leaders of the Christian Right, a leading televangelist and Christian nationalist. As it happens, the IRD related Anglican groups are hard-charging towards schism in the Episcopal Church, and openly schismatic, IRD movements are active in the mainline denominations; United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church in the USA.
So, to summrarize: IRD organizes factions to go the way of PCA; thoughtful people call them on it; and Colson whines that conservatives are being driven out of the churches. (There are people who get paid to write this stuff.)