IRD memo as evidence of Conspiracy
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 12:51:24 PM EST
Over the next few weeks, I want to focus attention on an internal document of the Institute on Religion and Democracy called "Reforming America's Churches Project: 2001 -2004 Executive Summary."

Written in 2001, this document reads like a grant application from the IRD to their benefactors. It is a request for $3.6 million to fund their mission. They believe "that the next four years offer a rare opportunity to redirect these churches away from their reflexive alliance with the political left and back towards classical Christianity." It is a document that gives us great insight into the machinations, intentions, and orchestrations of the IRD.

I have written lately about the various trips I have taken in response to Steeplejacking - a book I co-wrote with my colleague Rev. Sheldon Culver based on our experiences with churches who have been targeted by trained activists deployed to foment dissent and to drive a wedge of separation between their members and the wider church. To make my case, I bring only two documents with me.

The first is a letter written in 1982 by then President of the United Church of Christ Avery Post warning the denomination about the IRD, imploring them not to wait for this organization to launch its attacks in our local congregations. The second is this Executive Summary.

Sheldon and I are often called `Conspiracy Theorists' - a derisive term when used by our detractors who intend to discredit our research and diminish the impact of our message.

We have come to embrace the term: it is exactly what we are. We are not shy about it anymore. There is a conspiracy to dismantle our churches, to demoralize our denominational leaders, and to diminish the impact of the voice of social conscience, moderation, and liberality that has come to characterize much of Protestant Christianity throughout the history of America.

At any of the public hearings I conduct about this, the simple recitation of tactics outlined in the document I have discovered to be quite sufficient to make the case of conspiracy. I will use the next few weeks to share the content of this document with you.

First, in order to theorize about a conspiracy, there must be partners willing to ally themselves with one another as co-conspirators. Let's take the opportunity today to name and identify them. (In the coming days, we will also need to identify their common goal, in other words that which compels them to ally themselves with one another against a common enemy or target; their tactics, strategies, and tools of implementation; their end game).

There are a number of places in this internal document that name those with whom the IRD will form an alliance. At the top of the second page, we see this:

Grassroots Expansion -- IRD's three denominational committees are Episcopal Action, United Methodist Action and Presbyterian Action. All three empower conservative church members with reporting about their church structure that they will not otherwise hear. IRD is giving special attention to reform of the United Methodist Church, America's third largest religious body, and the largest denomination under Religious Left control. UM Action Briefing currently goes to 275,000 households. Its circulation is expected to be over 500,000 by the start of 2004. Episcopal Action places a key role in the American Anglican Council, an alliance of nearly all the conservative Episcopal renewal groups. Presbyterian Action operates within the Presbyterian renewal movement as a source of proposals to restructure church agencies and re-orient their social message. The circulation for Episcopal Action and Presbyterian Action should grown from 8,000 to 36,000 in the next four years.

They are naming at this point three of their own committees, each of which has a network of allied individuals who are empowered by them "with reporting about their church structure that they will not otherwise hear." Please make note of the kinds of numbers they have and intend to build into their network.

This would be consistent with our own experience. In every church in which we enter, we discover a group of people who call themselves a "Research Committee." Their responsibility is to uncover the untold truth about the denomination, and their reports are derivations on the same theme: the evil liberals have stolen the denomination. The origins of these reports are always left unnamed, and met the almost universal response: "we downloaded them from the internet."

Just two paragraphs further into the document, we read this:

Association for Church Renewal/Next Generation Project -- We are a chief organizer of this coalition of conservative/evangelical renewal groups in all the major mainline churches. The association allows us to synchronize strategies across denominational lines and to counteract the influence of liberal ecumenical groups, such as the National and World Councils of Churches. Key to the longer-range success of the church reform movement is recruiting a younger generation of reformers. The IRD has the experience, expertise, connections and vision to recruit and train young church members for this task.

Pay attention to that opening statement: "We are a chief organizer of this coalition..." Many renewalists make the claim that they have no connection to the IRD, or that the connection does not manifest itself in any tangible way. Here, though, the IRD states clearly that they are a chief organizer of this `coalition' (their language.) Further, as we have long argued and the co-conspirators have long denied, they write that this Association "allows us to synchronize strategies across denominational lines." To find out who these renewalists are that have allied themselves in order to synchronize their strategies across denominational lilnes, check out the IRD website page that lists them, and come back in the following weeks to read more about what this alliance creates for  their trained activists.
NO, there is no conspiracy here! Again, in their own words, the IRD has the "experience, expertise, connections, and vision to recruit and train..."

Recruit and train: next week I want simply to track the use of that latter verb throughout this document - train. It is important we do that, since one of the primary roles of the IRD is to train activists (their language) to be deployed in out local churches.

For now, though, let me restate the case clearly and succinctly: this is a conspiracy. An alliance has been formed between the IRD and renewal groups deployed in all of the major Protestant denominations. Their goal is to diminish, demoralize, and demean them.

Clearly, this is the executive summary of a request for long term funding. IRD has never denied the authenticity of the document on which a fair amount of reporting has been based.

Also, the conspiracy you point to is not a theory, it's a fact.  One of the things I say when skeptics of this or that use the "conspiracy theory" charge, is to simply point out that every group or coalition of groups makes plans. Sometimes they are secret, or at least not publicly known.  

It is absurd to say that the IRD and the related renewal groups have not made plans, some of them secret or at least not public.  Indeed, we know a fair amount about the plans and activities of the IRD and its affiliates, the pooh poohers not withstanding.

The document you reference above is certainly proof of IRD's intentions on many aspects of what we have been talking about for so long, even if it doesn't lay out the entire plan, and is a few years old now.

This is significant because the intentions of groups and individuals are not always easy to prove. Those who are well-informed about the divisive fights in their denominations over the past few years can now see an important part of what has been driving them, if they choose to.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 02:10:23 PM EST

Calling it a 'memo' is taking this a bit too lightly. This is an eleven page document which, as you say, makes it ever so clear what the INTENTIONS are. This document - which came late to my attention, in other words after all of my own theories about the conspiracies had been developed and after I had been accused over and over again of not having any proof (only that which I witnessed first hand in my own churches) - supports every facet of the theory we deduced at the end of our research into these dynamics. It truly does amount to proof - which is why it is the only document I need bring with me (save the letter from Avery Post) when I present our case to the public. It alone suffices.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 09:03:06 PM EST

Clear, concise analysis like this greatly helps all of us who are working to shine light on the IRD's intent to harm the mainline churches.  I look forward to hearing more in this series, and will incorporate this into my work also.

by Steven D. Martin on Tue Oct 16, 2007 at 09:33:08 PM EST


It seems you are making the case that since the IRD says they are the coordinator of these efforts, it should be believed.  And that groups involved "with reporting about their church structure that they (parishioners) will not otherwise hear." are formally allied with the IRD.

Or is "formally allied" too strong?  And is there another way to characterize that relationship?

I would agree that groups which publish unflattering, critical and otherwise unknown flaws and failings of their denomination are doing part of what the IRD wants done.  But a conspiracy means more than just this, doesn't it.  Isn't the implication in "conspiracy" that of communication, of talking together, intentionally coordinating efforts?  

I don't think you'd assert that any critic of the UCC is informed, manipulated, in communication with or otherwise allied with the IRD just because they are doing some ofwhat the IRD thinks ought to be done, would you?

I know this may be irritating, but I don't mean it to be.  I am not someone who dismisses your efforts though some of my cyber-friends do.  I want to press you on making your case as firmly and objectively as is possible so that those who are less willing (as opposed to those flatly unwilling) might hear.

And maybe the response to this is simply "stay turned, Don."

p.s. I can't find a list on the IRD site.

by Don Niederfrank on Wed Oct 17, 2007 at 09:27:21 AM EST

You write:

"Isn't the implication in "conspiracy" that of communication, of talking together, intentionally coordinating efforts?"

How else do you interpret the following:
"We are a chief organizer of this coalition of conservative/evangelical renewal groups in all the major mainline churches"

And the very next sentence:
"The association allows us to synchronize strategies across denominational lines"

'Synchronizing strategies'; 'chief organizers'; 'all the major denominations' - that is conspiratorial language. Am I arguing that every person who attacks, criticizes, or disparages the denomination or its leaders or knowingly involved in this conspiracy? No. Am I arguing that regardless of their level of knowledge or intent they are influenced by, and indirectly complicitous with, the more willing conspiratorialists? Yes, for some of the material that they discover or download or have unwittingly sent to them was produced by those synchronizing their strategies across denominational lines.

As for the list: when you open the IRD website, scroll down about 2/3 of the way down the page and in the left hand margin you will see a menu option for ACR - click on that and it opens a page for the Association for Church Renewal, and in the center of the page, mayber two inches down from the top, will be a series of highlighted choices, one of which is 'member organizations.' Click on that, and you will see a list of the current IRD allied Renewal Movements.

And, finally, yes - I am going to say 'stay tuned' - over the next few weeks, I will be highighting the language from the IRD document.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 09:14:40 AM EST

My doubt--and it is doubt not outright disbelief--is in the source of those words you quote, i.e. a 5 y.o. fund-raising letter from a disreputable organization.

I have no doubt that the IRD has been working in the three denominations it has targeted.

I've posted a response to BWF's affiliation with Association For Church Renewal which seems to be closely tied to the IRD.  My response in part--
This may be one of the stupidest things BWF has done...  Whatever nefarious purposes would-be-warriors want to attribute to this misguided group, this reduces their credibility with folks like me, and contrary to public portrayal, we are legion in the UCC.  And we do write checks.

I think I am most saddened for some of the good-hearted folk I know in the BWF and for a denomination, which at least nominally, seeks to be "united and uniting..."

Staying tuned...

by Don Niederfrank on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 11:26:45 AM EST

There is no doubt about the aunthenticity of this document. Have you followed the link and read the document yourself? That would help. In the coming weeks, I will continue to refer to it, so it would be a great help to actually download it yourself, print a copy, and read through it.

To their credit, early on the Faithful and Welcoming group was called on the carpet for their alliance with the IRD (unlie the BWF, they actually had a direct link from their website to the IRD's) and immediately, at least publicly, broke that tie.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 11:05:07 AM EST

UCC Truths is not on the list on the IRD's ACR page.  Has it recently been removed?

by Rusty Pipes on Fri Oct 26, 2007 at 04:55:27 AM EST
BFW is, as is another UCC group. But not UCC Truths.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 08:53:42 PM EST

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