IRD Document as Evidence of Conspiracy, Part II
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 03:20:41 PM EST
Last week, I began a series of articles I will present referring to a document written by the Institute on Religion and Democracy to their benefactors, and requesting $3.6 million over the next four years in order to fund their "total program for influencing the governing church conventions of three denominations."

This week, I want to begin to both look at and to question some of the chosen tactics of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

As we begin this part of the examination, I want to point out that a number of allies in this dialogue are reiterating - often - that we have no proof of what we write. I have just as often responded by saying what we have is a preponderance of evidence that supports a theory which, after years of research and experience, was postulated.

Many will recall the first lessons from grade-school about the scientific methodology: you collect data and evidence, you develop an hypothesis, and you conduct tests, experiments, and trials to determine the veracity of your hypothesis. Each successive test or experiment provides you with a whole new field of data that either continues to support the hypothesis which you believe best explains the phenomenon you are studying, or it disproves the hypothesis. Not you, but the audience to whom you present your data, will try to replicate the data and eventually the hypotehsis - by both consensus, and trial and error - reaches the lofty status of theory.

Important in this process is the essential notion that those testing the results remain completely neutral. Bias in either the execution of the test, the recording of the data, or the interpretation of the results taints the process and compromises the results.

What I have been doing for years is collecting data. Some of it is anecdotal, and it is the result of the access my position with the Conference affords me into the inner life and operations of hundreds of local congregations. Some of it is statistical, actually tracking the effects of trained activists on membership and financial contributions. Some of it is deductive - observational analysis collected from hundreds of visits during which consistent patterns emerge.  Some of it is product - the collecting of materials used and circulated in churches where disruptions occur.

After years of collecting data - an hypothesis was postulated, long before we knew of the existence of the IRD, and of its association with our own renewal groups; long before we knew of the existence of renewal groups outside of our denomination; and long before we knew of the intimate relationships that had been formed by our renewal groups with other renewal groups THROUGH the IRD. The hypothesis was, in its infancy, close to something like this: someone outside of these churches is feeding them information and coaching them around tactics of disruption and abuse.

That is an hypothesis. It was born of deductive reasoning, research, and hands on experience. Everything we have done since then has been dedicated to the effort of testing the veracity of it. We continue to collect evidence. We have read the works of others who have shared their own writings about this. We have continued to study very closely the work, the writings, and the reactions of the IRD and their allied partners in the renewal movement. We publish very openly and very publicly our results.

That  disinterested and affected parties confirm our results and affirms our hypothesis is a reality that is getting us very close in many objective circles - not just within the church - to the standard of a recognized theory. That those about whom we write, and whom we identify as co-conspirators, discredit our work is not to be considered as evidence of anything other than support of the hypothesis. In fact, when the IRD, the BWF, and UCCTruths all choose the same response, it only confirms, it only offers more credible evidence, to support the hypothesis we are postulating. This week, all three of those sites have an article posted arguing that I say I have no proof.

So, now that we understand the method of developing an hypothesis toward a theory, let me continue with the IRD document  REFORMING AMERICA?S CHURCHES PROJECT: 2001-2004 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.

"We will annually prepare resolutions for local and regional church conventions."

Now remember that last week, in the paragraph preceding this statement, we found this:

"The association allows us to synchronize strategies across denominational lines."

I am going to stop here this week, and refer to nothing more than this. We have pages to go in this document, and it will take time to point out all of what is written there, and name as we do so the phenomena we encounter in local churches that come as a result of what is written.

"We will annually prepare resolutions for local and regional church conventions."

Do you understand what this reveals? The IRD, a group funded by the likes of Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon-Scaife, Olin Brown, Howard Ahmanson and others is synchronizing strategies across denominational lines, and a large piece of that synchronizing is their preparing resolutions to be presented in our local and regional church conventions.

Remember, our hypothesis about interference from outside agitators preceded by years our awareness of the IRD. It preceded by even more time our awareness of the IRD's alliance with not only our, but all renewal groups. And it preceded by even more time our awareness of this document.

How was it that following 2001, local churches in the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ et. al. ALL had local churches and regional conventions considering resolutions on human sexuality and marriage equality? Perhaps it was coincidence. But here's another thought: perhaps it was an organization with trained activists (their language - wait for another article on this one, or find it yourself in the document I have cited) who have allied themselves with an organization designed to synchronize strategies across denominational lines and that will annually prepare for them resolutions for local and regional church conventions.

I can hear our detractors now: we need more proof. After all, it doesn't say in the document that we will prepare annual resolutions on marriage equality. Well, yes it does. Let me help here (and this will be the subject of a future article):

The IRD identifies issues around which is organizes.

IRD will place a strong priority on defending marriage and family and opposing the legitimization of sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage.

IRD will continue to expose the pro-homosexual bias of mainline church agencies that want to disregard the official teachings of their churches.

Beginning in 2001, we will emphasize training conservatives and moderates for the debates on marriage and human sexuality. We intend to conduct invitation-only training seminars and consultations for church leader, covering biblical, theological, scientific, psychological and sociological aspects of human sexuality. Participants will develop pro-marriage arguments for discussions in churches in the civil society, including effective media strategies. Our trainees will promote our legislation at their local and regional church conventions in preparation for the larger battles at national church conventions in 2001-2004.

This started out as an hypothesis. It is much more than that by now. There is no disputing that the IRD has aligned and allied itself with our renewal groups. Evidence is mounting that proves that the relationship manifests itself in by-product experienced first-hand in our congregations - many of which saw on the floor of their annual meetings, local and regional, resolutions addressing marriage equality prepared for them by these agencies who have synchronized their strategies across denominational lines.

And while we are at it, ask yourself the question why? Why is this agency funded by those whom I have already named, and populated by the likes of seven Roman Catholics (nothing wrong with Roman Catholocism, but how many of their boards have 33% membership from Protestant organizations who are telling them what their theology is and writing resolutions for them), the wife of failed Supreme Court nominee Judge  Robert Bork, pop culture critic and wag Micheal Medved - why are they writing OUR resolutions for us? What theological training do any of them have that qualifies them to write resolutions for UCC, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and other denominations? What polity did they create that affords them that kind of accessibility in our regional and congregational governing boards and conventions?

Of course, I have no proof. Damn.

Is it legal for a nonprofit organization to deliberately take actions to interfere with, or change the direction of, another nonprofit organization?

Are the clergy in these denominations aware of what's going on? Are they making their parishioners aware of it?

What action can we take against groups like the IRD beyond simply exposing their activities? Is anyone researching whether they are breaking any laws?

by unworthy on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 03:52:19 PM EST

and I'm not an attorney. The question you ask about influencing another not-for-profit is a legal question I can't answer, though I know of many not for profits whose sole reason for existing is built around influence, so I can't imagine that there would be any legal prohibitions like that.

The purpose of this site, and the book I have written, Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, are an attempt to inform not only clergy but everyone about these dynamics. We have had training events with our clergy several times just on this subject matter, using people like Fred Clarkson of this site, Andrew Weaver, and Michelle Goldberg - among others.

Fred Clarkson himself can better answer the last question - he has been tracking them since the early 80s when David Jessup was at the helm, and has some very good thoughts about this very matter. We are not aware of any illegal activities, but are trying very hard to show financial connections to Mainstream religious bodies who deny that they get anything from the IRD, but who have very intimate connections with them.
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 05:02:15 PM EST

A HYPOTHESIS is postulated, and after repeated testing until the hypothesis is accepted as valid by the specialists in that field- it then reaches the lofty status of a THEORY.

We (scientists and science teachers) have to fight all the time against the misuse of theory and hypothesis.  Hypothesis in essence means "an idea that can be tested", while theory means "an idea that has been repeatedly tested (and tested and tested and tested...) until it's considered valid and testing is no longer considered necessary."  These are the scientific meanings and what we mean when we use  the words.

You don't know how many times students have tried the "it's just A THEORY!" argument against evolution.  This is a total misunderstanding of the meaning of the word as used by science.

Oh, and by the way- there is no "proof" or "proved" in science, only "supported" or "disproved".  It's a specific way of thinking that is quite literally a thought tool.  

These definitions are VERY important, especially in the fight against creation science and "Intelligent Design".

- From someone who helps to teach archaeology and earns part of his living "doing" science...

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 10:51:47 PM EST

Otherwise... excellent post!!!!

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 10:52:18 PM EST
Thank you for this very important correction. I will edit my text accordingly. Degrees in both Philosophy and Theology have rendered my early science vocabulary somewhat rusty.
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 Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 08:51:55 AM EST
of one of the things we seek to do with this blog. We learn, and we learn in the open. We are dealing with a lot of complicated material and learning to present it clearly and well is an ongoing task.  

As a group, I think we are doing better all the time. We get interesting feedback about facts, ideas, words, phrasings and analysis, and we simply learn from each other's examples as well.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 04:12:10 PM EST

I've had a few of my errors corrected,  a few disagreements (that didn't end in rancorous language), as well as receiving reassurance which is something I often need.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 05:37:12 PM EST

RICO.  The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

by Browsercat on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 01:58:58 AM EST
I will go online and read what I can about RICO, but if you have some thought about how it applies, share more here and I will follow up on that.
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 Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 09:00:42 AM EST

Why don't you do something about it? Namely, why don't you create a similar organization to infiltrate and rip apart conservative churches? There are lots of them and they have tons of money. Right now, the IRD has nothing to lose. Whether they succeed or fail to destroy a particular denomination, they haven't really risked anything. However, if they thought conservative churches would be similarly attacked, they might think twice before proceeding. If you can't do this, then I question the whole conspiracy theory. After all, you should be equally able to damage their churches as they are able to damage yours, unless there really are far more conservative Christians in your denominations than you realize. If you can do it but won't, you deserve to lose your churches because you won't fight for them. I disagree with almost everything conservatives believe, but I'll say one thing for them, they fight. And they'll use any means available to get what they want. And I'm not suggesting you do anything illegal. You said yourself that what the IRD is doing is legal.

by Dave on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 10:57:05 PM EST
It's been at least five years since I've heard this but there used to be quite a bit of conversation about a conspiracy among the leadership of the UCC to drive out conservative persons and congregations.  One could then, and probably even now, if one were selective enough about the data make a pretty good case for such a belief.

Fortunately, there have been some concerted efforts on the parts of mid-judicatory and Conference level staff to counter this.  Not enough to complete dispell the belief, but enough to shorten its legs.

by Don Niederfrank on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 05:07:02 PM EST

First, Dave, all due respect, but that can never happen. If we don't infiltrate their churches and fight the way they do, then no conspiracy exists? I fail to see even a shred of logic in that. There is absolutely no way we are going to do as you suggest. Far from being proof of the conspiracy, it would be for me the heighth of hypocrisy for me to write about how wrong those tactics are, and then to deploy them myself. In addition, there is nothing inherent in progressive Christianity that provides a conceptual or philosophical foundation upon which such an attack could take place. Progressive Christianity espouses a very free, laissez faire attitude that has at its core tolerance, diversity, and pluralism. That someone believes differently than we do never induces in us a desire to eliminate them or see them as a threat. Within fundamentalist Christianity there is such foundation: just read Ann Rose's article on this site citing Matthew Trewhella's e-mail blaming the California wildfires on homosexuals, and reminding us that Jerry Falwell did the same thing when we were attacked on 9/11. There is something inherent in that theological presuppostion that compels them to attack those whose think differently. The conspiracy about which I write simply could not exist on the left without a complete abandonment of their core beliefs, values, and priniciples; while on the right, it is an extension and logical end to their core beliefs, values and principles.

Don, you should know better. Your tacit agreement with this statement is beneath you; and your subtle attack on the denominational leaders is inexcusable. No such 'conspiracy' in the United Church of Christ exists, or existed. If it does, do what I do: tell me who, tell me what. And don't tell me you know of conservative pastors who have been disciplined or who have lost their standing in the UCC. Guess what? So have some very liberal pastors. And no one loses their standing or is disciplined because they are conservative. Discipline is about behavior, not belief.  
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 Fri Oct 26, 2007 at 08:22:10 AM EST

Dave, all due respect again, but I have - and I do. I have written every week on this site. I have written a book. I have travelled the length, breadth, and width of this land teaching and talking about this phenomenon. I have led classes for churches, for pastors, for judicatory officers, and for the general public. I have developed reactive and proactive strategies for churches and pastors to insulate and innoculate themselves from attack. I have walked directly into the fire over and over and over again and faced our attackers, and helped church after church after church reclaim their identity. That I refuse to abandon my principles and become myself a
'trained activist', a conspriatorialist, and a clandestine, undercover 'soldier in the army of Christ' is not proof that a conspiratorial attack against us does not exist - but of my, our, integrity.
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 Fri Oct 26, 2007 at 08:28:57 AM EST

Reread this--
It's been at least five years since I've heard this but there used to be quite a bit of conversation about a conspiracy among the leadership of the UCC to drive out conservative persons and congregations.  One could then, and probably even now, if one were selective enough about the data make a pretty good case for such a belief.

Let me be clear(er).

I posted that only to make the case that absurd conspiracies can be constructed and supported by selective data and believed by those who are comforted by such belief because it makes them victims of malice.  I never thought such a conspiracy was true at any level.  After all, I've pastored with Scott Libbey, Fred Trost, and now, Dave Moyer as Conference Ministers!

But it is because of the believability of attractive conspiracies or the (chosen?)gullibility of all of us, that I am always pressing you and Sheldon to move your case from hypothesis to supported theory and to be as concrete and objective about that support as possible.  And to make clear distinction between what is KNOWN to be true and what APPEARS to be true.

I also understand that I'm in the minority.  I think there is no shortage of liberal/progressive folks who are quite willing to beleive the worst of conservatives in the UCC.  (I don't think I need to go on once again as to what degree of anathema I believe this is to who we are called to be as a denomination.)  If there is a fight within the UCC to be waged, if there is malice to be confronted, if there is divisiveness to be risked, I believe we are obligated to make sure that such actions are absolutely necessary as they are absolutely contrary to our founding vision.

p.s. Thanks for seeing this as 'beneath me'.  'Tis. :-)

by Don Niederfrank on Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 08:17:35 AM EST

And it may be partially my fault. I didn't say, "if you don't" , I said, "if you CAN'T" do what they do, there's no conspiracy, or there's a weakness in the liberal churches that doesn't exist in the conservative ones. It's reasonable that if they can rip apart progressive churches with these tactics, you should be able to do the same to conservative churches, even if you're not willing to be so slimy. That's all I'm saying. As an organist in an Episcopal church, I know all about the conservative attack machine. But I can't help wondering if the reason these attacks are often successful is simply because these churches are so susceptible. Germs do cause disease, but a susceptible host is just as essential. You'll come in contact with dozens of germs today that could make you sick. But if you're healthy, your body will fight them off so quickly and easily that you won't even know you were exposed to them. I submit that you consider the possibility that the IRD etc are relatively weak germs, and that the real problem is a very poor state of health for progressive denominations. In an age where more and more people are turning to religion, progressive churches are struggling to survive, with small congregations that can barely meet their budgets. Meanwhile, conservative megachurches preaching prosperity gospels and/or hate messages are springing up everywhere with thousands of members and millions of dollars. Progressive Christianity is failing on all fronts. They are so disorganized and ineffective that most non Christians don't even know there are progressive Christians. I'm convinced that if progressive churches were healthy, with large congregations, strong finances, good organization, and a firm commitment to their progressive values, the attacks from the conservatives would be a minor annoyance rather than a serious threat.

by Dave on Fri Oct 26, 2007 at 11:24:41 PM EST
Dave. I still fail to see the logic, whether the verb is won't or can't. To use your analogy of germs and host bodies, you are arguing that unless the healthy host body CAN'T become a germ itself, there is no such thing as a germ. I also disagree with your metaanalysis of present day Christianity. Conservative and liberal churches are struggling to maintain their budgets and memberships, while large churches that are exploding everywhere are both liberal and conservative (in our family, I would name Hope church in Dallas with 12,000 plus members and Trinity in Chicago with 10,000 plus). And I would also argue that the vast majority of healthy churches all over this country, liberal and conservative, are somewhere between 150 - 500 members: small to medium sized churches who are healthy, whole, and vital. I can also cite a variety of churches with less than 100 members who are also healthy, vital, and secure. Size is not an indicator of health and vitality - vision, mission, and purpose are.

Liberal, progressive churches need to take steps NOT to develop and practice the clandestine attack manuevers that some on the radical right have deployed (the germs you refer to), but simply - as I have been saying all along - to immunize themselves from attacks when they emerge on the scene.
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 Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 10:08:47 AM EST

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