New Video Exposes the IRD
Steven D. Martin printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Mar 16, 2007 at 12:31:49 PM EST
For a long time I've noticed the destructive work of the IRD, and have long been aware that they were much despised and even feared by UM church leadership. But it seemed far off; I believed it was someone else's problem. I first recognized the divisive work of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) taking root in the United Methodist churches in my part of the country, a mostly rural area couched between the Appalachian and Cumberland mountain ranges of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, at my Annual Conference session last June at Lake Junaluska, NC. When I wrote about my experience here at Talk to Action, ("A Sinister New Wind ") IRD staff attempted to intimidate me. That was when I decided it was my problem, and it was time to take action.
The result is Renewal or Ruin? The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church, a twenty-five minute video created for a Sunday school or adult education class session near you. A trailer for this program can be seen here.

This video was a collaborative effort between persons across a wide theological spectrum -- but we are united on this: the tactics of the IRD are unacceptable in a church whose leadership is elected in open, democratic processes.

Interviewees in this ground breaking film include: Talk to Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson; Columbia University Professor Randall Balmer, United Methodist Bishops Beverly Shamana and Kenneth Carder, Talk to Action writer and prolific author Andrew Weaver; Jim Naughton of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and Jim Winkler of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (an agency the IRD aims to dismantle). Many others served as consultants, critics and advisors as I brought the film to fruition.

This video is a tool that, coupled with enthusiasm and coordinated energy, can have a positive effect on the direction of the church. In the United Methodist Church's annual conference sessions coming up in the next few months, pastors and lay delegates will be electing representatives who will go to General Conference in 2008. General Conference is the main governing body of the UMC. Other denominations will be having similar sessions. This is a key opportunity: working together, we can diminish the influence of divisive, destructive influences from outside our denominations.

The video is formatted for a typical 45 minute class session: the video can be shown with ample time for discussion afterwards. If persons want to learn more, PDF documents (articles written by Andrew Weaver and by Jim Naughton) are included on the data sections of the DVD. This video is the perfect resource for alerting people to the divisive tactics being carried out in our churches.

Also available on our web site are companion study materials: Hardball on Holy Ground, Stephen Swecker, editor, and United Methodism @Risk, by Leon Howell. Copies of these books bundled with the video are available at special prices. Quantity discounts are also available. We recommend that persons purchase multiple copies for distribution at Methodist district ministers' meetings, cluster meetings, to bishops and superintendants, and to conference committees.

Use of this video is an important way we can turn our talk into action! Let's mobilize and get the word out- we can use this resource to open peoples' eyes to the IRD's work toward diminishing the church's social witness.

While the film is focused on the United Methodist Church, it is intended to be accessible to churches of other denominations who have been subject to similar divisive campaigns by the IRD. But since the United Methodist Church has always been my home, it was only natural that I tell the story of the church I know best.

I was baptized in a United Methodist Church, attended Sunday school as a UM, and confirmed when I was in sixth grade. I experienced a life-changing spiritual awakening as a high school senior and can personally relate to John Wesley's "heart strangely warmed." I became a UM pastor in 1989, educated at a UM seminary and eventually ordained an elder, by my bishop, in my home church.

I have often described myself as an evangelical Christian (although I believe such labels fail to package and define God's truth and grace): I believe in the Holy Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, his atoning death and bodily resurrection. I am against abortion. I believe that no person is without sin, and therefore to bar one person from full inclusion in the life of the church, but not another, is wrong. I believe that marriage is between one woman and one man and is a vow made before God for a lifetime. I feel that Christianity exists to change us, to mold us into holy persons; we do not exist to change Christianity to fit our own personal views and whims.

Some find it odd, therefore, that I have produced a video that scrutinizes an organization that claims to defend the very doctrinal standards that define my life as a Christian. I am alarmed less by the IRD's doctrinal positions than I am their tactics and divisive intentions.


  The stated agenda  of the IRD involves tearing at the basic fabric of the United Methodist Church at every level. Through their millions of dollars (most of which are given from outside the UMC), they are able to drive a wedge of doubt and suspicion into our churches and conferences, seemingly for political or financial gain. It is not my intent to critique the IRD's beliefs and the doctrines it claims to advocate, but its tactics in doing so. The integrity of the church will not be strengthened when a self-appointed group of mostly non-United Methodists follows a strategy of "divide and conquer."
 

By producing this video I hope to draw us into a new, civil discussion about our branch of Christ's church, its past, and its future. I hope Talk to Action serves as a starting point for a broad debate about the role of the IRD in our church's life. The debate will no doubt be passionate, but let us, as the Church for whom Christ died, love each other in the midst of it.

Steven D. Martin
Producer/Director




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We are honored that you are including us in the conversation.

A certain amount of tension is normal in democratic polities. What is different here are that outside interests are bankrolling external efforts to manipulate the internal affairs of the denominations -- with covert actions and fomenting discontent and division where ever they can.

Non-Methodists and non-Christians need to take a look at what the IRD is doing to these democratically run, international religious communions that have been at the center of American life and culture for hundreds of years, and ask, who benefits from IRD's activities?

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Mar 16, 2007 at 09:43:52 PM EST


My feeling is that the IRD likes to exist in the shadows of apathy: they gain strength by playing on the fears of lay people that the church hierarchy wants to "take away their Jesus."  But most people don't have the time or energy to look behind the curtain to see how they're being manipulated against the very leadership they elected.  

I hope this video will shine some light on this problem and energize people to find a positive solution.  

by Steven D. Martin on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 06:59:45 AM EST


Bravo, this is excellent work and well-timed.

Have you thought about putting it up on YouTube.

by PlantingLiberally on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 04:52:05 PM EST


I'd really love to see the trailer but the link doesn't work.

by mkerby on Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 10:09:43 AM EST


by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 10:28:53 AM EST
Parent


I have often described myself as an evangelical Christian (although I believe such labels fail to package and define God's truth and grace): I believe in the Holy Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, his atoning death and bodily resurrection. I am against abortion.

by liaozhi123 on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 10:46:38 PM EST


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