United Methodist Reporter Reviews "Renewal or Ruin?"
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 11:14:53 PM EST
The United Methodist Reporter, a national independent weekly, has published a thoughtful and positive review of Steven D. Martin's new film, Renewal or Ruin? The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church
The film's history is very much entwined with that of Talk to Action.  Steve wrote:  
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.

Talk to Action contributor Andrew Weaver and I are also interviewed in the film, and join Steve and Talk to Action's John Dorhauer as members of the speakers bureau established to provide additional expertise, and lead discussions of the film for conferences and film showings.

Here are a few excerpts:

A new documentary offers some insights into an organization that some United Methodists say is trying to disrupt and even dismantle mainline denominations.

Renewal or Ruin? The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church is a 24-minute film available on DVD from Vital Visuals, an independent film production company headed by ordained United Methodist minister Steven D. Martin....

The documentary would have been more effective had it included some rebuttal from IRD staffers, or perhaps some interviews with United Methodist laypersons who have heard about the IRD.

Nevertheless, it does provide some interesting observations. ...

United Methodists will find it interesting to hear the experience of several church leaders who have felt targeted by the IRD.

Retired Bishop Kenneth Carder says he has had "considerable experience" in dealing with the IRD, and adds the organization should be exposed for how it has "siphoned away some of the energy of the church, how it causes a kind of unnecessary dissension, and how it often manipulates a controversy for the purpose of a political, or an ideological or perhaps a financial agenda."

The organization's fund-raising letters, Bishop Carder says, are designed in such a way as to "foster a sense of crisis" over some hot-button issue and intimidate church leaders. "Many are afraid to speak out because they don't want their name to appear in one of the articles or Web sites, particularly to be labeled as unpatriotic or un-American or as a political radical," he says.

Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and a frequent target of the IRD, says he believes the IRD wants to "strike a blow at some important social justice struggles in this country," including mainline denominations that have supported advances in civil rights, women's rights and anti-war efforts.

"They'll never, ever say a positive word," he said. "I can't remember ever reading a positive word the IRD has said about me, much less about the United Methodist Church."

Bishop Beverly Shamana (San Francisco Area), who is president of the General Board of Church and Society, says it's the IRD's potential effect on church-goers that disturbs her.

"They really dismantle the purpose and high calling of the church in such a way that it does create suspicion, and causes in people of good heart and goodwill to really question the ministry and mission of the United Methodist Church-and that bothers me."

Read the whole review here.

...well, because of the separation of State and church, these issues could be treated like "industrial espionage" and "racketeering". A Catch-22: the IRD is protected by the First Amendment provisions and can dismantle other mainstream religions with impunity. The only way around it is for government to overstep their bounds and investigate/prosecute IRD and so save Methodism, Episcopalianism, et.al.! As an atheist, even I was appalled when I looked deeper into IRD. What arrogance! And they haven't the shame to hide their machinations... Too bad the IRD can't be infiltrated!

by Naomi on Sat May 12, 2007 at 03:56:39 PM EST

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