A Calculated Risk Pays Off
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 01, 2007 at 11:44:14 AM EST
I have been writing on this site for some time now, reporting about experiences that I have had as a middle judicatory officer of my denomination, describing first hand the results of sustained attacks on many of our congregations.

I have been in this office for well over four years now. My colleague on staff, The Rev. Sheldon Culver, and I made a conscious decision and took a calculated risk over three years ago: we would begin to refocus our attention on these attacks, learn as much as we could about them, and report everything we found out on as wide a scale as we possibly could.

This was a very new strategic development for officers of a denomination to take, and indeed somewhat of a risk. I want to briefly reflect some three or four years into this experiment what we are now experiencing as a result of this.

In the last month, three events have occurred which have prompted pastors in my Conference and Association (the United Church of Christ is divided geographically into Associations, which band together to form a larger geographic entity known as a Conference: I have judicatory responsibilities for the former primarily, but for the latter to some extent as well). Each event prompted responses from local church pastors, and raised for them a question about the role, the purpose, and the intentions of those responsible.

The first event came through the offices of the Institute on Religion and  Democracy. All of the pastors in my judicatory area were sent, at the expense of the IRD, a copy of a book entitled "Islamic Imperialism." On the title page is a very simple statement that reads: "This copy provided to you compliments of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Washington D.C." They had no idea why the IRD would go to the great expense of sending them a copy of THIS book, and quite honestly, neither do I. But that is not the point. The point is within a week, no fewer than a dozen of my pastors called to inform me about this latest gambit of the IRD, and asking about their intentions. Shortly thereafter, I received similar questions and messages from pastors in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oregon, California, Washington, New York and other places addressing the same questions.

A week later, one of the emerging renewal movements within the United Church of Christ - Faithful and Welcoming - sent a brochure out to churches across the denomination inviting everyone to a series of  `Healthy Church' workshops they are holding across the country. Again, within a week more than a dozen pastors were on the phone with me asking about the event, and making sure that their judicatory office was formulating a response to these invitations.

And finally, a pastor from a church in a far region of the Conference called me last week to share with me concerns about a member who had shown up from another church in the Conference. Something in his demeanor set alarm bells off for her, and she called to ask questions about `activists' - suspecting he might be one. It turns out he is coming to her from a church that voted to leave the denomination - and she has reasons to be suspicious. While he may be completely innocent of any nefarious intentions, she is wise to approach with some healthy caution.

All of this is to say that things have changed a lot in our neck of the woods. The calculated risk we took three years ago to address this problem directly, and to safeguard our churches from those with less than honorable intentions is paying off. Three years ago no one knew who the IRD was; no one knew what a church activist was; no one was ready to believe that their church could be targeted for attack; no one had any idea what to do if in fact their church was embroiled in the aftermath of a sustained attack.

Today, much of that has changed. Through concerted efforts and training, through articles, events, and even now a book soon to be released, our pastors not only know what to look for, they know whom to call about it. They are empowered to act, trained to interpret, and equipped to defend their church from inappropriate outside influence and nefarious attack.  

And these are only the first fruits of what we hope will be a paradigm shift in understanding what is going on and what can be done about it. After concerted efforts and countless personal attempts, I am happy to report that not one single church in the entire Conference in which I reside has signed on to be a part of the Faithful and Welcoming movement. I am happy to report that every church they called in my Association to host their `Healthy  Church' workshops refused to give them access to their space.

The strategies, deemed very risky just three years ago, are paying huge dividends. It is high time judicatory officers rethink the way we have dealt with our attackers and deploy new and more effective strategies for thwarting attempts to do us in.


We're on the same page re. the IRD.  What's your problem with F&W beyond doctinal differences?  

You're not assuming anyone critical of our leadership or GS's is anti-UCC or something are you?

Are any efforts at renewal or reform trustworthy?

by Don Niederfrank on Tue May 01, 2007 at 04:47:06 PM EST

but, of course, I think there is.

However, Don, I have to admit that all these reformers seem to be clear that they want to "reform" people like me right out of the denomination--a UCC clergy who happens to be gay.

And the reason I say this is because I sat across two wonderful, good men, who are very much aligned with the beliefs of F&W, and one of which is already formally aligned with the movement...and I asked them both, in front of other clergy, whether or not if they and others would have a place at the table for me, if people like them happened to be in control of our association's Church & Ministry committee.  Both of them would not answer me, and could barely look me in the face.  

Both of these men are good people, who honestly disagree with me on this issue--one of them even had the integrity to tell me that they abstained from the vote that granted me "privilege of call" in the UCC, and he was authentically conflicted, because I think he saw some obvious gifts and passions I have for the church.  The other F&W clergy once came up to me to even ask me about a gay relative who was seeking to adopt children, and whether I had any information about that procedure.  These are not bad, evil, people--I know that.  But its odd how they can personally be so kind and good (authentically so, I believe in my heart), and still want people like me not to be included at their clergy table.  

So, I have limited sympathy for reform movements, because I know those reform movements are about rolling up the welcome mat to clergy like me, to denying my congregation the ability to send one of their gay or lesbian children through the UCC towards ordination and service.    

You know, for me, there is no other choice...I cannot serve with integrity and openly in any other mainline denomination other than the UCC.  Both of those good men could serve anywhere, by virtue of their clean pastoral records, no criminal record, some knowledge of the tradition they are going into...and their heterosexuality.  If these reform movements succeed, it will be people like me who pay dearly, as well as those congregations in the UCC who want the best UCC clergy possible, regardless of who they happen to fall in love with.  

by PastorKev on Tue May 01, 2007 at 05:45:53 PM EST

As I said when invited to speak at the annual meeting of Faithful and Welcoming last Sep., much of what they have done to this point has been experienced by the wider body as less than covenantal. In the brochure they produced and handed out on their recruiting tours last spring, it was stated the the "delegates to General Synod 25 declared their independence from the teachings of Jesus." They have asked churches to defund OCWM. They have direct connections to the IRD, though they have for a long time denied these. They have expressed over and over again that their 'welcoming' attitude and posture is not for any church or member who believes themself to be Open and Affirming. At their convention last year, they strategized about how to rid the UCC of gays and lesbians and/or help them through some sort of reparative therapy. Any group whose sole focus and reason for being is not to reform a church, but to rid it of undesirables (gays and lexbians) is not going to be perceived as a partner who simply wants to bring change - or to renew a church. They focus on what is only a small - granted, significant nonetheless - but small part of who we are as a church, blow that up into the only thing that matters, and seek to rid the church of what they see as its scourge. And because this is a matter that cannot be negotiated, they find themselves in the untenable position not of trying to renew this church, but detsroying it.
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 May 02, 2007 at 09:02:41 AM EST

I'm not sure this is the place for our discussion.  Fred can weigh in on that.  I'll be as brief as I can.
I read the responses you post as being more welcoming than you but certainly not extravagent.  What I hear from the conservative side is the same sense of being drummed out by the leadership and fellow clergy as well.
What I am slooooowly learning is that there is a difference between telling someone their doctrine is in error and telling someone an integral part of their self is in error.
Be that as it may, I have found the F&W folk to be far more welcoming than BWF, but I attribute a lot of BWF's stridency to its leadership.
Anyway, if you'd like to carry this on on the UCC site I'd be glad for your participation in the forums.  (Unless you're already there and mind 60s addled mind does realize it. :-))
My thing is unity--www.uccunity.org

by Don Niederfrank on Tue May 01, 2007 at 07:19:39 PM EST
Hey Don,

Yep, I think Fred will kick us off, if that is the case.  

Been to www.uccunity.org a few times before, but most of what I find there is desire for the Synod to "shut up" on controversial things, so we can be seemingly less divided...but, of course, it seems that the things that we are asking the Synod to shut up about are the things that affect me, my partner, and the people who welcomed me when the church didn't and wouldn't...and I'm not willing to throw those friends under the bus for the sake of being OK with those two wonderful guys...or with our conservative friends.  

Over the years, I've found that its usually the rights of people like me, or the inclusion of people like me rights, that are being asked to be put on hold for the sake of denominational unity.  I remember another good, sweet Presbyterian (USA) woman once telling me during my college years as I was struggling with my sexual orientation and my calling that she wasn't willing to stand up for people like me because she was tired of the churches leaving whenever the PC (USA) did something on civil rights, or on gay rights.  I remember thinking that if I had given her that same logic years earlier on why not to go forward with the ordination of woman in the southern Presb. church, whether or not she have thought it was a sound way to go.  I mean, the churches that left over her ordination and the ordination of women had already left by that point, right...?  And, again, I wonder if it would have been wiser for the Southern Presbyterian church of the sixties to let the question of civil rights alone--that would have saved the southern Presbyterian church the loss of dozen and dozen of good, well-meaning white Presbyterians.   I know these Presbyterians and Baptist--they are my uncles, my grandmothers, my grandfathers, my parents, even...all good people, all loving, and all kind, truly...and still more than willing to exclude people of color from their sanctuaries.  

I agree with you that F&W are far less strident than BWF...and that is to their credit.  But smack, right in the middle their endorsment of the Lexington Confession, is an arrow right to heart of me and my friends, and even some people in my congregation--

"We urge continuation and strengthening of ecclesiastical, legal, and political protection for the institution of traditional marriage. We dissent with the action of General Synod 25 to support equal marriage rights for same sex couples."

Again, they want us to go backwards, to renounce the Synod's support of a conversation in our churches over the issue of same sex marriage.  Right now, in accordance with your friends wishes, the states have "strengthened" traditional marriage by excluding me from it...and now gay spouses in my state are losing health insurance benefits from the state university that their spouses work at, which they had only months earlier, before the recent "strengthening" that happened at the ballot box.  

I'm sorry...but I can't feel alot of empathy for our conservative friends...they have all the power everywhere, except, maybe, the UCC...they've excluded so many of my gifted and called gay friends from almost every denomination under the sun from fulfilling their God-given calls.  We're not equals in this world, by any stretch of the imagination...if they lose this fight, they will not lose like I will lose, or my friends will lose, because, as I said earlier, there is no where else to go, no other place that has been as welcoming to me and my friends. It is all those people that our conservative friends are "WELCOMING" to IF, IF they will be "FAITHFUL" by renouncing their homosexuality or their practice of it, if they will stop loving they way the love, that I am most concerned about, because they will pay a much heavier price than our conservative friends will.  And to be frank, our conservative friends seem to be doing just fine...lots of churches are looking for more conservative or moderate clergy, certainly more than are looking or willing to hire an openly gay clergyperson.      

I don't get your comment my previous comments, welcoming but not extravagant so...what?  Couldn't understand what you were saying.  I suspect my tone is personal...because it is so personal for me.  You know, no one has stood up for people like me...they all remained silent, or hostile even...until the UCC, until those moments when someone said my friends and I were worth losing something over, like churches, like good people, who just couldn't stomach the idea of people like me being in a UCC pulpit somewhere (not even theirs, but anywhere!).  I have never forgot what that truly good Presbyterian woman (she really was) said to me years ago, and how she was unwilling to go to the mat for people like me, though I think I would have gone to the mat for her--I certainly would not have been a member of a denomination that would not have ordained her.  And so I prize the people, the crazy, crazy people who thought that my relationship and relationships of my friends--again, the ones who embraced me when the church would not--were worth standing up for, and worth losing churches and numbers (ah, the idolatry of the numbers).  

Don, I appreciate you, and I even appreciate your moderate and middle of the road posts.  You remind us not to demonize others, and I appreciate that.  I know the same people you do...good people all, but still wrong about this issue, and more than willing to exclude me and others from the table, until we "straighten" up, so to speak.  I believe in their goodness...as I hope they believe in my goodness, despite our differences.  


by PastorKev on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:00:38 PM EST

for speaking out so directly and personally.  

When we started this site, we made very clear, and we state up top for anyone who signs up to participate, that we stand with you on all matters of equality including marriage. There are lots of places where simple equality is controversial, and where inequality can be embraced in the name of moderation. This is not one of them.

The site topic is, of course, the religious right and what to do about it. So part of our focus becomes one of discussing the struggle with relgious right groups. I have not studied F&W closely, but from what I have read, they are poseurs in the moderation game. From this distance, they are certainly more politic than BWF, but nevertheless, immoderate and divisive as John Dorhauer's several posts have made clear.

You are quite right, RevKev. To this outfit, you are not just unwelcome; not just expendable; but need to be driven out. They might not be so unwise as to say so. But I will.

The General Synod did a courageous and prophetic thing in speaking to the church as it did. The Synod was speaking to them, and they did not like what they heard. But as John has often pointed out, no one in the UCC was required to change a single thing about what they believe or what they do in response. But by the standard of the prophetic stance of the GS, it is difficult to define oneself as faithful, unless one is also welcoming. They are not welcoming, they know it, and the cognitive dissonance rankles.

F&W and their ilk can argue down theology to the head of a pin; issue all of the hate the sin love the sinner type rhetoric they like; or any other slick evasion. But I think your story of the cowards who could not look you in the eye and tell you the truth goes to the heart of the matter.

These things said, there is a point at which the conversation you and Don are having may start to stray into inside baseball. But I have to count on you guys to keep the site topic in mind, even as gray areas are earnestly explored -- and additionally, while I have your attention, bear in mind that when you guys and anyone, post anything on this site, there are many eyes on them; and most readers will probably not be part of the UCC: many are not Christian or even religious. Even as I suspect most readers come here for certain topics or certain writers, many also take the time to read around a little and learn about new things. At least we hope so.

Ideally our conversations here should help illuminate for others the matters we are talking about and why they are important, even to people who are not directly affected. I realize that is something of an extra burden in any conversation, but it is nevertheless a real dimension of this site, even if it is an opportunity that will always be taken.

If we all go off in our little corners and talk insider stuff about our particular areas, as necessary as that sometimes may be, we lose this dimension and the opportunity to widen the conversation beyond our parochial concerns, and the parochial language that often accompanies them.  At the same, time, it is sometimes hard to find a place to talk about things like this, and to teach others about what is going on in the UCC; with F&W and so on -- so there are balances to be struck and there is no one answer for all occasions.

As for me, I do the topicality cop thing because it is sometimes necessary, not because I want to. We need everyone's help in keeping the site on topic.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed May 02, 2007 at 12:04:14 AM EST

Fred, your point is well taken, and I will try to keep more on topic.  I'm a little raw this week--a good friend from a previous parish died today, and this week, some violent threats were issued against the local gay community because of the participation of LGBT folks in a community parade (a simple float with a patriotic theme, nothing gay at all).  In addition, some churches will be protesting the parade route, making sure its clear that they think that LGBT folks ought not to be even included at a secular table, much less the table spread out by the Christ.  The combination of these two events have made for an emotional mix for me personally, and, hopefully, explains some of the passion of the last posting.  The LGBT community feels a little vulnerable around here right now, on edge, and I feel a little concerned about the coming days as well.  

Don, I hope the posting showed my passion without offending you.  My sincerest apologies to you--know that I am always looking fellow travelers.  

I do think that the information about the IRD and other forces working without the mainline and from without, is getting around.  We've talked about this issue informally at a recent clergy cluster.  We had some churches leave our association, but not as many as I would have thought after the General Synod vote.  I'm actually surprised we've not lost more across the UCC, 163 by official counts, more by F&W counts.  Interestingly, the number of official Open And Affirming congregations has ballooned by 90 since the most recent GS, now making 11% (652) of the UCC congregations officially being ONA, with many more being ONA without necessarily being official about it.  I thought the decisive step the Synod made about marriage would actually slow the acceptance of LGBT people in the UCC and would make churches more cautious around public steps like becoming ONA, but it seem to help both sides clarify where they stood on this issue.


by PastorKev on Wed May 02, 2007 at 02:16:26 AM EST

by Don Niederfrank on Wed May 02, 2007 at 09:07:00 AM EST

Excellent piece. I'd like to repost what you've written over at the UCC forums.  There's a thread on F&W churches.  As we clergy sometimes say 'yes' a bit too quickly, would you think about it today and let me know tonight?
Are you going to synod?

by Don Niederfrank on Wed May 02, 2007 at 09:00:14 AM EST
this thread, and I want to say to RevKev that has long as I have voice and authority, it will be used to ensure that he always has not just a place at our table, but that he is safe while sitting there. One of the issues I raised with F&W leaders last year at their convention, while they were arguing that they needed to be recognized as an underrepresented group with special privileges and access to all of boards and ministries of the UCC (as ECOTS -an acronym for evangelical, conservative, orthodox, and traditional Christians) was that as long as they were not only inflexible on the matter of allowing gays and lesbians at the welcoming table, but bent on their destruction or conversion, it would be difficult to put them in positions of leadership, power, and authority. To do so would threaten the safety, the dignity, and the integrity of others whom Christ has made welcome.

Having said all of that, I want to see if we can't return to the larger point that seems now to have been lost in this discussion, which is that the risky strategies that we employed, and which many other judicatory authorities either feared doing or warned us against trying, are paying rich dividends. We can't lose this point, as we bear now some responsibility for replicating these techniques in wider and wider circles. I do think we have some of these power bases on the defensive - and the more we can empower others to use these strategic procedures, the more effective we will be in ultimately dismantling the IRD and removing from our midst the work of their trained activists.
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 May 02, 2007 at 09:17:21 AM EST

I do appreciate the risk-taking.  I think we've been silent too long...I am very much looking forward to your upcoming book...got it pre-ordered on Amazon, and will use it next year sometime for educational purposes in our congregation.

Also, I'm going to use much of the information you've written about in a study I will be doing about the UCC History, Polity, and current issues sometime in the fall.  

And I was one of those folks that emailed you about receiving Islamic Imperialism...and, as far as I know, this is the only place that I know that has discussed that interesting, and expensive mailing.  That is why I value this forum and what you do...who else would have I turned to ask WHO, WHAT, and WHY?  

Much peace,


by PastorKev on Wed May 02, 2007 at 09:49:48 PM EST

about how you find this site useful. Yours is exactly the kind of story that tells us that what we are doing is worthwhile.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed May 02, 2007 at 10:46:17 PM EST

Appears to have gone out to Lutherans as well. In such quantity ? That's not yet clear.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed May 02, 2007 at 11:52:57 PM EST
and I am aware of at least one Methodist and one Presbyterian Minister who received it, but my little bit of research is showing that those were not nearly as universal as what I have discovered to be true in the United Church of Christ.
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 Thu May 03, 2007 at 04:38:57 PM EST

"Having said all of that, I want to see if we can't return to the larger point that seems now to have been lost in this discussion, which is that the risky strategies that we employed, and which many other judicatory authorities either feared doing or warned us against trying, are paying rich dividends. We can't lose this point, as we bear now some responsibility for replicating these techniques in wider and wider circles. "

My concern is that in calling us to beware of threats from without you are unnecessarily creating fear/suspicion within.  The Church stands strongest united.  By overreacting in response to 9/11 this administration has played right into the hands of the Ossama b L.  A marriage is not destroyed from without but by distrust reigning within.  

There is a need to protect the community; but there is a need to protect the community from its own potential for sin as well, its own potential for fractioning from within.  You rejoice, if that's the right word, about none of the congregations in your Conference becoming part of F&W.  But is there now an atmosphere that makes all renewal suspect?

by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 02:28:57 PM EST

that's quite a red herring to hang out there: unite, or fear Bin Laden.

I don't think I need to say a whole lot about that. Agitators who are trying to tear the church apart from within are now posing as those who are crying for unity - but for the vast majority of them unity can only come with their rigid sense of conformity: accept this narrow theology or else. That is not unity, it is a coerced orthodoxy whose only unity will come at the expense of the diversity we have challenged ourselves to accept and embrace for the sake of the Gospel.
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 Thu May 03, 2007 at 04:42:49 PM EST

but probably more a distraction than an illustration.

This is what I wanted you to address: In your concern for churches assaulted from without, have you created an overreaction, beyond the "healthy caution" you mentioned, to a level of distrust within so that we won't trust any 'reform' or 'renewal' movement?

I hear you about a more narrow definition of acceptable doctrine/theology than that which we have come to value.  To clarify, I hope unnecessarily, that's not the unity I work for.

by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 06:33:31 PM EST

At this point, I am not sure exactly what unity you are looking for. I do think, though, that it would make for a good essay subject to think about, and write about, what good reform looks like and what true renewal is about. There are certainly places where that has taken place. I would argue that the United Church of Christ's acceptance of the ordination of women was one of the most significant moments of reform in our own history, and one that has produced  renewal of the church in ways we both did not anticipate, and must pay closer attention to as we realize we still have a long way to go until we reach true equality in this arena. I would also say that the moments that have brought so much angst and anguish to those now pushing less for reform that a return to the past - namely the 1972 ordination of Bill Johnson, the first openly gay man, and the collective decisions to embrace without reserve or regret homosexuals - has brought both reform and renewal. There are larger questions than these about the nature and purpose of denominational loyalty that many are talking about, and Lyle Shaller's 'The Once and Future Church' came as a shock wave to the church and talked about a second Reformation along these lines that would make the first one seem small in comparison. The church will always collectively decide - discern is a better word -  which attempts to renew and reform are truly of the spirit and for the good of the body no matter how painful it may be to embrace them - and which are not. Of the renewal movements now active in the United Church of Christ, there is a collective act of discernment that they are not of the spirit, that they are truly more interested in either destroying us, or insisting that we forego important theological positions that are central to our identity as a people of faith.
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 May 04, 2007 at 06:27:00 AM EST
"At this point, I am not sure exactly what unity you are looking for. I do think, though, that it would make for a good essay subject to think about, and write about, what good reform looks like and what true renewal is about."

Will work on it and probably post it as a diary on Street Prophets because it will first be personal.  It's a natural outcome of this week's sermon on Acts 11.  Thanks for the suggestion.

by Don Niederfrank on Fri May 04, 2007 at 04:30:54 PM EST

I don't know when these discussions fall off the front page or below your radar, but if you have time I'd appreciate a few words that more directly address my concern:

"My concern is that in calling us to beware of threats from without you are unnecessarily creating fear/suspicion within."

As my thing (and I think the 'thing' of our denomination, btw) is Christian unity, I see trust as an essential of our communal relationships.  I am concerned that battling against conspiracies, warning others about others within the community, being hyperbolic and accusatory in language (e.g. the use of 'destroy') while perhaps necessary contribute to a straining of relationship which ultimately weakens and threaten the denomination UNLESS countered by efforts at (re)creating trust.

by Don Niederfrank on Sun May 06, 2007 at 09:37:29 AM EST

I'm going to Synod...we'll have to meet up.

Sure, go ahead and post it, and I'll try to find it later.

Be well,


by PastorKev on Wed May 02, 2007 at 09:44:37 PM EST

The discussion re. F&W is here:
along with a number of other discussions.  I'd be glad for you to join in.  It means logining in and stuff, though.

I'd like to post your note about your encounter with the F&W because I think it needs critiquing if not criticising, and I think that's not consistent with the purpose and (I think unfair) restrictions of this site.   The unfairness of my posting your note is that unless you want to login over there, it leaves you unable to respond.  My preference is for you to join in there, but the decision is yours.  It's not like you don't have anything else to do!

Don, both appreciative and critical

by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 09:50:58 AM EST

Everything on this site is copyrighted by the authors (see the bottom of the page), so unless you have John, or any author's specific permission you are in violation of their copyright.

Also, if you want to criticize John's views on FW or anything else, go right ahead. There is nothing unfair about our site policies. What is unfair in my opinion Don, is making such claims to pimp your site and to trying to bait John in the manner of your friend Mr. Hutchins.

All that is required here is for people posting to support the site's purposes and to abide by the site guidelines.  Those who don't are trolls who have lied and joined the site under false pretenses and are subject to deletion and banning.  But since you have checked off the box that indicates you do support the site's goals, and have given no indication that you do not support the site's goals, you are free to join in the conversation, as you have.  There have been some interesting and vigorious discussions on this site among like minded people who disagree on some things.  That is entirely healthy and certainly part of the site's purpose.  We all learn from such encounters.

That said, people can respond to criticism and challenges as they choose. No one has a claim on the time or interests of anyone else here. Participation here is entirely voluntary.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu May 03, 2007 at 01:12:55 PM EST

I mistakenly assumed that you wanted to post John's material on your site. Now I see that you meant the UCC forums.  Sorry about that.

My other points still remain.  Posting other people's work in its entirety without permission is a violation of copyright.  Baiting Talk to Action authors by threatening to publish their copyrighted work is unacceptable.

Discussing and criticizing people's posts in a way that is reasonably on topic is all fair game and goes on all the time.


by Frederick Clarkson on Thu May 03, 2007 at 01:40:19 PM EST

OK, Fred.  That's clear.

As you noted, I didn't intend to pimp or bait, but I do want to make clear that ucctruths is not 'my' site.  I'm the unity nut. :-)

I did intend to invite John to be present for a discussion.  One of my regrets is the lack of participation from our denomination's leadership in those discussions.


by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 01:57:13 PM EST

and I also know that Hutchins is involved in that site.

I certainly have no quarrel with people finding unity where they can. But I also am aware, as I know that you are, that there are those whose goal is not unity at all. And some are merely on a slower boat to disunity than others, whether by serendipity or design. Sorting it all out is one of the tasks of every denomination at this point from where I sit.

I wish you well in your efforts.


by Frederick Clarkson on Thu May 03, 2007 at 03:54:09 PM EST


This is probably a pretty fundamental difference between us.  You see greater connections between entities than I do.

 I think "involved" implies a level of ongoing activity that James does not have with re. to the unity site.  He is one of a number of endorsees.  But after signing on that has been the end of it.  He's written nothing for the site.  If his listing the site on his own site, then he would be "involved" in the UCC, the UCC coalition for glbt concerns, BWF, etc.  A rather diverse "involvement".

I'm willing to say that James is an endorsee but not that he is involved in the site.

by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 06:43:11 PM EST

I think that's the fundamental difference between us. I make a specific point, and you draw a wideranging and unwarranted conclusion about my work.

Your friend Hutchins was an early, and one of the few endorsers. To say he is involved is fair. To say he is not would not be true.  If you say that is the extent of his involvement, I believe you.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu May 03, 2007 at 08:29:42 PM EST

I will politely decline your generous offer and ask you not to post. You are certainly welcome to invite whomever you wish to join us on this site, presuming of course they are willing to follow our 'unfair' restrictions.

I must add, though, that having been a partner in this endeavor not quite from the start, but from fairly early on, the rules we are all obligated to follow are not unfair. The reasons for them have been clearly stated, and make perfect sense to me. And any who join read them and agree to follow them up front.

We have dedicated this site less to debate about theological matters than to the disclosure of information relative to orchestrated attacks on our churches. That some will percieve this whole milieu differently comes as no surprise to us, but we all need a safe place and a secure place to post and exchange this information, as well as the ability to do that without being distracted by red herrings or devolving into debate about theology or biblical interpretation - all of which have their place and time, but both of which will prevent us from doing what we need to here.
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 Thu May 03, 2007 at 04:48:08 PM EST

Yeah, that "unfair" remark was itself unfair. I apologize. The conditions for posting here are transparent.  Though I read here, I think I wander off the mark a bit much.  I honestly don't mean to be difficult or distracting but to push for clarification and credibility.  And I can live with being ignored.  :-)

by Don Niederfrank on Thu May 03, 2007 at 06:49:30 PM EST

John, When I received notice of the Healthy Church Workshops from FWC, I basically deep sixed it.  And I'm glad to see that no church in your area has yet signed on with them, because I do beleive strongly that ONA is part of the extravegant welcome of God through Jesus.  

But...for some reason it disturbs me that  you  include that "no church would give them space" for the workshop as making  progress.  If this were BWF or IRD, I'd agree (I didn't even unwrap the book from IRD when I saw who sent it). Their current leadership of BWF has consitently sent out inflamatory mailings and letters, such as that calling on John Thomas to resign. These sorts of things fan any sparks of dis-satisfaction that members may have into a full blown inferno.  

 But given that the National Leadership of the UCC has attended and participated in discussions at their Annual Meeting in 2006 (Bob Chase) and given that the UCCNews printed an editoral by Rev. Thompson, their President, why call this progress against them?  In our polity, with the emphasis on "United Church...of Christ" and the ideals expressed in our founding 50 years ago, to be proud of this feels to me,  well, out of place.  In our polity I would think that this is more a case of "in non-essentials, diversity".  The churches in your Area are under no-obligation to provide them space - and if they had approached my congregation for use of the facilities, I would have recommended to the board strongly against providing them space .  Not because I would be afraid that they would try to lead the congregation out, but because I disagree so strongly with some of their core beliefs.  Yet to call this a success or to be happy about it seems out of place to me- they aren't hiding who they are and their beliefs. It just doesn't feel comfortable to me, given  our denomination's polity and ideals, to say something along the lines of" O good, no one gave them space-we're winning." How does this fit into "Jesus didn't turn anyone away and neither do we" of our GISS?  

   We can disagree with them, but aren't they still our brothers and sisters in Christ, under the sole headship of Jesus Christ?  The National Setting appears to be taking a wait and see approach to FWC, assuming good intentions, interacting with them, but still watching them closely- is there a particular reason your Area is taking a different approach?
God's grace and peace, Deb K
by Pastordeb on Fri May 04, 2007 at 01:18:18 AM EST

You have said that you would have done the same thing as the churches in John's area, probably for the same reasons.  John is expressing satisfaction that they did the right thing, just as you would have, even though they are as you say, your brothers and sisters in Christ.

As for your question, I think he answered it already in this post in which he described some of his concerns about FW's divisive approach, but also described his embracing of theological diversity and embracing the terms evangelical, conservative, orthodox and traditional. He observed that the FW folks do not own these characteristics and the presumption that others do not hold to them is part of the nature of the divisive spirit. This post is one of several he wrote about FW before and after his appearance at their national gathering. I read them with interest, even though I do not follow FW. And I remembered them well enough to know that your anwers are probably right there.

As for the IRD book, you have mentioned it before. I can't help but notice that you seemed to take some pride in not reading it, and throwing it away. Unlike the leaders in the St. Louis area who called John to try to learn what it was all about, you seem to have no curiousity about why it was sent and what it means, or interest in assessing what kind of impact it might be having. Someone is clearly spending a lot of money to provide mainline pastors with those books via IRD, and it seems reasonable to think that they think they are making a good investment. What divisions are being created while some people throw out the books and others read them and otherwise thoughtful people ask no questions, no one knows. Except perhaps the folks at IRD who must have had their reasons.

Seems to me that the new spirit of St. Louis is to take an active interest in whats going on, ask good questions, seek good answers, and make wise decisions. Is the FW's offering really about healthy churches? Apparently not in their judgement or yours. As you said about their brochure, you "deep sixed it." Good for you.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri May 04, 2007 at 04:08:19 AM EST

Thanks for your challenging question, and I think Fred said about all that needs to be said in response. But I do feel compelled also to reply.

My statement about being proud really was not a way of saying "Good for us, we shut them out!", but rather a way of saying that the decisions we made a few years ago were a calculated risk, and we are now seeing signs that they are paying off. And with regard to the churches not inviting them to host, it was a way of celebrating and giving evidence that our churches have been listening and paying attention; have become much more aware of the risks involved in associating with those intent on our demise even, and especially, when their language seems to suggest otherwise; and are taking steps both to insulate themselves and their members from these attacks and to contact and inform their covenant partners when attempts have been made.

I also have to say that saying you wouldn't invite BWF or IRD makes it difficult for me to understand why you would challenge anyone who did not want to offer space to F&W. Maybe we all draw lines in different places and for different reasons, but the act of drawing a line makes it hard for us to challenge others who also draw theirs, just in different places. I spoke at the Convention of F&W because they invited me to - after which I was prevented from speaking because I did not embrace their fundamental priniciples. Having done that, however, does not obligate me to give them access to our churches. Knowing what their intentions are, that would be unwise.
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 May 04, 2007 at 06:42:37 AM EST

John, thank you for replying to my post.

I wasn't challenging any one's right or decision not to give space to FWC.  However, I just found in your statement about being proud that the churches in your Association didn't as one that made me uncomfortable as a UCC pastor.  I joined in my 20's because of the "big tent" concept. John Thomas put it this way at the the New England Seminarian Conference I attended in 2000, after multiple speakers had refered to the UCC as "the last house on the left": "I don't see the UCC as the last house on the left, but the tent where both the left and the right can come together in Christ." But your expansion that you weren't saying "good we locked them out" but that it showed that your pastors and lay people were asking the right questions puts that for me in a more positive light.  

I draw the line between IRD/BWF and FWC because I guess I want to see what the "fruits of their actions" are before judging FWC as being in the same catergory as the first two.  I draw that line because it appears that the National Leadership has also drawn that same line.  I watch as wise as foxes, but at this point extend to them the benefit of the doubt.  I would strongly suggest that my congregation not give them space because 1) they have confirmed for me that the marriage/GLBT issues are part of the last workshop and 2) it is the opposite of my understandings, and what I teach.  I view it the same as if a fellow pastor who opposed EMR wanted to preach from my pulpit about it.  I would kindly refuse because of what preaching from a pulpit represents to people in terms of authority and knowledge of the speaker.  However, I would have no problem with that same preacher filling the pulpit if s/he agreed that this would be an issue left out of the sermon.  

Maybe this is why I see it this way.  As a woman pastor, I deal with colleagues who are in denominations  and who themselves don't beleive women should be ordained. The split into basically two groups.  Those who see the pastor role as being what is being respected and so are willing to work collegially with me in eccumenical matters even though I am a woman, and those who see my gender as more important than my pastoral role and refuse to participate in any eccumenical activities where I'm/other women clergy are present in leadership.  I equate FWC with the first catergory who we can agree to disagree at this point, so even though I would not be opening the door wide to offer them space for a workshop, I wouldn't hold it against any church that did.
God's grace and peace, Deb K
by Pastordeb on Fri May 04, 2007 at 08:59:26 PM EST

Fred, please see my reply to John below, which hopefully clarifies my post and what I was questioning.  

As for why I tossed the IRD book. I have familiarized myself with the IRD, looking into it after John Thomas' speech on the IRD & the IRS.  I don't feel it necessary for me to read everything that they have out to be able to work to oppose them and their methods.  I know what slant it is going to have. Frankly, my stomach couldn't take it if I read all this type of stuff that the church receives in the mail.   I would do the same thing if the KKK sent a book, or if Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson sent it - I don't have to read it to know the basic leanings and what they are advocating in it, and to speak against it.  They are clear on the website that they are working for spreading "Democracy" and "Christian" America ways; it didn't  take much for me to presume that a book sent by them on Islam would not be in any way complimentary to that religion, or supportive of their freedom to worship  here in this country.  
God's grace and peace, Deb K
by Pastordeb on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:07:50 PM EST

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