I must be insane
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 09:51:10 AM EST
This is the argument made by the Institute on Religion and Democracy as they struggle to defend their actions against what I have written about them.

Regent University graduate Steve Rempe, who has worked for the IRD since 1999, posted a front page article about me on the IRD website. Knowing they had to do something to quell the rising tide of information coming out about them, the IRD has deployed a number of people in recent days to discredit me and my co-author, Rev. Sheldon Culver.

They are giving it their best - because a lot is at stake. That this is their best is as much an indictment of their credibility as anything I or anyone else has written or said about them in quite some time.

That this is their style only confirms what I and others have been trying to say about them. That in the last week alone the IRD has tasked Matthew May (blog writer for the Newt for President website), Rebekah Sharpe (staff writer for the IRD), and now Steve Rempe to author an essay about my new book Steeplejacking says a lot about just how threatened they are by what the book reveals.

Needing to make sure that his employer is well defended and that it is established beyond a shadow of a doubt that my research is discredited, Rempe writes:

One of the first truths I learned when I started working at the Institute on Religion and Democracy eight years ago was that IRD has its critics.  While some of these opponents are fairly reasonable and honest in their critiques, others can only be described as, well, insane.  From the Bay of Pigs fiasco to their grandmother's phlebitis, and pretty much everything in between--if it is bad and happened in the last fifty years, these individuals are convinced that IRD is the driving force behind it.
An example of the latter would be the Rev. John Dorhauer.

That has to embarrass them - really. Giving it their best shot - they decide that they can convince the world that I can't be trusted by calling me insane.

Just for the record - I'm not.

 Really, I'm not. I've graduated with honors from two different seminaries. I've been married to the same woman for 23 years. I'm in my office every day with very smart people who affirm my gifts for ministry. I preach every week in a different church. I mediate difficult discussions between church leaders engaged in all levels of conflict. I engage covenant partners in the kinds of conversations that induce creative resolutions to complicated, complex problems. Given the level of intimate contact I have every day with people who are always ready to evaluate my performance, I would have thought that were I insane one of those many thousands of people with whom I have worked very closely over the last few years would have figured that out.

But no, it took a man I have never met, employed by an organization whose exploits I have been writing about for the last few years to tell the world I am insane.

Why else would I have written that - let me make sure I get this straight - the IRD was behind the Bay of Pigs and caused my grandmother's Phlebitis (a malady with which I had no idea my grandmother was afflicted)? I must truly be insane. (And just for the record - I've never made those claims.)

There is a point here: they have to do this. Fred Clarkson (author of Eternal Hostility), Michelle Goldberg (author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism), Andrew Weaver (contributor to Hardball on Holy Ground), John Thomas (General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ), Bill Moyers (about whom the IRD wrote "rarely heard a more bitter, angrier man than Bill Moyers whose bile is exceeded only by his self-delusion and denial of complicity in the very things he decries"), Welton Gaddy (Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance), Leon Howell in his book United Methodism at Risk -  and so many others have been sounding the alarm bell, calling out this small, clandestine organization and writing about their machinations.

They are feeling threatened. They are fighting back. They are lashing out.

And to prove to the world that what I write can't be taken seriously, they call me insane and accuse me of accusing them of starting the Bay of Pigs and causing my grandma's phlebitis.

And as if that was not enough to push the final nail in my coffin, Rempe actually quotes an actual `observer of the United Church of Christ' to discredit me and my work:
the book "proves two things: anyone can publish a book, and some leaders in the UCC are literally debilitated by the depth of their cynicism."

For the record, that UCC observer is Jim Hutchins, who wrote what Rempe quotes here on his own web blog.

My deficiencies are piling up: I am now not only insane, I am `literally debilitated.' How do I get through the day (much less muster the capacity to actually write a book)? Whatever you do, don't read that book.


Seems to be a common tactic lately by the right to discredit their enemies by calling into question their sanity--Howard Dean in 2004, and more recently, Gore in the past year or two.  

At General Synod, you mentioned that the URL for "steeplejacking" on the web had been allocated by some folks who clearly don't like the book, and have questioned the evidence, by saying that you have no proof.  Any more clues on who did this?  Reminds me of the UCC website that was a .com or .org that was an attempt to misdirect folks to UCCTruths, the website of Jim Hutchins, the one whom the IRD quotes in their article.  


by PastorKev on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 11:33:34 AM EST

But only thoughts. I have actually taken the road as far I can trying to discover who in fact did that, but the company that lists the URL purchaser for each of the sites lists only 'private purchaser.' I will attempt something else to try and get than info, but a dead end so far.

And as usual, IRD responses are little more than ad hominem attacks - and not very clever ones at that. They hope that their readers are either loyal enough not to want more, or not smart enough to need more. They seem never to want to respond substantively. Even when clear and incontrovertible evidence is presented, their mantra remains: "you have no proof!"

So, between the name calling and the repeated refrain, there is little there.
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 Jul 10, 2007 at 08:45:30 PM EST

that to tell all of the available truth, site misdirection has been proven to practiced by at least one well-known-in-cyberspace liberal pastor.  That the UCC Vitality url with the wrong suffex directed people to ucctruths is suspicious, but as we found out last year, there's no proof because of the "private owner" thingy.

by Don Niederfrank on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 09:42:29 PM EST
Hey Don,

I wasn't making a point about whether or not liberals and conservatives can be mutually sinful in the battles between them...I was asking about the most recent attempt to call shut down the conversation about the IRD by hijacking the steeplejacking URL's and calling the authors insane.  I get your desire to be fair--you've actually been great about that, but are you at least willing to admit that SOMEONE might just want to do the book and authors some harm?!

Any particular thoughts about the IRD's recent attempts to discredit Steeplejacking, beyond pointing out that sometimes we all fail our own words at some point (= hypocrisy), liberals and conservatives alike?  

And, to be frank, I have no proof God exists either, but my experience so far seems to clearly point in that direction..sometimes you just have to go on a hunch, and your life experience so far...


by PastorKev on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 10:31:12 PM EST

We're on the same page re. the IRD's response to Steeplejacking.  Ad hominem attacks are the braying of jackasses, do little to further anyone's cause and usually are pretty lame, as are the responses on the IRD site.  (And anywhere else they appear.)  As I think John makes evident, the IRD is reaching.  My only comment is that such criticism has no validity beyond the choir.

I think this sort of idiocy is best ignored or responded to with simple facts.  But the public battling that goes on in cyberspace is just not my baleywick.  I observe it, stick my toe in at times, but usually try to read and learn.  More below in response to Fred.

by Don Niederfrank on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 08:29:59 AM EST


You're a pastor and I'm a pastor, and sometimes you just need to preach to the choir...this seems to be what this site is all about.    

I espeically saw how valuable this discussion within the choir was when I got back from General Synod.  Like alot of UCC churches I suspect, I got a mailer from Evangelical Association inviting my congregation to leave the denomination.  Oddly enough, the mailing seemed to be timed to be received right after General Synod, perhaps hoping to capitalize on resolutions we did or did not pass.  Very sleazy on their part, to be frank, but more than anything else it reminded me that there are REALLY people who don't want conversation and honest dialogue--they really do wish to do harm to the United Church of Christ.  The IRD, UCCTruths, Biblical Witness don't seem to be about dialogue--what they seem to be about is destruction--and I especially saw that in the UCCTruth's attacks on John and his book.  

The Faithful and Welcoming Group gets more of a pass, though, to also be frank, they continue to attack gay people by questioning their emotional and spiritual health, as seen in the June 2007 update on their website.  I know that you may not have the same visceral reaction I do to them, in bringing someone in to speak to their gathering about why I have "chosen" homosexuality, but they're not questioning your spiritual or emotional health--they're question mine and my partner's health, and members of my congregation, and my many friends and congregants.

As I said before in an earlier conversation, if any of these groups have their way--by silencing the right of the national setting (i.e., General Synod, in this case) to speak to the local settings of the church, to challenge them to think beyond their local church and to grapple with the pressing issues of the day, we will end up being like NACCC, who hasn't done or said anything on a national level for years.  They do nothing controversial, and have stood for nothing, really, for a good 50 years now...which seems to keep everyone happy, except, of course, those of us who wish someone would actually challenge the resolutions being pumped out by the Southern Baptists, etc, who keep claiming that they are speak for faithful Christianity.    

Don, as always, I appreciate you!


by PastorKev on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 12:50:47 PM EST

how people flocked over here -- shocked, shocked that anyone could possibly suspect the beneficiary of the diversion of having anything to do with it.  

But when a UCC pastor standing-up for his church against paid saboteurs sewing distrust and division is called "insane" in a published article by that outfit, there is silence.

Makes one wonder about people's priorities, doesn't it?

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 10:37:11 PM EST

FWIW, in spite of our conversation last year, I was highly suspicious of my cyber friend James.  The implications are clear, as he would admit.  My silence with re. to the IRD's charges has to do with their obvious, at least to me, desparateness.

While I do not question that the IRD is nefarious, I see a greater threat to my denomination being the distrust and disrespect that has grown between UCC liberals and conservatives (or ECOTs) and, as I've written elsewhere in reviewing John's book (but have not posted here as it is unhelpful to the purposes of this site.  But would if you want), implication, inuendo, assumption which adds to that growing separation is anathema to my own particular ecclesiastical passion, and, I believe, contributes to the vulnerability of congregations.  

John, you received the Shalom award from Eden seminary for his efforts at 'fence mending' following the last General Synod.  I trust your intentions and commitment to the Church and the UCC in particular.  I wish you would take greater care (how's that for diplomatic language? :-) ) in your criticism of fellow UCC'ers.  (And yes, James, has heard the same from me.)

by Don Niederfrank on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 08:55:03 AM EST

My comment above is mostly about proportion. I think you choose to focus on the small stuff, the tempests in teapots, or as you put it in a recent comment, side issues, rather than the larger sustained attack on your denomination and its many implications.

As RevKev gets at above, there are times when people need to hear from one another. And I am not just talking about you.  It doesn't really matter whether in your, or anyone's opinon IRD is "nefarious" -- although I will take the acknowledgement as a certain sign of progress.  Twenty five years of a war of attrition, official schisms in the Episcopal Church; attempted massive schism in the Methodist Church; planned schism in the PCUSA; ongoing efforts at formal chism in the UCC.  It is already happening, as RevKev mentions above. What then to do?  

John and Sheldon have made a convincing and irrefutable case regarding BFW, (which I wrote about here) -- and all of the Gobbelsian cuttlefish ink by IRD and their apologists will not change that, although they hope that people will not notice, or will look the other way, as they mostly have in the past.

They also hope that people will ignore the cuttlefish ink, such as their most recent squirt at John. This tactic is despicable, of course. But it is consistent with what has been done to your denomination and your ecumenical partners for a generation. So they have good reason to believe that they will get away with it.  And they will continue as long as they are allowed.

You have made yourself clear, Don, that you think that the IRD/BFW/ARC axis is not terribly consequential and that the distrust and division is created by individuals whose language and behavior sews mutual distrust. While there is no doubt some truth to your point, I think you would be hard pressed to make much of a case if you were to consider the proportionality, and that allows you to stay inside your comfort zone. I think your method is to snipe at the messenger and in so doing, avoid the substance of the matter while taking the position that you are somehow standing above or beyond the fight. That's why its OK with you that John gets slimed. You think he's got it coming because you see him as part of the problem.

There have always been, and always will be differences and tensions in all churches, and no doubt people's attitudes and language could stand some improvement all around.   But there has never in history to my knowledge, been a sustained externally financed, politically motivated attack on any church the way we have seen over the past quarter century.

It's the elephant on the table, Don. I think the case is irrefutable, and it's the major, underlying reason for what you say is your main concern. Your denomination will not only be reduced in number of members and congregations by this war of attrition, but the war will not begin to end until you and sufficient numbers of others acknowledge that there is in fact a war of aggression, name the aggressor, and orient yourselves to that reality. I am certain that you would rather not, in years ahead, have to ruefully conclude that you were an enabler of the war when you could have helped to end it.

John and Sheldon are not creating unnecessary division. They are addressing the division that exists, and they addressing the dividers.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 05:22:45 PM EST

but off your field and on mine.

It is not OK with me that John or anyone get slimed.

You're a 'true believer', Fred.  You see irrefutable proof.  I'm 30+ years as a pastor in the denomination to which I'm committed and from which I have watched my home church, neighboring churches and parishioners that I cared about leave.  Every one of them without exception has pointed with pain and anger to the experiece of disconnect and disrespect that has been their experience from the leadership.  They didn't need anyone from anywhere else for them to experience that.

You believe the marriage is threatened by the homewrecking divorce next door.  I see it threatened by the breakdown of trust within.

And I firmly believe that when one, congregation or individual, feels welcomed and belonging to a community, one is secured therein.  I'll work on that.  

If you think the division between the approximately one-quarter of conservative UCC'ers and the consistently left-of-center statements and resolutions from the national level has been created from without, your are mistaken.  Dismissing that as "differences and tensions of all churches" misses its depth and genesis.  That it is exploited from without, I certainly would not argue.  But the root of the problem is the marriage not the woman next door.

Of course, I worry that I am an enabler and not a warrior.  Rigorous self-examination is the curse of the radical middle. ;-)

by Don Niederfrank on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 08:58:24 PM EST

I have taken the facts where they lead me, as I watched this unfold over many years.

Your curse is not the radical middle, Don, it is the presumption that no one else examines or self-examines, and therefore cannot be correct.

People and congregations (where legal) come and go from all religious organizations, and there is not a national organization in America that is not viewed with some degree of hurt and suspicion by many of its members and affiliates. I have been on both sides of that divide on several occasions. The dynamic is quite remarkable.  

I obviously can't speak to your particular experiences in the UCC. And certainly in any organization, some leaders turn out to be disappointments -- are arrogant or otherwise inept -- regardless of their theology or political views. But somehow I doubt very much that the UCC has consistently elected bad characters for 30 years, but if they did, whose fault would that be?

I hope that the UCC and other denominations that have found themselves under sustained assault for so long, manage to reduce and even resolve their internal tensions. But it seems clear from this distance, that they will not be able to do so, as long as so many continue to ignore (among other things) the sliming of their own churches and their own leaders by IRD and those who have come under its sway.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 11:02:51 PM EST

for an irenic response.
FWIW, the leadership of the UCC and reps. at our GS aren't bad characters, and I don't think I implied that.  There is a disconnect of beliefs and b/c those in positions to express themselves denominationally-wide have been of differing opinions on a number of important issues, resentment has grown.  (As has vulnerability.)  You are right that many denominations are in the same situation.  The difference in the UCC is our congregational polity and our relatively youthfulness which makes denominational loyalty difficult and leaving easier than in other parts of Christendom.  This is why I think respect and commitment to one another across doctrinal differences is necessary.  But even more importantly, it is the vision on which our particular denomination was founded.  

I share and am committed to the hope of your last paragraph and understand, I think, your admonishment that folks like me who are passionate for unity within the UCC might do better to begin by coming to John's defense than rushing to be critical.  Point taken.

by Don Niederfrank on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 09:41:42 AM EST

but want to make a couple of points.

Don, I have been very careful from the beginning of my writing on this site and in the book NOT to attack conservatives, or ECOTS as they are coming to be known in some circles. I have a high level of respect and regard for everyone to define and defend their theological viewpoints. I am very interested in engaging in dialogue involving those who share mutual respect but divergent theologies. I received a grant in my last church to conduct such public dialogues between conservative and liberal theologians who could model for the church how to do that without devolving into name calling, stereotyping, disrespect, and ad hominem attacks. By the way, in the very first such dialogue that took place between Steve Patterson of Eden Theological Seminary (the liberal voice in the dialogue), and Scott Langston (from Southwest Baptist University, and the conservative) - Scott revealed to Steve and me as we sat in my office going over the evening's format that his Board of Directors threatened to terminate him if he even showed up for the dialogue.

Now, it is about that final piece that I am writing. To name what has become not an uncommon experience for me - the manner in which and the tactics used by many on the right who are engaging less in dialogue than in guerrilla tactics meant to destroy both our churches and any hope for reconciliation between them - is what I am about.

And it is certainly a bit disingenuous to name the kind of disruptions that are occuring in our denomination on a group of leaders that are either so far beyond the people theologically or so out of touch with them that they will do anything no matter how the people feel about it. My research has uncovered, and I have written about (and will continue to do so) an Executive Summary of the IRD that four years prior to the 2005 Synod  asked for $3.6 million "for influencing the governing church conventions over the next four years;" and that further states in one section "our program will focus on issues ranging from marriage and sexuality," and in another goes on to report "Beginning in 2001, we will emphasize training conservatives and moderates for the debates on marriage and sexuality."

Leaders in the denomination did not choose this battle. They did not get up one day and say "We have stirred anything up over homosexuality issues in a while - why not in 2005 in Atlanta." Even the GLBT community did not agree that this was the appropriate time for such a discussion. The buttons were being pushed by the IRD - in full cooperation with partnership from the BWF and, yes, even for a time the Faithful and Welcoming group. States were amending their constitutions to REMOVE rights from its citizens in the GLBT community. Lines were being drawn in the sand. And why did the IRD choose this topic? Because it believes in the sanctity of marriage? Possibly. But much more likely because they are aware of the passion this issue generates and the potential it has to split the church. And damn if they weren't right about that.

John Thomas and the leadership of the UCC did not choose this battle, but thank God - even knowing what would come - that they and we (that is the rank and file of the UCC) are not now and not ever afraid of engaging the powers that be in the active and courageous defense of all that we stand for and believe.

So yes, I think the IRD is behind this. Even if no one in those churches you mention knew nothing about, know nothing about ,the IRD, what happened to us collectively following Syond 25 in Atlanta, and what continues to happen in those churches is a by-product of their orchestrated actions, their 'invitation-only' training events, and the deployment of their 'trained activists.'

And I continue to bristle at, and be offended by, the implication - if not direct accusation - that I am a catalyst for for divisiveness in this denomination that I love, and in this church to which I have not only dedicated my life in service, but also whose unity I cherish more than anything.  
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 Jul 12, 2007 at 10:42:05 AM EST

Do you know if anyone has posted that document on the internet yet?

If so, I'd like us to showcase it and let eveyone who cares to examine this interesting document and see for themselves.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 02:18:48 PM EST

it seems a bit weird to write, but your anger is reassuring and welcomed.  I think there will be things on which we will never agree, but that's not a problem.  And we are certainly on the same page with re. to those who would seek to create a UCC united in conservative Reformed doctrine under the misunderstanding that such existed at some time in the in past.  And I think we are in agreement with re. to those who would seek to creat a UCC united in liberal political/social cause under the misunderstanding that that is "who we are" as if the question of identity was settled and that our motto is taken from Micah 6:8.

I'd like to continue this dialogue because irksome though I may be to you, your being irked and the good words that follow give me hope.  If that makes any sense.

I sense the referee reaching for his flag and whistle to call me out of bounds re. the purpose of this site.  I'd like to talk some more about building bridges, etc.  I hear your words about past work and affirmation in this area.  I also hear some good UCC conservatives I know not experiencing that from you.  And some moderates too.  If that matters, I'd like to work on that bridge with you.

As always, in Christ,

by Don Niederfrank on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 10:45:33 AM EST

just a note to say that I wonder what the cost would have been for those churches, those folks, to stay with us?   Would it have been backing down on GS 26 Equal Marriage Rights? Or perhaps, if you were in the sixties, it would have been to step back from MLK and the civil rights movement--I know my Southern relatives would have appreciated that?  And as former Southern Presbyterian, I know that many good white Presbyterians left to form a denomination that wouldn't challenge them about race or woman's ordination (think PCA)? Who will it be, who will it be that we need to throw under the bus, in order to keep these folks in?  Is simply asking the churches of the UCC to be in dialogue about my marriage rights so offensive that one should refuse the dialogue and leave?  Is not bringing it up what will keep them in?  Who needs to sit down and shut up so that majority will continue to be with us?  

And then I remember a conversation I had with a Presbyterian clergywoman who made it clear that despite her personal support of GLBT folks and their ordination, she would never vote for it because it would already hurt a numerically declining denomination.  And, I am reminded once again that it is me that must shut up so that others will walk beside me.  Of course, she would have expected me to stand up for her ordination as a woman, though that issue too tore apart the Southern Presbyterian church.   There is always someone else that can be left behind for the sake of the numbers, for the sake of keeping us all happy--you just never expect it to be you, of course, because your cause is truly just, etc.  

I say this to connect with what you said about making your own congregation welcoming and secure to that person that walks in the door.  As one of those that wouldn't be really welcomed in 95% of he churches in this country, I can tell you we GLBT folks have moved beyond the local clergy's "wink-wink, nod-nod, I accept you, and some of rest of us do to."  Most of us want clergy that would be willing to put their faces on television for us, to stand up for us, when people in our own communities were attacking our right to be in a legally recognized relationships.  Most of us would come to realize that your welcome extends only to a point, to the point where it won't cost you or your congregation anything.That is why GLBT poured into the UCC (they did in my congregation right after GS 25)--no body had ever been willing to stand up for us, and most of us were stunned, even me, that someone was willing to lose for me.  But, of course, that is what Christ did...he lost his life for me, so that I would have a real life.  In the end, not the crowds, not the 70, not even 12, went with him to end--maybe numbers don't mean as much as we think they do.  Sometimes doing the right thing means leaving loved ones behind.  For those of us who are used to being left behind for the sake of the numbers and for the sake our friends who are offended and "hurt" by my beautiful relationship, the UCC remains a beautiful and incredible thing...

by PastorKev on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 07:38:58 PM EST

  1. The EMR did far more than just ask 'churches to be in dialogue' about your marriage rights.  If it had only done that there would have been no press coverage and no sense of affirmation in the glbt community.

  2. I agree with much of what you have said.  I think where we disagree is re. the purpose and effect of General Synod and perhaps the purpose of the UCC.  

  3. My feeling about GS25 was that it was too easy for us clergy to stand up in Atlanta, hundreds of miles away from our churches and claim to be prophetic while being in an 80% majority.  I/we need to do the damn hard risky work of standing up in our own pulpits.  

  4. The EMR at GS25 didn't make all our congregations OnA.  Some concern has to be for the glbt person who believes she/he will be deeply and fully welcomed in any UCC.

  5. To answer your first question, yes, unfaithfully shutting up might have kept some of those churches/individuals in.  But unfaithful silence was not the only alternative.  A resolution which unbiasedly called for dialogue is one.  A resolution which spoke more fully of the struggle and pain affirmation of same-gender marriage would cause some instead of adding the bit of such language as a amendment would have been another.  A statement after the resolution rather than at a press conference before would have made it seem we were more the United Church of Christ rather than the Unitech Church of Cause.  A pastoral letter from the collegium to the congregations anticipating the straining of covenant the resolutions of GS25 may cause and asking for understanding and commitment.

Etc.  But would any of those compromises been satisfactory?  

"United" is in our name; "one" is in our motto.  And yes Jesus left loved ones behind.  But he also created by his presence a community that included a revolutionary zealot and an ex-tax collector.  I'm guessing they did not agree on issues but did agree on Christ.

And last, thank you for your words.  

(I regret that pushing me is part of your calling.  I'll try not to be too resistive. :-) )

by Don Niederfrank on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 08:31:52 AM EST

thanks for the reply, Don.  

  1. In my reading of the EMR, it did ask the churches to consider, to dialogue about this issue.  I have no doubt that the amendment wants the churches to come to a particular point of view, just as I suspect past resolutions on the civil rights legislation wanted churches to come to a particular point of view, knowing full well that churches had every right to continue their support of apartheid in South Africa, or segragation, or whatever, for e.g.  In the end, this issue is about Equal Marriage Rights, civil rights for people in same sex relationships--you can disagree with it, but the idea that your disagreement with my homosexuality or who I fall in love with should negate my rights is immoral.  Again, my Mississippi grandmother would have sworn up and down that black people were not morally, spiritually, or in any way equals with her or other white people--in the end, she was forced to deal with the issue because someone put the issue before her, beyond her local community.  (Not to disparage my grandmother, who was a product of her time, and was also a wonderful woman, despite her flaws).  In the end, she never changed her mind about black people, but that wasn't point--she wasn't be asked to change her mind about the equivalency of blacks to whites; rather, she was being told that she couldn't only hire white people, or pay them less for the same work (she actually owned a shop, something unheard of in her generation), or deny them the right to vote by putting up unfair obstacles.  Would it have been fairer to her to simply ask her to have a dialogue about the issue of race, rather than invite her to do the right thing and not be a bigot?  Or should we have remained neutral on whether or not her racism was immoral.  Again, the Southern Presbyterian church could have saved itself alot of members by not calling racism immoral.  Don, would it have been better for them to be quiet about it, or simply ask people to be in dialogue about whether or not black people were actually equal to white people?  And I don't agree with you--even if it was an invitation to dialogue with about the issue, it would have made the press--perhaps not in the same big way.  Same sex marriage was the hottest ticket of the day--anything would have made the press.  

  2. In your opinion, what is the purpose of our national gathering, aside from the party part? And don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good party, but is there anything beyond good speeches, powerful worship, fellowship, etc, that we should be doing?  

  3. Don, are you standing up in your pulpit and inviting people to consider the rights of GLBT couples?  I can honestly say that I have paid my dues, both in tending to the battered GLBT people I have pastored, and sacrificing financially--the cost of being open about my sexual orientation has cost me a huge student loan bill, far beyond my colleagues, and even my closeted colleagues who took their denomination's money knowing that same denomination was making assumptions about their orientation that wasn't true.  And being open has cost me alot in terms of large pulpits who won't take a chance on me, despite a strong record of building congregations, spirtually and numerically (and maybe helping me pay off those $^%$^(&% loans before I pass away!).  I also need to spend 2-4K in legal expenses to make sure that my partner's parents won't swoop down on our assets if he should die (thankfully, my parents wouldn't do that--but you never know when it comes to money, not that I have that much, or anything, really, except of expensive degree and a reason to wake up in the morning, the most valuable thing I have). How about you, Don?  What has it cost you, this whole EMR thing, or standing up for GLBT folks in your pulpit?  I suspect it has cost you something, because I don't think you are personally against EMR.  

  4. I am quite aware that EMR didn't make all congregations ONA--pretty much nothing can make our local congregations do anything they don't want to do, including leave with their property (and I thank God for that--I love our polity, even when it makes it easy for folks to leave us).  But something like 90 more congregations became ONA since GS 25 and I think that invititation to think about EMR did push them to clarify who was actually welcomed at their table.  Now, I am quite aware that it pushed many others away, but that also clarified for them that people like me and my partner weren't welcomed...and even that is a gift, in a way, for them: they know their target market doesn't include me.  Some good things have come out of this, though I know some sad things have come about as well--shadow and light, it seems, with everything.  

  5. I think I addressed your idea of putting together "unbias" resolutions in point one above--again, I don't want to be NACCC.  I get it, though I just wonder if that would have kept any more folks in--maybe a few more, but even bringing up the topic seems to outrage people.  I suspect our culture's anxiety about my marriage has more to do with people not tending to their own marriages--can anyone find a non-Mormon Republican Presidential candidate still with his first wife?!  Better to bash my marriage then to tend to their own!    

I know you think I am a true believer--and I am, of course.  Now, I do think good people can honestly disagree with each other--my grandmothers, my relatives, my own blood, are people I disagree with about race, and I know they honestly disagree (they really do believe Cain and Abel is about race), but they are honestly wrong as well, and just because they honestly disagree with the Voting Rights Act doesn't mean that we should stop black people from voting in order to keep the dialogue open and comfortable for them.  

As a member of my association's Church and Ministry committe, just know this: I will never vote to not grant or remove the credentials of someone I disagree with on this issue, but if its clear that candidate is hoping to bar me and others like me from ordination if they could, or from full participation in the life of the church (like holding a gay marriage in my own church's sanctuary), I will vote against them.  As I've said in a previous email, I have good UCC friends who said that they loved me (and I think they really do) but said that I shouldn't be allowed to serve in the UCC because of my sexual orientation, and they would like to change that.  I'm going to fight them tooth and nail, and love them while doing it, because they are worth correcting, but also because I know I don't have anywhere else to go.  But they do--Evangelical Assocation, NACCC, CCCC, etc, and a host of others (Evangelical Covenant, etc) would welcome with opening arms.

You can't uphold Christ and ignore injustice, right?  And if the cost of unity is standing by and not doing something, is unity worth it?  And, of course, it isn't for me.  I already for many years in my previous denomination, sitting down and shutting up so we could all sit together...too many voices, women, blacks GLBT, have been left behind for the sake of unity.  I have no doubt God loves the leavers and the left behind equally--I have not given up on them, nor has God, and thankfully, God has given up on me yet as well.

Dogone, Don, you make this prophetic freaking hard!  


by PastorKev on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 02:07:32 PM EST

Sounds like we need to trot out our pedigrees to speak here, so here's mine.  32 years local UCC pastor.  Founder of the Shalom award at Eden Sem in 1974.   Former associate conf min in the SE Conf.  Served two congregations within the top 5 of the UCC highest per capita OCWM giving.  Served in a variety of roles on national and international level: UCC rep on the Commission in Religion in Appalachia, former OCIS human rights delegation to E Germany and Hungary in 1986 and in Witness for Peace to Nicaragua in 1987.  Began to challenge the IRD, John Neuhaus specifically, in 1982 on IRD misrepresentations about WCC and NCC "support of communist movements" and particularly their misrepresentation Oscar Romero and others from the US working with him in El Salvador.    In 1983 the church I was serving encouraged me to move on because of my support of the the 1981 General Synod action encouraging associations not to consider sexual orientation for ordination candidates.   For many years in the '80's I was the national gay and lesbian caucus rep in the SE Conf.  That will do for now, there is more.

That leads to this, I think the IRD is irrelevant.  The reason churches are "leaving" the UCC or are ripe for the IRD or any other rabble is that we have pushed more about denominational loyalty and generic UCC brand identity than developing local churches with vision and mission including training pastoral leadership how to lead in a time when the whole "ballgame" has changed.  The present church I am at has gone through major transformation in the past 8 years.  I have been here 12.  I was asked to have us leave the UCC when I arrived "because of all that gay and lesbian stuff."  I said I would be open to a vote once we got our act together on our vision and mission instead of being reactive to actions by portions of the UCC, particularly the  national offices.  I got hung out to dry by the national within 3 months after arriving around an ad involving UCC national support for the rubber workers union on strike against Bridgestone Firestone (my church was mainly a Firestone management retirees church.)    When Paul Sherry came a few months later to try to repair the damage, we got sincere concern and apology for not contacting us as a local church in the center of the storm before full page ad wound up in our local newspaper with the national hq's address as the bottom.  From two other UCC execs who also came, we got arrogance.  I agreed with the union, but was left as a local church pastor to deal with the "national UCC position" and the local church vision and mission development.  By 2003 as we focused on our mission as part of the UCC, we aren't reactive to the national vision, because we continue to discern and act on the one that God is giving us, as the UCC (since we are a congregational polity denomination.)  We have become leaner, but far more flexible and willing to "go out into the world" by risking our ourselves to die to ourselves, that Christ risen will be revealed.

There are other situations like this I have been part of both as a "perpetrator" and as a "recipient."  For 20 of the first years I was ordained I did a lot, especially in my roles at the conf and association levels, as well as General Synods (went to 8 of them) that was arrogant and not serving.  Local churches are struggling with the same financial needs as the national church.  Local church pastors are burning out from struggling to to discern and share God's vision in the midst of a rapidly changing culture and especially institutional shift in our culture in religion, education, and politics.   I learned from Liberation Theology especially in my experience in Central America to pay attention to the indigenous cultures.  I think we have shifted to a national ideological conflict that now is more about being right than trusting in the Spirit of God to change lives...MINDS and hearts.  

I think the strategy of lifting up the IRD is feeding the fire instead of combating it.  Local church folks are looking for any port in a storm.  They don't care the name brand e.g. UCC, IRD, at this point.  They don't have the tools to discern because we have focused more institutional markers and brand loyalty than nurturing spiritual discernment and maturity.  

We have had over 40 churches and clergy contact us in the last 6 years to learn from our experience.  We are still on the move.  God is clearly continuing to take us deeper and farther out than we have gone already.  Truth be told, on paper, we are now a very liberal congregation, but we avoid those distinctions (neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, so on).  We have a number of folks who don't agree with the nationally projected image of the UCC.  But being part of the mission of Fairlawn West UCC, has become a core piece for their life.  We are moving from "right thinking" to "spiritual living."  Our mission is to help as many other churches to do the same.  The IRD has no ground for ripening here because we we won't leave the UCC ever.  We ARE the UCC!

David Loar

by deloar on Sun Jul 15, 2007 at 04:49:46 PM EST

it is about facts -- and it seems you have chosen to abandon them.

Just because you knew about IRD years ago, give you no street cred now.  Some of us knew about them then and have studied them since. Some of us have actually written a thing or two and know what we are talking about.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to come to this site and declare the IRD to be "irrelevant."

It may be that the IRD and its affiliate the BFW is not an immediate problem for you -- but for you to turn a blind eye to how it affects others is reckless, and I might add, characteristic of the way the mainline churches have generally dealt with the 25 year war of attrition -- which has not been limited to red-baiting in the 80s.

We have seen the bitter fruits of this approach.

I guess too that the sliming of John Dorhauer is ok with you.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 11:08:03 PM EST

Mr. Clarkson, the sliming of no one is acceptable to me.  Why do you think it would be acceptable to me to slime John? My concern is that if we are to engage in conversation about these matters, to jump to a higher level of animus in the conversation, which is what your question of me does, is the very thing I hear you charging the IRD and others with. Thus, "when did I stop beating my wife?"  I never beat her.  Why the switch from a conversation about the topic, to making it personal in your pointed question about John?

by deloar on Thu Aug 02, 2007 at 04:50:52 PM EST

I am really confused by your response here. I don't want to deny your experience at all, but to blame the dynamics occurring in our churches on the branding efforts of the UCC and a leadership forcing a liberal agenda on local churches is not only simplistic, it mimicks the tactics, the language, and the agenda of the IRD and the BWF. That your church successfully navigated its way through some rough waters and found a way to stay is something we all need to pay attention to - but to name that as prescriptive of every other church going through this is not helpful. Our years of research have truly demonstrated the IRD, through its alliance with renewal groups like the BWF, is far from irrelevant. I can't tell you how many churches, judicatory officers, and pastors have contacted us telling us that what we describe in our book is exactly what is and has been happening in their churches; and that the proscriptions we have outlined for dealing with these matters are helping them immensely. This effort ought not be reduced to an either/or, this or nothing proscription for success. Again, that your path worked is to be not only lauded but examined very carefully as we continue to develop strategies for growth and covenantal commitment; but for many of our churches embroiled in takeover attempts, that can't be the only path - and for some it would be a mistake. And to be sure, telling them the IRD and its relationship with the BWF is irrelevant is not wise.
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 Jul 21, 2007 at 09:58:11 AM EST

Would you be willing to carry this on via email?



by Don Niederfrank on Sun Jul 15, 2007 at 06:49:28 PM EST

Because when folks like the IRD do not have the facts on their side, there is only one option left: demonize your opponents.

And if that's what they have left, they've already lost the argument.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 07:46:04 AM EST

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 Jul 12, 2007 at 10:46:43 AM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (324 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (165 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (96 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (84 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (94 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (121 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (98 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (71 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (222 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (53 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (143 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (172 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (49 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (48 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (201 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (211 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (82 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (149 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (138 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (136 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (128 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (139 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (119 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (166 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (131 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (69 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (183 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (73 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (103 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (98 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.