Responding to the IRD
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 11:26:03 AM EST
Steve Rempe, who is a paid employee of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has written a review of my and Rev. Sheldon Culver's book Steeeplejacking.

His review is, shall we say, less than flattering.

He attempts to discredit our work with some key points, and I want to address each of them here. This is important.

Rempe writes:

Dorhauer starts by drawing a dotted line between "conservative renewal groups" within the mainline church denominations and IRD.  The implication is that there is a fiduciary connection between the two, which allows IRD to pull the strings of these groups, manipulating them for its own political purposes.  Alas, Dorhauer offers no evidence of any financial support from IRD.  Dorhauer also uses the term "right wing" pejoratively, but makes no attempt to define it.  The only thing that is sure is that it is meant to imply someone more than conservative than Dorhauer himself, which includes a pretty good chunk of the populace.

Although many of us who research this have attempted to find direct financial links between the IRD and the UCC renewal group Biblical Witness Fellowship, we are unable to substantiate these suspicions with any credible evidence. However, Jim Naughton has published an extensive report on his research into funding connecting the IRD to his own Episcopal Church and its renewal group, The American Anglican Council. The full report can be found at

Here is a brief excerpt from that report:

Contributions from Ahmanson and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife and Smith-Richardson family foundations have frequently accounted for more than half of the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, according to an examination of forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and an analysis of statements made by both donors and recipients.

The full extent of his contributions cannot be determined because most are made through his private foundation, Fieldstead and Company, whose records are not open to public scrutiny. And neither the AAC nor the IRD discloses the names of its most significant contributors or the amounts of their donations.
As a result, Anglicans have no full accounting of how much money is being spent, and for what purposes, in the struggle for control of their Communion.

The point I want to make here is that we may indeed suspect direct financial connections between renewal groups allied with the IRD and the IRD, but we often cannot prove that those links exist. Therefore the argument we make about the role of the IRD functioning in conspiracy with renewal movements- while it would certainly be enhanced by such evidence - is not dependent on it. There are enough direct connections that the relationship between any ACR (Association for Church Renewal) renewal group and the IRD is not in dispute.

I also want to be clear: our argument is not that the renewal groups are manipulated by or having their strings pulled by the IRD. This relationship is a mutually beneficial one in which the IRD, with the funds they acquire from right wing politicos (like Joseph Coors) and theological fanatics (like Howard Ahmanson), can develop propaganda and training materials designed to equip renewalists and trained activists to foment dissent in churches; while the renewalists and activists work to create an atmosphere in which the political ambitions of those who fund the IRD go largely unchallenged as a result of the dissent in the churches.

As to the term `right wing,' I didn't invent it. I use it - not pejoratively but descriptively, and in much the same manner as Rempe and his ilk use the words left wing and liberal. That we might each infer some disdain in the use of the term by the other is neither surprising nor particularly malicious. This piece of his argument adds nothing to the dialogue.

Rempe's next point is:

Dorhauer attempts to define the controversial issues currently debated in churches as "wedge issues"--matters introduced with the sole intent of creating dissent and dissolving unity.  What he fails to acknowledge is that these issues were not introduced to the churches by IRD.  Rather, the discussion on these issues is one that pre-dates any perceived involvement by IRD.  The debates are centered on questions of profound moral, ethical, and theological grounds that strike at the heart of what it means to be the Church.  By labeling them as "wedge issues," Dorhauer is able to avoid dealing with the content of the debate, simply dismissing it as "politically motivated."

Focus for now on the italicized words - they are important (I added the italics). Read also these words from the IRD's 2001 Executive Summary entitled "Reforming America's Churches Project" in which they argue that their "total program for influencing the governing church conventions of three denominations will cost over $3.6 million over the next four years." The strategy named by them in the document is this:

"Our program will focus on issues ranging from marriage and sexuality, environmentalism, national security, hate crimes, federal social-entitlements, church-state conflicts and religious freedom.... They will all focus on positive proactive initiatives that unite traditional religious believers and discredit the Religious Left."

I did not invent the term wedge issue - it too is descriptive. Of what? Of a chosen strategy that intends to `unify traditional religious believers and discredit the Religious Left'; and of an organization that asks for $3.6 million to effect that divide.

That I call it a wedge issue is irrelevant - and to make a point of what I call it rather than addressing the fact that an organization is asking political operatives to fund the creation and perpetuation of a divide in our churches is a red herring. The fact is the issues chosen are the ones with the greatest potential to effect that divide. And how do they do that? How do they put those $3.6 million to good use.

You have to read on. This is also from the same internal document of the IRD:

"Even in the churches most dominated by liberalism, there are fresh troops appearing.... The battle is clearly joined. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to redouble the IRD's efforts.... Beginning in 2001, we will emphasize training conservatives and moderates for the debates on marriage and human sexuality. We intend to conduct invitation-only training seminars covering biblical, theological, scientific, psychological, and sociological aspects of human sexuality.... It has proven most effective for the IRD to organize, recruit members, and conduct fund-raising through denomination-based programs. Within key mainline denominations, the IRD conducts the following: ...organizing and training of church activists." (italics added for emphasis)

This is not my language.

And it brings me to Rempe's next point:

-Exactly how IRD is "infiltrating" churches is unclear.  Is IRD sending trained operatives into these churches to create unrest?  If so, Dorhauer presents no evidence to the fact.

The internal report of his own organization answers his own questions for me. I don't need to provide proof which they have already documented for us in their own report - I only need to read it, write about it, and point you to it.

If Rempe is still unclear about how the IRD is infiltrating our churches, then it means he has not been included in these internal discussions, or has not been invited to the semi-annual invitation-only training events. More likely it is the case that he knows and is betting on the prospect that I don't know, you don't know, and we couldn't possibly be resourceful enough to find this stuff out; or having found it couldn't possibly be smart enough to figure out what their plain language really means.

He's wrong on both counts: we found it; and we know what it means. That what we are experiencing in our churches only confirms what their own reports promised their benefactors they would execute adds credibility to our claims. It is the proof that either his loyal eyes refuse to see; or to which his conservative benefactors will not permit him to admit publicly - and which they pay him to deny quite adamantly.

Their objection to the use of the phrase "wedge issue" is more than just a red herring. It is an attempt to shore up the IRD's greatest weakness: insincerity. "Wedge issue" is not only factually correct; it is a potent use of language to deflate their power and expose their agenda. Exactly the kind of use of language to counteract their propaganda. That's precisely why they object to it - because it works !!!

And notice the response: The debates are centered on questions of profound moral, ethical, and theological grounds that strike at the heart of what it means to be the Church.  By labeling them as "wedge issues," Dorhauer is able to avoid dealing with the content of the debate, simply dismissing it as "politically motivated."

Oh, right - the IRD is all about theology, not politics! Nothing to see here, move along...

We should keep saying "wedge issue" until we are blue in the face, and then some.

by Splash on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 01:21:07 PM EST

is, as you point out, the perfect term. Their strategy is to divide, and their primary tool for this has been, and will remain, chosen issues that - when manipulated with just the right rhetoric and propaganda - fuel deep fear, hatred, and animosity. The Christian Identity movement figured this out a long time ago, and uses these same tactics and strategies to recruit young men into the camps that train their paramilitary troops.
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 17, 2007 at 02:05:20 PM EST
This clarifies some questions that have arisen among others less....whatever...than the IRD.

There are ways of debating moral and theological issues which do not divide.  GS26 held examples of such.  May we continue to value our partners in dialogue.

Hey, at least this time you didn't get personally slimed! :-)

by Don Niederfrank on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 03:59:47 PM EST

It's no surprise that an Ahmanson-funded organisation would be dead-set against having the term "wedge" associated with them, not after the damage done to Ahmanson's Discovery Institute when their Wedge Strategy was leaked to the public.

by IanR on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 07:01:21 PM EST
for the citing of this very important document. It was, and remains, a critical piece.
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 Jul 18, 2007 at 08:50:37 AM EST

Judging by Rempe's attack they're obviously feeling the heat.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 01:30:55 PM EST

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