Unscrubbing the IRD's Past
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 08, 2008 at 01:56:38 PM EST
The notorious Institute on Religion and Democracy recently launched a new web site. Some changes naturally, do not necessarily acknowledge aspects of the organization's past. But it is also fair to say that the site changes, have the effect (intended or unintended) of scrubbing and sanitizing some aspects of its past it would probably prefer we not remember.

For example, the organization once featured prominent conservative Catholics and Jews on its board and advisor board -- until many of them quietly disappeared after Andrew Weaver  exposed their involvement. (There are still a number of Catholics, but not as many as before.) Also missing is the Association for Church Renewal, which was organized under IRD's auspices in 1995 and whose membership included leading Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist and UCC "renewal" groups. Fortunately there is a terrific searchable internet archive called the Way Back Machine. It is not comprehensive, but it is a helpful research tool.

For our purposes, it unscrubs some important dimensions of the not-so-way-back past of IRD and its affiliates.

People who are concerned about what IRD & Friends have been up to, may want to go back and check out some of the unscrubbed history.

For example, in a few clicks we can learn:

How in 1999 the Accociation for Church Renewal called for the dissolution of the National Council of Churches

"There are signs of new movements toward Christian cooperation and understanding, including the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statements, the Celebrate Jesus 2000 movement, and emerging grassroots ecumenism.  The NCC is entirely irrelevant to the new ecumenism," said David Runnion Bareford of the Biblical Witness Fellowship (United Church of Christ).

And we see here, as of 2002, the list of member organizations in the Association for Church Renewal.

And here, in 2002, is the IRD board of directors, which included no less than six prominent Catholics:

Mrs. Mary Ellen Bork, Dr. J. Budziszewski, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Robert George, Professor, Princeton University, The Rev. Richard J. Neuhaus, The Institute on Religion and Public Life, Mr. Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Mr. George Weigel, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

As noted above, Andrew Weaver reported that these, and other neoconservative Catholic leaders have been the leading faction in IRD from early on; helping goad conservative factions in the liberal protestant churches to the point of schism.  Weaver writes:  

IRD constitutes the most grievous breach in ecumenical good will between Roman Catholics and Protestants since the changes initiated by Vatican II.

But even as we take a look back, it is worth observing that things have not been going well for IRD and thier allies lately.

IRD et al, suffered some big losses at the recent Methodist General Conference; and one long time Methodist renewal leader has been exposed as not only a crack-pot, but apparently a crook as well. The shocking views and activities of IRD/Anglican hero Peter Akinola are increasingly coming to the fore.  And, of course, the film Renewal or Ruin? The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Attack on the United Methodist Church continues to receive a wide audience, and it has been easy to rebut their sputtering propagandistic responses.

The truth is that the jig is up.

The IRD's campaign to disrupt and divide the mainline protestant denominations over the past generation is becoming increasingly well-understood by those who have been most affected by it. And while the IRD's patrons will no doubt continue to underwrite the war of attrition against the mainline churches, their efforts are at long last, being met with widespread resistance.


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