Monday, May 08, 2006

From "Across the Pond": The UK Church Times Reports

Family trusts ‘fund ECUSA’s Right’
By Pat Ashworth

MILLIONS of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organisations to mount a global campaign that has destabilised the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and may break up the Anglican Communion, an investigation in the diocese of Washington has concluded.

A report, "Following the Money: Donors and activists on the Anglican Right" by the diocesan communications officer, Jim Naughton, in Washington Window, the diocesan newspaper, says that Anglicans have no full account of how much money is being spent, and for what purpose, in the struggle for control of the Communion. Half the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) have frequently come from charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views, he says, notably Howard F. Ahmanson Jr and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife, and Smith-Richardson family foundations.

Mr Naughton charts the growing visibility of the conservative Episcopalian lobby and its increasing involvement with Primates of the Global South, as evidenced at the Primates’ Meeting at Newry last year (News, 4 March 2005).

The General Convention of ECUSA will meet next month, he says, "in a politically charged atmosphere created in some measure by conservative organisations supported by a small number of wealthy donors". The organisations’ lack of transparency and openness about their budgets will leave bishops and deputies able only to "guess at the intentions and resources of the American conservatives and bishops from the developing world who are pressing the Church to change its course or pay a price".

Since the Primates’ meeting, leaders of the Communion have begun to ask whether these organisations and their financial backers are the real power behind a movement that claims to draw its strength from Africa and Asia, suggests Mr Naughton. His views echo those of the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd John Chane, who criticised the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, in the Washington Post earlier this year for supporting "institutionalised bigotry" over proposed laws criminalising homosexuality in Nigeria.

Bishop Chane warned: "Because the conflict over homosexuality is not unique to Anglicanism, civil libertarians in this country, and others as well, should also be aware of the Archbishop and his movement. Gifts from such wealthy donors . . . allow the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy to sponsor so called ‘renewal’ movements that fight the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Churches, and the United Church of Christ.

"Should the Institute succeed in ‘renewing’ the Churches, what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian Right tomorrow."


hiram said...

A little nervous, are we? This is the second time you have had this "news" on your blog -- is it news, or something else?

jg6544 said...

Nervous about a bunch of damned fascists trying to hijack the Episcopal Church? Yes, I'm nervous; you might like that, but I don't.

hiram said...

I apologize for my first post on this article. I will try not to be sarcastic in future posts.

jg, we aren't fascists. We simply want the Christian faith to be the Christian faith -- practiced with somewhat different styles (Mennonites, RC, Baptist, etc) but still at its core straightforward, historic Christianity -- not a ceremonial form of "New Age" beliefs or of the UU's. I am a simple Prayer Book Anglican who takes Jesus' proclamation seriously: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near," and "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Sticking with Jesus and his apostles is not fascism.

revsusan said...


Speaking for myself, I'm not at all "nervous" -- just pleased as punch that the Church Times UK picked up the "inside story" of who's funding & driving the move toward schism here in ECUSA. (See also: "come to the light.")

Catherine + said...

Hiram, I am not nervous either. I too amd a simple 1979 Prayer Book kinda gal and if I have something to repent, I do it, receive the grace of my Lord and move on. Loving one another is nothing to be repentant about. Nazism, Fascism and going after those with whom you disagree is not the Gospel Christ taught us, and the schism that the Right is causing has no place in the Church.

rmf said...

oh alright, toss me into the "simple prayer book person" hat, too. i love the prayer book. It helped me find the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Surely the schismatic act, which both FTG and +Rowan said would "tear the sacramental reality of the church at a fundamental level,' was the consecration of VGR. It is just too rich to claim, as Catherine does, that the Right (does she mean all conservatives? or those people who disagree with her about norms for sexual behavior?) is the schismatic party here and does not deserve to be in the church. And for SRussell to say the real "inside story" of ECUSA has been this funding that supports IRD overlooks (a) the wink and nod policy that has allowed practicing homosexuals to be ordained in EUCSA for decades, without every getting a theological rationale accepted by GC and (b) the fact that many people have departed ECUSA through no efforts of this group on the Right. For the record, I am trying to work for a church that finds space for difference but honesty compells me to stand against the labeling here (fascists?Nazis?schismatics?) on what appears to be a blog devoted to SPIN, not to mention name-calling

All Along the Watchtower said...

Susan, it is much better (and more effective) to endorse Andrus then these black helicopter conspiracy theories. I bought the book (Hard Ball on Holy Ground) that these conspiracy theories are based on and it was hilarious. I especially enjoyed the graphs. The graph with the giant IRD oval in the center surrounded by the little "puppet" organizations was very funny (page 38). American Enterprise Institute? US State Department? USIA? CIA? White House?

But the best one was the Council on Foreign Relations. I just knew they'd figure that one in somehow. So when are we going to start talking about the Trilateral Commission?

Now if I could only find my tin foil hat.


jg6544 said...

"Sticking with Jesus and his apostles is not fascism."

Why don't you try doing that, then, and you won't give me reason to call you fascists?

jg6544 said...

"practicing homosexuals"

None of the ones I know need to practice; I certainly don't. Sorry to disappoint you, anony.

Bruno said...

The peace of Christ be with you all!
Those who disagree, let the peace of the Lord be within you.
I will accept that there are those who believe that my being gay is wrong, I will believe you if you say you have prayed for me, I ask that you grant me the same, believe me when I tell you that I too have prayed, fervently, trust me that I have been shown by Grace that I am to live my life as I was made, and am to evangilize also, trust me that I too have shed many tears and am in pains about how to live my life as assigned by God. Trust that the Holy Spirit of God will guide us and that the tree shall be known by the fruit that it bears.
I too am a prayer book kind o guy! very much so. And it is the prayer book that brings us together. The prayer book does not desire to carve windows into the souls of men (or women), but rather desires us to come together despite our differences to pray and worship together. That is what makes us a communion, a prayer book and a comming together to worship, that is Anglicanism at its best and most honest.
Episcopalianism in the United States is based on our founding prinicpals, a three member house (read the prayer book) it is an open structure claiming the voice of God in all her people, and that is how we hear the spirit working in this church.
The Episcopal Church USA is a repentant church, we repent of not speaking up on slavery, segregation, child labor, we repent by saying no more shall we follow the desires of man, but those we believe to be of God. We shall be at the front of calling for justice and freedom for All. We repent by action. The tree shall be known by its fruit.
What is the fruit we should put forth? I don't believe that the church is called to be a museum. Rather, I believe, we are called to step out of that place and be active in a living, less than perfect world. Christ called us (by example) to be part of the world, with its leprosy, illness, evil spirits, uh hum, street walkers, unclean women, untouchable men, etc,,, oh and he also made time to be with the pharasies, and religious leaders.
So Hiram, I am nervous when I put my faith in man, not at all nervous when I put my faith in God.
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all maner of things shall be well.

Catherine + said...

When I refer to the Radical Right, Hiram, I refer to those who are causing the impending schism because they will not stay within the Communion and try to work things out. As for the alleged name calling, I refer to ideologies that have in the name of so-called purity [however you want to define that] have systematically gone after innocent people because they did not fit the ideal human. None of us are ideal or perfect, and Jesus told us all so. For you to call people "homosexual" that is namecalling. And no, we don't call you a practicing hetero either. We call you a fellow Christian in spite of your beliefs.

Whether you attack Susan, me or anyone of us who will defend the right of anyone to love God and follow Christ, is your problem. I forgive you in Christ and will contineu to love you as the brother or sister you are in the Communion, whether you leave it or stay.

Catherine + said...

Sorry, I meant Anon, not Hiram.

Frair John said...

The IRD was formed by people who were deeply offended that teh Churches were holding up a moral standard that made them look bad. So they concentrated on those "sins" that were other than theirs. They want safely domesticated Churches who won't get in the way of hegimony and higher profit margins.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

I don't get why these pieces about the IRD and their financial relationships are being called "conspiracy theories."

What is that supposed to imply? Is someone implicity refuting the facts laid out in the articles? Please specify. Does someone have evidence contrary to what is cited? Please bring it forth.

Why do the speakers here have to speak for the IRD if the conclusions are inaccurate? Why isn't the IRD issuing press statements denouncing the conclusions if the facts are so wrong? They haven't done it so far. Do they just have really bad PR folks?

I believe that at one point in the story about Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson, there were "conspiracy theories" about how the leak could have come from the White House or President directly. Now it turns out they may not have been theories but truth. My point is that just because you don't like the news it doesn't mean it is accurate. The facts here seem to lead a reasonable person to a given conclusion.

Can you either put some substance behind your doubts of the story or explain what you mean by "conspiracy theory?" My guess is that you just choose not to believe it because you choose to believe that the given outcome of the facts is not a desirable one.

Tony said...

As I said on another blog, when liberals organize (Integrity, Claiming the Blessing, etc.), it's just good politics. When conservatives organize, it's an evil conspiracy. Don't you folks see your hypocrisy?

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hi Tony -

I hear what you are saying. But I haven't seen or heard any facts which point to the same outcomes as the Naughton article reaches for any of the organizations you mention. For example, if Integrity, Oasis, Claiming the Blessing were passing money under the table to delegates to vote for consecration of Gene Robinson that would be one thing. But nobody has said that is going on. Here, though, it looks very much like the IRD is passing funding to Nigeria to get involved in our domestic provincial issues.

To top it off, Nigeria has outright refused to comply with Windsor, refusing to express regret for crossing provincial boundaries, refusing to say that they will stop, and has not even been willing to say that they have a desire to remain in communion.

I just don't see in any way a correlation with that to Integrity, Oasis, or Claiming the Blessing. The implications of external conservative funding to further the conservative cause and exploiting a developing nation is much different than an internally organized organization moving within the church to work on a peace and justice issue. If that seems hypocritical than I either just disagree or am not explaining it well.

Tony said...

Jeff, I am not sure of all your "facts," but what is the difference between IRD supporting the work of the church in Africa and when Trinity-Wall Street or ERD, or 815 does it? One is political in nature and others aren't. As you might guess, I don't see one as political and the others as totally unbiased and benevolent.

All Along the Watchtower said...

Tin Foil Hat Alert: IRD passing money to Nigeria? This reminds me of the Quibler's charge that Cornelius Fudge is baking goblins into pies.

Ask Jo Rowling. She explains conspiracy thinking far better than I do.


Jeff Martinhauk said...

Tony -

My response is twofold:

1) Why isn't there transparency about the transactions if all is kosher here?

and 2) If the IRD is so benevolent, why doesn't it support, say, the church of South Africa in the same way it supports the church of Nigeria?

I think the answer is that it is using the church of Nigeria in order to drive a wedge in the ECUSA here at home. That is, I believe, the stated agenda of the IRD.

(incidentally, the facts I'm referring to are the ones documented in the Naugton article).


Jeff Martinhauk said...

Tony -

I'm just re-reading your email. I'm a little confused - are you saying that when I support ERD and they in turn support Nigeria, that those contributions aren't benevolent in nature? And if they aren't, that we should be ok and tolerate it?