Saturday, April 29, 2006

More on the IRD, et al

Episcopal Diocese of Washington publishes
“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right”

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio, in June, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.

Now, in a two-part series in its diocesan newspaper, the Washington Window, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington examines these organizations, their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church.

“Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right” will be published on Monday as an eight-page section of the Window. It will also available on the diocese’s Web site at:

The first part of the series, “Investing in Upheaval,” draws on Internal Revenue Service Forms 990 to give a partial account of how contributions from Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., the savings and loan heir, and five secular foundations have energized resistance to the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop and to permit the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships.

The article sets contributions to organizations such as the American Anglican Council (AAC) and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in the context of the donors’ other philanthropic activities which include support for conservative political candidates, think tanks and causes such as the intelligent design movement.

The second article, “A Global Strategy,” uses internal emails and memos from leaders of the AAC and IRD to examine efforts to have the Episcopal Church removed from the worldwide Anglican Communion and replaced with a more conservative entity. The documents surfaced during a Pennsylvania court case. The article also explores the financial relationship between conservative organizations in the United States and their allies in other parts of the world.

The series was written by Jim Naughton, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, who is the director of communications for the diocese. For further information contact him at or 202/537-7162.


Anonymous said...

As I have said on a number of occasions, this is not all tea and cucumber sandwiches in the Rectory garden. These people are dangerous and they're very well organized and well funded, too.

Anonymous said...

Left-wing conspiracy theories are just as silly as right-wing conspiracy theories. Jim Naughton is Jack Taylor by another name. Yawn.

Off to read the transcripts of the Joseph McCarthy hearings!


PS Love the part where "The" IRD, having brought down the entire Soviet Union and ended the Cold War, turned its enormous resources on taking down the Episcopal Church. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Anonymous said...

"Off to read the transcripts of the Joseph McCarthy hearings!"

Don't get too wrapped up in your dreams!

Jake said...

The IRD got out of the communist hunting business because of their loss of integrity due to the CEPAD fiasco, in which they were responsible for innocent missionaries being killed by the Contras.

Is this accusation just another paranoid conspiracy theory? Decide for yourself.

Anonymous said...

AATW sez Jim Naughton is Jack Taylor by another name.

Not really - see for his bio.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, with all due respect to your usually charitable and even-handed tone, some attacks simply don't deserve a "defense". Like trying to answer the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

Anonymous said...

Jeff, just to clarify - I didn't mean I thought you made an attack, rather that Jim Naughton had made one.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see some of the responses to Jim Naughton's reporting on the IRD. The facts in his reporting are either ignored or called attacks.

The facts he reports are pretty clear. They have been brought to light. They aren't going away. He documents everything. They are relevant because they describe the sometimes (still) secretive way that outside groups and money have been used to try to change the way the Church is governed. Who and what pays for attacks against our Church, and who within our church ally themselves with them out of convenience or ignorance, directly affects the way that their positions and demands are to be viewed.


I don't see that as a conspiracy thing, I see it as a "truth will set you free thing" ...

See also, John 3:19-21: "... Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Chip Webb said...

Far from casting light into darkness, as Rev. Susan opines, how is this piece any type of "smoking gun"?

How is it a surprise that any organization — whether the IRD, Food for the Poor, or ECUSA, to name three very different types of organizations — has some very wealthy donors who support their cause? Ahmanson’s views may be controversial, but I’m sure that many left-wing organizations are supported by wealthy individuals with conspiracy theories as wild as those propagated by Michael Moore.

Do we then conclude that because any organization has a controversial wealthy supporter(s) that they are controlled by that individual(s)? Of course not, but that is exactly what Jim Naughton and every other progressive writer that I've seen writing about the IRD seems to want us to conclude.

If you look at the article, Ahmanson's donations to the IRD had decreased drastically by 2003. Isn’t it a common pattern with organizations to first rely heavily on the support of monthly donors but then build their base to rely less on the big donors? And isn't it common to get wealthy donors to help with major projects, and sometimes even providing matching funds? How many of us reading this blog get mailings from favorite charities that inform us that an individual has graciously set up a matching challenge for them? Every one of us, I bet.

Have groups such as the IRD, the AAC, and others worked together on common-cause issues? Of course. But isn't that the whole point behind Claiming the Blessing as well? Why is it wrong for groups of any theological stripe to work together?

There are other problems with this piece:

*The writer relies heavily on information from people who oppose the IRD. The only "investigative journalism" I’ve ever seen done on the IRD comes from progressives who oppose the organization already.

*The writer compares the amount of money that the AAC spent on General Convention 2003 with Integrity. Those figures may be correct, for all I know. However, a coalition of groups that included Integrity announced months ahead of time that they were spending $375K on the convention, if I remember the figure correctly. The Living Church decried this expenditure in an editorial printed several months before the convention. If progressive organizations spent $375K on the convention, then I'm sure they spent far more than those of us on the orthodox side. How else was Every Voice able to print a 12-page publication every day? The AAC only had enough funds for a 2-page daily publication.

*The writer assumes, based on the information he’s provided in part one, that the international work by the orthodox (e.g., at Dromantine) must be bankrolled by those wealthy individuals. Is it really? Even if those individuals did contribute to such causes, how significant was their contribution? No statistics are provided, but the reader is supposed to assume that those individuals must be behind the activities.

*The writer makes much of nothing at times. Archbishop Eames may well be "'quite certain' that African bishops were being offered money to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church," but that sounds like the old chicken dinners charge from Lambeth ’98. Where’s the beef — er, chicken? Canon Popoola defended receiving money from those who agreed with them theologically, but that's not the same as "being offered money to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church," despite Naughton’s assertion. All Canon Popoola said was that some poor African nations are choosing not to receive money from ECUSA, but are receiving money from orthodox Anglicans.

This article shows how negatively progressives think of the IRD, the assumptions that they make regarding that group (many of which are very conspiratorial), and their evident determination to smear the IRD and other orthodox groups as ECUSA heads toward convention. But there's no "smoking gun" here.

Finally, some words to progressives who consider the IRD "evil":

*The IRD has been a leader in working for religious freedom around the world. Just last week, the IRD devoted major efforts to public rallies for religious freedom in North Korea, where Christians are regularly persecuted for their faith in a way that none of us will ever experience — and even can barely imagine — here in America. The IRD has also for many years cried out against the situation in the Sudan. I know. I was at an IRD-sponsored rally on behalf of the Sudan at General Convention 2000. It was moving to be there as one of our Anglican bishops spoke passionately about what the atrocities being suffered by fellow Anglicans and other Christians there.

*People employed by and/or who support the IRD, including the late Diane Knippers (past president of the IRD), have been very active and instrumental in supporting organizations for the poor such as Five Talents International, which promotes microenterprise development in poor African nations. (If I remember correctly, Diane, who was a wonderful woman, was a Five Talents board member.) Rev. Susan's earlier post a few days ago charged that the IRD cares little for the poor because they don't support government-sponsored programs. Maybe the IRD doesn't support big government programs, but you can't equate that with not caring for the poor. You can be a voice for the poor in other ways — including in opposing dictatorships that keep people oppressed around the world.

*Before General Convention 2003, orthodox and progressive groups met together and pledged to respect each other and not attack the other. However, almost every day in the daily Every Voice convention publication, a major article could be found vilifying the IRD, the AAC, or both. In contrast, the AAC never printed an article in their daily publication against the progressive groups. (The AAC did once or twice defend themselves against Every Voice's attacks, but never wrote articles attacking progressive groups, from my recollection.) Who played fair? Who played hardball?

Finally, to those of you who feel compelled to make statements about the moral competence of IRD employees, or about the IRD's Christian character: How does this ill-informed character assassination help the body of Christ?

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

A few random thoughts, as there is way too much to respond to in the article and in the comments. (I thought Chip had some good things to say about the operation of non-profits.)

For one thing, I understand that most of this information, if not all of it, has been available for quite some time -- why bring it out now? And I do not recall getting any financial statements from The Consultation or any of its members, or seeing such statements published on the web.

Jeff says, "And pushing for freedom of religion is wonderful, so long as the freedom allows the individual to choose the religious expression given to him or her by God (including the understanding of sexuality). But that isn't what the IRD is doing. It appears to me that they are pushing for the ability, maybe even the dictatorial mandate, to worship the way that they see fit, pushing against rules where the rules don't allow their doctrine to be tolerated, where their ideas aren't welcomed, and where their values aren't espoused. That's not freedom. That's proselytizing."

Jeff, you should know that the IRD and other conservative organizations are seeking to have Christianity be Christianity, and not something else, even if it uses the name of Jesus and refers to the Bible. We conservatives are seeking an authentic Christianity, not a blend of Christianity and "new age" thought, or the like.

Furthermore, I have been attending diocesan conventions for over twenty years, in four different dioceses. I have seen plenty of stacked commissions and committees and spectacular power plays from the floor by those who knew how to terminate discussion when it was not headed in the direction they wanted and now to turn motions and resolutions on their heads. I have been part of "discussions" and "dialogues" that were open-ended in theory, but were set up to get a desired conclusion. At one time, I thought that the Episcopal CHurch was governed democratically, but my conclusion is that it has a democratic structure that has been infiltrated by those who want to see their idea of "justice" prevail, and who work the system to get what they want.

As for the larger Anglican Communion -- if we truly are a communion of Christians and not simply a loose collection of organizations sharing a common historical origin, why should not those who see what ECUSA is doing not make their opinions known, and let ECUSA know what the consequences of their actions will be for the relationship?

Chip Webb said...


As I asked Rev. Susan once, what's being hidden? You can find out anything you want about what the IRD's work from being on their mailing list. Is it hiding to refuse to give out a list of your donors and the contributions they made? Most charitable organizations won't do that, either. Look, if I'm giving to an organization, then I want to follow what my Lord said about "not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing": I don't want anyone to know how much I'm giving away, because then my giving is compromised and I might be tempted to give so as to impress others. So even though I'm no Ahmanson, Bill Gates, or what have you, I sure as heck don't want charities giving out information on how much I've been giving to them.

The news about Dromantine has been out for over a year now; it's not been hidden either. I'm not sure how a group of orthodox Anglicans strategizing together constitutes a subversion of either the presiding bishop or provincial boundaries. It does point to the deep divisions in Anglicanism that already existed below the surface (and, in the case of orthodox and progressives in ECUSA, above the surface) before 2003, to be sure. Why? Because while progressives see it differently, to the orthodox (whether in Africa, America, England, or whatever), ECUSA is approving heresy. The differences between us are wide and deep -- and, yes, grievous, very much so. The fault lines were exposed long before General Convention 2003, so much so that someone wrote a piece for The Living Church arguing that we had two very different churches in one body as far back as the mid-1990s. Our differences have always been over a multitude of issues and far deeper ones than the presenting ones from 2003.

"It appears to me that they are pushing for the ability, maybe even the dictatorial mandate, to worship the way that they see fit, pushing against rules where the rules don't allow their doctrine to be tolerated, where their ideas aren't welcomed, and where their values aren't espoused." And how do you get that from the IRD’s freedom of religion work, Jeff? The IRD is concerned with helping Christians who are thrown in prison, executed, or made refugees for their faith — things that none of us here in America have to worry about. The IRD lobbies for religious freedom in lands where freedom of religion is severely hampered, at best, and often denied. This is far, far more serious than any "understanding of sexuality"; it makes any of our issues here in America trivial by comparison. We're talking about freedom from persecution, pure and simple.

But that quote seems to more accurately reflect your view of the IRD in relationship to ECUSA. Even there, however, where is there any dictatorship, Jeff? If you really want to find out what the IRD and other orthodox organizations are concerned about, pick up Thomas Oden's book The Rebirth of Orthodoxy. What "rules don't allow their doctrine to be tolerated"? Thousands of Anglicans over the centuries have been just as concerned for an orthodox faith as groups like the IRD and the AAC are today; examples include Thomas Cranmar, John Jewel, Jeremy Taylor, William Wilberforce, John Newton, John Wesley, Michael Ramsey, and too many too numerous to count. Our Thirty-nine Articles are orthodox, and when there was a proposal to remove them from the BCP in the 1920s, literally thousands of laity protested, and the articles were kept in due to the outcry. So if there are any such rules, they've only sprung up in the last several decades to a century, as the "broad church" gained ascendancy in ECUSA.

Finally, the "ill-informed character assassination" of which I spoke was a reference to the highly pejorative comments made about the IRD itself and its staff throughout the responses to this entry. Given that those who made such comments seemingly don't know anyone from (and maybe not even that much about) the IRD, they are unwarranted (to put it mildly).

Peace of Christ,

Chip Webb said...

Jeff (responding to your response to Hiram, which I didn't see until after I'd submitted my last post),

Go to a country where Bibles have to be smuggled in for people to have their own copies. Go to places where members of churches have to meet in secret because of their government's reaction against religion. Go to areas where you will be thrown into prison, tortured, or killed for your faith.

These are the people for whom the IRD fights. You can find out more about these situations through other organizations than IRD, if you like: look up Open Doors or The Voice of the Martyrs on the internet. But the IRD is a voice for them, fighting to put political pressure on these countries -- and justifiably so.

The IRD spoke for years against the atrocities in the Sudan when no one on the progressive side of ECUSA was doing so. The IRD still speaks against the events in North Korea -- and was derided by Every Voice at General Convention 2003 for doing so.

"They call it 'freedom of religion' when they are oppressed." I assume that by "they" you mean the IRD. If that's the case, well, no they don't. The IRD knows full well that real oppression is found in situations like the ones that I just mentioned, and they direct their energies there. Go to their About Religious Liberty page; you'll see that they have a strong concern for the persecuted body of Christ worldwide.

Jeff, I never put any words in your mouth, nor would I ever want to do so. (I could have misunderstood you; that's always possible, particularly in blogging. Several people greatly misunderstood my comment about sin and the Eucharist from a previous post.) I didn't even mention anyone by name in the last two posts, and intentionally so.

But now that you raise the issue, I do have a question: Do you know the IRD or its staff well enough to know first-hand that "they need that kind of domination and control," the type of "hypocrisy with intent to dominate others" that you describe? I've met some of the IRD's staff, and I can tell you that they're people who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are passionate for his church. They are not seeking "power" or "domination."

My point: If you (or anyone else) don't know them, don't make such claims. If you (or anyone else) are only aware of the IRD from fellow reappraising perspectives, be slow to make pronouncements concerning the organization. Disagree with them all that you want, argue that they are wrong all you want, but don't jump to conclusions about their motives. "Man looks at the outward apppearance, but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

(BTW, I've made similar comments to fellow reasserters over at titusonenine concerning their words about reappraisers, so I'm being consistent here. I also know that it's possible for me to sin here, even though unintentionally, as much as anyone else, so I'm preaching to the choir.)

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

notice that in all hiram's posts, he posits himself and his friends as keepers of Christianity, and whoever does not practice as they do, is not a real Christian, but something else. he is a fighter for Christ, and all the rest are not.

Note too that every process of the church he describes operates with malicious intent, subterfuge, and is riddled with error.

Anonymous said...

Naughton missed the role of the Priory of Zion and Opus Dei.

If I may make a suggestion, the IRD's brain wave manipulators won't work if you wear your tin-foil hats.

Unknown said...

The tin foil hats only work, though, when the black helicopters fly by. Timing is everything. You have to make sure your head is pointing in the right direction (of course) in order for Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. to steer the helicopter over your hat.


Anonymous said...

rmf, I defend what CS Lewis called "Mere Christianity," not a narrow form of Christianity. Mere Christianity takes many forms as it is lived out - from Eastern Orthodoxy to Baptists and Pentecostals. The thing is, Mere Christianity takes the Nicene Creed "straight up," without evasions, it recognizes that Jesus' death effected something objective, and it regards the Scriptures as reliable and authoritative.


"... Jesus' death effected something objective, and it regards the Scriptures as reliable and authoritative."

Absolutely! If I believe with all my heart, soul and mind that Jesus' death effected "something objective" (although not necessarily subsitutionarily atoning) and if I regard the Scriptures as reliable and authoritative (not to be confused with literal) am I good to go????

Anonymous said...

Susan+, God alone knows your faith, and I certainly do not want to presume to speak for him. We are not saved by our theology, but by Jesus Christ.

But we who have teaching authority have a great respsonsibility before the Lord, and it behooves us to come as close as we possibly can to preaching the same Gospel the Apostles did.

Chip Webb said...


I hear you, and I appreciate your sharing and clarifications. I never thought that you were attacking me, so no personal offense was ever taken. Believe me when I say to you as well that I was never singling out you. I've written Rev. Susan and made various postings over at Every Voice when people have said that the IRD and the AAC are evil, so I didn't have any one person in mind when I wrote the comments in my first response. And while I addressed the last two points to you, I wrote a considerable amount clarifying what I meant in the first post, where I wasn't specifically addressing you.

We agree, Jeff, on the importance and value of each individual. I don't believe that anyone's orientation is a sin. We agree that crimes against anyone are horrible. (And yes, I also am concerned with religious freedom in general, not just for Christians.) I do believe that when compared to situations such as those as Christians (and perhaps members of other religious faiths) face in North Korea, anything that any of us faces here in America is comparatively minute. In making that statement, however, I do not mean that I believe that one individual is more important than another, but rather that we have practically nothing to complain about in comparison.

Concerning myself: I have gone with other members of my parish to General Convention to assist the AAC, and we participated in a few IRD activities (most notably an IRD rally for the Sudan) there. I subscribe to the publication Touchstone, for which IRD staff have written articles. It was through these experiences and sources that I came to financially support the IRD, and they also are the reason why I write positively about them.

While progressives blame groups such as the IRD and the AAC, or, sometimes, certain bishops or priests, for dividing the church, that's a skewed perspective. Reasserters stress the oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the church; we do not see the body of Christ as essentially local in its orientation, but bound together worldwide under the apostolic faith. If the church departs from the apostolic faith, reasserters tend to either want to renew it or leave it. For the past several decades, reasserters have been working for the renewal of ECUSA in a variety of ways. However, many orthodox laypeople have left ECUSA since 2003. (I heard recently that some 70 parishes have had all or most of their members leave ECUSA since 2003.) The laity, then, has had the strongest influence on parishes leaving ECUSA over the last few years, as rectors have watched their congregations dwindle and agonized over what to do. The decisions of 2003 have seriously wounded the church at both local and worldwide levels.

In any case, peace of Christ to you, Jeff. As I mentioned above, nothing that I wrote earlier was meant as an attack on you (or an attack at all -- my words were expressions of concern).