REFORMING AMERICAıS CHURCHES PROJECT
2001-2004 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
SYNOPSIS: Liberal Theology failed America's mainline churches in the Twentieth Century. Striving to become "relevant," they instead lost millions of church members. These diminished but still influential denominations are now starting to acknowledge their mistakes. Even their leaders are open to new directions. The IRD believes that the next four years offer a rare opportunity to redirect these churches away from their reflexive alliance with the political left and back towards classical Christianity. Conservatives have won surprising victories on key theological and sexuality issues at recent church conventions. Now is the time to translate those victories into real influence for conservatives within the permanent governing structures of these churches, so they can help renew the wider culture of our nation. We will emphasize the importance of ecumenical alliances with social conservative Roman Catholics and Evangelicals.
MARKET: Over 8.3 million Americans belong to the United Methodist Church, which is America's third largest denomination. Over 3.5 million Americans belong to the Presbyterian Church (USA). And over 2.3 million belong to the Episcopal Church. Although together these churches include just under ten percent of America's total church membership, their influence is disproportionate to their numbers. Their respective memberships include remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business, and culture. For example, over one-third if the members of the U.S, Senate belong to these three denominations. These denominations include a disproportionate number of higher income and educated Americans. Every year they collect about $8 billion from their members. Collectively, the institutions of these denominations have billions of dollars in endowments. They are affiliated with hundreds of colleges, universities, seminaries, academies and charitable outreach centers. They include over 50,000 local churches. In short, despite their fallen membership numbers of recent decades, these denominations are still flagship churches that directly or indirectly influence millions of Americans.
To reach them and other members, we disseminate news releases to broadcast media, to every major newspaper religion writer in the country, to every major religious magazine, and to key columnists, for a total of over 1,000 media contacts. We place op-eds exposing the Religious Left on the editorial pages of major newspapers, in religious journals, conservative publications and church renewal media. Our staff regularly speaks on radio talk shows and occasionally on television. IRD's quarterly Faith and Freedom journal is sent to over 12,000 supporters, church leaders and media contacts. Our denominational publications now reach 285,000 households and we project growth to 560,000. The combined audiences of reform publications in the Association for Church Renewal total nearly a million households.
ACTION PLAN: Our total program for influencing the governing church conventions of three denominations will cost over $3.6 million of the next four years. Our request to [blacked out] seeks funding for just over 10 percent of this amount. Much of the rest of the income will come from church members and congregations. We will seek foundation funding from other sources. Target dates are the national church conventions of three major U.S. denominations." The United Methodist Church (April 2004, Pittsburgh), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) annual, various locations) and the Episcopal Church (July 2003, Minneapolis.
Grassroots Expansion -- IRD's three denominational committees are Episcopal Action, United Methodist Action and Presbyterian Action. All three empower conservative church members with reporting about their church structure that they will not otherwise hear. IRD is giving special attention to reform of the United Methodist Church, America's third largest religious body, and the largest denomination under Religious Left control. UM Action Briefing currently goes to 275,000 households. Its circulation is expected to be over 500,000 by the start of 2004. Episcopal Action places a key role in the American Anglican Council, an alliance of nearly all the conservative Episcopal renewal groups. Presbyterian Action operates within the Presbyterian renewal movement as a source of proposals to restructure church agencies and re-orient their social message. The circulation for Episcopal Action and Presbyterian Action should grown from 8,000 to 36,000 in the next four years.
Issues -- 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. Media Outreach -- We will continue our current program of press releases, radio commentaries and op-eds for religious and secular publications, and we will have more interactions with local newspaper religion reporters who usually rely on official church leaders for comment. As our donor base grows, we will increase the circulation of our Faith and Freed newsletter. We will develop an interactive website.
Association for Church Renewal/Next Generation Project -- We are a chief organizer of this coalition of conservative/evangelical renewal groups in all the major mainline churches. The association allows us to synchronize strategies across denominational lines and to counteract the influence of liberal ecumenical groups, such as the National and World Councils of Churches. Key to the longer-range success of the church reform movement is recruiting a younger generation of reformers. The IRD has the experience, expertise, connections and vision to recruit and train young church members for this task.
Organizing -- We will annually prepare resolutions for local and regional church conventions in the three major denominations. These resolutions will call attention to egregious behavior by radical church leaders and will be important tools for grassroots organizing. They will also focus on positive, proactive initiatives that unite traditional religious believers and discredit the Religious Left. Working with other renewal organizations, we will identify electable conservative candidates for national church conventions. We will help train elected delegates to be effective at church conventions. We also will assist conservatives who serve on the boards of key church agencies so as to have direct influence over the permanent staff. EVALUATION -- This project may be judged based on the expansion of IRD's audience as expressed through increased circulation of Faith and Freedom and our denominational briefings, through publication of IRD-originated inform in secular and religious media outlets, and through passage of our resolutions in regional and national church bodies. Long-range results will be expressed through the election of conservatives and moderates to the boards of church agencies - a more indirect process, but one that is vitally important to long term reform.
GRANTEE -- The IRD was founded in 1981 to combat the irresponsible political lobbying of mainline churches. Much of IRDıs initial focus was upon directly countering the influence of church leaders in religious and secular elite. Our more recent emphasis is upon directly reaching millions of Americans churchgoers through the media, coalition building and our own publications. Diane Knippers is IRD president and directs the Episcopal project. Alan Wisdom is vice president and director of the Presbyterian committee. Mark Tooley directs the United Methodist committee. Together these three leaders represent 46 years of professional reform work.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy REFORMING AMERICAıS CHURCHES PROJECT 2001-2004
INTRODUCTION: Liberal theology failed Americaıs mainline churches in the 20th century. Striving to become ³relevant,² these churches instead lost millions of members. These diminished but still influential denominations are now starting to acknowledge their mistakes. The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church are especially susceptible to renewal. Even their leaders are open to new directions, including new or increased cooperation with more conservative (and growing) Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches. IRD, with itıs unique access to mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics, is poised to point mainline denominations toward a new era. We believe that continued reformation within the mainline churches will foster a new and robust ecumenism based on classical Christianity and not trendy politics. The new ecumenism will not only breed spiritual renewal within the churches but will also facilitate cultural renewal within America.
THE CHALLENGE TODAYThe mainline churches the bulwark of the Religious Left have been a powerful influence in American life throughout the 20th Century. They have also been declining in membership for almost 40 years. For nearly the last 20 years, the IRD has worked to discredit and diminish the Religious Leftıs influence and we have experienced significant successes in our efforts. Likewise, we have sought to strengthen the influence of religious bodies that will contribute to the renewal of freedom. What is the status of the battle for the soul of our churches the soul of America? Some Religious Left institutions are weakening. Leaders of the premier mainline ecumenical organ, the 50-year old National Council of Churches, are now openly pondering the possibility of closure. They hope the NCCıs replacement will be a broader coalition that will include not only mainline Protestants but also Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Whether their hope is desirable or realistic, it illustrates the failure of once confident and culturally predominant liberal Protestantism.
The Episcopal Church is the most liberal-dominated denomination of the major three that we are targeting. Efforts to legitimize homosexual unions, for example, have only narrowly been defeated. But conservatives are successfully building direct connections through their local dioceses and mission groups to the vibrant, orthodox Anglican churches in Africa and Asia. Conservative overseas bishops are coming to the rescue of troubled American dioceses that are beset by inept leadership.
In the largest mainline church, the united Methodist Church, conservatives are gaining ground. A July editorial in the left-leaning Christian Century lamented, ³The United Methodist Church has taken a sharp turn to the political and theological right, and it appears that it will continue in that direction The Good News movement, the United Methodist wing of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and many of its bishops and tall-steeple pastors have taken over the churchıs governing body²
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), it is liberals more than conservative who threaten to leave the denomination these days. A church-wide survey revealed that Presbyteriansı highest priorities are evangelism and Christian education. The social activist programs of the denomination are preparing for retrenchment.
Even in the churches most denominated by liberalism, there are fresh troops appearing. A new generation of church reformers often in their teens and twenties is emerging. These young people are declaring their commitment to remain in their denominations for the long-term struggle for renewal and reform.
While there are encouraging signs that efforts such as the IRDıs have lessened the impact f the Religious Left, we can expect renewed vigor of radical religious voices in the next four years. The Clinton era muted some of the religious leaders, who did not want to criticize a friendly Democratic Administration, even though their own views were actually further to the Left. We can anticipate that the strident polarization of the 1980s will reappear in the next four years.
The battle is clearly joined. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to redouble the IRDıs efforts.
THE ISSUES FOR 2001-2004
The IRD identifies issues around which is organizes. Some of our pro-active issues are selected to re-shape the public witness of U.S. churches. Two of our current priority issues are international religious freedom and marriage and family. Not much of IRD's work is appropriately reactive - responding to the most dangerous priorities of the Religious Left, training church members in counter arguments undercutting the Left's influence in the media and among policy makers. The following are some of the issues the IRD will engage during 2001-2004. The IRD retains flexibility to respond to other emerging issues.
Marriage Initiatives: Perhaps the most serious threat to American democracy comes from the fragmentation of the family, the building block of society. IRD will place a strong priority on defending marriage and family and opposing the legitimization of sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage. We will play a key role in enlisting churches in the growing Marriage Movement in the United States. Our goal is that our churches would understand that promoting marriage is more than a pastoral care issue for church members - it is a social justice issue for the entire society. For example, promoting marriage is the single best anti-poverty program for poor women and children. IRD is at the center of a new ecumenical initiative to strengthen marriage as an institution - working to build support for the Christian Declaration on Marriage. (The National Council of Churches briefly endorsed this declaration, only to withdraw because of pressure from pro-homosexuality groups. This episode further discredited the failing NCC in the eyes of other major church organizations and before its own mainline constituency. In light of NCC's failure, we are asking individual denominational officials and regional church conventions to endorse the declaration.) The debate over sexuality, in our churches and in the larger society, will last for years to come. The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church all defeated efforts to legitimize sex outside of marriage at national church conventions this year. In the United Methodist Church the margin of victory was greater than before. No longer is there a preponderance of talk about the "inevitable" acceptance of homosexuality and cohabitation by the churches. Secular proponents of sexual license like to portray their opponents as fundamentalists and conservative Catholics. They are befuddled to learn that liberal-dominated mainline churches oppose their agenda as well. IRD will continue to expose the pro-homosexual bias of mainline church agencies that want to disregard the official teachings of their churches. We also will promote increased church attention on teen sexual abstinence, the importance of marital fidelity, and ministry for homosexuals who want to escape their sexual addictions. IRD will not just oppose the attempts to relax sexual standards, but also promote proactive and compassionate programs that can command majority support. A priority will be to equip articulate Christians to defend traditional views in their churches and in the broader society.
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 and consultations for church leader, covering biblical, theological, scientific, psychological and sociological aspects of human sexuality. Participants will develop pro-marriage arguments for discussions in churches in the civil society, including effective media strategies. Our trainees will promote our legislation at their local and regional church conventions in preparation for the larger battles at national church conventions in 2001-2004. In addition we will persuade churches to adopt official policy statements opposing same-sex "marriage" or "domestic partner benefits" in civil society. Too often conservatives in mainline churches focus on internal church policies regarding marriage, while ignoring the larger witness to society. IRD is helping to change that attitude. We are assisting the new Alliance for Marriage in its outreach to the Protestant communities.
Overseas Religious Persecution: The IRD believes that religious freedom is the cornerstone of human rights and democracy. We will continue our religious liberty program with a special emphasis on strengthening the advocacy of U.S. churches for religious liberty. IRD staff members maintain a regular schedule of speaking at conferences, churches and colleges and seminaries. The persecution of Sudan's Christian minority by the Islamic government remains a central IRD focus. Additionally, IRD plans to expose the shortfalls of unquestioning cooperation with government-run church groups in China, Cuba and North Korea. We target these governments, which persecute Christians but are still shamefully defended by mainline church leaders here.
Environmentalism: The National Religious Partnership for the Environment includes the U.S. Catholic Conference, the National Council of Churches, and liberal Jews and Evangelicals. Founded with help from Vice President Al Gore and sustained with money from the Pew Foundation, it aims to enlist America's religious denominations in the environmental movement. The partnership especially focuses on the most dire predictions of global warning in order to justify increased taxation and heavy federal regulation. IRD has been nearly alone in challenging the partnership. But this year we joined a new coalition sponsored by the Acton Institute. Called the Environmental Stewardship Project, it joins Protestants, Catholics and Jews together to challenge the unsubstantiated and politicized claims of the green theology movement embodied by the partnership. IRD will focus during the next four years on discrediting mainline church lobby efforts to spout environmental extremism in defense of liberal legislation that relies on the Kyoto Accords and unproven apocalyptic suppositions.
National Security: During the Cold War, U.S. Mainline churches stridently opposed all U.S. military efforts and arms programs. Fortunately their advice was usually ignored, although they did lend credibility to far-left coalitions. These church groups are now repeating their mistakes by opposing weapons programs, especially anti-missile defenses. Mainline church leaders insist upon strict adherence to the ABM treaty and oppose even limited anti-missile efforts. A new anti-missile defense coalition, which also advocates abolition of all nuclear weapons, includes major mainline and Catholic leaders. Mainline churches continue a pattern of espousing "peacemaking" initiatives, with Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan, and China that overlook human rights abuses by those regimes. Mainline churches are fighting for a diminution of U.S. sovereignty in favor of reliance on the United Nations and multi-lateral initiatives. In the utopian fantasies of mainline church officialdom, national borders and protection of national interest are things of the past. IRD will challenge them with a traditional understanding of Christian realism. And we will expose these churches' embarrassing history of blindness when it comes to military and foreign policy issues.
Hate Crimes: All the mainline churches, in conjunction with civil rights groups and homosexual advocacy groups, have loudly demanded the expansion of hate crimes legislation. Their arguments are seductive but ultimately threaten equality before the law and social harmony. They aim to balkanize America, to equate sexual practice with race and gender, and to give legal preference to politically correct victim groups. IRD will continue to counter their arguments with our appeal for churches to stress racial reconciliation instead of harsher criminal sentencing. This topic is perhaps the hardest issue for us to make arguments that are comprehensible to a wide audience. But the stakes are high enough that IRD feels compelled to address it. Within the churches, almost nobody else is challenging the liberal conventional wisdom on this issue.
Federal Social Entitlements: The social action agencies of the mainline churches remain committed to expansion of federal government programs, including welfare programs, social security and guaranteed medical insurance of nationalized health care. They vehemently denounce proposals - such as school vouchers, medical saving s accounts, and partial privatization of Social Security -- that encourage individuals to take the initiative in providing for their own needs. In general, the IRD will criticize programs that unnecessarily curtail the economic freedom necessary to sustain democracy, that undercut theological principles that support civil society such as subsidiary (Catholic) or sphere sovereignty (Reformed) and that do not enjoy the support of the people in the pews. This promises to be an area that the liberal churches will make a priority in the new, narrowly divided Congress.
Church-State Conflicts: Too often mainline church leaders echo the biases of radical secularists who want to drive all religious influence from the public square. They interpret the Establishment clause of the First Amendment as requiring that religion must retreat wherever the State advances. They show little concern for the Free Exercise clause. The IRD seeks a restored balance in interpreting the Constitution and supports the beneficial role of religion in American Society.
IRD'S RENEWED RESPONSE
The IRD continues to be the sole, unified voice of resistance to the Religious Left. The IRD is the only organization that offers a unified vision of what renewal would look like for the mainline churches in America. And the IRD is one of the few groups that foster practical cooperation among conservative mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics. We will continue to expose Religious Left Extremism, organize conservatives at mainline church conventions, and challenge the claims of liberal church officials when they purport to speak for millions of church members. We will articulate arguments aimed at media, academia, and average church members that will explain why religion must continue to exert a robust role in sustaining the moral under-pinnings of American democracy. Communication and Outreach
IRD writes regularly for Insight magazine, The Presbyterian Layman, Good News magazine (United Methodist), The Wanderer (Catholic), Touchstone magazine (ecumenical), Chronicles of Heterodoxy, American Family Association Journal (Evangelical), and the National Liberty Journal (Baptist). IRD staff have recently appeared on CBSıs Sixty Minutes, on Fox News with Brit Hume, on ABCıs Extra! and on PBSıs Religion and Ethics News Weekly. Our op-eds have recently appeared in The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, The Salt Lake City Tribune, The Detroit News, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Diane Knippers is a contributing editor to Christianity Today.
The addition of new staff will facilitate more direct staff contact with religion reporters and other journalists. IRD plans to generate news releases regularly for our media list of over 1200 outlets. We also plan to generate occasional substantive analyses for journalists. Topics may include: an examination of the influence of church lobby offices in Washington, DC, an analysis of the NCC and its decline, the growing budgets and investment portfolios of church agencies, and the stances of various denominations towards sexuality issues. Looking toward the upcoming national church conventions, we will create a media packet that will outline mainline church structures and policies, along with our critique of them. Our newly redesigned Faith and Freedom newsletter goes to 13,000 supporters, church leaders, and religion reporters. In 2001, we will develop an attractive, informative, and interactive website, as well as an e-mail dissemination capability that will allow us to reach thousands of supporters immediately and with minimal expense.
It has proven most effective for the IRD to organize, recruit members, and conduct fundraising through denomination-based programs. Within key mainline denominations, the IRD conducts the following: reporting, analysis, and exposes of national church activities; education on positive policy initiatives which the church ought to undertake; organizing and training of church activists; and coordinating the efforts of conservatives within and among the denominations.
IRDıs United Methodist Action Committee has attained our goal this year of reaching 250,000 households with our Summer 2000 report on the churchıs May General Conference. The autumn issue has gone to 275,000 households. By this time next year , we expect to be mailing to 350,000 households. We are well on our way towards ultimately reaching one million United Methodist households. By 2004, we expect to be at least 500,000. This is the very first sustained effort in the history of the United Methodist Church to reach a large audience with exposes of misguided church activity and calls for church reform.
Our growing outreach over the last five years (we started by mailing our newsletter to 200 homes) was significantly responsible for perhaps the most productive General Conference in 40 years. UMAction helped to defeat pro-gay initiatives by margins of 2 to 1 or more. Our initiative to overturn the churchıs opposition to voluntary school prayer was also successful. So too was our initiative to overturn the churchıs official pacifism to a stance that acknowledges Christiansı approval of the resort to force in some circumstances, such as genocide, aggression and tyranny. Delegates to the General Conference also voted to reapportion the composition of future General Conferences so that declining (and liberal) regions of the church such as the northeast and west coast will receive fewer delegates. Growing (and more conservative) regions such as the southeast and overseas churches will receive more delegates. This will help insure that conservative trends on sexuality and a whole range of other issues will continue at future General Conferences.
As UMActionıs circulation has grown, so too has its donor base. We now have over 9,000 active donors. UMAction is part of a coalition of conservative renewal groups within the United Methodist Church. But we are the only source of original investigative reporting within the 8.3 million member denomination. The conservative majority within the church has for decades remained uninformed about the far-left leadership of their denomination. UMAction is awakening that majority for the first time. We expect to have an even more influential impact on the next General Conferences.
As satisfying as these successes at the General Conference are, UMAction recognizes the need to institutionalize conservative gains in the seminaries and boards and agencies of the church. Some of these institutions boast endowments of hundreds of millions of dollars to continue to make grants to a host of radical left causes. In particular, we are targeting the Washington-based Board of Church and Society and the New York-based Board of Global Ministries. Our observers attend every meeting of these agencies and will increase work to organize conservative board members.
Additionally, we have crafted resolutions for our supporters to submit to their 2001 local ³Annual Conferences,² entities that roughly follow state lines and meet annually. These resolutions are supporting the Christian Declaration on Marriage, supporting the faith-based programs to combat poverty, spotlighting the plight of overseas persecuted religious believers, and supporting alternatives to abortion. We will prepare another round of resolutions for the annual conferences in 2002 and 2003. The process of submitting and supporting resolutions is an excellent training device for conservative activists, even if the resolutions are not approved. They will further strengthen our preparation for the national General Conference by helping shape the debate.
We are working with other United Methodist renewal organizations to strengthen the conservative presence at the next General Conference in 2004. This will include polling announced candidates and urging potentially strong delegates to run. We will help to provide campaign advice and logistical support, especially with our extensive mailing lists. We will soon have the largest database of United Methodist names and address in the country. After delegates are elected in 2003 by their respective annual conferences, we will use the following year to train sympathetic delegates in parliamentary strategy and educate them in the issues on which we focus. We will stress the importance of changing the staff and leadership of permanent church agencies. Our main target will be the Washington lobby office, which is the largest church lobby in the nationıs capitol. At the 200 General Conference we persuaded 30 percent of the delegates to vote for its elimination. We believe we have a chance at getting 51 percent in 2004. We also will target the United Methodist missions board, our largest church agency with over $400 million in assets and an annual budget over $150 million. We want to shift this agency away from left-wing political action and back towards traditional Christian missions.
After General Conference in 2004, we will help conservatives seeking appointment to the boards of church agencies, where conservatives are traditionally under-represented in a dramatic way.
The IRDıs United Methodist program continues to be a member, along with other church renewal groups, of the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability (CUMA), which assists lay people in filing charges against liberal bishops who decline to uphold church law, especially on issues relating to marriage and sexuality. Liberal clergy across the United Methodist denomination are searching for high-profile ways to evade church law against the conduct of same-sex unions, often with the complicity of sympathetic bishops. CUMA is assisting lay people who wish to challenge these bishops and clergy through church courts. Over the next three years, we expect involvement in at least a dozen different cases around the country.
IRDıs Presbyterian Action Committee is a strong and capable presence at the annual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The IRDıs Presbyterian Action has been particularly effective in helping conservative commissioners in local presbyteries and the General Assembly in drafting legislation and presenting arguments for it. Among our more recent legislative successes at the General Assembly are the following: defeating an attempt to increase funding for the denominations Washington lobbying office, directing the Presbyterian mission board to respond more vigorously to persecution of Christians overseas, tightening up rules so that denominational staff must have a more explicit mandate for political lobbying, and amending a policy statement on ³multiculturalism² to clarify that the church does not accept all cultural beliefs and practices as equally valid.
Presbyterian Action assisted the coalition that championed a new church law this year to clarify the prohibition on any church involvement in ³same-sex unions.² As that measure passed the General Assembly and now goes to the presbyteries for ratification. Presbyterian Action is contributing to a joint publication and ongoing campaign to make the argument that marriage should be the only sexual relationship blessed by the church.
Presbyterian Action is also working with local conservative activists to put forward three overtures to the 2001 General Assembly: (1) a proposal to defund the Nation Council of Churches if it does not fulfill the promises made by its leaders in order to obtain special ³bailout² gifts from member denominations, (2) a suggested set of guidelines for avoiding moral compromise in dealing with partner church institutions under the control or intimidation of repressive government, and (3) a proposal to abolish one or more church social agencies that do not effectively serve the denominationıs stated priorities of evangelism and Christian education.
In its attendance at the General Assembly and other Presbyterian meetings, Presbyterian Action also takes the opportunity to report to Presbyterians on the actions of their church agencies. Presbyterian Action has a regular column in its newsletter that reports all political lobbying by the denominationıs Washington office.
The Presbyterian Action Briefing gores to a current mailing list of 2,000. We intend to expand that to 10,000 by 2004. In addition, Presbyterian Action staff write regularly for the Presbyterian Lay Committee both its bimonthly newspaper (circulation over 500,000) and itıs popular website (over 6,000 hits daily).
IRDıs Episcopal Action. The Episcopal Church is the denomination which is currently suffering the most serious decline. Discouraged conservatives are leaving abandoning huge endowments and valuable property to liberal control. The IRD is working hard to convince conservatives to stay and fight. The Episcopal Church is the denomination most vulnerable to devaluing marriage as only one among many sexual relationships that the church approves. IRDıs Episcopal Action will conduct training to equip conservatives and moderates to counter the trend.
This fall, Diane Knippers agreed to serve as the part-time interim Executive Director of the America Anglican Council, the broadest-based conservative reform movement in the Episcopal Church. She has given significant leadership in launching this organization, illustrative of the IRD commitment to working in coalitions and building a large reform movement. Episcopal Action organizing will focus in three areas:
13 working in regional diocesan councils by recruiting clergy and laity to run for deputy to the 2003 General Convention14 supporting initiatives fostering international Anglican intervention in the US church, and
15 assisting conservatives who serve on various Standing Commissions of the Episcopal Church as they prepare policy recommendations and legislation for the churchıs Executive Council and the 2003 General Convention. (Diane Knippers has herself been appointed to the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations)
Episcopal Action will expand our Episcopal Action Briefing to fill a serious reporting void in the Episcopal Church. Our current circulation is 6,000, we intend to increase that by 5,000 each year to reach a total of 26,000 in 2004.
Association for Church RenewalThe IRD acts as the publicity and program arm for the Association for Church Renewal (ACR), which is comprised of executives of major conservative renewal organizations throughout the mainline denominations, including Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists, American Baptists, Evangelical Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and others. ACR leaders meet twice a year, issue press releases and statements, share research materials, and cooperate on special projects.
The ACR conducts occasional press conferences in Washington, DC, and issues press statements on issues that cross denominational lines. A major priority among 2001-2004 year will be to push for the final dismantling of the National Council of Churches in favor of a more inclusive and more accountable ecumenical structure. This goal has already been endorsed by numerous leaders from mainline churches and the NCC.
The IRD monitors most major gatherings of the National Council of Churches and, when possible, the World Council of Churches. We are a major source of information about those councils for journalists (such as an April 2000 Weekly Standard piece on NCC support for Cuba). We work to discredit these bodiesı radical political advocacy and to weaken support for the councils until they exhibit signs of broad-based reform.
The IRD is committed to fostering genuine Christian unity that will strengthen the churchesı responsible, authentically Christian influence in society. We are also determined to see that evangelical churches, schools, and other institutions do not fall sway to the liberalizing tendencies that have so damaged the mainline. Diane Knippers is an officer in the National Association of Evangelicals. She will serve on a new NAE committee that will be analyzing and reanimating its public policy education and advocacy. The IRD is working to encourage the mainline Protestant churches to broaden their ecumenical reach to include more conservative Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. At the same time, we work closely with conservative Christian groups so that their interaction with the liberal Protestant leaders will aid in the reformation of the mainline churches.
Next Generation Initiatives
At the Episcopal General Convention this year, a key element in defeating same-sex ³marriage² initiatives was the presence of a number of evangelical youth, thanks to IRD and allied groups. IRD covered a major United Methodist conference this fall for nearly 1,000 college students aspiring to be future ministers. We exposed the fact that nearly all the major speakers were theological and sexual revisionists opposed to the historic beliefs of the denomination. Young people active in mainline churches tend to be more conservative than their parents and grandparents. They are interested in re-establishing the broken links to classic Christianity.
In 2001, we will convene an organizational conference for young people willing to work for renewal in the mainline churches targeting university and seminary students. We are calling this the Athanasius Project, evoking the fourth century champion of orthodoxy who began to contend for the faith in his youth and continued for his whole life, much of which he spent in exile. These young leaders will be active at the coming national church conventions in 2001 2004. The major denominations are all seeking to elect more young people to these conventions.
ADMINISTRATIVE GOALS FOR 2001-2004
In order to continue and accelerate the IRDıs growth, we have targeted several administrative and support areas for strengthening the coming year. Staff We began 2000 with the equivalent of six and one-half staff positions. We plan to end this year with eight (requiring filling one current vacancy). We need to expand our staff as quickly as possible to create full-time positions in development, public relations/media, marriage and family, and religious liberty.
Space The IRD moved its offices this summer. We have expanded our space and are currently subletting offices to another church reform group, giving us room to grow. Our new offices are conveniently located nearer to think tanks and other groups with which we work.
Development We have met our goal of expanding our grassroots membership so that we receive a greater portion of our income from members than from foundations. As we continue to expand our direct mail program, our next step in achieving diverse and broader funding is to develop a major donor program and to gain support from additional foundations.
The liberal church structures that the IRD has critiqued for two decades are now openly acknowledging their failures and advertising their interest in new directions. Now is not the time to slow our renewal movements, but to sustain the pressure for a return to orthodoxy and accountability within the mainline churches.
Our goals admittedly are long-term and sweeping: the renewal of Americaıs churches and of her culture. But we are realizing the fruits of our efforts. From itıs inception the IRD argued that international religious freedom should be a common concern uniting Christians within and among many different denominations. Within the past four years an impressively ecumenical movement has also arisen to defend persecuted believers in places like China and Sudan. In the 1980s the IRD critiqued church leadersı romance with Marxist-infected Liberation Theology. That cause is now largely defeated. In the 1990s we similarly sounded the alarm about the extremism of radical feminist theology. That cause now finds sustenance within the churches only on liberal seminary campuses. In recent years, we have warned against the dilution of historic Christian teachings about marriage and sexuality and its potential impact on the nation. Although the battle is certainly not over yet, many of our churches are beginning to reject the pressure to abandon their standards.
We now look forward to the coming decade, when IRD will challenge the American mainline churches to reassert historic theology, to propagate values and virtues necessary to sustain freedom, and to align themselves with fellow orthodox believers in the Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches. Both the churches and our nation will benefit enormously.