Following the money

We sent this press release out today. The series it refers to can be found here.

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: www.edow.org/follow

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.

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21 Comments
  1. Funding the Anglican Right

    Washington Window, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Washington [D.C.] has a major feature in the May issue, in two parts, entitled Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right. You can read it online here: Part…

  2. Funding the Anglican Right

    Washington Window, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Washington [D.C.] has a major feature in the May issue, in two parts, entitled Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right. You can read it online here: Part…

  3. RMF

    This information is long overdue. Thanks for providing a readable and truthful story.

    There is a clear anti-intellectual, anti-Enlightenment strain to many of these groups funding the dissidents. This is quite contrary to the long tradition and application of reason and critical inquiry that has always marked the Episcopal Church and wider Anglican tradition.

    I daresay in many ways, it is anti-modern.

    I don’t think there is any equivalence, either, between groups within the Episcopal Church defending our worship, polity and discipline, and those to a large extent funded by outside groups, working mightily to undermine these very things.

  4. faithwatch

    Thank you for these fine articles. You have brought some hidden truth into the open. This part of the story has been too long ignored by those who are aligning themselves with the Network.

  5. Rick Harris, O.P.

    The term, “Follow the Money,” is typically used in politics to describe the principle that if one follows back a trail of contributions on a controversial political issue, one finds a company or an industry or even an individual who stands to make a profit if the issue is resolved a particular way. For example, AARP’s support of the Medicare Modernization Act, and the notorious part D drug benefit, is often thought to have resulted from the fact that AARP offers insurance services that will profit from this law. Prominent Christian PAC’s in Alabama and elsewhere accepted money from Indian tribes with interests in Mississippli casinos and used the contributions to fight a state lottery in Alabama. It’s hard to see how conservative or right wing activists will personally profit from a schism in ECUSA or the Anglican communion.

    What has this money purchased, exactly, other than the opportunity to express and publicize ideas and points of view? There is a sense here that if this money were not made available, then everyone would just be quiet and not express their opinions and ECUSA could go on about its business without interruption or controversy.

    I offer another explanation for the staying power of this controversy: the internet. It’s cheap, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s easy to use. It wasn’t around after GC 1976 when WO and the new prayerbook were approved. It is today.

    And I offer another explanation for why ECUSA is facing schism: the innovators at GC 2003 cared little whether their proposals would cause schism. And those who voted with them seriously underestimated the effect their actions would have on ECUSA and on the Anglican Communion as a whole. Regardless of whether the actions taken at GC 2003 were theologically warranted, they represented a radical departure in church teaching and the adverse reaction of the majority of Anglican leaders around the world, and many Episcopalians at home, was quite predictable.

    Yes, ECUSA does face a politically charged atmosphere in Columbus in June. Mostly, though, this is because most bishops and most delegates know it is quite likely that ECUSA must either unfeignedly accept the recommendations of the Windsor report as endorsed by the primates at Dromantine, or there will be schism within both ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. Accepting the Windsor recommendations will involve retracting its position. Rejecting them will mean likely schism. It’s a Hobson’s choice and those going to the convention don’t like it one bit.

    You can make your case on theology, you can make it on ecclesiology, you can make it on Scripture, you can make it on tradition, you can make it on reason. But your argument seems to be, “My opponents got their funding from people who are archconservatives and rich, and, without that money, they wouldn’t have been able to afford to get their point of view across.” The idea that ideas and points of view should not be heard– because they lead to controversy– really, really disturbs me.

    The argument avoids the theological issues, the ecclesiology, and the Scripture-tradition-reason triad. And it changes the choice ECUSA now faces not one whit. At the end of the day, ECUSA must choose in two months: Windsor, or likely schism.

  6. RMF

    I was pleased to read what Bishop Johannes Seoka of Pretoria had to say today.

    “The relationship between the CPSA and the Episcopal Church “is very compatible,” Seoka said. “The problem comes with other provinces in Africa, but that is more at the primates’ level. There are many bishops who are keen to work with the Episcopal Church — some have even told their primates this.”

    Timeya reminded Church Center staff that there are some U.S.-based Episcopalians who create an environment that enables African bishops and primates to be hostile towards the Episcopal Church.

    “We shouldn’t make the assumption that the opinion of the primates is the opinion of the church in general,” Seoka said, suggesting that Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria should be addressing the conflict between Christianity and Islam in his own country rather than interfering in the affairs of the Episcopal Church.

    “People should not deliberately divide the church for personal agendas,” Seoka concluded. “We have a common agenda, the same God and same redeemer and we have been entrusted with the mission in the world.”

  7. I think this isn’t so much about schism or isolating ECUSA from the Anglican Communion as it is about the IRD taking mainstream Protestantism much, much farther to the right, and re-making this country into a fundamentalist, theocratic fantasyland. It may be about the property, but that’s just part of the plan. You’re right – it’s anti-modern. They want to take this country back about 100 years, spiritually and politically. But not technologically, because the Internet is indeed useful to them.

  8. Theocracy Watch: Follow The Money

    This item was right at the top of my Google News today – I have it set up to find articles about the Episcopal church (but also filtered so that I mostly see stuff about my own, progressive wing of…

  9. I appreciate Jim Naughton’s research and clear presentation in this work. While there had been hints of significant ties to only one or two strong financial supporters of the Duncan-Akinola axis, there had never been such a well-documented collection of it until this series.

    I am worried that the lack of transparency from the supporters of Duncan-Akinola is hiding something else. And I am seriously disturbed that the Archbishop of a country with such enormous difficulties of its own can find the time to “help” us here in the U.S.

    The whole business of secret meetings and behind-the-scenes maneuvers smacks of Renaissance papery. I thought that was behind us.

    Aside from distracting our attention from the poor, the homeless, and the hungry, what other goals do these moneybuckets have?

  10. Widening Gyre

    OK Jim,

    You’ve been beating this drum for awhile now. I’ve printed off the article. I’ll read it and decide whether your arguments and connections are sufficient to make me believe in a conspiracy theory.

    Generally, I find this kind of argument distracting and a bit too much like a political hatchet job. But I know folk other than you who like to throw the “follow the money” argument into the conversation everytime I try to talk to them about what are our differences and how can we bridge them.

    Without having read your piece, I guess my first thought would be “So what? What difference does this link make in trying to find our common ground?”

    I know I’ve never received any money from anyone named Harold nor do I know much about the IRD. Am I somehow tainted in your eyes simply because I am on the same side as the people you criticize?

    I know press types like to say the people have a right to know. Sure. And sometimes it is good to get the Truth out there. But again, the specific question is why is it vital to get this alleged Truth out there right now? If you address this in your article, my apologies. I’ll try to read it today.

  11. DanielR

    Rick, Widening Gyre, et al.

    I think some of you are missing part of the point of this article. There has been talk of these alliances and funding for a while now, and conservatives have been saying it’s just a bunch of paranoid conspiracy theory raving. This article lends some credence to what has been rumored.

    What strikes me about the IRD and associated groups is that they don’t want to anyone preaching any message they haven’t personally approved. I know, as Christians, we are admonished to be on alert for heresy and false teachers. I don’t agree with everything the ECUSA or mainline churches are saying and doing, but I don’t think any of it is heresy or false teaching, just their interpretation of the scriptures, which I believe they are correct in following.

    I believe each of us has to interpret the scriptures and follow where God leads us and it just seems like the IRD and the groups they support and work with are trying to say “Don’t think for yourself, don’t interpret the scriptures, Let us tell you what to believe”.

    Why not “You preach your message and we’ll preach ours, and let’s allow Jesus to be the judge of who is being faithful to His teaching.” Someone who is not going to respond to the Bible thumping, hell and damnation, Shakespeare sounding, fundamentalist preacher might respond to a more liberal, seeker-friendly church.

    The first step in reaching the unchurched non-believer is getting them thinking about God, then thinking about their relationship with God, then to get them involved in church and develop that relationship with God. Liberal churches are doing all of these things, conservatives should leave them alone to perform their mission the best way they can. I’m confident that if God wants us all to be ultra-conservative fundamentalists, He will lead us in that direction. Until then, conservatives should stop trying to undermine more liberal churches and cease the “hostile takeovers”.

    The problem with this goes beyond the ECUSA, the IRD is “targeting” several mainline denominations; Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian. And by-the-way, why is the IRD NOT targeting the Alliance of Baptists and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists? These groups support gay marriage and have gay clergy.

    When your church is going in a direction you disagree with, you have options; you can change churches, or you can try to influence the direction of the church, but this should be done from the inside, by people inside the church. In the case of the IRD they are trying to influence churches from the outside, churches they are not a part of. And in my mind, the IRD doesn’t care about the churches they are trying to influence, they don’t care about the people in those churches, they only care about their agenda. I believe this because of the tactics they use and the terminology they use, terminology like infiltrate, discredit, and “action groups”.

    I think that is the point of the article. The issue inside the ECUSA and Anglican Communion is an internal issue that should be decide within the ECUSA/AC and not influenced from outside by well financed intruders. Read up on the IRD and ask yourself if these are really people that you want to be “in bed” with. If they are, get ready to dance to their music.

  12. Widening Gyre

    Jim,

    I’ve read the article. I tried to follow the http footnotes in the morass known as the prothonotary site in Allegheny County. I’ve read with interest the Concerned Episcopalians for St. Lawrence website on which you stake your claim to having Bishop Duncan’s own meeting notes still smoking. I’ve chuckled at your “inside the beltway” speak of the dastardly “neo-cons.” (As an aside, were there neo-cons back in 1981 or were there just regular cons yet to mature? I don’t think Tucker Carlson had even tied his first bow-tie back then.)

    Putting aside any argument over the factual assertions made and the connect the dots logic, I stick to my first question raised in my earlier post, “So what? Why do you think this story is something people should read?” And I’ve already suggested that the “right to know” answer won’t be satisfactory in this case.

    I don’t mean to suggest that you don’t have a really good answer; I just don’t see it…yet.

  13. a_cermak

    I think that this information is helpful to the average parishioner trying to figure out which “side” appeals. Full disclosure is never a bad thing.

  14. Widening Gyre

    DanielR,

    I don’t think we’ve missed the point. I think what we’ve tried to say is that there is no point here. Now I admit I am not speaking from a position of much knowledge on Duncan or Akinola or the Network or the ACC (but that hasn’t stopped others here so why should it stop me, right).

    So what if there is an “alliance” between Akinola and Duncan? Seriously. What is the big deal? So what if some rich Californian wants to donate money to a particular Christian ministry? That happens everyday. So what if the primates have started acting like every other political group in the world? Heck, even at our local Annual Council level there are secret meetings and special invitation only dinners for the special interests groups. What do you think happens at General Convention? Groups always caucus and network. Big deal.

    And then a_cermack falls right into the trap by responding that “full disclosure” is never a bad thing. Sure. But how is it a good thing? Look at what this article has produced in the terms of comments.

    We’ve got RMF saying it is part of some clear “anti-intellectual, anti-Enlightenment, anti-modern” movement. RMF, have you ever spoken to anyone in these “anti-intellectual” groups? That is painting with an awfully big brush. Now, there are kooks on all sides, but do we really think we have bishops and primates as kooks (wait, don’t answer that). Nothing in Jim’s articles suggests that Duncan is “anti-intellectual” yet somehow you have claimed for yourself this special insight into this man.

    Then, faithwatch throws in some business about bringing the “hidden truth” to light, again suggesting some nefarious plot. If the information Jim used is taken from publicly disclosed information forms for charities, how is this hidden truth? And again, I ask what is the truth that was hidden here?

    Ginny then chimes in by saying it is all part of a plot by IRD to re-make “this country into a fundamentalist, theocratic fantasyland.” Where did you get that information from Jim’s article, Ginny? I must not have printed off those pages that included the map of the new America as the “World of Tomorrow for the People of Yesterday.” Now I love Disneyland as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to see America turned into a theme park. $12 burgers are worse than $3 gallons of gas.

    And to bring it back, DanielR proclaims with some degree of certainty that the dreaded “they don’t want anyone preaching any message they haven’t personally approved.” Where was that in Jim’s article, DanielR? Again, must have missed that. My printer has been on the fritz lately.

    So full disclosure here does seem to have led to some pretty uncharitable comments by people who have somehow decided they have the power to determine whether someone’s intentions are honorable or not. I certainly don’t have that power and can only look to one’s actions and words. Both sides are equally at fault when it comes to trying to assume intentions. Until we stop doing that, our chances of finding common ground will not increase. Peace to you all this day.

  15. RMF

    If groups in the light of full disclosure end up looking like what they do, then it’s not full disclosure that makes them look that way, it’s what they do. It’s full disclosure that shows us.

    And if primates start acting like every other political group in the world, then that is a terrible thing indeed.

  16. DanielR

    Widening Gyre,

    I thought we were discuccing the issue, not just Jim’s atricle. The issue I have the biggest problem with is the IRD trying to change the Episcopal Church from the outside, they are not part of the Episcopal Church (or the Presbyterian Church, or the UMC) and I don’t believe they care about the church. They only care about their conservative agenda (which they have a right to work for, but not by subverting and discrediting clergy and churches they disagree with).

    Full disclosure is necesary, if only to allow contributers to know where and how their contributions are being spent.

    Look into the IRD, if this is the “action group” you want supporting your cause, I hope you can live with them. Ask yourself why the IRD says it is “targeting” certain denominations. Do they sound like a ministry?

    My point is that the rift in the AC/ECUSA is an internal issue to be worked out within the church, and you are being guided in your actions by influences outside the church, who in my opinion do not care about the church or the people in the church.

  17. a_cermak

    I don’t think I fell into a “trap”, I honestly believe that full disclosure and knowing everyone involved in a discussion and who gains and who doesn’t is important.

    Also it’s a matter of dealing honorably with one another. If I owned a piece of property next to a college, and I was putting it on the market to sell and was thinking I’d make a decent profit from setting to the college. Instead of which the person who wants to buy it tells me about his infirm mother and how he and she are going to live there so I give him a break on the price I would have asked. Now he turns around and deeds it to the college because he was just a straw purchaser all along. Am I going to feel that I was treated honorably by the college?

  18. Widening Gyre

    DanielR and a_cermack,

    Thanks for the follow-up. I think we all use our posts to focus on certain points and as you’ve pointed out, we all have different points to make. I was trying (perhaps not so gracefully) to say that simply having rich folk give money to Christian ministries is not a per se bad thing. There is no doubt Jim’s article proves that money has been pouring into the IRD and AAC.

    But my question was, so what? It only becomes important if we make certain assumptions about the intentions of these two groups. Of course DanielR seems to suggest that intentions don’t matter; the simple fact that one of the groups is not an “inside” ministry is troubling to him. Good point, but I thought I read that the head of the IRD is an Episcopalian so maybe IRD is a “quasi-inside” ministry. Or maybe an “almost lodge member” as my Catholic friends used to say to me about the Episcopal Church. We are a Big Tent church so I am not that troubled by the involvement of related parties.

    That being said, I don’t know much more about the IRD and certainly haven’t felt their influence in my limited circle of involvement.

    The comment about honorable dealings suggests to me that a_cermack somehow feels that the IRD and the AAC have not been honorable in their dealings. Again, I don’t see it from Jim’s article. The “trap” here is to say the reason for the article was the need for full disclosure, when full disclosure doesn’t really tell us anything. This piece only has bite if we make negative assumptions about the intentions of Duncan, the AAC, the IRD, and Ahmanson.

    Sure, the comment about full disclosure is generally a fair point, but that would also apply to all the umpteen other interest groups operating inside or on the periphery of the Episcopal Church and I don’t think Jim’s all that interested in trying to bite that apple.

    When I hear that some special interest group from the Left has published an agenda for General Convention, I don’t start attacking their character or looking into their financials. I might disagree with their position, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to work out God’s kingdom as they understand it. Should we not give the same benefit of a doubt to the special interest groups on the Right? Nothing in Jim’s article (apart from leapfrogging off the “Duncan Memo”) suggests foul intentions.

    I think Jim’s article tries to stay neutral as to intentions and lays out the facts. But if we are charitable, then we’re left asking, What’s the big deal here? That was and remains my point. It might not be a very good one so feel free to disregard it if you like.

  19. DanielR

    I’d hate to see a split in the Anglican Communion over an issue that I personally believe warrants more thought, study and prayer. The Ft. Worth diocese does not accept gay clergy, and for that matter is not real welcoming to gay congregants, nor do they ordain female clergy. I’d hate to see the AC and ECUSA split into two affiliations, one accepting of gays and women clergy and the other not, over an issue I think needs more study and prayer.

    The Southern Baptist Convention was formed when Baptist churches in the south split from the Triennial Convention of Baptists over the issue of slavery. It was 150 years before the SBC officially renounced their scriptural endorsement of slavery and apologized for it. I’d hate to see a split in the Episcopal Church and one side having to renounce their position and apologize sometime down the road.

  20. Funding the Anglican Right

    Washington Window, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Washington [D.C.] has a major feature in the May issue, in two parts, entitled Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right. You can read it online here: Part…

  21. Jim’s article is specific to ECUSA and the financial backing of the conservative faction. I’ve probably been reading too much about the IRD than is healthy for me, but the article was just more confirmation that they are too well-organized and well-financed for comfort.

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