Shining a little light on the IRD

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Talk2Action has news of a new video produced by United Methodist Minister Steven D. Martin. Renewal or ruin? examines the role of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in sowing dissent within mainline denominations and advancing a hard-right political agenda. The story will be somewhat familiar to readers of part one my series Following the Money, but Martin’s 25 minute video makes the information much more accessible, and it is perfect for adult education classes.

By the way, am I the last one to learn that the Rev. Ephraim Radner, who is helping to write the proposed Anglican Covenant, is a member of the IRD’s board? Does it bother anybody else that this sensitive work is being done by a man so closely allied with an organization that aims to “restructure the permanent governing structure” of “theologically flawed” Protestant denominations? (see FtM, Part one, footnote 3.)

The board is chaired by Roberta Ahmanson, whose billionaire husband Howard has said that while he no longer thinks it is “essential” to stone gay people, adds “It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things.” (See FtM, Part one, footnote 13.)

The Rev. Philip W. Turner is a member of the IRD’s Board of Advisors. He, like Radner is one of the six members of the Anglican Communion Institute. It is worth keeping these ties in mind when reading the ACI’s frequent interventions in the current debate over homosexuality and church order.

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5 Responses to "Shining a little light on the IRD"
  1. Just a quick question that I haven't been able to find: what is the tax/tax-exempt status of the IRD? Is it a 501(c)(3), or some other kind of organization?

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  2. Yep, 501(c)(3) nonprofit religious org. You can get their latest Form 990 in any number of ways. If you write to them directly they will probably send you one.

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  3. I just noticed that the recent ENS report on the HOB meeting had this to say about Dr. Radner:

    "...the Rev. Dr. Ephraim

    Radner, a theologian who is rector of Ascension Church, Pueblo, Colorado.

    Radner is also a senior fellow of the Anglican Communion Institute, 'a

    trans-national evangelical organization.'"

    No sign there of the highly controversial IRD. Perhaps ENS was just being polite or kind (or just didn't know), but it seems readers should indeed know that Dr. Radner is a board member of IRD. To serve on the Board of Directors reflects a very high level of agreement with (and direct participation in) the IRD's stated mission. More than a small problem there; keep that light shining brightly.

    By the way, there appears to be yet another Episcopal clergyman on the IRD Board of Directors: The Rev. Graham Smith. Father Smith's diocesan/parish affiliation is not included in the IRD board list, though there is a Rev. Dr. Graham Smith shown online as Rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Glenview, Illinois, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Same person? Free right of association, of course - just not for some people in Nigeria.

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  4. Ugh ... Jim, you're probably not the last one to figure out that Radner was on IRD's board. I'd only just heard today. My opinion of Dr Radner has slipped several notches. I'd thought he was a conservative, but not to the degree of, say, Akinola.

    The Institute for Religion and Democracy is not known as a supporter of human rights. I once quipped that North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and that they're the same sort of democrats as the IRD.

    That said, Radner has come out against the Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act in Nigeria. This is what he had to say on Thinking Anglicans (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002276.html)

    "The proposed Nigerian legislation is wrong, and I state that unequivocally for my part. I hope that the Nigerian Anglican Church will change its mind and oppose it openly.

    But I am surprised at the viciousness with which commentators here attack conservatives in America (and elsewhere) who are are not climbing the barricades in opposition to this legislation. Of course people prefer to be ignorant of the things that unsettle their hopes and comforts! It is as often unconscious as anything, and afflicts all of us, myself included.

    It must the said that the stories coming from Nigeria regarding imprisonment of gay people and violence against them are not numerous or well-documented, and they are not well-publicized (even if Abp. Akinola himself has been in the news quite a bit lately). What reports there are are not pretty, but use of analogies with the days of National Socialism are simply way beyond the pale. (Cf. a recent summary at http://www.iglhrc.org/files/iglhrc/reports/Voices_Nigeria.pdf). One has to work very hard indeed to get reliable information on this, and it should not surprise us at all if many people do not have a strong sense of the concrete dangers of the proposed legislation. What they are hearing is by and large political debate, often tinged with a good deal of posturing.

    But, after all, there is little disucssion on most blogs of the kinds of violence, potential and real, against religious practice and speech that can be found on websites like Forum 18, which document the ongoing imprisonment of Christians and other religious orgnizers around the world. These reports are well-researched and grounded, yet even they receive hardly any publicity. A little reflection on motes and logs would be helpful here.

    Beyond the simple evangelical unacceptability of the proposed Nigerian legislation, however, is the fact that Anglican councils and their documents, to which the Primate of Nigeria has affixed his signature, have spoken relatively clearly about the Christian duties of the Church to protect the persons of homosexuals within the social body in a non-discriminatory way. This makes this matter one that goes beyond the demand for moral awareness in a particular case -- something in which we all fall short -- to one that questions the trustworthiness of our stated commitments. In the present turmoil within Anglicanism, that trustworthiness and its lack is at the heart of our common frailty."

    Mind you, I don't like the way he said, or the qualifiers he used, but that's nit-picking. I have to give him credit for saying what he did.

    The only positive thing I can say about the IRD is that they've expressed concerns about the rights of Christian converts in nations hostile to Christianity. I think it's a topic that liberals shy away from, perhaps due to concern over Christian colonialism. I share the concern, but we do need to be worried about our new sisters and brothers.

    However, I frankly find all of the IRD's other values to be repugnant. I do not think that Radner's membership is widely known, and I shall see to it that my friends know.

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  5. No, I don't think it is nit-picking. We in Europe have learnt our lessons. Evasion is very dangerous. It enables co-dependancy and collaboration. We know what that leads to.

    Yo "state for my part" without doing anything (for instance using his IRD-Nigerian contacts) simply is not good enough.

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