Monday, June 07, 2004

Just Because You're Paranoid...

doesn't mean they aren't plotting to destroy you. In this case, "they" is reference to the American Anglican Council. "You" would be the Episcopal Church.

Demanding Accountability and Keeping the Faith

"Leave them alone to stew in their own juice, I have better things to do." - The Rev. Canon Edward Rodman.

by The Rev. Canon Mark Harris (

That the American Anglican Council means to replace the Episcopal Church with itself (renamed perhaps) as the "true" Anglican expression of the catholic faith in the US, witness their petition to the Primates. The ACC will in any case, and perhaps inadvertently, become a party to the effort to disable the Episcopal Church with mountains of litigation so that it cannot even consider acting as an agent in support of a progressive social and religious agenda. That the two efforts serve two entirely different agendas, agendas with links to one another, is part of the story that is unfolding. The whole story of this concern up to the end of 2001 is well documented in "IDS Insights: A Church at Risk: The Episcopal Renewal Movement."

Other writers, notably Jack Taylor , Leon Howell in his book United Methodism at Risk, Steve Levin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kevin Jones and Colleen O'Connor of the Every Voice Network, Terry Martin, several others on the General Convention Bishops and Deputies listserve, and I have all commented on elements of the relation between the American Anglican Council, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a wide interwoven network of organizational and board membership links between ACC, IRD and affiliated agencies, all promoting evangelical and religious right efforts, and the support for these efforts provided by a small group of foundations and individuals who also fund radical fundamentalists interested in a theocratic future for this country and the world.

So far there seems to be no "smoking gun" statement that links the work of the AAC to that of the theocratic interests of these foundations. The AAC "merely" seeks a realignment of the member dioceses and churches of the Episcopal Church and a restructuring of the Anglican Communion. The realignment sought by the radical fundamentalists is a restructuring of American society on the basis of biblical laws. (See the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Steve Levin)

The Post-Gazette article comes closest to finding an acknowledgement by AAC leaders that they (i) know just exactly where the funding comes from, (ii) do not disassociate themselves from the other interests of those providing the funding, and (iii) know full well that the funding, while seemingly without strings, is none the less a case where "various folks invest their money where they think it's going to have the best impact."

And what might be the "best impact" of monies donated by people interested in a radical realignment of the relationship between church and state? Or by people who believe the mainline Churches, notably the Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, have been captured by liberal, gay, revisionists, heterodox elements? By funding agents who want a biblically based America?

The best impact, of course, is to keep the Episcopal Church occupied - to either see a takeover of the Episcopal Church by persons on the religious right or in any event to see the Episcopal Church disconnected from its liberal social and religious agendas.

From the standpoint of these religious right donors, I suggest, it does not matter if the AAC succeeds or not in its effort to become the recognized American expression of Anglicanism. From the standpoint of the donors it does not matter if the AAC takes with it any property, holdings, clergy, people or even the name of the Episcopal Church. All that matters is that this effort impacts the ability of the Episcopal Church to do anything else at all.

Lewis Daly, in his article for IDS Insights, says "The evangelical drift of the Anglican Communion, and its deployment against ECUSA, is a remarkable recent development within the broader history of anti-mainline politics. The rules have changed significantly with the rise of distinctive international and primatial strategies. These developments in particular must be carefully monitored and firmly challenged." (p. 9) Where is this monitoring and where is the firm challenge?

About the monitoring, I have little hope except in the workings of various reporters and commentators listed earlier. However, my sense is we have two primary avenues for challenge. Even at this late hour there is no reason to give the Episcopal Church away or see it paralyzed. The two challenges are these:

Demand accountability.

I believe the leadership of the Episcopal Church, and particularly the Presiding Bishop, must call the AAC and the IRD to account. They have accepted the funding from people and organizations who are interested in impacting the Episcopal Church by destroying it as a potential opponent to an agenda that reconstructs the United States along stringent biblical norms. What we need to know, and NOW, is if the AAC and the IRD repudiate the efforts of their donors to such reconstruction.

Keep the Faith.

Canon Edward Rodman, himself no stranger to struggles in the Church and new to Executive Council, recently said this about the American Anglican Council: "Leave them alone to stew in their own juice, I have better things to do."

On an important level that is precisely what the Episcopal Church needs to do. The AAC will indeed stew in their own juices and eat the food provided by those who have no care at all for the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion or our internal struggles. And when it is finished these donors will spit whatever Anglican taste is left from their mouths. It will, as they say, unfold.

We need to say, "I have better things to do." Those things to do might actually include the continued struggle to hold ourselves accountable to the poor, the disenfranchised, and even each other on such matters as life in these United States and in this world present. Every struggle, including that of supporting gay and lesbian persons in their civil and religious life, becomes part of that greater struggle to overcome the oppressions that keep us at enmity with one another and with Christ present in the other. And of course the "better things to do" might also include a life of prayer and grace such that the table to which we invite others is a feast of redemption and release, and joy.

The Episcopal Church needs to consider again, through its Executive Council, the support of a national conversation about the social cost of slavery and the issue of reparations. We need to continue, with a renewed purpose, the process of anti-racism training and more, to see this as part of a wider effort to work for justice and reconciliation. And we desperately need to enter, even at this late date, the struggle to be the Church in an urbanized world and a globalized economy.

We have better things to do. And that is our answer to the AAC.
I agree. It's time to move on to other things. But, before doing so, let me offer just a taste of some of the reading material available regarding the American Anglican Council (and the Network, which is the AAC in its newest manifestation), for the benefit of those who might be considering aligning themselves with this extremist organization.

Here is a couple of Jack Taylor's reports.

The Guardian offered this report last October, a segment of which briefly summarizes the imortant role of Howard Ahmanson in the AAC:

What is known is that in the 1990s Ahmanson, whose family made a fortune in banking, subsidised a number of controversial right-wing causes. These include a magazine called the Chalcedon Report , which carried an article calling for gays to be stoned; a think-tank called the Claremont Institute which promoted a video in which Charlton Heston praises 'the God-fearing Caucasian middle class'; and a scientific body which rejects the theory of evolution.

Now Ahmanson has a new crusade, whose repercussions will be felt far beyond the United States. He is using his cash to stir up the most divisive row facing the Anglican Church, one that threatens to rip it apart when its leaders meet in London this week...

...Leading the backlash is the American Anglican Council (AAC) based in Washington. Until recently the AAC's chief executive officer, David C. Anderson, ran St James Church in Newport Beach, California, where Ahmanson is often to be found in the congregation. The AAC's vice-president, Bruce Chapman, is president of the Discovery Institute, on whose board Ahmanson sits and which publishes research insisting Darwin was wrong.

AAC stalwart James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, admits that Ahmanson gives $200,000 a year, although many observers believe it is considerably more. An internal memo from the vice-president makes fascinating reading. 'Fundraising is a critical topic ... But that topic itself is going to be affected directly by whether we have a clear, compelling forward strategy. I know that the Ahmansons are only going to be available to us if we have such a strategy and I think it would be wise to involve them directly in setting it as the options clarify.'

The AAC's influence is bolstered by its close links to another right-wing religious organization, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), which operates out of the same Washington office as the AAC, and on whose board Ahmanson's wife, Roberta, sits.
If you want to know more about Ahmanson, the article that first appeared in Salon in January is a must read. The full title of the article is a good summary; "Avenging angel of the religious right - Quirky millionaire Howard Ahmanson Jr. is on a mission from God to stop gay marriage, fight evolution, defeat "liberal" churches -- and reelect George W. Bush."

Ahmanson understands the importance of diversification. His wealth is not only funneled to the religious right and his hand picked political candidates. There's an even more direct way to make sure "bible believing Christians" (in this case, defined as reconstructionists) attain political office. Have you heard about the controversial voting machines used in many states that don't provide a hard copy to keep them honest? Sure enough, Howard has his hand in this diabolical plan as well.

The IRD, which graciously offered office space to the AAC, and appointed Roberta Ahmanson to their board, is an interesting organization to keep an eye on. Were you surprised by the recent right hand turn of the United Methodists? If you had been following the action plan of the IRD, you would have known that this turn was almost a foregone conclusion.

One last bit of reading material. What is the AAC doing with all this money? No one really knows, as they are a rather secret society. But, one interesting piece of information is that it appears that for some time now they've been funding international allies:

The American Anglican Council and its leaders have for at least three years been funding a rapidly growing program of education and training of Anglicans around the world in their principles and tactics.

The International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians (INFEMIT), a group which derives part of its funding from the AAC and whose board includes Bishop James Stanton of Dallas, an AAC founder, has been paying stipends to university groups and religious educators in half a dozen African countries, as well as groups in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and India...
One would like to think that the "indignant outrage" we are hearing from Anglican leaders from these countries is completely fueled by a misguided passion based on the premise of biblical inerrancy, but, being human, it does make one wonder if the offer of a stipend might not have influenced the level of their passion?

There's plenty more info on this out there. Is it just another conspiracy theory? I'll let you decide. I'd prefer to move on now, as I've got better things to do.


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