Monday, September 14, 2009

The Anglican Dominionists

What follows is a review of some of the events within the Anglican Communion over the last decade. The information contained within this summary can be supported by numerous other websites. Rather than focus on those other sources, I'm going to just tell the story, and then add a number of links at the end for further reading. If you request more information about a particular item, I'll be happy to point you to a source.

My main premise is that the current "schism" within The Episcopal Church is primarily being led by "Dominionists," which is a subset of Christians who are working to take over every aspect of common life in the United States. They want to replace the Constitution with biblical law. Dominionists are often referred to in the media as the "Religious Right," and have called themselves The Moral Majority, The Christian Coalition, and various other titles.

Anglicans are too reasonable for such unusual ideas to ever get a strong foothold within our tradition. However, these ideas have found their way in, primarily through the Americian Anglican Council (AAC), which became The Anglican Communion Network (ACN), which became the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The leadership rosters of all three of these groups contains a very similar list of names. Same players, same game. In this case, I am suggesting that the game was not simply disagreement with the majority of Episcopalians regarding the role of women, gays and lesbians within the Church, but was actually far more ambitious: the replacement of The Episcopal Church with their own brand of extremist Anglicanism. This, of course, was simply doing their small part to further the overall plan by the Religious Right; to replace all leaders, secular and religious, with those who are willing to make biblical law the law of the land.

Most Dominionists, especially Anglican Dominionists, will never publically admit to their ultimate goal of making the United States into a theocracy. Such matters are discussed only when they are alone with their own kind. This makes it rather difficult to track such troubling ideas. However, it does not make it impossible.

The most extreme form of Dominionism is "Christian Reconstructionism," which strives to incorporate all 613 laws from the biblical code into secular law. That would include capital punishment for adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, and sorcery. R.J. Rushdoony, author of The Institutes of Biblical Law, is credited as the founder of this particular sect.

One of Rushdoony's most devout followers was Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., a reclusive millionaire from California. Ahmanson served on the Board of Rushdoony's Chalcedon Institute for 23 years, and was at his bedside when he died.

Howard Ahmanson, and his wife Roberta, became members of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. The rector of that parish was Canon David Anderson.

In 1995, the American Anglican Council was formed, in response to certain developments within The Episcopal Church. It was funded primarily through a group of large donors, of which Ahmanson was one. Ahmanson's support was considered so important to the AAC that there was some discussion about including his name in the letterhead of their stationary. Internal memos revealed that the leadership of the AAC were willing to do almost anything to keep Ahmanson on board. Soon after that, Ahmanson's rector, David Anderson, became President and CEO of the AAC, a postion he still holds today.

The AAC moved into an office in Washingtom DC with another organization, the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Dianne Knippers, President of the IRD, was the original treasurer for the AAC. Roberta Ahmanson served on the board of the IRD.

The IRD has a long history of anti-communist activity, especially during the Reagan era. At one point, the rhetoric from Knippers resulted in the erroneous identification of a group of missionaries in Nicaragua as being a communist front. Their clinics became targets for terrorists.

The primary goal of the IRD is to replace the leadership of the mainline churches with their own conservative leaders. A reading of some of their material makes it clear that they continue to be active players in the Religious Right, and are very clearly of the Dominionist mindset.

Now that the IRD and the AAC were, for all intents and purposes, one organization (sharing board members, wealthy donors and the same mailing address) they began to focus on tearing down The Episcopal Church. After this alliance was formed, one of their early moves was to launch a smear campaign against Gene Robinson, who had just been elected as bishop of New Hampshire. In 2003, Ahmanson gave the IRD funds for this campaign, which was launched by Fred Barnes, a member of the IRD's board. Robinson received the necessary consents in spite of the IRD's efforts.

Such techniques were used against the leadership of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well. Eventually, the outrage expressed towards the IRD by a number of people within the mainline denominations was cause for the AAC to distance themselves from the organization. They set up their own office in Atlanta. It is also worth noting that Ephraim Radner, affiliated with the Anglican Communion Institute, also resigned from his seat on the IRD board, which he had occupied for many years.

Howard Ahmanson has become even more reclusive, but as recently as June of 2008 showed up at GAFCON, an international group of Anglicans supportive of the efforts to destroy TEC and replace it with their own entity. It is also worth noting that Ahmanson was one of the major contributers towards the effort to pass Proposition 8 in California.

The IRD continues to attempt to have an impact within TEC, with limited success.

The story continues, but that's enough for now.

Here's a few links for further reading:

The Spread of Theocracy

Following the Money

Theocracy Watch

Avenging Angel of the Religious Right

The Mystery Man Behind Proposition 8

IRD and the CEPAD Affair

President of IRD Should Resign

Fox News, Falls Church and the IRD

That should keep you busy for awhile.


UPDATE: Lifting the Rock notes that the keynote speaker for the 2009 ACNA Clergy and Spouse Retreat is none other than Wellington Boone, a well known Dominionist. Imagine that.

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