Saturday, May 22, 2004


Theosebes has taken occasional looks at the internal struggles of some of the 'mainstream' denominations over issues such as homosexuality, struggles sometimes leading to the brink of outright split. Promoting the more conservative position within the denominations, it turns out, is the Institute on Religion and Democracy:
In each denomination, the flashpoint is homosexuality, but there is another common denominator as well. In each case, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a small organization based in Washington, has helped incubate traditionalist insurrections against the liberal politics of the denomination's leaders...

The institute has brought together previously disconnected conservative groups within each denomination to share resources and tactics, including forcing heresy trials of gay clergy members, winning seats on judicial committees and urging congregations to withhold money from their denomination's headquarters.

The group has been quite successful considering its outsider status and small budget. And what are the prizes of the struggle?
"It will give them access to three important pieces," said Mr. Ross, a lawyer and former official with the Planned Parenthood Federation. "One is the Sunday pulpit. Two is millions of dollars of capacity internally, with control of church newsletters and pension funds. And three is foreign missions," the agencies that dispense missionaries, and with them their brand of Christianity, around the world.

Of course, the 'courageous' (read: raving mad liberal) clergy is now fearful of the groups power:
Rev. Robert Edgar, a former Democratic congressman who is general secretary of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical alliance that is dominated by the mainline churches and a principal target of the institute's criticism, argued that it spoke for only about a third of mainline churchgoers. "They have caused so many internal issues that some progressive leaders are afraid to take the courageous positions they would have taken a few decades ago because a third of their parishioners would cut their legs off."

I'm no supporter of denominational structures with their added rules and organizations, but within that existing structure I certainly encourage those with the more Biblical view on morality to take their stand. Of course, with the mainline denominations it may simply be rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

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