Tag Archives: Institute on Religion and Democracy

Why we can’t have nice things in the #UMC…Show me the mammon part 2.

This is Part II. Part I can be found here.

Gift-moneyAgain, the same disclaimer as before. This is not a value statement on the beliefs of any group, but it is a statement on how groups choose to represent those values, and how it impacts the UMC. How we do things are just as important as why we do them. This part will focus on groups operating within the UMC, primarily on Good News and Reconciling Ministries Network.

I want to start with Good News. There website can be found here.  I contacted Good News about their financial donations and received the following as a reply:  “Good News has received money from some personal foundations who are established or run by United Methodist individuals.  As far as I know, we have received no funds from any secular foundations or other funding sources that are unconnected to the UM Church.  Some former UM members do continue to support Good News.  Let me know if you have any further questions on this.  It is a very important topic, in our estimation.”  (Rev. Thomas Lambrecht is who sent the reply. He is Vice President and General Manager of Good News. As a side note he apologized that it took some days to reply as he was in board meetings. I always find politeness to be in vogue.) It is a fairly simple and straight forward statement. I was particularly appreciative of him stating that where the money comes from matters to them as it obviously does to me as well. I don’t have much else to say as the money trail for Good News ends with those affiliated with the UMC. It appears that whatever outside influence there might be is incidental and unintentional. Good News is a conservative group that is often seen as the opposite of Reconciling Ministries but has other issues that it comments on and prays for regularly.

Reconciling Ministries Network is the other group I wish to address here. Their website can be found here.  I contacted RMN with two questions. (The reply came from Rev. Andy Oliver Director of Communications Elder appointed to RMN from the Florida Conference. I don’t know what elder appointed to RMN from Florida conference means…I did not know that we were, as a denomination appointing elders to RMN. It is possible and even likely that I just am misunderstanding the title. He was very prompt and polite in addressing my email. Again I always find politeness to be in vogue.) I will, for the sake of completeness put the exchange here: My initial email read as follows: “I was wondering why it is that you accept donations from secular groups that have little or no interest in Christianity as a whole outside of their stated goal and if you were concerned that those donations cause a conflict of interests? I was also interested in if your grant from ARCUS (it is earmarked for this on their website) is what has been used in your recent decision to provide compensation for a Virginia pastor who was suspended for performing a same sex union. Thank you in advance for your reply.”

The reply that I received is here:

Hi Scott,

Thank you for your question. As stated in our press release, Rev. Garber’s check was paid from contributions from individual United Methodists around the world for the specific purpose of supporting clergy who are targeted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or their commitment to offer the ministry of the church to all people (in keeping with the fullness BOD). You can learn more or give to the fund yourself here: http://bit.ly/1vFeH9P. The IRD article was incorrect in many of its inferences.

I read everything you write. If you are ever in Chicago or Tampa and want to meet up, my cell is


Rev. Andy Oliver
Director of Communications
Elder appointed to RMN from the Florida Conference
(I chose to delete this as it seemed rather rude to publish a cell number. That is the only alteration made.)

My follow up can be found here:

Thank you for your prompt reply and the offer to connect. Should I find myself in either of those areas I will be sure to take you up on it. I have contacted Good News as well about their acceptance of money from outside the UMC and intend to include whatever responses or non responses as are appropriate. If there is anything that you would like included about the fiances beyond what you have told me, I will be happy to do so and attribute that statement to you if that is acceptable. If you are able could you address what the outside money that you have accepted goes for if indeed you have accepted any? Again thank you for your prompt reply and graciousness in answering. Peace. Scott

As of yet I have not received a reply. I believe this to be the IRD article he was referring to.  I asked specifically about funds from ARCUS and about money from outside in general and those questions were largely ignored so I am left to outside sources. I want to make the fact that RMN has said, and stands by their statement that the money paid to Rev. Garber was from individual donations of United Methodists and I have no reason to doubt that statement. I think that should provide the background needed to proceed forward.

RMN has in the past (I do not know if they are currently accepting) monies from the following groups: Arcus Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. I discovered that with just these two outside groups (there may be more I am not certain) between 2009 and 2014 there was over 1 million dollars given in grants to RMN from sources not only outside the UMC but that are primarily secular in origin. Now remember, RMN has the stated goal of affecting change in the UMC. Whatever you believe about that goal shouldn’t that change, if necessary, actually come from the UMC and not those on the outside that would pump money into it? If you go to the links provided, you will find the ability to search grants and their purposes as well.

The one that is most disturbing is an ARCUS grant from 2014 which is for the express purpose of “One year of support for clergy who engage in acts of ecclesial disobedience in the name of LGBTQ justice and work with coalitions for policy change within the United Methodist Church.” (from the ACUS website).  Again, I do not doubt the statement given me by RMN about the  Rev. Garber, but I am a little worried that Rev Garber was in effect an employee of RMN for a month and worry more about wether or not any UMC clergy have effectively become employees of ARGUS or any other group outside of the UMC.

I believe that we all want what is best for our church. I believe that we are all struggling to find ways forward and solutions to the issues that we have, but if we need guidance from any external source shouldn’t it be the Triune God and not some grant producing machine who does not have the interests of Christ as their purpose? Shouldn’t we be seeking the influence of the Holy Spirit and not the influence of political action groups? No caucus can serve two masters after all, and if we follow the mammon we can see who is serving who.

Why we can’t have nice things in the #UMC…Show me the mammon part 1

Take-Charge-of-the-Money-Blog-from-LII suspect that what I am about to say won’t make a difference as I suspect that we will all allow our entrenched ideas to take over and we will spin this to something it is not. I hope that I am wrong. This is not a value statement about ideas or theology. These groups are well known and those lines have been well drawn. This is a commentary on how some groups choose to go about representing those ideas. How we do things is just as important as why we do them.  Really, that is what this is. That being said here we go…
There are two types of groups that try to influence things inside the UMC, The first I want to address are outside groups.  These groups are either formed of people who do not have a faith affiliation,  groups that are multi-denominational, or groups that are a combination of the two.

First is the Institute for Religion and Democracy that seems to pretty much be a love it or hate it type of group. I think that it is fair to say that there are not many, if any, people who have a “they are ok” sort of attitude toward the IRD. The website of the IRD can be found here.

The IRD does indeed accept money from outside the UMC. In fairness it does not pretend to be a strictly UMC organization, nor does it claim that it only works to affect the UMC, or church life in general, rather they state plainly their goal: “We seek to reform the Church’s role in public life, protect religious freedom, and support democracy at home and abroad.” The Church is to mean not a denomination but the entire body. They list a variety of issues they are concerned with from issues of sexuality to issues in the Middle East. Their concerns seem far reaching as do their goals. Each denominational group has a steering committee formed of member of that Denomination.  If you were to go to the United Methodist Action section you would find this. “UM Action is accountable to its Steering Committee and Advisory Board, both of which are entirely composed of faithful clergy and lay members of the United Methodist Church.” Following that is a list of folks who are a part of said committee. The IRD most often promotes ideas and materials from conservative voices, but does, on occasion, also include moderate and even liberal voices when they are appropriate to their goals.

The IRD also says that they try to operate in the spirit of the On Humility, Politics, and Christian Unity resolution passed at GC 2008 (it can be found here). Donations to the IRD are both private and from foundations including the following:  Scaife FoundationsLynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Olin Foundation (now defunct). There are some wealthy individual or family donors that I found, but do not feel the need to list for the sake of tact if nothing else.  These foundations may, and often do, support a variety of causes and groups, they generally exist not as influence exerting, but rather as groups that dispense funds to groups they already support. This is to say that while they dispense grants and the like, they do not have an active role in politics.

I am going to briefly mention the Confessing Movement as well. It has branches in several protestant denominations including a large presence in the UMC. It has often been accused of being funded by the IRD, although there is no evidence of this that I have discovered. They are an evangelical movement that according to their Executive Director (giving a quick answer about finances) said “The majority of our contributions from organizations are religious”.

The Institute for Welcoming Resources was an ecumenical group comprised of numerous denominational welcoming groups. What ever good or ill they did is however to history so I will not comment on their past, but their future. The have officially become a part of The National LGBTQ Task Force. While I recognize the need for groups ensuring proper civil protections for all, applaud the efforts that they make, and even recognize the place of the church in doing what it can to ensure that all people receive equal protections under the law, when a religious group (Institute for Welcoming Resources) becomes a formal part of a secular group (The National LGBTQ Task Force)  I can no longer find it a Christian or even a “religious” organization. (IWR, as a separate corporation, was formally dissolved in February 2006 to become an official part of The National LGBTQ Task Force) While there are indeed times when the goals of a secular organization and those of the Christian church can and often do over lap, we should be extremely cautious of secular organizations influencing Christian thought. That is what we have here. Remember, this is a secular group, This group produces and distributes curriculum for churches. The idea of a secular organization producing church curriculum (whether I agree with it or not) is a terrifying concept. It at best flirts entirely to close with and at worst jumps over, the in the world but not of it line. This concerns the UMC as Reconciling Ministries Network is a part of this group and therefore is influenced by them.

The National Religious Leadership Round Table is another arm of The National LGBTQ Tak Force with obvious religious goals. Again, RMN is a part of this group. This group has released several studies. One of them  (David v Goliath in 2006) spoke about several ways that LGBTQ advocates could change their mainline protestant denominations and three were singled out because of their church government and decision process. Those three were as follows: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church U.S.A, and The United Methodist Church. What has transpired in each of those denominations has mirrored the suggestions in this report. Remember, this is not a religious group, this is a part of an admittedly secular group. These reports were not based on God or in theology, but in politics and the political processes of churches. Another example of secular influences in the church. Even if you happen to agree with the results, you should be concerned that they were brought about not by God, but by politicians. This same report also appealed to secular activists to help change the minds of the “movable middle” in the church. Secular activists being encouraged to change the minds of Christians by Christians. That is disturbing and crosses the line of working with and working for.

  • The website for The National LGBTQ Task Force can be found here.
  • The website for The National Religious Leadership Roundtable can be found here.
  • The website for The Institute for Welcoming Resources can be found here.

For Part II of this series, see here.

Mark Tooley of @theird has joined the middle #umcschism

: United Methodist Church
: United Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not because he wants too, of course,and maybe not officially — shoot, he may just be doing this to lull us into sleep and then pop one or two caps (schism resolutions) into the hind-end of the UMC… But, for now, he has something of a common sense approach, even if it seems awfully familiar to what others are saying.

Behind the full throttle of his hyperbole are several key factors many of us in the middle have already known and acknowledged. They are,

  • GC cannot pass the necessary changes to create a formal schism. This is what I’ve said to Ritter about his plan (and others who are pushing an internal schism that would have a mini-denomination identified only by their stance on LGBT). When you need not only 2/3 of the GC and then annual conferences to pass something like this — not to mention then requiring congregations to pit themselves against each other, while members pit themselves against each other in these congregations…it will not happen.
  • An actual schism, internal and/or external, would destroy local congregations and the whole of the largest arm of the Methodist movement. As Tooley accurately notes, “Few congregations are purely liberal or conservative.” Well, yeah. I’ve said this before. So have others. Glad Mark is finally listening. 
  • Any split would cause the extremes to develop anti-Wesleyan orthodoxy. Granted, Tooley focuses on his vision of a liberal-led wing of the UMC, that with heterodoxy and little in regards to doctrinal standards. But, his silence for the conservative side should be addressed because I think I can sense some fear of a conservative heterodoxy — congregationalism, neo-Calvinism, and militant fundamentalism.

He goes on to warn against compromise because it would force evangelicals to abandon the United Methodist Church. But, that really falls into the final category above. Evangelicals who abandon the denomination will more than like look like a normal baptist-sect denomination in a few short years. They will simply become the pre-Mohler Southern Baptists (4-point Calvinists) with a polity structure in flux.

I am no fan of Tooley because I view the IRD much like I do Love Prevails and other outside groups — they are lobbyists with their own agendas; however, this is a nice breath of fresh air. Now, I just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

Dear John Lomperis

Christ is Born
Christ is Born (Photo credit: Eustaquio Santimano)

It is my sincere hope that somehow, someway this finds you as I do not know the means in which to respond to you directly. This forum suits well for my purposes though as I believe that anyone who saw your comments  published in The Christian Post recently needs to see a response. Your words may be found here. I wish to take a few moments to address the two things that I read in what was quoted as your words.

First sir, let me address the statement that the road ahead will be rocky. You are correct, it will be. The road behind has been rocky as well. The road that Jesus had to walk was even rockier and indeed He walked it so that we could have the assurance that no matter how difficult the road was, not only do we not walk it alone, it has already been conquered for us. Yes sir, the road ahead is rocky, but in case you do not know or had forgotten, the destination is more than worth this temporary bump. Christ never promised us a smooth road or an easy road, He did promise instead the opposite the we would have trouble in this world. He then reminded us to not fear because He had over come the world. Where you see a rocky road, I see the amazing witness of the Glory of God when this road has been successfully traveled. Where you see a rocky road, I see only the promise that the good work begun in each of us who believes will be completed. I prefer to focus on the destination and not the journey and humbly suggest that you try to do that as well. I think that it would put this present situation in a different light.

Secondly  sir, I simply must disagree with your assertion that “NO ONE is serious about keeping all current United Methodists together”. In order to properly respond I must take a moment and list my qualifications. I am a royal priest, I am living stone, I am running the race, I am fighting the good fight of faith, I am a coheir with Christ in the kingdom eternal, I am being refined in the fire, I am righteous through faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am justified and being sanctified, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, I am a child of the Creator of the universe who knows me by name and counts the very hairs upon my head, I am one who will stand at the gates of hell and force anyone who is determined to get in to climb over me, I am a member of the church established by Jesus Christ and serve Him through the UMC, I am called to a cause that is nothing short of the salvation of the world through faith in Christ, I am a servant to everyone and a slave to the only One, I am sir, in your words, NO ONE. What I am not is silent. I may be the only one who is serious about keeping the UMC together, but if so, then I have misjudged many people. Even if I am the only one, a lone single voice, the fact of the matter is that it is the powers that be against me…and of course Christ, the bridegroom of the church. What that means is that though the entirety of the denomination may be aligned against me as you would have me believe, it is all of them against me and God. They are outnumbered.





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who do they think they are kidding? #UMC

a very ironic picture of John Lomperis

John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that bad times were ahead for the UMC regarding the debate.

“While no one can say with 100 percent confidence what exactly will happen next, it is very clear that the road ahead will be very rocky, and that NO ONE is serious about keeping all current United Methodists together,” said Lomperis. “We need to accept the fact that no matter which way we go from here, we are guaranteed to lose a chunk of people on one or more sides.” (HT)

If you aren’t familiar with John Lomperis, he’s the guy the IRD hired to work to mold the UMC into the version the IRD believes is compatible to their opinion. I want to emphasis this part especially:

and that NO ONE is serious about keeping all current United Methodists together”

Author Unknown Trust is like a piece of paper....
Author Unknown Trust is like a piece of paper. Once it’s crumpled, it can’t be perfect again (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I have written plenty on John and the IRD before. They know me and I know them. So, when it comes to such brash statements, we cannot surmise that they just didn’t know of not only my part but the part of numerous other bloggers, pastors, and theologians who advocate for “keeping all current United Methodists together.” If they did know, and made such a statement, it is at the very least an obfuscation if not a lie. 

This is what I have maintained for a while now — and have been buffeted in my hope by many of you who have written privately to encourage me. The far right and the far left are worried about the large middle. This is why they have taken to agitprop and hiding behind semantics in their quest to control the UMC. They need you to think there are own two sides to this issue — both sides wanting schism. This is not true as has been and will be demonstrated.

And we need to stop letting both sides speak for, deny the, and run over the middle. Let us pray for John.

If you want to see just how sad their position is, be sure to compare the vitrolic words of John, and his place against the UMC, to the words of the Bishop, and his place within the UMC.

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