Rev. Jim Berkley is not merely a holly jolly preacher from Seattle. He is not just a guy with a blog. He is employed by the IRD. This is a million dollar a year organization funded by right-wing political interest groups. Its purpose is to move three denominations, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church toward religious fundamentalism. Check this YouTube trailer.
Why these three? Because these three denominations have a history of social justice and of religious scholarship.
Rev. Jim's job is to be attack dog against the PC(USA). That is his job. He gets paid to attack the staff of the PC(USA) and its policies. He is good at it. Make no mistake. They couldn't have hired a better man for the job.
This is not about him. I am sure he is a real live Jesus lover and that he honestly feels he is following Christ. But his vision is the vision of the IRD. It is disastrous for the church.
Rev. Jim is not alone. The Methodist Doberman is Mark Tooley. Nearly a third of the IRD's budget is about moving the Methodist church toward its vision of religious fundamentalism and destroying its social witness.
One of the tactics of the IRD is to attack the character and faith of denominational staff with which it disagrees. Our stated clerk, Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, is known by Rev. Jim as Pope Clifton the First. Is that an insult?
The IRD is into "loving discipline." This is a tactic of threat (and at times, action) to use the ecclesiastical disciplinary system against those who have a different vision for the direction of the church.
You recall in his recent tirade, that Jim called for my presbytery to discipline me. It is pretty bizarre really. Most folks when given a good jibe would give one back. Not the IRD. They want to bring out the tanks. Shuck insulted me! Call the COM! Discipline! Discipline!
Here are a few illustrations regarding Rev. Jim and his "loving discipline." On a recent post about a mission volunteer to Jerusalem, Rev. Jim took her report out of context, implied that good Presbyterians wouldn't want to support her work with their mission dollars, and then the clincher:
Who should be watching Shannon O'Donnell's back? Who cares about her enough to gently, lovingly disciple her, rather than allowing her to flounder?Jim is good. His post reeks with condescension. Who will "lovingly disciple" her for Jesus' sake? This is what the IRD does again and again and again. They are good with the sanctimonious language. What is its effect? Its effect is to cast doubt, to create division, and to bring down the denomination, its staff, and its structures.
Discipline and withhold funds.
Now and then, Rev. Jim doesn't just suggest someone should be lovingly disciplined. He takes action into his own hands. It was Rev. Jim that filed a complaint against Rev. Jane Spahr. She isn't even in his presbytery. Here is an article about that.
Spahr even put in a telephone call to the minister who urged the Presbytery to file the charges against her. The Rev. James Berkley, director of Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom, has made up his mind that homosexuality is sinful, and nothing is going to change it. "God in his love and his care has told us that homosexual behavior is not something we should do, and we are at our very best when we do what God commands," he says. But even Berkley has kind words about Spahr, calling her "congenial" and "full of smiles."That's nice. She is congenial and full of smiles, but I just have to take her to church court.
Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom is his section of the IRD. Whether it is about faith, I can't say, but it is anything but freedom. It isn't about freedom to be openly gay. One of Rev. Jim's latest brainstorms has to do with church membership. It is not enough that openly gay folks shouldn't be ordained as church officers. No Rev. Jim doesn't think they should even be members! Read this:
The policy states that “homosexual persons who sincerely affirm ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior’ and ‘I intend to be his disciple, to obey his word, and to show his love’ should not be excluded from membership” (emphasis added). The language is appropriately encompassing for those who have a homosexual orientation.
But given the fact that homosexual practice is sin, the emphasized words show the assembly’s intent that those who seek church membership understand the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives and what discipleship and obedience to the Word means. This is no free pass for homosexual practice, as if that particular form of sin were inconsequential in respect to church membership.
This isn't just one guy's opinion. There will be action that will move the PC(USA) toward enacting this into law. Little by little, policy by policy, church court case by church court case, the right wing in its various incarnations is determined to move the PC(USA) to the dark ages. Faith and Freedom, indeed.
It is not about freedom for women to make decisions regarding their own bodies. The PC(USA) is connected with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) which Rev. Jim calls a Really Crass Religious Coalition. Cute. He writes:
There is no excuse for Presbyterian entities--Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, Women's Ministries, and the Washington Office--continuing to financially support and lend our once-good name to a crassly political, morally bankrupt, abortion-at-any-cost outfit like the RCRC.Getting the common theme yet? Withhold funds. Destroy them financially.
It certainly is not about freedom of scholarship. He hassles the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation for publishing books not to his liking:
Two times lately, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) has released books that embarrass Presbyterians and propound theology in contradiction to our Reformed convictions: in July, Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin, and in November, Why Christianity Happened, by James G. Crossley. The publishing house’s board of directors actually repudiated Griffin’s 9/11 book, but kept right on selling it.This is not a guy who just happens not to like certain books. He doesn't want you to read them either. It isn't him. He is just doing his job for the IRD.
Thus, I’ve heard many people ask that if the PPC keeps acting in independent and harmful ways, why don’t we figure out a means to disassociate the PPC from the Presbyterian Church (USA)? “Why not cut the ties and end the embarrassment?” they wonder. That’s a good question, and it’s worth thoughtful consideration.
Rev. Jim also mentioned Viola Larson, "one of the most decent and gracious persons I have ever met." I don't dispute that. But Viola also has a job. Whether she gets paid for it or does it for the love of Jesus, I don't know. Probably the latter.
But her organization, Voices of Orthodox Women, is also about loving discipline and hassling the denomination and its ministries such as Presbyterian Women and The National Network of Presbyterian College Women. Oh, and she writes that progressive Christianity leads to Nazism. As Jim would say, "Whatever."
The mainline churches, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), have a long-standing history of social justice ministry. The IRD will have none of it. The IRD, where Rev. Jim Berkley is employed, has a task. They plan to bring down the mainline churches. It happened to the Southern Baptists. It is happening to us.
Don't sleep while they take over the church.