Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Watch this Video on the IRD

Thanks to Faith in Public Life for this. You can watch the 25 minute documentary on the IRD, Renewal or Ruin below. If you are in a mainline church, you should order it to show it to your congregation. I encourage you to take 25 minutes and watch the video. You might want to embed it on your site, too.

"Renewal or Ruin?" from Steven D. Martin on Vimeo.

This is from Faith in Public Life:

Since its beginning in 1982, the Institute on Religion and Democracy has continuously undermined the United Methodist Church and other mainline Protestant denominations by attacking the character of church leaders. This organization, funded by some of the world's most powerful foundations, undermines the witness of the church by fueling controversy to its own benefit.

"Renewal or Ruin?" looks into the IRD's claim that it exists to renew the spiritual life of the church. Researchers, church leaders, and others talk about their findings and experiences with this Washington, DC organization that foments dissention in the body of Christ.

Included on the DVD are:

  • "Renewal or Ruin?", a 25-minute video designed to introduce the viewer to the tactics and intent of the IRD
  • "An Example," a story by Bishop Kenneth Carder about his encounters with the IRD
  • PDFs of articles by top researchers, available for distribution to your class for deeper study
  • An interview with Steven Martin, the program's producer
This program features:
  • Randall Balmer - Bishop Kenneth Carder
  • Frederick Clarkson - Jim Naughton
  • Bishop Beverly Shamana
  • Andrew Weaver - Jim Winkler
DVD's can be purchased here, at

For illustration, the Presbyterian Action staff member of the IRD is Jim Berkley. On his latest post, Doesn't Faith Matter? he does a classic IRD style slam on our denomination by inferring that the denomination is not concerned about "faith" but is purely "secular" as witnessed in its hiring of Martha Clark, the new general counsel for the PC(USA).

The message of Berkley/IRD is that the PC(USA) is not spiritual. The effect of his slam is to paint our denomination in bad light. Create dissent where none exists.

In the video, you will hear that the IRD never has a positive word about the Methodist church. You won't hear Berkley offer a positive word about the PC(USA). Read his posts. Judge for yourself. Remember it is not about Jim Berkley. It is about his employer.


  1. I appreciate you trying to be polite, and it is also mainly about Jim Berkeley's employer, but everyone has a moral responsibility to work for an employer who is involved in the common good. This is more true, to me at least, of those of us who want to work in the church. I haven't seen the documentary, and I've learned the hard way to avoid Jim Berkeley's blog like the plague, but this is also most definitely about Jim Berkeley, and whoever else is working for the IRD. If it only exists to tear down and to tear apart, then he as a clear moral responsibility to find new employment, just as would be the case for me if I was working for an organization like that.

    Now, as to whether the IRD is really all that bad, we'll see. I'll watch the documentary and see how the IRD responds (it'll probably have to) and see what happens.

  2. No Doug, I am not being polite. This really has nothing to do with him as an individual.

    I am providing the critique of his employer. As far as I am concerned he and Tooley and the others are the same person.

    When I criticize what Berkley writes, it is because he writes for the IRD. I am criticizing his corporate message.

    That message is show that the mainline churches are corrupt and not spiritual and not worthy of funding. You do so by attacking the character of the leadership of the mainline churches and creating dissent where there is none. The ultimate goal is to destroy our social witness.

    Same message crafted to each denomination.

    This political hardball stuff probably is not taught at seminary, but seminarians had better learn it quickly.

    It took me a good tail kicking before I started to figure out this organization and its spawn.

    Again, it isn't about his personality, it is about his job. He is doing it. It is what he gets paid to do. He just happens to have the personality to do it well.

  3. The film is definitely worth the watch, not only because of the religious concern, but because of the danger to our constitution and our position as an enlightened society. It's enough to make you think the Age of Enlightenment is over. We are losing the battle to the slimy things that live under rocks.

  4. Rastus,

    Yes, this is larger than internal church politics. The mainline churches are simply the battleground.

    The thing that is difficult is that no one wants to or likes engaging this organization. You get slimed and its simply icky.

    Most ministers just want to care for their churches and so they let all of this slide.

    I am grateful to Steve D. Martin for going out on a limb to produce this film.

  5. But, I think Jim really does have some legitimate concern here. I would not see this as just a slam.

    Someone' faith, and relationship with the Lord is going to affect their perception, and spirit. How they conduct business.

    Unless there are other circumstances that we don't know about or a misunderstanding here, it does seem strange to me that someone would be hired for this very important position for the church who is not also a follower of Jesus Christ.

    I don't get it either.

  6. Grace,

    You didn't even get Berkley's post. He didn't say she wasn't a follower of Jesus Christ. His complaint was that the news story didn't point that out.

    The very fact that you interpreted it the way you did illustrates his over all theme:

    "Is this denomination just one more corporation, no different in practice and vision than just any old secular business?"

    Create doubt and dissension where none exists.

    He is clever. He is sly. He is the IRD.

  7. I always love the "but why are we spending money on X instead of spending money on Y?" argument" that was brought up over there. ie. "Why not spend this money on planting churches..."

    Right priorities are important, but let's not pretend that we'd actually be spending money on Y, even if X didn't exist.

    But the even better response to that argument (of which no one over there apparently notices the irony) would be, why are people spending money on the IRD instead of planting churches?

  8. "But the even better response to that argument (of which no one over there apparently notices the irony) would be, why are people spending money on the IRD instead of planting churches?"

    Excellent point, Alan. It is like when the Layman laments(?) the loss of funding for the denomination even as it works to get people to give to the Layman's projects rather than the PC(USA).

  9. It is interesting to overlay the Layman's campaigns with those of the IRD. The vocabulary is identical, with the IRD coming first. Clearly the IRD is one of those think tanks Powell was talking about in the Powell manifesto. But the IRD itself is already a second generation think tank, itself a product of early work done in the early 70s.

    When forces outside the Church ask questions of the Church for the purpose of causing dissent and discord, it is safe to assume these questions, no matter how legitimate they may seem at face value, do not come from the Holy Spirit.

    I think it is legitimate to refuse to answer such questions. In fact I think it is the only possible way to address the purpose of the questions.

    When Jesus was on trial, the questions asked of him were legitimate at face value. He showed by example how the Church should respond.

    I can't tell if Jim Berkley himself is a "true believer" in the IRD's underlying goals, or if he is just simply a useful idiot. I think he is a true believer and the useful idiots are the well meaning conservatives that pick up his standard to "fight the good fight".

    Either way it should be a rule: If the IRD brings it up, all conversation on that topic should end.