Skip to comments.The Da Griswold Code [debunking the Grand Unified Episcopal Conspiracy Theory]
Posted on 05/01/2006 5:30:39 PM PDT by sionnsar
Jim Naughton, communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC, has finally finished his long-awaited Unified Episcopal Conspiracy Theory. It's rather long so I'll just hit a few high points.
Millions of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organizations to mount a global campaign that has destabilized the Episcopal Church and may break up the Anglican Communion.
Almost all the regulars are here. There's the Sinister Cabal of Conservative Foundations.
Five foundations are of special note for the magnitude of their donations to political and religious organizations. They are: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Adolph Coors Foundation; the John M. Olin Foundation, which ceased operations last year; the Smith-Richardson Trust and the Scaife Family Foundations. Much of the foundations largesse supports institutions and individuals active in public policy, including think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute and individuals such as William Bennett, Charles Murray ( The Bell Curve ) and Dinesh DSouza ( The End of Racism ).
The Rich Recluse.
Unlike the leaders of the secular foundations that donate to the IRD, Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, a former religion reporter for the Orange County Register, are deeply involved in current Episcopal and Anglican controversies. For the last ten years, Ahmanson has significantly-and, for much of that time, secretly-underwritten internal opposition to the Episcopal Churchs policies on homosexuality.
Ahmanson and his teenaged son David are members of St. James, Newport Beach , one of three parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles that declared itself part of the Anglican Church of Uganda because of differences with its bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno. Bruno voted to confirm Gene Robinson, who lives with his male partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and supports the blessing of same sex relationships.
Evil Front Groups:
The IRD was established in 1981 by neo-conservative intellectuals hoping to counter the liberal public policy agendas of the National and World Councils of Christian Churches. Its founders, including Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran minister and now a Catholic priest, were particularly concerned about the role of mainline and Roman Catholic leaders in the civil wars that ravaged Central America in the late 1970s and 1980s. They were sharply critical of liberation theology, the Marxist-influenced school of thought developed by Central and South American theologians, and waged an aggressive media campaign in support of the Reagan administrations policies in Nicaragua, El Salvador and elsewhere, alleging links between liberal church leaders and Marxist guerillas.
Peter Steinfels, then executive editor of the independent Catholic magazine Commonweal , wrote in a 1982 article that the IRD advanced "a distinct political agenda while claiming only a broad Christian concern." Steinfels said the IRD asserted that churches should "cherish diversity and disagreement about the means to social justice" while manufacturing "an arsenal of vague and damaging allegations almost certain to cast aspersions on a broad band of church leadership."
The AAC was founded in 1996 to oppose Episcopal Church policies including the ordination of sexually active gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex relationships. Knippers and two veterans of the Reagan administrations Justice Department, Richard Campinelli and James Wootton, were its incorporators.
Initially based in Dallas , the AAC moved to Washington in 1999, and shared office with the IRD until 2005. Knippers was the AACs first treasurer and a longtime member of its board. Bishop James Stanton of Dallas , founding chairman of the AAC, served on the IRDs board.
Ahmansons relationship with the AAC began in 1997, when he passed a gift through the AAC to the Ekklesia Society, which had been founded the previous year by the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood to foster international alliances within the Anglican Communion. The donation helped underwrite the Anglican Witness and Life Conference in Dallas, at which conservative leaders from across the Communion began work on an agenda that eventually included the creation of a strong, centralized form of church governance, an evangelical approach to Biblical interpretation and the defense of traditional teachings on human sexuality.
About all that's missing is the Priory of Zion, a painting that's actually of Mary Magdelene although The Conspiracy claims that it isn't and an albino assassin from Episcopal Peace Fellowship. Anyway, what have IRD and AAC done with all this scratch? Alarmingly, they attempted to advance their positions.
At the Dromantine conference, the Americans and their international allies collaborated with an unprecedented openness, in an attempt to force Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take a harder line against the Episcopal Church.
Among the primates who backed this effort were Peter Akinola of Nigeria , Henry Orombi of Uganda and Gregory Venables of Argentina . Working with them were the leaders of the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, the Ekklesia Society and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Those groups, backed by five politically conservative U.S. foundations, and Howard F. Ahmanson, a benefactor of numerous conservative ballot initiatives, candidates and think tanks, had been cultivating relationships with evangelical leaders in the developing world since the mid-1990s. But at Dromantine, the Americans role as the principal strategists for the movement against their church came into focus.
During the conference, American and British church activists took rooms in Newry and kept in contact with the primates, who were ostensibly meeting in private sessions. Among the activists were the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president of the AAC; the Rev. Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia; Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and Diane Knippers, president of the IRD.
Leaders of the conservative wing of the Church have worked since at least the 1990s to develop international alliances; those efforts first bore fruit at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, where the bishops in attendance passed a resolution declaring that physical intimacy between members of the same sex was incompatible with Scripture.
However, their efforts took on added significance during the crisis precipitated by the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire November 2, 2003.
The backlash against the Episcopal Church provided an opening for its adversaries to attempt to remove it from the Anglican Communion. The churchs removal would have diminished its stature, and its membership, as 10 dioceses and several dozen parishes had expressed a desire to break with the church and remain within the communion. In addition, without the generally liberal voice of the Episcopal Church, the Communion would take on a more theologically conservative cast.
Conservative leaders agreed on their strategy at a meeting in London on November 20, 2003 . In attendance were Duncan, several American conservatives and several primates sympathetic to their cause. According to Duncans notes, those present secretly agreed that the primates who supported the Network would announce their support to Williams, urge him to recognize the Network as the true expression of Anglicanism in the United States, and "Tell Rowan that if he will not recognize the Network they will separate from him."
Network leaders asked the primates to inform Williams that "in the present crisis the issue of boundaries is suspended," meaning that bishops could claim the right to minister uninvited in one anothers provinces and dioceses.
The Network also requested that the primates refuse to recognize any bishop who had participated in Robinsons consecration. This, in effect, would have rendered 13 American sees, including the Diocese of Washington, as vacant.
Considering the non-Christian pointy-hats in many them, that's not a bug, that's a feature.
The concept of "offshore oversight" for conservative Episcopal parishes was developed further in a March 3, 2004 , memo to "Ekklesia Society primates and bishops" and leaders of the Network by Canon Alison Barfoot. It was occasioned, Barfoot wrote, by conservations with Atwood, John Guernsey of the Network and Martyn Minns of the AAC.
Barfoot, formerly co-rector at Christ Church in Overland Park , Kansas , had recently been appointed an assistant to Orombi, primate of the province of Uganda . An ally of Duncans, Orombi had broken off relations with the Episcopal Church in December 2003.
In the memo, Barfoot outlined a three-step plan for removing parishes from the oversight of Episcopal bishops and placing them under the oversight of an "offshore" bishop who would then delegate his authority over that parish to the Network. If a parish did not already have a relationship with an offshore bishop, Barfoot suggested, the Ekklesia Society could arrange a match.
While primates such as Orombi and Venables were willing to allow their bishops to claim authority over Episcopal parishes and property, Akinola made a bolder stroke, announcing in early October 2004 that he planned to form his own church in the United States . During a press conference at Truro Church, with Minns, Truros rector at his side, Akinola explained that the Convocation of Nigerian Churches in North America was intended as a refuge for Nigerians immigrants in the United States, but added that Episcopalians who opposed the consecration of Gene Robinson would not be turned away.
Akinola said that he had discussed his ideas for the convocation with Williams, and that Williams suggested he pursue it in partnership with the Network. But Williams quickly released a statement saying that he had never approved of the idea of convocation, but had suggested that Akinola pursue his pastoral aims through the Network.
The Americans needed all that jack since you really can't buy a Third World bishop with chicken dinners after all.
Since conservative Episcopalians highly visible role at Dromantine, leaders of the Communion have begun to ask whether they and their financial backers such as Howard F Ahmanson, Jr., are the real power behind a movement that claims to draw its strength from Africa and Asia .
In an interview last October, Eames said that he was "quite certain" that African bishops were being offered money to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church.
"Is it the might of finance that will influence a theological outlook, and then that outlook come to dominate the Communion?" he said. "It raises a serious question for me: what is the real nature of their faith and their Anglicanism? It is certainly different from mine."
Akinola responded in an open letter to Eames on Oct. 16. "If you have any evidence of such financial inducements I challenge you, in the name of God, to reveal them or make a public apology to your brother Primates in the Global South for this damaging and irresponsible smear," he wrote.
Eames replied a few days later, saying: "I categorically state I have never believed that any financial offer was accepted by any of those who represent the Global South on any other than terms of Christian outreach."
In late October, a number of primates from the Global South released a letter that was sharply critical of Williams, who had recently addressed them at a conference in Cairo . Several of the primates sought to distance themselves from the letter, and in the process, provided another glimpse of American advisors prodding southern primates to do their bidding.
In a message to the Church Times , Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa, whose name did not appear on the letter, wrote that his delegate at the meeting, Bishop Johannes Seoka had "found himself excluded from meetings, including those at which the letter was discussed - despite the presence, it appeared, of others who were neither Primates nor, indeed, from the Global South."
Naughton's report raises questions. One that immediately popped into my mind goes like this: the Episcopal Church has been draining members and money for the last 30 years, having lost something like 30% of its membership during that time. So why in the world would any foundation want to pay millions of dollars to do to ECUSA what ECUSA is doing to itself for free?
If these people or foundations are seriously convinced that ECUSA has gone horribly wrong, why shouldn't they contribute money to groups who support their positions in order to influence Anglicans to their way of thinking? Groups like Integrity and Claiming the Blessing try to influence the Anglican world all the time. Is love of conservative money the root of all evil?
Are groups like the Network and AAC seeking to replace ECUSA? Hopefully. And I fail to see the problem with that. As has been said here many times, ECUSA is one church with two religions. Conservative and liberal Anglicanism cannot be reconciled and the sooner conservative and liberal Anglicans realize that, the happier both will be.
And the fact of the matter is that the Network and AAC respect the Anglican tradition while ECUSA does not and hasn't for generations. ECUSA tosses around terms like "apostolic succession," insouciantly goes on about how "tradition" influences it and likes to be able to call itself a "historic" church. But it's been a very long time since ECUSA cared what the rest of the Communion said or thought about anything at all.
I don't recall a great deal of consultation with the rest of the Communion when ECUSA wanted to ordain women. Resolution 1.10, the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality, was a dead letter in ECUSA before the ink was dry. Gene Robinson was given a pointy hat despite Frank Griswold being told to his face that it would tear the Communion apart and signing his name to a statement to that effect.
I detect more than a little desperation here. Naughton has to spin his conspiracy theory not because he is genuinely concerned about who's buying what(if George Soros was bankrolling the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, I doubt anyone would even know about it). Jim's worried that the Anglican right may just bring this off and officially turn Episcopalians into what most people know they already are. Unitarians who dress funny.
as in Clark D. Griswold?
If I didn't know better I would think that you weren't a fan of Griswold...
Long live the Christian Church, just as long as it is totally secularized and gives up its core beliefs! (scarcasm off)
If "Clark D." can be somehow rendered as "Frank," then yes.
(I have no idea who or what "Clark D. Griswold" is or was or will be...)
In some of these postings, I'm merely the messenger.
Sure enough there was a conspiracy. I saw it in the first meeting held for those concerned with recent events that took place a few weeks later. For the 15 attendees with grave concerns were met by 25 PC leftists that compared our backwardness to supporters of African Slavery in the 19th century and other charitable and understanding dialogue.
Now that the GC is just a few weeks away, the attacks against the traditionalists within ECUSA, especially in the media, are really beginning to heat up, arent they? You can almost see a new one every day bishops requesting that deeds to parish properties be turned over, other bishops alleging financial improprieties on the part of those who dare disagree with them, Gene Robinson coming out with a new autobiography and upping the voltage in some of his speeches against Catholicism, and any form of perceived Fundamentalism. On and on it goes. If this is not an example of a well-coordinated and amply financed effort, what would be?
Wow, so, who knew? The Episcopal Church libbies are all VICTIMS? I bet George Bush is implicated in this too .... No wonder they are fighting so hard -- it doesn't feel good to be a perp (I mean, victim).
They really do need to repent or resign.
Thanks for the ping. Yes, a lot of churches have abandoned the core beliefs of Christianity in the last 40 years. And, of course, screaming about a "vast right-wing conspiracy" is always popular with leftists.
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