Thomas Peters, writing at CatholicVote.org, has a fascinating piece on the effort by a gay Colorado billionaire named Tim Gill to interfere in the Roman Catholic Church’s affairs by funding dissident groups seeking to change the church’s position on homosexuality. Peters catalogues funding to the tune of almost $600,000 through something called the Arcus Foundation that has gone to groups such as Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry, and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. He begins with this statement:

Pro-gay-marriage billionaires and foundations are behind an organized effort to sow dissent and confusion among Catholics on the issues of homosexuality, marriage and family. And the first step to stopping them is knowing what we’re up against.

Please read the whole article. I got curious after doing so, and went to the Arcus web site. There, I found that it wasn’t just “Catholic” groups this foundation was funding. In 2010 alone, I spotted these grants:

Cathedral Church of St. James: $100,000 to support the efforts of the Chicago Consultation to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people within the Episcopal Church and to explore opportunities to promote dialogue and support for LGBT inclusion among the leaders of the Anglican Communion in the global South.

Center for American Progress: $25,000 to amplify the voice and impact of the national social justice advocacy of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Central United Methodist Church: $50,000 for “The Reconciling Project”, a reconciling education and advocacy initiative to positively transform attitudes and beliefs about LGBT people among United Methodist congregants and pastors in Southeastern Michigan.

Christian Community: $201,334 for the Public Religion Research Institute to conduct research to identify measures that could be utilized to document progress in achieving LGBT moral equality and to determine the correlation between perceptions of LGBT morality and support for LGBT religious and secular rights.

•Christian Community (same organization as previous): $300,000 over two years to increase support for and advocacy on behalf of LGBT people of faith in mainline Protestant congregations across the U.S.

Church Divinity School of the Pacific: $404,351 to develop official rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships within the Episcopal Church.

Emory University (United Methodist affiliated): $100,000 over two years for continued support for Religion Dispatches, a progressive online magazine dedicated to analysis and critique of the role of religion in public culture, with a focus on LGBT justice issues.

Faith Partnerships Incorporated: $100,000 for support of African American Church leaders convenings on LGBT issues.

Family Diversity Projects: $50,000 to expand support for the full inclusion of LGBT people and their families within mainline Protestant communities of faith by using a traveling photograph-text exhibit as a platform for dialogue.

Intersections International: $100,000 for the Believe Out Loud campaign, which seeks to move moderate people of faith to publicly advocate for LGBT inclusion within their mainline Protestant faith communities.

Lutherans Concerned: $90,000 for two convenings to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith by convening pro-LGBT denominational leaders from the Episcopal Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutherans of America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, and by convening nationally recognized pro-LGBT Lutheran theologians.

Methodist Federation for Social Action: $93,120 to advance the full inclusion of LGBT people of faith within the United Methodist Church (UMC) through a coalition of progressive justice organizations working within the UMC.

More Light Presbyterians: $75,000 to support the ratification of denominational policy that permits the ordination of partnered LGBT persons within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Political Research Associates: $140,000 for a research project to expose and confront US religious conservatives who support homophobia in Africa.

The Gay Christian Network: $73,018 to develop, test, and refine a pilot program that prepares young adult evangelicals to support pro-LGBT dialogue within evangelical communities.

The Interfaith Alliance: $100,500 to engage communities of faith, including conservative leadership structures, in constructive dialogue on same-gender marriage and LGBT equality.

Truth Wins Out: $40,000 for general operating support to enable Truth Wins Out to continue to challenge the ex-gay movement and monitor the anti-LGBT efforts of the religious right.

Unity Fellowship Church (Charlotte NC): $50,000 For the Freedom Center for Social Justice to convene a summit to train a cohort of 200 transgender people of faith to work as grassroots activists.

Among the groups getting funds from Arcus in years past: the American Friends Service Committee, the Baptist Peace Fellowship, Gays in Faith Together, Integrity (Episcopal gay caucus), Progressive Christians Uniting, Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist), Soulforce, and Chicago Theological Seminary (UCC). In addition, Arcus has also funded a number of Jewish (including Orthodox) and Muslim (!) groups.

Despite the lack of stated religious connections on the part of staff or board members, Arcus has what it calls a “Religion and Values” program, the goal of which is described this way:

This program’s goal is to achieve the recognition and affirmation of the moral equality of LGBT people. To accomplish this goal, the program supports the efforts of religious leaders to create faith communities in which LGBT people are welcomed as equal members; it also supports civic leadership to promote the moral and civil equality of LGBT people at state, national, and international levels.

Two “measurable” goals are stated:

Goal 1: Ensure that denominations and faith-based institutions affirm LGBT moral equality and support LGBT rights.

Goal 2: Support pro-LGBT faith-based leaders who form, sustain and drive the movement or LGBT moral equality and civil rights.

Thomas Peters says that the total given by Arcus since 2007 to groups operating within Catholic and Protestant churches amounts to $6.5 million. That’s a lot of scratch.

The questions raised by this are enormous. Arcus has every right to fund organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD that are working for gay rights in the political arena. But by what right does a secular foundation, operating from principles that are at odds with historic Christian faith, seek to influence Christian churches to abandon that faith? Liberals have been claiming for years that there is something insidious, if not downright evil, about the support that the Institute for Religion and Democracy has received from conservative foundations, but that funding is dwarfed by both the scale and breadth of funding given out by Arcus. It’s also the case that the IRD supports the traditional stances of those churches, and is not seeking to bring about radical change in historic teaching and practice, which hardly seems to be the place of an outside, non-Christian foundation.

In the current issue of First Things, George Weigel has a fascinating article about the infiltration of the Catholic Church by various agents of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies during the post-World War II era. The aim was to influence church policy with regard to the Soviet bloc, and to seek to garner support for the bloc’s foreign and domestic political agendas. What Arcus is doing may be more public, and may involved using their money to fund others rather than using their own agents, but is just as much about infiltrating the churches to push a political agenda.

(Peters article via Mark Shea.)