Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

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.)

I seem to have made the small time. San Francisco Indymedia writer “Dave Id” picked up on my post about First Presbyterian Church of Oakland hosting the anti-Israel tour “Never Again for Anyone,” of  which even he offers a completely sympathetic account. For some reason, he takes a swipe at me:

The local chapters of Voice of Israel and Stand With Us sponsored this little protest: https://reformedpastor.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/presbyterians-host-israel-haters/. David Fischler, the “Reformed Pastor” in the post linked here, notes that “IJAN is explicitly dedicated to the destruction of Israel (which it refers to as the ‘decolonization of Palestine’) and its replacement with a single state in the Holy Land.” Heaven forbid everyone in Israel/Palestine would have the right to vote as equals.

Please note that he doesn’t dispute my characterization of IJAN or their little hatefest. Instead, he bizarrely states that it’s all about the “right to vote as equals.” Of course, Palestinians already have that right in Israel, as well as run for and sit in the Knesset, just like Jews in the Palestinian terr…oh, wait, there aren’t any Jews in the areas under control of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, just as are there few if any Jews left in most of the countries of the Middle East, because they’ve been expelled. That’s what Hamas, as least (impossible to say about Fatah, since it’s not clear from one week to the next which faction has the upper hand, or who is calling the shots), has said it would do if it got control of the entire Holy Land: expel (or kill) all the Jews. That fact apparently carries no weight with IJAN or its Presbyterian enablers, for whom there are no human rights abusers anywhere else in the world, and Israel is the equivalent–or worse–of Nazi Germany. See the linked article above for the details, such as this:

Dr. Hajo Meyer begins by remarking that those outside with the Israeli flags remind him of a time when he was ten years old and Nazis with flags stormed the building where he was giving a speech. He notes that you don’t need gas chambers for genocide as there are many kinds.

Right. People waving Israeli flags are just like Nazis with flags.

UPDATE: Couldn’t resist passing this along. As a companion to the above article, SF Indymedia last month had a story on placards that had been placed in Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. It began this way:

“Stop Palestinian Leaders From Teaching Hate & Violence – Say Yes to Peace,” read the text-only advertisements currently found in several BART stations in San Francisco. The ads purport to advocate “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians, but attacking those with whom one claims to want peace is an odd way of doing so. The ads are just wrong on many levels.

San Francisco lefties: even they don’t listen to one another any more.

In some quarters, it is no longer good enough to treat gay people with respect. It is necessary that everyone agree on the goodness of homosexual behavior, and if you don’t, you must be silenced. Once again, the battleground is the Apple iPhone, and this time it’s an ex-gay ministry that is the target of the New Orthodoxy. According to LifeSite News:

An iPhone application designed to minister to individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction has come under a hail of criticism from gay activists who have called the program “hateful and bigoted.”

The app, created by international Christian ex-gay ministry Exodus International and available through Apple’s online iTunes store, received a 4+ rating from Apple, meaning that it was found to contain no objectionable content. The app provides a gateway to the ministry’s news, blog, podcasts, and other social networking and resource materials.

By definition, Exodus is “hateful and bigoted,” because as an organization it recognizes two realities that must not be spoken of in polite company: 1) Not everyone with homosexual attraction thinks it’s the greatest thing since the Kinsey Report; and 2) there are gays who want help in their struggle against same-sex attraction. Needless to say, such a sin against the New Orthodoxy must be crushed.

Truth Wins Out (TWO), an organization dedicated to “fighting anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth,” quickly launched a protest. It claims to have gathered over 100,000 signatures against the app on Change.org.

TWO leaders have promised that if Apple does not bow to their demands they will hold a press conference featuring “Exodus victims” outside Apple’s offices to further pressure the computer company.

“No objectionable content? We beg to differ. Exodus’ message is hateful and bigoted,” states the petition overview.

“Apple doesn’t allow racist or anti-Semitic apps in its store, yet it gives the green light to an app written by an anti-gay extremist group that targets vulnerable sexual-minority youth with the message that they are ‘sinful’ and ‘perverse,’” said Truth Wins Out’s Director of Communications and Development John Becker.

See, if you hold to biblical standards of sexual morality, and actually try to help someone deal with a condition that they see as a problem rather than a blessing, you are no different from an antebellum slaveholder or Julius Streicher. The only approved way of dealing with gays who are so disturbed is to convince them that they are perfect just the way they are, and anything else an outrage. Furthermore, if you have the temerity to actually believe any of that ancient claptrap, you must be silenced, just as the writers of the Manhattan Declaration were. (Yes, I know that no one has a right to put an app in the iTunes store, and yes, I know that there are lots of other outlets for the Manhattan Declaration. But I don’t think there can be any doubt that if groups such as TWO had their way, those other outlets would also be shut down, and all expression of doubt about the New Orthodoxy would be completely stifled.)

Leaders of Exodus put their fingers on what is going on:

For their part, Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas of Exodus have decried the “terrible, truly nasty emails, tweets, facebook and blog comments” that had been directed at their organization since the Change.org campaign began.

“[The campaign] really represents the lack of tolerance, a lack of true diversity that exists within various aspects of our culture,” Jeff Buchanan of Exodus told CBN. “What we’re wanting is simply the right and opportunity … to have an equal representation on the iTunes platform within Apple to represent our message of a Biblical worldview of sexuality.”

Tolerance and diversity are, in fact, the very antithesis of what organizations such as TWO stand for.

UPDATE: Apple caves:

Apple removed Exodus International’s app after critics released a position calling the organization “hateful and bigoted.” Exodus promotes “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”

President of Exodus International Alan Chambers tweeted, “It’s official, the @ExodusInl App is no longer in the @AppStore. Incredibly disappointing. Watch out, it could happen to you. #freedom”

Chambers told CT that about 16,000 people had downloaded the app and it had about 500 negative reviews. He said that Exodus has counted 105 ipad apps and 135 mobile apps that support gay rights and homosexuality.

“It’s absolute assault on free expression and free ideas,” Chambers told CT. “If you don’t agree with the loudest person in America, you’re going to be forced into conformity.”

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told CNET that Apple pulled the app because “it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”

And if Apple got a million angry emails from Christians who are offended by the pro-gay apps, they’d remove them immediately. Or, more likely: