Mark Tooley, the neo-conservative president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (a neo-conservative Washington think-tank with ties to the United Methodist Church), loves to demonize liberals. The recent victories won by conservative United Methodists seem to have given Mr. Tooley the idea that he can unfairly demonize them in the wake of the United Methodist Church’s 2012 General Conference.
His latest article for the American Spectator–the place where all church reformers go when they are serious about reform and not touting a purely political agenda–claims that UMC liberals lament the growth of the church in Africa. Additionally, he claims that they bemoan the increased representation they now enjoy because of legislation passed during the latest denominational legislative meeting.
Mr. Tooley continues his wrap-up/victory speech with the biggest clue that the IRD is nothing more than a sophist, neo-conservative think-tank in the vein of the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign, by recounting how liberals were disappointed that legislation which would have divested UMC pensions from businesses profiting from contracts with Israel. As if they were reading scripts written by the RNC and the IRD, the African delegation claimed a move like this would embolden Israel’s enemies to attack them. Typical neo-conservativism.
In essence, Tooley’s article was an attempt to couch the increased influence of the African UMC in terms of a kind of civil rights victory. All the while, denouncing Native-American United Methodist’s concerns and particular beliefs as “neo-pagan.”
This article is unbelievably biased and inaccurate. While it does contain a lot of facts, it doesn’t contain a lot of truth.
First, to suggest that UMC liberals are upset about the African delegation receiving proportional representation is intentionally misleading. Just as radical groups–such as the Confessing Movement--say things that not all conservative United Methodists believe, so it goes with liberals. There are some liberal parachurch organizations saying things like this, but the overwhelming majority of UMC liberals agree that it is only right and fair that the rapidly growing African church get its seat at the table. The discouragement and negativity comes in when they realize what that means for the ideological bent of the church.
As for divestment issues, Tooley is obviously blinded by his ideology and ideological colleagues. Israel faces challenges with which they need help. However, to continue to look the other way while they commit the same atrocities we claim we don’t want visited upon Israel, is irresponsible and dishonest. Mr. Tooley fails to mention these things.
I am always tempted to dismiss organizations like the IRD, because their dogged reliance upon their strict ideology tends to relegate them to the periphery of the discussion. However, Mr. Tooley and his organization are using facts in such a way as to create their own truth.
That must not be allowed to go unchecked.
Unfortunately, he takes this success to mean that conservatism in the UMC is what is the successful component to thriving churches–and a revival in the church at-large. I think you’d agree–as well as Jesus–that that just isn’t the case. At the same time, I would say the same of liberals. Mr. Tooley and the IRD–as well as others–are guilty of taking their own thoughts and believing them to be the same as God’s.
What a shame–and it doesn’t bode well for future exercises in collective governance for the church.
What do you think? Leave your comments below!