When the North Carolina Council of Churches, a coalition composed of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, selected an openly gay man as the body’s new president, right-wing activists jumped on the story in their efforts to foster divisions and anti-gay sentiment among church groups. Seventeen denominations, including Episcopal, Lutheran, AME, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, and Methodist churches, are members of the North Carolina Council of Churches, and President-Elect Stan Kimer promised to make outreach, environmental stewardship, and social justice key parts of his agenda.
“I have a strong belief that as a Christian I’m called to make the world a better place,” Kimer told the Charlotte Observer, “I like to spend my time with groups where I can see an impact.”
Now, the far-right Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) is using Kimer’s election to advance its agenda of splitting Protestant churches by opposing any denomination’s support for LGBT equality.
IRD’s Vice President Alan Wisdom condemned the coalition’s decision to OneNewsNow, saying, “All major branches of the Christian church — the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, the evangelicals, the African-Americans, the historic Protestant denominations for the most part — agree that God’s standard of sexual morality is the marriage of man and woman and that homosexual relationships are not in accord with Christian teaching.” Wisdom also condemned the Metropolitan Community Church, of which Kimer is a member, for its foundational support of gay equality.
The New York Times reports that the IRD opposes women’s and gay rights, and leads “traditionalist insurrections against the liberal politics of the denomination’s leaders.” The IRD has ties to ultraconservative organizations including Concerned Women For America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, the anti-immigrant group Numbers USA, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Patrick Henry College and The Weekly Standard, and receives its funding from the right wing Scaife, Bradley, Olin, and Ahmanson Foundations.
Reverend Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates reported on how IRD mobilizes church groups in Africa to viciously oppose rights for gays and lesbians and to resist mainline Protestant denominations. In “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia,” Rev. Kaoma writes that the IRD encourages anti-gay congregations based in Africa to launch missions in North America as “part of a long-term, deliberate, and successful strategy to weaken and split U.S. mainline denominations, block their powerful progressive social witness promoting social and economic justice, and promote social and economic conservatism in the United States.”