- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

The National Council of Churches is becoming financially beholden to secular groups with liberal political leanings, according to a report by a religious watchdog organization.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group formed by members of the NCC, says the group accepted the majority of its charitable donations last year from nonreligious organizations and has been pursuing an agenda that does not mesh with the majority of its church members, including support for abortion and homosexual “marriage.”

“We found numerous common themes among the dozens of nonchurch entities from which the church council has recently sought or received funding,” said John Lomperis, a research associate with IRD who co-wrote the group’s report on the NCC.

“These groups have very little demonstrated interest in religion beyond recruiting faith communities to support their favored social and political causes.”

Politically affiliated groups who donated to the NCC between 2004 and 2005 include the Sierra Club; the Ford Foundation, which advocated for “reproductive rights”; the United Nations Foundation, which is funded by billionaire media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner; and the Connect US Network, which has ties to George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Mr. Lomperis said.

Mr. Lomperis says the NCC also applied for a $100,000 grant from MoveOn.org, a liberal political-advocacy group that worked to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, but has not yet received any grant money from the organization.

IRD Vice President Alan F.H. Wisdom says the problem lies not with the NCC accepting such money, but that the groups who are donating it do not reflect the views of the member churches.

“The religious left simply does not have 45 million people in the pews on any given Sunday,” he said. “We’re very clear that it’s not wrong for Christian groups to accept money from foundations and non-Christian organizations.”

The NCC was formed in 1950 with its stated goal being to serve as a bridge between Christian faiths and communities. The group claims to represent 45 million American believers through its member churches, which includes 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, black and historic Christian denominations.

NCC staff member Lindsey Thune showed up at the IRD press conference yesterday to contest some of the group’s claims and to question their own fundraising records.

“Not all of us on staff support abortion or gay marriage,” Miss Thune said.

Mr. Wisdom acknowledged that the IRD receives about 40 percent of its funding from private foundations, including some that are considered conservative, including the Adolph Coors Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation.

The IRD says it is less concerned with where the financial support for the NCC is coming from than in how it is influencing the organization’s political agenda.

“The considerable financial support now running into the coffers of the NCC from such organizations … is not being given merely as a form of charity,” said the Rev. John M. Reeves, an Orthodox priest.

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