Dorhauer pats self on back
Monday, May 14, 2007
I have been in this office for well over four years now. My colleague on staff, The Rev. Sheldon Culver, and I made a conscious decision and took a calculated risk over three years ago: we would begin to refocus our attention on these attacks, learn as much as we could about them, and report everything we found out on as wide a scale as we possibly could.Report their findings? Hardly. The Dorhauer/Culver team haven't reported much of all but that hasn't stopped Dorhauer from praising his own success. From his most recent post, we find:
1) A dozen ministers called Dorhauer about a book the Institute of Religion and Democracy sent out
2) A dozen ministers called Dorhauer about an invitation they received from Faithful and Welcoming Churches to attend a "Healthy Churches" workshop
3) A pastor called Dorhauer to report that a new visitor to church might be part of the conspiracy to steal churches out of the UCC... although Dorhauer concedes the visitor "may be completely innocent of any nefarious intentions".
This is success? Creating a witch hunt which is now stretching out to suspect new visitors to our churches?
What is clear is that there are pastors, conference leaders and national leaders who have intentionally instilled a culture of fear within the denomination with no foundation of truth at all.
The last time Dorhauer boasted of success, he was slapping himself on the back because one of the churches that attended his workshop mistakenly accused a woman of being part of his imaginary conspiracy.
As I have said before, I detest the idea of church stealing and have said repeatedly that it is very, very wrong. But I also think it's important to distinguish between petty church politics (which happens to many churches across the theological and political spectrum) and a genuine conspiracy.
Dorhauer has identified a few churches in crisis and turned it into conspiracy of church stealing. I challenged Dorhauer awhile ago to provide proof of a conspiracy. Instead of providing evidence, Dorhauer falsely accused UCCtruths of redirecting the UCC Vitality web site and then apologized for the false accusation a week later.
Still, I taunted and pushed him for evidence of a conspiracy. A number of pastors sympathetic to Dorhauer's concerns sent him emails only to find out first hand that Dorhauer will not provide proof of his conspiracy claims. People signed on to the message board where he publishes his conspiracy to ask for answers only to be kicked off the site or called names.
In spite of all of this I was willing to stop giving Dorhauer's antics any attention. After all, it's not against the law to be wrong and I didn't really want to legitimize his activity by repeatedly posting on it. This changed with his most recent post boasting of how local church ministers are calling him because they are suspicious of visitors. So much for our "extravagant welcome".
This is not how rational, mature, Christian people should act. It's certainly not what we are called to do... especially an Associate Conference Minister.
Rebuilding a church
At this early stage, the most notable aspect of the search is the dearth of names being bandied about. If Riverside wanted to break the sex line, it could look to the Rev. Vashti McKenzie, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, or the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, former president of the Hampton Ministers Conference. Both of these women are African-American, as are two prospective male candidates — the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and the Rev. Michael Livingston, outgoing president of the National Council of Churches.For some, the selection of the next minister at Riverside is an opportunity to make a statement:
“Compared to Bill Coffin or Harry Emerson Fosdick, neither Jim Forbes nor anyone else in mainline Protestantism cuts that kind of profile,” said Mark Silk, director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford. “Who are the big dogs today? It’s true in Catholicism, too, for that matter. Where’s the Spellman or the Cushing? The religious leaders worth listening to have to make the case for themselves — running their own organization, writing books, being in the media.”
“Riverside’s next minister needs to make a coherent case for liberal Protestantism, and that’s been missing for a long time,” said Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College and an ordained Episcopal minister. “You need someone who has solid theological understanding and can articulate it speaking to a popular audience.Balmer, unintentionally, identifies the problem of liberal Protestants in terms of conservative criticisms. No one is ever going to build Protestant churches back up if the rebuilding is based on conservative criticism. It's like a dog chasing it's tail. Short of Jesus coming back today and setting the record straight, religious liberals and conservatives are always going to disagree on theology.
“The standard conservative criticism,” Professor Ballmer said, “is that the mainline Protestants lost their theological moorings, that they got too far out ahead of the people in the pews. But I think the larger issue is that they were not communicating to the masses.”
Balmer is also wrong that liberal Protestants are "not communicating to the masses". Love them or hate them, Jim Wallis and Jesse Jackson are among the most prominent liberal protestants out there and they do communicate effectively. The problem isn't communication, the problem is an inconsistent message that doesn't stick with the masses.
The best example of this is the abhorrent response of Protestants (and all Christians for that matter) to the crisis in Sudan. Religious liberals have been so absolute in their pacifist resistance to the war in Iraq that they can't possibly support the use of force to save hundreds of thousands of starving and displaced people in Sudan.
So what is the religious liberal response to the crisis in Sudan? Protest and email a White House that has already acknowledged the crisis and led the world in condemning Sudan? Yawn.
If there was ever a moral case for armed intervention, it is the crisis in Sudan. Yet, religious liberals are powerless to make such a statement. This isn't a communication problem - the message isn't sticking.
Yet thousands more die. Let's blame it on communication.
UCC files petition challenging News Corp. licenses in NYC - Associate Conference Minister "harmed" by FCC waivers
Sunday, May 13, 2007
"Fox's common ownership of The New York Post, WNYW-TV and WWOR-TV harms me by sharply reducing the number of independent voices available to me," wrote the Rev. Sherry M. Taylor, from UCC's Central Atlantic Conference in New Jersey, in the petition. "Unless the licenses are denied, my right to access diverse programming will continue to be harmed."Apparently, the hundreds of television channels and 5 daily newspapers available to Associate Conference Minister Sherry Mason Taylor just doesn't cut it. While petitions to deny license renewals rarely succeed, Taylor's pastoral melodrama should cause some chuckles and eye rolls for FCC staffers.
News Corp. has a waiver of the broadcast/newspaper crossownership rule to own both the stations and The New York Post. UCC and Rainbow are asking the FCC to rescind the waiver, which would make the stations automatically in violation of the crossownership ban.
The FCC approved the transfer of the News Corp. television licenses last year and granted a permanent waiver of the newspaper/broadcast crossownership ban. From Lasar's Letter on the FCC:
The FCC's Memorandum Opinion and Order contends that the competitive nature of the Greater New York newspaper market and economic necessity justify the waivers. The Post reaches about 7.3 percent of the region's households in what the FCC describes as a competitive market dominated by five newspapers, including The New York Daily News and The New York Times.Of all the things wrong in the world - things that cause real harm - you would think we would make better use of denominational resources.
"The record indicates that the conditions justifying the original waiver, the financial vulnerability of The New York Post and the unique diversity of the New York market, still exist," concludes the Order. The ruling extends a two year waiver to WWOR and The Post.