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Close Study: The IRD is part of a “coordinated assault” according to the Diocese of New York. (Photo Credit: the late Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther”)

Amid scores of resolutions submitted to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Stewardship and Development Committee has been asked by the Diocese of New York to launch an investigation of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Resolution C114 instructs General Convention to “authorize the creation of a joint task force” with the Presbyterian and the United Methodist denominations to determine “the threat to religious freedom posed by the activities of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and related groups, develop recommendations to mitigate such threats, and ascertain the cost to the three denominations of litigation to prevent the alienation of church property and other assets.”

The resolution requests that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance “consider a budget allocation of $2,500 for the implementation of this resolution.”

“A joint task force is needed to share information and develop common strategies to safeguard the freedom and financial health of the three target denominations,” the background section of the resolution explains.

When the “Investigate IRD” resolution was originally passed at the November 2010 Diocesan Convention, we were understandably delighted — although a bit confused. Of all the liberal dioceses in the Episcopal Church, New York has not received nearly as much attention from the IRD as, for example, the neighboring and catastrophically collapsing Diocese of Newark. Perhaps more predictable was an a resolution from the Desert Southwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. That liberal and fast-declining local jurisdiction has sent identical resolutions condemning IRD to the denomination’s General Conference at least twice.

In the event you are wondering what the IRD’s threats to religious freedom are — and we do spend a lot of our time on religious liberty — they appear to revolve around claims that IRD is jeopardizing churches by asking people to leave them. This despite the fact that all of our UMAction briefings specifically ask people not to leave their churches, but to stay and work for positive change in the denomination. We recognize that faithful Christians can disagree on who rightfully owns disputed church properties, although we bemoan the wasted money spent on litigation against departing churches that could otherwise be used for ministry.

As IRD President Mark Tooley has written, “we eagerly await our inquisitors.”