Several months ago I was invited to serve on the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). Frankly, I was stunned by this invitation. I will attend my first meeting in Washington, DC, in a few months. IRD’s purpose statement says that it is: (1) An ecumenical alliance of U. S. Christians, (2) working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, (3) thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad. IRD board member Michael Novak has written that Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1830s that “the first political institution of American democracy is religion” (which of course meant the Christian religion at that time). Novak speaks, in a statement such as this, of the bedrock vision of IRD. I deeply share this vision thus my desire to work with and serve alongside the staff of IRD in Washington.
IRD was born among mainline churches and Christians who felt that the social witness of their respective churches had been captured by people who denied the strong link between public morality and orthodox Christian teaching. To this day IRD is hated by many on the far left in the mainline who seek to paint it as a group of far right fundamentalists. If IRD board members like Richard John Neuhaus, Fred Barnes, Michael Novak, Tom Oden, Robert George and Ephraim Radner are fundamentalists then the term has no cash value left at all. These are all well-respected church leaders from both Catholic and Protestant churches who are all biblical ecumenists who openly and seriously embrace the historic Christian gospel.
IRD believes in a truly “counter-cultural church” as its president James W. Tonkowich put it in the present issue (Fall/Winter 2006) of Faith & Freedom: Reforming the Church’s Social & Political Witness. You can learn more about IRD at www.ird-renew.org. You will find helpful resources on the Middle East conflict, Christian-Muslim dialogue, ecumenism, and democracy. Helpful news and analysis of the latest events and controversies within U.S. churches appears on a regular basis as do back issues of IRD publications that are extremely helpful.
One example of the kind of fair and balanced work that IRD does can be seen in its recent coverage of the environmental debate among Christians. I think both sides are fairly represented while the stewardship of the earth is taken seriously and at the same time many of the over-the-top conclusions about global warming are challenged.
I am grateful to share a small part in the future of IRD. I invite your prayers for me, your support for IRD, and your interaction with this valuable ministry.
John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at “encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening.”