Conservative Watchdog Leader Issues Warning to Evangelical Groups

The head of a conservative watchdog group that monitors mainline denominations warned evangelical groups this past week to stay away from "divisive, liberal political activism" in light of the declining support witnessed within the National Council of Churches in the USA.

 "Former NCC chief Bob Edgar's intense liberal political activism gained secular foundation support but seems to have further undermined church support," Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, noted in a statement Friday.

"Evangelical groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals should take the NCC's disastrous tenure under Edgar as a cautionary tale against embracing divisive, liberal political activism over church unity."

In making his point, Tooley highlighted how 13 of the NCC's 36 member communions made no contribution to the once preeminent association of U.S. Christian churches and how undesignated contributions by member churches to the NCC dropped 25 percent over the past decade while designated church contributions dropped 65 percent.

The life-long United Methodist and former CIA analyst also pointed to the May 17 meeting of the NCC Governing Board, which adopted its seventh deficit budget in as many years.

At the meeting, NCC General Secretary Dr. Michael Kinnamon said the organization's unrestricted reserves will dip below $3 million by the end of the next fiscal year without new support.

The ecumenical leader went on to emphasize relationship building among member churches and distancing the council from the perception of being purely political. Notably, however, the NCC soon after proceeded to work on a resolution that labels the Afghanistan war against the Taliban as unjust.

Tooley, who has been with IRD since 1994 and last year became its president, described the NCC as an "aging dinosaur of stale politics and bureaucratic inertia."

"If the NCC can't reverse the decline in church giving and foundation support, its days may be numbered," he said, before issuing his warning to evangelical groups that have more recently been taking up issues traditionally championed by the Left.

Founded in 1950, the NCC comprises a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches - which, combined, reportedly bring together 45 million people in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

Member communions include the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and Tooley's denomination, the United Methodist Church, among others.

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