The leader of the Biblical Witness Fellowship, a fundamentalist group affiliated with the Republican-party aligned Institute on Religion and Democracy, announced today that the vote of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in favor of gay marriage was part of a grand conspiracy among politicians and the media to influence the debate over President’s Bush nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court.
I’m not making this up (though I wish it was all just a bad dream). The conservative Christian news service Agape Press reports:
(David) Runnion-Bareford contends that, compared to all the other Protestant denominations, the UCC stands alone in authorizing all the homosexual alternative lifestyles in a general resolution from its rule-making body and calling them compatible with Christianity. "This is not just simply a very liberal kind of denomination that just doesn't get it about God," he says. "They really are attempting to create a counterfeit that is saleable."
A further indication of this, the Biblical Witness Fellowship spokesman notes, is the fact that there was media coverage and commentary from around the world, including reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and National Public Radio on the UCC General Synod's decision to endorse same-sex marriage.
He even sees something suspect in the timing of an appearance by leading Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Charles Schumer on ABC's "This Week," where the senator suggested he would make homosexual marriage an issue in the next Supreme Court justice confirmation battle.
Runnion-Bareford believes the UCC intended for its pro-homosexual agenda to get the media attention and discussion it is receiving and took carefully orchestrated steps to see that this would happen. "It's interesting to see the BBC run this as a front item as soon as that vote was taken," he says, "and for Senator Schumer to come out for gay marriage, almost as soon as that vote was taken, in a very strong way."
What is "afoot here" with the United Church of Christ, the church renewal advocate contends, is "an attempt to gain Christian sanction for the ideology that has moved forward in an attempt to let gays gain legal sanctions in the state of Massachusetts."
Runnion-Bareford is wrong that the United Church of Christ is the only Christian denomination to support gay marriage. The United of Canada argued for gay marriage in their nation years before the United Church of Christ took a stance. Other Christian groups have also endorsed gay marriage. The vote of the UCC, however, did make it the first mainline Christian church in the U.S. to take a such a position.
And it is just bizarre to sugguest some grand conspiracy between the UCC and Senator Schumer to introduce the issue of gay marriage in time for the debate of the Supreme Court nomination. The dates for the General Synod were set years in advance and the resolutions debated there were introduced months before.
Runnion-Bareford’s group pretends to be affiliated with the UCC but it is their clear intention to drive wedges between local congregations and the national offices of the denomination. The group is concerned with what they see as “the UCC’s theological surrender to the moral and spiritual confusion of contemporary culture.” They reject modern biblical scholarship and suggest that churches within their movement seek ministers trained in more conservative seminaries outside of the UCC tradition. Biblical Witness Fellowship seeks with intention to undermine the UCC by supporting the appointment of pastors from more conservative denominations in local UCC congregations and have worked diligently to then move those churches into a position were they will spilt from the UCC.