Mark Tooley, @TheIRD Take An Undeserved Victory Lap

Mark Tooley, the neo-conservative president of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (a neo-conservative Washington think-tank with ties to the United Methodist Church), loves to demonize liberals.  The recent victories won by conservative United Methodists seem to have given Mr. Tooley the idea that he can unfairly demonize them in the wake of the United Methodist Church’s 2012 General Conference.

His latest article for the American Spectator–the place where all church reformers go when they are serious about reform and not touting a purely political agenda–claims that UMC liberals lament the growth of the church in Africa.  Additionally, he claims that they bemoan the increased representation they now enjoy because of legislation passed during the latest denominational legislative meeting.

Mr. Tooley continues his wrap-up/victory speech with the biggest clue that the IRD is nothing more than a sophist, neo-conservative think-tank in the vein of the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign, by recounting how liberals were disappointed that legislation which would have divested UMC pensions from businesses profiting from contracts with Israel.  As if they were reading scripts written by the RNC and the IRD, the African delegation claimed a move like this would embolden Israel’s enemies to attack them.  Typical neo-conservativism.

In essence, Tooley’s article was an attempt to couch the increased influence of the African UMC in terms of a kind of civil rights victory.  All the while, denouncing Native-American United Methodist’s concerns and particular beliefs as “neo-pagan.”

This article is unbelievably biased and inaccurate.  While it does contain a lot of facts, it doesn’t contain a lot of truth.

First, to suggest that UMC liberals are upset about the African delegation receiving proportional representation is intentionally misleading.  Just as radical groups–such as the Confessing Movement--say things that not all conservative United Methodists believe, so it goes with liberals.  There are some liberal parachurch organizations saying things like this, but the overwhelming majority of UMC liberals agree that it is only right and fair that the rapidly growing African church get its seat at the table.  The discouragement and negativity comes in when they realize what that means for the ideological bent of the church.

As for divestment issues, Tooley is obviously blinded by his ideology and ideological colleagues.  Israel faces challenges with which they need help.  However, to continue to look the other way while they commit the same atrocities we claim we don’t want visited upon Israel, is irresponsible and dishonest.  Mr. Tooley fails to mention these things.

I am always tempted to dismiss organizations like the IRD, because their dogged reliance upon their strict ideology tends to relegate them to the periphery of the discussion.  However, Mr. Tooley and his organization are using facts in such a way as to create their own truth.

That must not be allowed to go unchecked.

Unfortunately, he takes this success to mean that conservatism in the UMC is what is the successful component to thriving churches–and a revival in the church at-large.  I think you’d agree–as well as Jesus–that that just isn’t the case.  At the same time, I would say the same of liberals.  Mr. Tooley and the IRD–as well as others–are guilty of taking their own thoughts and believing them to be the same as God’s.

What a shame–and it doesn’t bode well for future exercises in collective governance for the church.

What do you think?  Leave your comments below!

Related Articles:

United Methodists Transition from Liberal to Global–Mark Tooley

United Methodists Keep Stricture on Homosexuality

United Methodist Church Votes Against Israel Divestment

15 comments on “Mark Tooley, @TheIRD Take An Undeserved Victory Lap

  1. Justme
    May 14, 2012 at 4:09 PM #

    Boy your a sore loser

    • Chris Tiedeman
      May 14, 2012 at 4:20 PM #

      It’s not really about the winning or losing. The statements he is making are untrue and inflammatory. Win or lose, you don’t fudge the score–to belabor your metaphor.

  2. Pastor Glen
    May 14, 2012 at 4:34 PM #

    Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle… You criticize Tooley for coming up with his own facts while at the same time you create your own without any substantiation: ” but the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY (emphasis added) of UMC liberals agree that it is only right and fair that the rapidly growing African church get its seat at the table.” Really? And you know this how?

    And then there’s this hilarious paragraph:
    “Unfortunately, he takes this success to mean that conservatism in the UMC is what is the successful component to thriving churches–and a revival in the church at-large. I think you’d agree–AS WELL AS JESUS (emphasis added)–that that just isn’t the case. At the same time, I would say the same of liberals. Mr. Tooley and the IRD–as well as others–are guilty of taking their own thoughts and believing them to be the same as God’s.” Either you don’t believe Jesus is God, or you just did what you criticize others for doing!

    • Chris Tiedeman
      May 14, 2012 at 5:18 PM #

      Hello, and thanks for taking time to read my article.

      Let me help you correct your two claims:

      1. I am not creating facts, just understanding how sociology and a “bell curve” work. There is the vast majority of any group of people who are of a moderate opinion about anything. More radical opinions exist at the periphery.

      I do believe there are liberal United Methodists who did not agree with the vote on proportional representation. However, I believe they exist at the periphery–just as Tooley exists at the periphery of his side of the bell curve. The vast majority of others–liberal or conservative–exist in the middle.

      2. I believe that Jesus would disagree with anyone attempting to place his words or actions on one end or the other of some ideological spectrum. I believe the same thing about God. The Trinity–one person, three forms. I wasn’t elevating anyone above anyone else. I believe Jesus would have disagreed with anyone claiming special rights over his statements. While that statement is initially troubling, it applies to the greater debates which happen over all Christianity.

      I hope your misunderstandings won’t stop you from reading my blog in the future.

      Grace and Peace,


  3. Quartermaster
    May 15, 2012 at 9:00 AM #

    Tooley isn’t taking a victory lap. He was simply reporting on what happened. If the Libs who don’t like what happened are just on the periphery, then the leadership is on the periphery. I’m not saying that they don’t agree with representation, just that they don’t like the results and are having regrets.

    • Chris Tiedeman
      May 15, 2012 at 9:40 AM #

      I guess I am having trouble getting your meaning. Of course, regrets after “losing” are not uncommon. Regrets are one thing, Tooley’s unfair characterizations are another. If it weren’t a pattern of behavior, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But it is, and someone needs to say something about it (read my other replies for more information).

      There are two things we have to separate for you to better understand what happened and why Tooley’s article is wrong.

      First, the regret comes from the lack of movement on one of the important issues for the liberal United Methodists. Second, there was the vote for proportional representation. Those are two separate things that Tooley is conflating to make it seem as if UMC liberals are somehow being discriminatory toward our African brothers and sisters. The only thing that links these two is the fact that the African delegation doesn’t want any movement on the BOD’s language surrounding homosexuality.

      Honestly, if there wasn’t such derogatory language used on the conference floor, there wouldn’t be near the regret from the liberal side. And, if Tooley hadn’t unfairly characterized his liberal, United Methodist brothers and sisters, I wouldn’t have written this response on my blog.

      Good day.

      • Quartermaster
        May 15, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

        I don’t know if there is another version of Tooley’s article, but the one on American Spectator does not deal with proportional representation (I just re-read it). He does, however, mention that the Libs are frustrated with being unable to move their agenda. There may be something about proportional representation over at the IRD website. From what I’ve read, however, you’re reading more into what he said than was written.

        I’m not UMC, but I have close friends who are, two are minsters. As a result I’m interested in what’s going on. While it is difficult for someone such as yourself to accept, as an outsider, I have to say the Libs are the primary perpetrators when it comes to mischaracterization. I find myself in disagreement with Pastor Glen above as my own observation is that liberalism in Churches is death. The Theological circles in which I run simply seek to adhere to scripture. If he wishes to say that Jesus agrees with liberalism, I wish him luck with that.

        I’m not sure why you would have trouble with getting my meaning as it is just a straightforward statement of mu opinion that Tooley is not taking a “victory lap” on the general conference outcome. I am simply pointing out that your headline is simply overblown. YMMV.

  4. Chris Tiedeman
    May 15, 2012 at 9:56 PM #


    The gaining of 25 percent of leadership seats–which Tooley mentions–was a result of a vote on proportional representation.

    “Libs are primary perpetrators when it comes to mischaracterization” must be a typo. If anything, my article notes that the extremes of both sides are guilty of such mischaracterization. My headline is well within the bounds of reason. Tooley’s article is most certainly a victory lap after what he views as a successful stand against legislation favored by those with whom he disagrees. He comes so very close to claiming his ideological rivals espouse racism, without actually saying it. It’s dishonest and wrong.

    Additionally, I do wonder just how long you will be able to use liberals as your perpetual “boogeyman.” But if you are worried about death, then–by all means–steer clear.

    • Quartermaster
      May 16, 2012 at 6:33 AM #

      Nope, not a typo. Just a straightforward statement of the facts, my friend.

      If you want to think your headline is within reason, who am I to attempt to dissuade from your delusion. But, it’s your blog and you can say anything, and do anything you like here. I will not deny that many are thrilled the Libs lost in their latest attempt to conform the UMC to a sinful culture. I happen to one of them and will rejoice at future victories.

      I really have to chuckle at your accusing him of coming close to accusing libs of racism. I get his point, and don’t see him as doing that. Your rhetoric is simply over heated.

      I have no need to use Libs as a “boogeyman.” There is a lost world that needs to be reached with the Gospel. Anything that impedes that, and Libs in attempting to conform a church to a sinful culture does exactly that, is sinful in itself. That is not making Libs the “boogeyman” of the story, it is simply a bald statement of fact.

      • Chris Tiedeman
        May 16, 2012 at 8:22 AM #

        You win, sir.

        There’s only so much conversation to be had with someone who ignores important details and facts about any given situation. And, yes, he very nearly called people with whom he disagrees racists. I had hoped to avoid cable-news style debate on my blog, but here we are–talking past each other.

        You go share the gospel. I’ll go share the gospel. If we do that, no one is wrong.

        Grace and Peace.

    • groven128
      May 17, 2012 at 3:25 AM #

      “There’s only so much conversation to be had with someone who ignores important details and facts about any given situation. ”
      Sounds like the holy conferencing issue at GC2012…for both sides, no matter how you spin it…maybe we have reached an unavoidable and divisive chasm that should not be ignored any longer. It is next to impossible to “holy conference” without trying to sway the other person to your point of view. I have heard all the ways that it is not that, but in reality, we are all trying to sway the other…any response that says otherwise is simply trying to sway my opinion on the issue :D. Just a thought…

  5. Pastor Glen
    May 17, 2012 at 2:41 PM #

    Quartermaster, I do NOT believe that Jesus sides with the liberals of the UMC. I was making the point that Chris was dropping Jesus’ name in arguing against those who drop God’s name. Nothing more.

    In case you want to read a wonderful take on GC, see Bishop Willimon’s article in the UM Reporter:

    • Quartermaster
      May 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM #

      Point taken. The good Bishop’s take on the GC is a bit pointed, and he is right. My friends in the UMC seem to feel the same way and are angry that the agencies are not being brought to account.

      I think Tooley’s heart is in the right place. Contra Chris’ assertion of a “cable style debate” I wasn’t debating, just commenting on his over heated rhetoric. The problem with teh libs is they aren’t interested in the gospel and if a true Holy Spirit inspired renewal takes place in the UMC the libs will be expunged because what they are involved in is heresy.

  6. Chris Tiedeman
    May 18, 2012 at 1:44 PM #

    Hey guys,

    I’m not,saying I am wrong on this, because I’m not. However, I am done with this type of debate–and it IS cable news style. Find my new philosophy here:


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