Thus, the announcement of the new president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington, DC-based organization with a 20 year history of seeking to undermine mainline Christian churches deemed "too liberal" -- is a bellwether moment.
One of the leaders of the schism was televangelist and Christian Right operative, Rev. D. James Kennedy, who remains the PCA's best known leader. Other prominent PCA members include Rev. Lou ("Lucky Louie") Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, who has emerged as figure in the Washington scandal centered on lobbyist Jack ("Casino Jack") Abramoff; antiabortion militant Rev. Joe Foreman; Christian Reconstructionist author, George Grant; U.S. Sen. James Talent (R-MO); U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO); Joel Belz, the founder of World magazine; and Marvin Olasky, the editor of World, and erstwhile advisor to George Bush.
Tonkowich's appointment is also symbolic because IRD is the hub of the Association for Church Renewal, a national network of conservative factions in the mainline churches, that are the operational end of IRD's campaign of disruption and dismemberment. This is altogether fitting of course, because the Association for Church Renewal in recent years has held meetings in tandem with the National Association of Evangelicals. While positioning itself and related "renewal" groups as agencies of legitimate conservative disssent, IRD and the members of the Assocation for Church Renewal actively seek schism in the churches. The tactics of divide and conquer have occurred locally and nationally as Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer and Rev. Dr. Andrew Weaver have detailed at Talk to Action.
In it's press release, IRD anticipates and seeks to deflect any criticism of Tonkowich's background. IRD Board chair Dr. Jay J. Budziszewski noted that Tonkowich's background notwithstanding, he is "firmly committed to reforming the mainline while at the same time helping the IRD to build alliances with other groups, such as evangelicals."
Rev. John Thomas, president of the 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, a member denomination of the NCC said this about IRD in a recent speech:
"The target is the Mainline churches whose leaders, they allege, "pursue radical political agendas, throwing themselves into multiple, often leftist crusades - radical forms of feminism, environmentalism, pacifism, multi-culturalism, revolutionary socialism, sexual liberation, and so forth." And, as a recent book about their activities puts it, they "play hardball on holy ground."
The IRD supports and encourages campaigns of disruption and attack in Mainline churches through its Alliance of Church Renewal. IRD has committees specifically focused on the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), committees which provide support for so-called renewal groups within each of these denominations... More recently the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Baptist Churches, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have increasingly come into their sights as well. The IRD pursues its political agenda in the churches through three strategies: campaigns of disinformation that seek to discredit church leadership, advocacy efforts at church assemblies seeking to influence church policy, and grass roots organizing which, in some cases, encourages schismatic movements encouraging members and congregations either to redirect mission funding or even to leave their denominations."
It seems altogether fitting that IRD's new leader is a minister in a small, schismatic evangelical denomination whose best-known figures epitomize the Christian Right in the U.S.