Donor is ‘Trojan horse’ say US conservatives

25 June 2009

by Pat Ashworth

THE conservative group, The American Anglican Council (AAC), is protesting about funding for the Listening Process on Human Sexuality, affirmed by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) at its meeting in Jamaica in May. They call the $1.5-million donor a “Trojan horse”.

In the report Money, Sex, Indaba: Corrupting the Anglican Com­munion listening process, the AAC complains that the process, also known as the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Project, cannot be objective because it is being funded by the Revd Marta Weeks, a retired Episcopal priest, through the Satcher Health Leader­ship Institute.

The Institute’s Centre of Excel­lence for Sexual Health (CESH) is based at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and merged with the Centre of Sexuality and Religion (CSR) last year. Mrs Weeks, whom the AAC declares “not to hold to the mainstream Christian view of marriage and sexuality”, was a consultant to CSR.

CESH is funded largely by the Ford Foundation, whose declared mission is to “Strengthen demo­cratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international co-operation, and advance human achievement.”

The AAC describes the Foundation as “hostile towards traditional biblical and religious values shaping human sexuality”. The Foundation’s expressed view is that “much more dialogue is needed among ‘mainstream’ and pro­gres­sive religious groups on sexuality to counter narrow interpretations and to generate attention to alternative religious perspectives on sexuality.”

The AAC is troubled by the as­sociation with Dr William Stayton, a psychologist and Baptist minister who “as an assistant director and expert in the field of humans sexuality for CESH has expressed and promoted a view of sexual freedom that has no limits.” They say he is “devoid of Christian morality”.

Dr David Satcher, who founded the Satcher Institute, is a respected former Surgeon General of the United States. Mrs Weeks and her late husband have given millions of dollars to charitable causes in the US. Both she and Dr Satcher issued statements for the ACC meeting, declaring that there were no preconditions to the funding.

“We will provide no direction or influence regarding the sub­stantive subjects, direction, or outcomes of this process,” Dr Satcher said. “The Communion Office made it clear that the Anglican method for consensus will seek to draw upon Christian scripture, as understood through tradition and reason, and that a hoped-for result will be the strengthening of the Christian mission throughout the world.

“[The Institute] looks forward to following and assessing the process as a potential model for assisting other global religious communities in building agreement on difficult issues.”

Mrs Weeks emphasised in her statement, “There are absolutely no strings attached to this funding. I trust the ABC [Archbishop of Canterbury] and the Anglican Communion to use it however they feel will best contribute to dialogue and clarification of important issues within the Anglican Communion.

“I have not been involved — directly or indirectly — in designing the Indaba Process, I am not participating personally in the process, and I will not exercise any influence over its outcomes. In fact, to shield the Indaba Process from any perception that I might seek to influence it in any way, I selected Dr David Satcher and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute to manage this funding.”

She paid tribute to Dr Satcher as having “a reputation for integrity and fairness. He has proven experience of bringing people of diverse different viewpoints together to build on important issues of public health policy”. Dr Satcher is credited with advocating action on mental-health parity, health disparities, and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A spokesperson for the Anglican Communion Office, which is facilitating the process, said last week: “The Satcher Institute saw with interest how the Indaba Process worked at the Lambeth Conference, and were therefore happy to fund the emerging model of engagement for developing common mission.”

Critics of the AAC say the organisation is seeking to derail the listening process, and has been determined to find “a smoking gun” ever since the funding announce­ment was made at the Jamaica meeting.

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