Institute on Religion and Democracy

Institute on Religion and Democracy

The Institute on Religion and Democracy is a conservative Christian thinktank that often criticizes the agencies of Mainline Protestantism, ecumenical groups such as the National and World Council of Churches and increasingly liberal evangelical groups, along with liberal Catholic orders.

The IRD is funded by gifts from both foundations and individuals. It describes itself as "an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad."cite web|url=|title=IRD Mission Statement|accessdate=2008-01-14]

Although its board includes Roman Catholics, the IRD focuses much of its criticism on the policies of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Notable members of the organization's Board of Directors include journalist Fred Barnes, United Methodist theologian Dr. Thomas C. Oden, Princeton University ethicist Dr. Robert P. George, philosopher Michael Novak and theologian George Weigel.

The IRD critiques church officials and agencies that it asserts have strayed from orthodox theology or replaced traditional church work with political activism. Problems IRD has attributed to some church officials include "the pursuit of radical political agendas", which they feel are not justified by "Scripture or Christian tradition", but instead are "left-wing crusades": "feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, revolutionary socialism, sexual liberation, etc."


The IRD was founded in 1981 by United Methodist evangelist Edmund Robb and AFL-CIO official David Jessup. Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus joined the IRD board early on, as did Christianity Today founding editor Carl Henry. IRD challenged churches that supported the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and other Marxist liberation movements. Emphasizing the importance of democracy, human rights and religious liberty, IRD urged churches to peacefully support democratic reforms under repressive regimes.

Since the early 1990's, the IRD has actively urged U.S. churches to affirm traditional Christian sexual ethical teachings, including traditional marriage as the union of man and woman. IRD has also faulted Mainline Protestant church agencies that support abortion rights. International religious liberty remains a chief concern for IRD, whose religious liberty program has especially focused on southern Sudan and the Darfur region.

Since 9-11, IRD has emphasized the importance of traditional Christian "Just War" teachings, while many church officials have espoused pacifism. Most recently, IRD has challenged church officials who uncritically accept worst case scenarios regarding human-induced climate change.


According to, the Institute on Religion & Democracy generated $1.1 million in contributions in 2004 (the most recent IRS 990 form available online). Contributions to the IRD equate to less than 1% of the budgets of all mainline churches combined.

Many Mainline Protestant church officials and liberal caucus groups in those denominations have criticized IRD as an outside force within their churches. IRD has responded that its staff and supporters are long-time members of Mainline Protestant churches.


External links

* [ Institute on Religion and Democracy]
** [ Founding Document]
* [ RightWeb Group Watch: IRD]

*Renewal or Ruin

*IRD's rebuttal of "Renewal or Ruin"

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