Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Big Brother is Watching Your Church/Denomination!

I received this letter from the chair of our local UCC Conference (I subscribe to their e-mail list) this morning. It is quite disturbing to me! What about to you?

Will Liberalchurch at some point be an IRS target? I've been waiting for a letter like this to arrive in our mailbox for the past 4 years!


Dear Colleagues in Ministry,

Yesterday we received word that the Internal Revenue Service has sent the United Church of Christ a letter with 23 questions about Senator Barack Obama’s speaking to the General Synod as a part of Synod in the City in Hartford on June 23, 2007. While this investigation is clearly disturbing, we are confident that once the church has the opportunity to present the facts and clear up any misperceptions, the IRS will determine that we did nothing improper, nothing illegal.

As your Conference Minister, I want you to know that our national offices went to great lengths to assure that nothing was improper about Senator Obama’s presence at Synod. He was one of more than 60 presenters invited – an invitation that was extended a year before he announced his candidacy – to speak about the impact of their faith on their work and vocation. Other persons represented the arts, academia, media, business, science, and technology.

From the beginning, the UCC clearly stated that this was not a campaign-related event, but an opportunity for Senator Obama, as an active member of the UCC and a leader in government, to speak about his faith. It was announced and enforced that any campaign activities, such as leafleting, canvassing, or displaying posters or placards, would not be tolerated. Obama campaign volunteers were not allowed access to the Hartford Civic Center. And, although some Obama supporters did congregate on the sidewalk outside the Civic Center, they were not allowed access to the Civic Center. Their activity was restricted to the public sidewalk. Only registered Synod delegates and visitors were allowed to attend.

I want to share with you a few words that Connecticut’s Conference Minister, Rev. David Foy Crabtree, shared with those in the host conference for our 50th anniversary General Synod: “Theologically, we are a church that from our very beginning in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, has borne a particular care for the public sphere. Service and leadership in government have always been exalted among us. We have historically encouraged our members to run for office in order to exert an influence on the character of the nation. A part of our faith practice over the centuries has been dialogue with members of our Church who are in office about the nature of their leadership and their commitments. For us that faith practice is intrinsic to our identity as a church.”

The United Church of Christ has chosen to release this information because we are not the kind of Church that hides from public view. We are instead a Church that believes that open and civil dialogue in the full light of God’s shining countenance is the best contribution we can make to a civil democracy. I am sending this email alert to this breaking news because it has begun to appear in newspapers and other media. Indeed, my morning email included a piece from the Wall Street Journal. The February 20 IRS letter to the UCC and the video and written text of Senator Obama’s speech to General Synod can be found at:

Presently this is only an inquiry and we have great confidence this will be resolved in our favor. Meanwhile, I ask that you hold our national officers and our national attorneys in prayer as they work diligently to respond to the twenty-three questions within the fifteen day deadline.

Rev. Dr. Karen Smith Sellers
Conference Minister

1 comment:

liberal pastor said...

I would be worried if Open Circle invited political candidates to speak, or if the pastor or any leader endorsed a political candidate, or if we published a clearly partisan voter guide. But we do none of these things and only advocate on behalf of progressive issues that reflect our progressive theology. So I am not worried.