Monthly Archive for July, 2001

Letter from Dan Ford to Synodical Delegates

July 5, 2001

Dear Delegate,

Let me introduce myself, I am Dan Ford, a laymen in the Northern Illinois District. My June 18th letter included these words “We want to bring a matter to your attention—but want to use a light touch while we do it.” I included several quotations from a clergyman who is heading up a LC-MS District’s program. I then asked: Can you deduce who he is, and what is the title given to the program?

None of those who responded identified either the author or the program. Perhaps that should not be surprising, considering delegates have already received two or three books and eight to ten letters. So much for the light touch!

Why the mystery? First, I really wanted you to consider his theology before you considered his program. Second, in spite of a report to the district convention in June 2000 and two lengthy articles about the program in the April 2001 District newspaper, The Northern Light, his identity has been kept a mystery from the average pastor, laymen, and synodical delegate. The program title is found on page 94 of the Convention Workbook in the concluding paragraph of report R5-05-22 of President of the NID, William Ameiss. (Exerpted Article from April 2001 issue of the Northern Light)

In early 2001 the Northern Illinois District received a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries to fund in part a project aimed at disabling systemic racism in our congregations and communities! Under the title ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE GOD AND FATHER OF US ALL, this three year-project will train teams of God’s people within congregations and institutions of the District to deal with the still-persistent evil of racism! (President Ameiss Report to 2001 Convention)

The title and the project sound just wonderful—two exclamation points! Now reality: this program has been presented to various secular institutions and Universities as well as non-Christian and Christian groups over the years. It is generally called anti-racist training it is always labeled “inter-faith” never “Christian”. This secular program cannot possibly be titled “ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE GOD AND FATHER OF US ALL.” Those who assigned that label either do not know the program itself, or do not care about this deception.

The District staff and our mystery leader prepared a Workbook for the April 20-22 weekend training for the NID’s District task force. The Northern Light stated, “There is an introductory event to sample the training process”. I went to that event. The training Workbook was the same as the Workbook used at the University of Alabama six months earlier except for the unionistic worship, and the copy given me was missing the page with the name of the mystery leader. (Exerpted Article from April 2001 issue of the Northern Light)

Next, I want to present the man, his theology and the program he has developed over the last thirty-five years. Then I want to examine the bizarre way this program was bought into our Church and how it is to be spread throughout the Church.

The man: He is the Reverend Joseph (Joe) Barndt an ELCA clergyman who is the founder and director of Crossroads Ministry an interfaith anti-racism training organization, an ELCA RSO. I sent you three pages of quotes from three of his books. They are Why Black Power? published in 1968, Liberating Our White Ghetto published in 1972; both are out of print, and Dismantling Racism, published by Augsburg in 1991 and available for $15.00 from Crossroads Ministry-Chicago, 425 S. Central Park. Ave., Chicago IL 60624. (http://www.elca.org/)

The three pages give some vivid examples of Rev. Barndt’ career long commitment to “Liberation theology” Before I give my analysis of his theology and program, let us hear from others who have examined his book or experienced his training.

In October 2000 Rev. Barndt did training at the University of Alabama. Eleven professors, lead by Prof. Max Hocutt, who in 1965 fought legalized segregation at the University as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter reviewing his book Dismantling Racism to the Tuscaloosa News, which was published on Nov. 11, 2000. Here is part of their letter:

We regard as paranoid fantasy (the claims of Barndt’s book) that cannot satisfy even minimal standards of scholarship. Reverend Barndt has written a jeremiad having nothing to do with fact or logic.

However, programs such as this are invariably followed by attempts to institute mandatory sensitivity training, restrictive speech codes, and other aspects of political correctness.

Such heavy handed if well intentioned, tactics are not likely to promoted racial harmony. In fact, racial segregation has worsened on campuses where these measures have been adopted. (http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/)

Other groups are supportive of Rev. Barndt’s training. Pax Chrisiti USA, National Catholic peace movement has adopted his goals as one of their four initiatives. One of the people trained, Florence Steichen, wrote the following:

We saw that all the isms: sexism, militarism, consumerism, age-ism, class-ism, heterosexism, and able-ism need to be dealt with from an anti-racist perspective.

Some of the learnings were hard to acknowledge, i.e. that all institutions were established to further and protect white power, and it is the nature of institutions to maintain the status quo. Furthermore, the systems in our society are all inter-related: banking, military, media, criminal justice, welfare, heath care, education, BIA, INS, IRS, etc. They are all oppressive to people of color. (http://www.paxchristiusa.org/)

Now let us together—you and I—analyze Rev. Barndt’s book and program. Carefully read the following paragraph from page 25 of his book. This great deliverance of Israel, by God alone, recorded in Exodus is the subject of thousands of verses of Scripture. To this very day, all believers worship and glorify God for this gracious act.

History shows that when people are pushed to the bottom, they refuse to stay there. From the time when Moses led the uprising of the Hebrews, through the rebellion of oppressed people all over the world in our own day, those who are stripped of dignity and their basic human rights will rise in strength, demanding that which God has promised to all people.

Note how Barndt is treating God—he is mocking Him by turning the teaching of thousands of verses of Scriptures on their head and robbing God of His Glory. God liberated Israel by His power alone. There was no uprising–period. The Hebrew’s part was to pray—and complain! Very much like what we Christians often do today!

Why does Barndt mock God? Because to acknowledge God’s liberation would ruin Barndt’s pet theory of Liberation, which is the real subject of the paragraph. Perhaps we can say Barndt’s favorite god is his theory of History. He rewrites history, having the oppressed deliver themselves, thereby shoving God to the back of the bus.

Next, the Workbook Barndt prepared begins on page 4 with the first part of a two-part attack that Pharisees so often use. First, he diminishes God’s Law—which he does by pretending he is introducing a practical matter. Remember that Luther’s Small Catechism teaches that sin originates in the heart, consider, now his definition, which is fundamental to Barndt’s training.

1.) If we want to work on solutions to racism, we need a common definition and a common analysis of racism.

2.) Racism is not the same thing as individual race prejudice and bigotry. All people are racially prejudiced (regardless of racial/ethnic identity.) It is part of the air we breathe. It is socialized into every person. But this does not mean that everyone is a racist.

3.) Racism is more than race prejudice. Racism is the collective actions of a dominant racial group.

No. Barndt—and all those who fund, promote, and accept your training-Not all people are racially prejudiced! Racism is not a part of the air we breathe, and you have slandered my mother and the teachers of the Lutheran School who educated me and the Pastor who confirmed me, and millions of other people in our country, Christian and non-Christian who have not allowed racism to be socialized into their children, students, friends, and associates.

Let me just ask you delegates. Are your parents and teachers and friends all racist? And does your God not care when people, by their prejudice despise their neighbor in their hearts?

Now comes the second attack that Pharisees use. After he has diminished God’s Law, he introduces his new law-which is more rigorous than God’s Law and favors one group over another.

Barndt’s new law-which is, in truth, a New Racism-is in his definition of Racism which is found in his book Dismantling Racism and is the heart of his entire training program.

If we define racism as prejudice plus power, the obvious question is, who’s got the power? And the answer is equally obvious. In the United States, only one racial group has the power to impose its will upon and exploit other racial groups. Only one racial group has the power to pretend that racism does not exist. Therefore, in the United States, racism is a white problem and only a white problem. (p34)

Every white person participates in and benefits from the system of racism…(p35)

We (all white people) have been empowered to go beyond guilt to the next step, which is to face our unwitting and unwilling imprisonment in racism, which continues even after we have repented, confessed, and been forgiven. As white Americans, we are racist oppressors, even when we don’t want to be. (p45) emphasis in the original

Does this mean that people of color are not racist? In the United States, people of color cannot be racist because they lack the power to enforce their prejudices. (p35)

What is wrong here? Barndt, merely by proclamation-by definition-has judged millions of people and slandering then and labeling them as sinners.

Barndt presumes powers of discernment no medieval Popes ever claimed over their subjects.

The Pharisees-and their admirers-piously expect you to accept their new law, or at least be silent. Their new law is clever, bold, timely, and so chic, and it is popular with those in power-or soon to be in power.

I think this district problem deserves your attention because of three important synodical connections.

First: the role of district presidents. Most have given honor to the office, but at the last synodical convention the delegates, wisely, made clear the authority over them of President Barry, and his successors. Given the actions of the district president of NID, I hope you will continue to support the authority of the synodical president.

Second: the bizarre way a district convention was by-passed. The Northern Illinois district convention never considered or passed this program. What occurred was the previous NID board of directors, in May 2000, just a month before the district convention, passed a grant request of $50,000 to Wheatridge for the program. At the convention the District President announced his support for the program, but the delegates were given no details and had no opportunity to act on it. The only congregational request that remotely related to this program was a resolution from Trinity, Roselle, IL-the founding place of Jesus First.

The leading light of the previous NID board of directors was Rev. Charles Mueller Jr. the head pastor of Trinity, Roselle. Right after Jesus First was founded in 1999 they announced that he would be one of the four members of their synodical “convention team”.

Third: the RSO involved, Wheatridge Ministries. The TB Sanatorium of Wheatridge, Colorado, so many of us fondly remember was sold 40 years ago. Today’s Wheatridge is a pan-Lutheran organization headquartered in a suburban office complex 10 miles from Trinity, Roselle. Rev. Charles Mueller Sr. is a staff associate there and a leader at the founding meeting of Jesus First. (http://www.wheatridge.org/)

This is Wheatridge’s third grant to Barndt’s organization. The grant includes the expectation that the NID staff will be spreading the program throughout the Synod. The Synod seriously needs to look at how RSOs are being used to bypass Synodical authority and undermine our faith, our confession, and our Unity.

May God protect you as you travel and bless your work at the convention!

Dan Ford

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