- URI -
United Religions Initiative
[COMMENT: The predictable collapse of pseudo-liberalism
into out and out paganism is happening. When truth becomes relative, truth
will be outlawed.
It would be helpful if writers (such as below) would clearly
distinguish between real and pseudo- liberalism. A true liberal liberates
with truth. A pseudo-liberal has no truth and wants only to feel
good. But he will always, in the end, become tyrannical,
dictatorial, and exclusive of real truth and real freedom. As we are
seeing in the Episcopal Church, and in the continued growth of "hate-crime"
See article by George Barna on the effect of the Biblical
worldview. The URI is the "perennial" worldview of secularism/paganism.
See also Worldview Library for further
We should be using strong, clear language to describe these
movements. They are anti-Christ, apostate, and pagan.
They are in no sense of the word Biblical or Christian. They are
from the dark side, not of the Light. E. Fox]
DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT...
Another Liberal Movement Slowly But Surely Gains Supporters Among
Episcopal, Other Anglican Bishops
Report/Analysis By Lee Penn
The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC)
July 30, 2003
"I specifically invoked Hekate and Hermes by name, and Bishop Swing
was right there raising his arms in invocation with the rest of the
Circle! We have, indeed, come a long way."
SUPPORT FOR IT has been indicated by Anglican bishops like Michael
Ingham of Vancouver, Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Frederick Borsch
(formerly of Los Angeles), Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold,
and the head of his church's ecumenical office, Christopher Epting -
Do we speak of same-sex unions, or gay bishops-elect, both issues at
the center of controversy at the Episcopal General Convention, which
opens today in Minneapolis?
Not in this case. Rather, all the bishops named have expressed support
for another, but little-noticed, movement linked to the U.S. Episcopal
Church (ECUSA): the controversial United Religions Initiative (URI),
which California Episcopal Bishop William Swing founded in 1996.
The URI hopes to bring together on a regular basis representatives of
the major *and* minor faith systems, including those of the New
Age/pagan/occult genre, to help resolve conflicts in the world.
However, some of its critics believe the interfaith initiative
envisions or could lead to a one-world religion.
In its Charter, the URI describes itself as "a growing global
community dedicated to promoting enduring, daily interfaith
cooperation, ending religiously motivated violence and creating
cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living
beings...The URI, in time, aspires to have the visibility
and stature of the United Nations."
In November 2002, URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs hailed the
growth of the movement: "Since 1996, the URI has grown from a small
group of 55 visionary people to a global organization…engaging over
15,000 interfaith activists from 88 faith traditions and 46
countries." The URI says that over the next three years, it "fully
expects to grow from 15,000 members to more than 30,000… We hope to
engage 3 million people and many partner organizations in a global
action research project--Visions for Peace Among Religions, designed
to create peace among religions for the 21st century."
Worldwide, the URI now has 202 chapters (which they call Cooperation
Circles) Moreover, a majority of URI Cooperation Circles are where one
would least expect them, the largely conservative global South--Asia,
Africa, Latin America--along with the Middle East, and the
non-English-speaking nations of the Pacific Rim. Nineteen of the 37
members of the URI Global Council, its board of directors, are from
the same regions. Thus, the URI's base has expanded well beyond
Western liberals, who have been the usual backers of interfaith movements.
URI allies include the United Nations (in particular, UNESCO and the
UN Environmental Program), Mikhail Gorbachev's star-studded State of
the World Forum, and the Earth Charter movement, led by Maurice
Strong, a wealthy Canadian advocate of world government. The URI also
enjoys tacit support or active cooperation from most other interfaith
organizations, including the Council for the Parliament of the World's
Religions, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the Temple of
Understanding, and the North American Interfaith Network. The
Vatican, the Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestants oppose the URI.
THE URI's AGENDA goes well beyond its stated goal of ending
religiously motivated violence.
URI leaders and their allies repeatedly equate evangelism with
manipulative "proselytizing" and violence. If the URI vision prevails,
Christian evangelism based on the unique, saving identity and acts of
Christ would be ruled out.
As Bishop Swing has said, "In order for a United Religions to come
about and for religions to pursue peace among each other, there will
have to be a godly cease-fire, a temporary truce where the absolute
exclusive claims of each will be honored, but an agreed-upon
neutrality will be exercised in terms of proselytizing, condemning,
murdering or dominating. These will not be tolerated in the United
Religions zone" - which evidently covers the whole world. URI
leaders say "proselytizing" is the work of "fundamentalists," and Paul
Chafee (who was a URI board member at the time) said at a URI forum in
1997, "We can't afford fundamentalists in a world this small."
Though the URI insistently denies that it intends to mix the world's
religions or to start a New Religion, URI worship ceremonies and the
writings of URI leaders point in that direction.
At the 1995 interfaith service where Bishop Swing first publicly
announced his desire to establish the URI, "holy water from the
Ganges, the Amazon, the Red Sea, the River Jordan, and other sacred
streams" was mixed in a single "bowl of unity" on the altar of Grace
Cathedral, San Francisco. Bishop Swing made the meaning of the ritual
clear: "As these sacred waters find confluence here…may the city that
chartered the nations of the world bring together the religions of the
In June 2000, 275 interfaith activists from around the world gathered
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to sign the URI Charter. Rowan Fairgrove
- an avowed Wiccan long active in the URI - reported that the URI
conclave began with this chant: "Gathered in here in the mystery of
the hour / Gathered in one strong body / Gathered here in our unity
and power / Spirit draw near." At the same meeting, Bishop Swing
said, "This is the spirit's property…and no one owns it. Fifty years
from now, people from all over the world will flock to Pittsburgh
in tribute of this signing." No one named the "spirit" that they had
Wiccans and Neopagans are part of the religious mainstream in the URI.
One Neopagan leader, Donald Frew, was elected in 2002 as a member of
the URI Global Council. Frew has written that at the URI
Charter-signing meeting in June 2000, he was asked to perform a
"traditional Wiccan foundation blessing" at the closing ceremony.
Frew said, "I specifically invoked Hekate and Hermes by name, and
Bishop Swing was right there raising his arms in invocation with the
rest of the Circle!"
In "The Coming United Religions," Bishop Swing has written, "The time
comes...when common language and a common purpose for all religions
and spiritual movements must be discerned and agreed upon. Merely
respecting and understanding other religions is not enough." Since
the purpose of religion is the service of God, Bishop Swing's call for
"all religions and spiritual movements" to have "a common purpose" is,
in effect, a call for all to worship a common god.
THE URI's DESIRE, as stated in its Charter -- to "manifest love and
justice among all life in our Earth community" -- does not extend to
the lives of the unborn. Bishop Swing has likened "the insane
expansion of population" to exponential growth of algae in a lake. In
2000, two high-level URI executives - Canon Charles Gibbs, URI
Executive Director, and the Rev. William Rankin, an Episcopal cleric
who was then the URI Vice-President - signed a manifesto issued
early that year by the Sexual Information and Education Council of the
US (SIECUS). This "Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice,
and Healing" opposed "unsustainable population growth" and favored
"blessing...same-sex unions," the ordination of women, artificial
contraception, abortion, and "lifelong, age appropriate sexuality
education in schools, seminaries, and community settings."
The URI supports efforts by Catholic dissident Hans Küng and others to
create a new Global Ethic, and has endorsed the push by Maurice Strong
and Mikhail Gorbachev, founders of Green Cross International, for an
Earth Charter. Gorbachev views the Earth Charter as "a kind of Ten
Commandments, a 'Sermon on the Mount,' that provides a guide for human
behavior toward the environment in the next century and beyond." The
"Green Cross Earth Charter Philosophy," prepared in Moscow and Geneva
in 1997 by Gorbachev's environmentalist organization, makes clear the
intent of these proposed codes: "The protection of the Biosphere, as
the Common Interest of Humanity, must not be subservient to the rules
of state sovereignty, demands of the free market or individual rights."
Bishop Swing has said, "The United Religions will not be a rejection
of ancient religion but will be found buried in the depths of these
If United Religions were "buried in the depths" of Christianity,
countless martyrs could have avoided death by burning incense before
the statue of the Roman Emperor, and today's martyrs in Sudan and
China could apostatize with a clear conscience. Maybe martyrs are
passé, anyhow: former URI Vice President Rankin said in 1998, "The
United Religions Initiative exists to bring people together from all
the religions of the world, to create a world where no one has to
die because of God, or for God, any more."
Organizations should be known by the company they keep. Enthusiastic
URI supporters include New Age authors Robert Muller (former Assistant
Secretary-General of the UN), Neale Donald Walsch (author of the
best-selling Conversations With God books), and Barbara Marx Hubbard.
They draw inspiration from Theosophy, an occult movement started in
1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Theosophy has had significant
influence on the New Age movement worldwide. Its teachings
include praising Lucifer as the bringer of light to humanity,
denouncing orthodox Christianity and Judaism as "separative" and
"obsolete," and forecasting a coming age of enlightened, spiritual
collectivism - after the cleansing of earth to remove those who do not
accept progress. The Rudolf Steiner Foundation, which promotes
theosophical schools, has made a grant to the URI, as has the
New York-based Lucis Trust, which spreads the teachings of American
theosophist Alice Bailey.
MEANWHILE, BISHOP SWING HAS BOASTED, "No diocese in the country is
more in sync with the national Episcopal Church than the Diocese of
California… We have a high doctrine of the Church as the Body of
Christ, so we are good team players at every turn." His loyalty has
been repaid. Within ECUSA and the Anglican Communion, public
supporters of the URI far outnumber public opponents, largely because
the URI still travels under the radar a good deal of the time. (It
is unknown the extent to which the URI's Anglican supporters
understand or accept the more radical aspects of the URI agenda.)
The URI obtained a low-key endorsement from Episcopal Presiding Bishop
Frank Griswold in mid-1999. When he visited San Francisco for the
celebration of the 150th anniversary of the California diocese,
Griswold said "determined farsightedness is a characteristic I
particularly associate with this diocese and many of its bishops
across the years...as well as your present bishop's vision of the
potential force of the world's religions to bind up and bring
together, rather than divide and turn the people of the earth against
one another." (Griswold appears not to have publicly spoken about the
URI since then.)
In addition to Bishops Swing and Griswold, and Bishops Borsch, Ingham,
Tutu and Epting, mentioned earlier, a number of other Anglican
prelates support the URI:
--- Joseph Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles -
--- Celso Franco de Oliveira, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rio de
--- Bishop J. Clark Grew, of the Diocese of Ohio - and during 2000,
one of 11 members of the "Council of Advice" for the ECUSA Presiding
--- Bob Gordon Jones, the retired Bishop of Wyoming
--- Samir Kafity, former Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East
--- Robert L. Ladehoff, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon
--- The Most Rev. Alexander Mar Thoma, the Metropolitan of the Mar
Thoma Syrian Church in Kerala, India.
--- Richard Millard, retired Bishop Suffragan of Europe, and assisting
Bishop of California
--- James Ottley, the Anglican Observer at the United Nations from
1995-99, and currently an Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Southeast
--- Mano K. Rumalshah, the former Bishop of Peshawar, Pakistan
--- K. H. Ting, who has served as President of the China Christian
Council (CCC), the state-approved Protestant church in China, and as
Chair of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement
--- David Young, CBE, the former bishop of Ripon and Leeds in the UK
Episcopal dioceses that have acted in support of the URI include:
--- Central Gulf Coast
--- Diocese of Los Angeles
--- Western Massachusetts
Current and former Episcopal cathedral deans and rectors who publicly
approve of the URI include:
--- Sanford Garner, former Dean of the Episcopal National Cathedral in
--- Alan Jones, current Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco
--- James Parks Morton, former Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine in New York City
--- H. Lawrence Whittemore Jr., the Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral
Church of the Nativity in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem,
Members of Washington Bishop John Chane's diocesan "Commission on
Ecumenical and Interreligious Ministries" participate in the URI in
the capital city.
Numerous Episcopal parishes across the country have also supported the
URI - including Trinity Cathedral Church, in Sacramento, California.
The world's Anglican bishops, meeting at the 1998 Lambeth Conference
in Canterbury, England, unanimously endorsed a URI call for a global
religious cease-fire for December 31, 1999 to January 2, 2000. The
Lambeth resolution matched the text that the URI had adopted at its
'98 global conference, stating that the 72-hour cease-fire "will allow
the world to end the old age in peace, and to begin the new millennium
in the spirit of reconciliation, healing and peacemaking."
A report associated with the Lambeth resolution named the URI as the
coordinator of the cease-fire project. Bishop Swing introduced the
resolution, and the North American and Caribbean bishops unanimously
placed the cease-fire call in a package of non-controversial "agreed
resolutions." The entire Conference then adopted all the "agreed
resolutions" without debate on the last day of the meeting. The URI
has since used this endorsement as evidence of its own global influence.
In other respects - such as sexual morality and interpretation of
Scripture - Lambeth '98 upheld traditional Christian teaching. How
many of the Lambeth bishops knew that they had supported a URI
Canterbury has been silent about the URI since its birth. Neither
Archbishop George Carey nor his successor, Rowan Williams, have said
anything publicly about the URI, though Dr. Carey pursued or
participated in other interfaith endeavors. However, the Church of
England newspaper criticized the URI in October 1999 and July 2001.
One Anglican bishop - Archbishop Harry Goodhew, of Australia, who
retired in 2001 - publicly criticized the URI in 2000; the retired
Bishop of South Carolina, FitzSimons Allison, did the same. No other
Anglican bishop recognized by Canterbury has stood publicly against
the URI and Bishop Swing. But Bishop Charles Murphy of the Anglican
Mission in America, consecrated in 2000 in Singapore by two
conservative Anglican Archbishops, denounced the URI as part of the
"crisis of faith" in ECUSA.
At the Episcopal General Conventions in 1997 and 2000, there were no
resolutions, favorable or negative, about the URI. No press reports on
either convention indicated that either the URI or Bishop Swing have
suffered any public criticism from Episcopalians, other than from
In the October 2001 Pacific Church News, Swing wrote that he saw a
positive change in the attitude of the ECUSA House of Bishops, who met
in Burlington, Vermont a week after the 9/11 attack. "The profound
change that took place at this meeting was the full arrival of
interfaith awareness...For the first time in the history of [ECUSA],
we have an interfaith officer, Bishop Christopher Epting, working
daily at the national office. By popular request, I was asked to
teach a class on the work of the [URI]. Last year I volunteered for
the same task, but not one bishop showed up."
In recent years, most conservative Episcopal laity have been occupied
by the gay issue, and the URI movement continues to enjoy surprising
anonymity. But even some who are aware of the URI prefer not to hear
about it. As one observer wrote on a large, conservative Anglican
listserve: "I would prefer you not send any more of this stuff to
me…We at [snip] can't even keep our parish together…There are many
more wolves closer to the shed. What Swing does is also
seen by God, and He will judge. If URI is the instrument by which the
Revelation come true [sic], I say, Come Lord Jesus!"
The Catholic Church speaks for all orthodox Christians in rejecting
the Utopian fantasies fostered by the URI: "The Antichrist's deception
already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made
to realize within history that messianic hope which can be only
realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment...."
The foregoing is based on a chapter in a book-length analysis of the
United Religions Initiative and the New Age movement, to be published
later this year by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a
research organization that monitors international organizations'
activities from a pro-life, Catholic perspective. Sources used for the
article are available upon request.
Permission to circulate the foregoing electronically, or reprint it,
is granted, provided that there are no changes in the headings or text
and the story includes this notice. To learn more about THE CHRISTIAN
CHALLENGE magazine, which has covered Anglican affairs since 1962,
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