The Rev. Marta Weeks, a retired Episcopal priest from the diocese of Southeast Florida, has donated $1.5 million to fund the entire project through 2011. Weeks and her late husband have supported a wide variety of causes and educational institutions. As noteworthy as her gifts are, her beliefs on the issues the Anglican Communion is dealing with are even more significant. In January of 2000, she signed the Religious Declaration on Sexuality, Morality, Justice, and Healing which calls for a "sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. All persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure." This sexual ethic "applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation." It calls for "full inclusion of women and sexual minorities in congregational life, including their ordination and the blessing of same sex unions" as well as "a faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STD prevention and treatment." [emphasis added]
After questions arose about the source of the funding, the ACO admitted the gift came from Weeks and issued a disclaimer from her that the funds were given without any strings attached. But subsequent contradictory and confusing statements by the ACO, Weeks and the Satcher Institute raise serious questions about the influence associated with this gift and the institution administering it.
Who is in charge?
According to the ACO, the Continuing Indaba Project will be led by the Rev. Canon Philip Groves of the ACO and the Rev. Canon Flora Winfield of Lambeth Palace. Groves is the facilitator of the "Listening Process," begun in 1998 to seek a "common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us," according to an ACC-14 publication.
But Weeks told the American Anglican Council that she was approached and asked to fund the project by the Satcher Institute, not by the ACO or its staff. Weeks said her association with staff members of the Satcher Institute's Center of Excellence for Sexual Health (CESH) goes back to their leadership of another organization she supported, the Center for Sexuality and Religion (CSR), which merged with Satcher's CESH in 2008.
We contacted Christian Thrasher, Satcher's Director of the CESH and certified sexuality educator, to find out what role CESH will play in facilitating the Anglican Communion's Continuing Indaba Project. He insisted that CESH will not be consultants or facilitators for the project. He went on to assert that the funding had no strings attached.
However, Canon Groves told this reporter that the Satcher CESH will exercise some control of the process by monitoring project spending to ensure the funds are being used "as intended." Groves added that CESH will also conduct an ecumenical study of the project to evaluate its effectiveness and suitablity for use by other faiths and denominations.
The public attempts by leaders of the Satcher Institute to minimize their delegated role in the Anglican Communion's Listening/Continuing Indaba process are disturbing and suggest an agenda that is neither objective nor benign.
Blueprint for Changing Society's View of Sexuality and Abortion
The primary funder of the CESH, the Ford Foundation, is a wealthy independent grant-making organization devoted to progressive causes. The Ford Foundation's website lists "sexuality and reproductive health rights" as one of its core funding areas. The Ford Foundation gave Morehouse School of Medicine more than $3 million to establish and operate the CESH.
Read it all here.