The AAC has sent fund-raising appeal letters over the signature of the Rt. Rev. James Monte Stanton, bishop of Dallas and AAC president, who has publicly disavowed some conservative tactics endorsed by the AAC majority, and has privately bemoaned a direction the AAC is headed which he views as more rigid than he would prefer.
The fund-raising letter appeals for contributions so the AAC "will be better equipped to assist embattled parishes, especially in revisionist dioceses, that are seeking a way to remain in the Episcopal Church, despite the ongoing hardships they endure."
The appeal letter from Stanton does not mention a goal, but notes that "the AAC continues to be blessed with the opportunity to match every dollar that we raise."
That is a direct reference to a secret pledge from Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr., a long-time, controversial AAC financial supporter whose backing has never been publicly disclosed, to match up to $200,000, according to confidential sources and internal AAC documents.
Ahmanson is a secretive, multi-millionaire ultra-conservative southern California heir to a savings and loan fortune, who finances right wing political and fundamentalist Christian causes. He has long supported Religious Right extremists who support so-called "Christian Reconstructionism" which advocates replacing American democracy with a harsh fundamentalist theocracy under strict biblical law in which the death penalty would be required for everyone from adulterers and homosexuals to witches, incorrigible children and those who spread "false" religions.
Ahmanson lives mainly from a trust fund and investments from a vast inherited fortune his father made through Home Savings of America.
As with his contributions to the AAC, funding from the secretive Ahmanson is not always obvious. Much of it is funneled through his private charity, the Fieldstead and Company and the Fieldstead Institute, extensions of his massive financial empire. Any matching funds provided to the AAC, in fact, would be funneled through Fieldstead and Company.
Over the years, Ahmanson has donated money to oppose evolution as part of his broader agenda of establishing a fundamentalist "Christian nation" has been a major player in California politics by financing religious-extremist candidates for the state Legislature and constitutional offices; has been a major contributor to controversial California ballot initiatives to support voucher subsidies for religious schools and to oppose gay rights, immigrant rights, affirmative action and unions, and has argued that the Bible opposes minimum wage laws.
Ahmanson also has been a major contributor to the Capitol Resource Institute, the ultra-conservative California political front of Focus on the Family, which for years has been a leading anti-gay lobby. He has also contributed to anti-gay causes elsewhere, such as a Colorado initiative to prevent anti-discrimination laws for gay and lesbians.
One commentator views Ahmanson and his associates of the California Independent Business Political Action Committee as remarkably different from any other of the many political special interest groups trying to influence California's public policy, partly because of Ahmanson's longtime association with the Rev. Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony and Chalcedon Inc., an extremist religious organization.
Ahmanson served on Chalcedon's board for 23 years and, according to records at California's Registry of Charitable Trusts, has contributed more than $1 million to Chalcedon. He also has given money to other Christian Reconstructionist causes which do not require public disclosure.
Rushdoony is known as "the Father of Christian Reconstructionism," a form of dominion theology with a to put the world, and the United States in particular, under biblical law. Biblical law is defined as the 600-plus laws that are found mostly in the Old Testament's book of Leviticus.
Ahmanson himself acknowledged in a rare interview in 1995 published in the Orange County Register that, "My purpose is total integration of biblical law into our lives."
An Ahmanson political ally and former minority leader in the California state Senate, Rob Hurtt Jr., said in a Los Angeles Times interview, that he would like to send gays to jail for 20 years. But under Rushdoony's biblical law, homosexuals would be put to death.
Ahmanson, who has offices in Irvine and lives in Newport Beach, where he attends St. James Episcopal Church, has been described as a conservative Calvinist whose philosophy was forged from the writings of C.S. Lewis, a Cambridge professor and leading Christian theologian; John Calvin, the 16th Century reformer who preached social ethics, and Rushdoony.
Ahmanson is considered such an important and influential supporter and contributor to the AAC that AAC officials have privately discussed trying to persuade him to be listed publicly on AAC stationery, probably as a consultant at the same level as its international consultant, the Rev. Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, of the Church of England.
The Rev. John A.M. Guernsey, AAC secretary, wrote other AAC board members last spring to suggest this subtle approach to Ahmanson's staff: "I'd phrase it as, 'We would of course like to list Mr. Ahmanson's name and title whenever we list board members. Is that OK?' I'd rather err on the side of asking unnecessarily than acting inappropriately."
Amhamson's importance to the AAC and the importance the AAC sees in insuring its conservative approach to issues in the church appeal to if not coincide with the radical views of Ahmanson was voiced succinctly by Bruce Chapman, AAC vice president and board chairman.
In a confidential communication to other board members just before the organization's meeting last summer in Nassau when it endorsed the so-called Singapore consecrations of two renegade American priests to be missionary, flying bishops to disgruntled parishes in the U.S., ostensibly for Asian and African Provinces viewed by some as improperly meddling in U.S. church affairs, Chapman noted:
"Fundraising is a critical topic. the Capitol Resource Institute, But that topic itself is going to be affected directly by whether we have a clear, compelling forward strategy. I know that the Ahmansons are only going to be available to us if we have such a strategy and I think it would be wise to involve them directly in settling on it as the options clarify.
"For a start, at Nassau, I suggest asking Steve Ferguson (an Ahmanson aide) to join us. And I would urge that the invitation should go out quickly. But if we are hoping also to expand our major donor potential, and meanwhile to go back to our small gives base, we are going to need a strategy, not just a standard that we are raising."
Whether Ferguson was invited to attend the AAC meeting in Nassau isn't known. But Bruce Mason, an AAC spokesman Washington, said, Ferguson did not attend the Nassau meeting. But whether the AAC's "forward strategy" is being shaped to attract Ahmanson money, at least in part, is not so clear.
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