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Mark Tooley Named New President of IRD

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, April 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- Mark Tooley has been appointed the new president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), the leading watchdog of the Religious Left. Tooley has been with the IRD since 1994, directing its program for United Methodists.

Retiring IRD President Jim Tonkowich plans to remain with IRD as a scholar, in which position he will continue to offer commentary on how Christians develop a political witness.

Tooley is a lifelong United Methodist from northern Virginia. He has been active in United Methodist renewal for over 20 years. Over the last 14 years at IRD, has been a frequently published and interviewed commentator on churches and their political role in America. His writings have been in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator, among others. Previous to IRD, he was employed with the Central Intelligence Agency.

IRD advocates that churches uphold theological orthodoxy, espouse a responsible political witness, and plead for persecuted religious believers around the world. The IRD was controversial in the 1980s for challenging Mainline Church groups that touted Marxist "liberation" movements. In the 1990s, IRD critiqued radical feminist theology and urged fidelity to historic Christian teachings about marriage. Most recently, the IRD has warned that the emerging Evangelical Left may lead evangelicals to repeat the same mistakes that culturally sidelined Mainline Protestants over the last 40 years. IRD has particularly focused on apocalyptic forms of environmentalism that have captivated some evangelicals.

The IRD board's election of Tooley was unanimous. Board members include influential church leaders and thinkers such as Methodist theologian Tom Oden, Catholic ethicist Michael Novak and journalist Fred Barnes.

The chairman of IRD's board, Mrs. Terry Schlossberg, commented:

"The board of directors is pleased with Mark Tooley's acceptance of this appointment. Mark brings to the position a level of intelligence and energy that have been characteristic of the IRD's impact on the church and the world."

UM Action Director Mark Tooley commented:

"More than ever before, the IRD is needed today to continue to challenge America's churches to be faithful to their great traditions and to shun liberal fads that always spiritually and culturally marginalize once great churches.

"The IRD will continue and expand its critique of the Religious Left while urging churches to uphold their great doctrines and to offer America a responsible social witness."