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Diane Knippers, leader in Protestant reform effort, dies

WASHINGTON (BP)–Diane Knippers, president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy and a leading spokeswoman for renewal in mainline Protestantism, died April 18 of complications from cancer.

Time magazine named Knippers earlier this year as one of the country’s 25 most influential evangelical Christians.

Knippers, 53, served as IRD’s president for 12 years and worked at the organization for a total of 23 years. Founded in 1981, the Washington-based IRD has worked for renewal in such increasingly liberal denominations as the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (USA). IRD also has been a leader in the effort to bring attention to and end the persecution of Christians overseas.

As an Episcopalian, Knippers was especially concerned with renewal in her own denomination. She stood against radical feminism in the church, as well as homosexual ordination. She served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. She also was on the boards of the American Anglican Council, a conservative movement within the Episcopal Church, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

“Under her gentle but always brave leadership, IRD was very often the mouse that roared, terrifying the great grey elephants of national church bureaucracies into frantic panic,” said Michael Novak, director of social and political studies at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute and an IRD board member. “Calmly, Diane told the truth, and those who had been disguising suspect politics under cloaks of outward piety had to defend themselves in public, and often couldn’t.”

Knippers, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, made her last public appearance in March at an NAE luncheon on Capitol Hill at which “Toward an Evangelical Public Policy,” a book she co-edited with Ron Sider, was unveiled.

She is survived by her husband of 32 years, artist Edward Knippers; her parents, and a brother. Her funeral will be April 23 at her home church, Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Va.

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