Cizik Backers Push for a Like-Minded Replacement at the National Association of Evangelicals

A coalition of roughly 60 evangelical leaders are calling for a Cizik-like replacement.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country.

Reacting to Richard Cizik's resignation last week as chief lobbyist of the National Association of Evangelicals over comments he made that were supportive of gay civil unions, a coalition of roughly 60 evangelical leaders (mostly of the non-Christian right variety) has written to NAE President Leith Anderson pushing for a Cizik-like successor to 28-year NAE veteran. Someone who's not beholden to the Christian right, in other words, and who embraces more progressive causes like combating global warming. Full letter is here. Here's a Q&A with one of the letter's key drafters, David Gushee, a college professor and prominent activist in the progressive evangelical community. Excerpts:

This letter didn't protest Cizik's resignation, though I'm guessing many of its signatories wanted to:

We decided to go for a consensus approach. We wanted to accomplish two things. First, to affirm Richard Cizik as a human being and as a Christian brother because we felt his reputation had been damaged and he wasn't able to speak on his own behalf. The second goal was to come in behind the statements we were hearing from [NAE] President Leith Anderson that they are not going to abandon the broader agenda, the environmental issue and other issues. That they weren't going to pull back to the Christian right agenda. We wanted to affirm that.

How much pressure is there on the National Association of Evangelicals from the Christian right to replace Cizik with someone more ideologically aligned with its agenda?

I'm sure those pressures are there. I think Leith and the executive committee are going to take their time and let the furor over this die down. I personally think they need to find somebody who can promote all seven of the policy commitments in the NAE's Health of Our Nation statement. There's one on sanctity of life and one on climate change and one on poverty. There are always pressures from the right that the two fundamental issues of our time should be abortion and homosexuality. I think there will be pressure to hire somebody to make those the top priority.

I can tell you from some feedback that if the NAE makes the mistake of rolling back to the classic Christian right agenda, they would lose support of a lot of people who are currently happy to be working with them.

Cizik hasn't been talking to the press. Have you been in touch with him?

Yes.

How's he doing?

I don't want to speak for him, but the whole thing happened rather suddenly. A 28-year career came to an abrupt end with no time [for him] to develop a plan to do something different. That's a tough situation for anyone to be in. I'm concerned for him, and I'm praying for him. But it's Christmas time and he's unemployed, which is the situation for a lot of people right now.