Last week evangelical leader Richard Cizik told NPR that he now backs civil unions for gays and was “shifting” on the issue of same-sex marriage. Yesterday he resigned his position with the National Association of Evangelicals after an internal uproar over his comments.
An outspoken and polarizing voice in conservative Christian politics resigned effective Thursday from the National Association of Evangelicals after a radio interview in which he voiced support for same-sex civil unions and said he is “shifting” on gay marriage. The Rev. Richard Cizik’s comments — made on a Dec. 2 “Fresh Air” broadcast on National Public Radio — triggered an uproar that led to his stepping down as NAE vice president of governmental affairs.
A fixture in Washington for nearly three decades, Cizik has played a key role in bringing evangelical Christian concerns to the political table. But in recent years, he earned enemies in the movement for pushing to broaden the evangelical agenda. His strongest focus was on “creation care,” arguing that evangelicals have a biblical responsibility to the environment that includes combating global warming.
The Rev. Leith Anderson, a Minneapolis-area pastor who serves as NAE president, said Thursday the group is not backing away from its environmental stances. Cizik’s resignation was necessary, he said, because some of his answers in the radio interview did not reflect NAE values and convictions. “Any organizations that speak to controversial issues are going to have critics,” Anderson said. “What was different this time was our individuals and organizations felt there was a loss of credibility for him clearly espousing our positions and values. When you lose that, it’s very difficult to re-establish.”
Cizik did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. The NAE said in a statement that Cizik had expressed regret, apologized and “affirmed our values.” The NAE is an umbrella group for tens of thousands of churches and organizations. Anderson said a “combination of things” Cizik said in the interview led to his downfall, including this comment on gay marriage: “I’m shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don’t think.”
Focus On The Family had been calling for Cizik’s head ever since he began speaking out on global warming.