Evangelical leader resigns amid controversial comments

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Jim Brown and Jody Brown – OneNewsNow

Richard CizikThe controversial Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has resigned after he created a stir by expressing support for homosexual civil unions.

Richard Cizik has resigned as vice president for governmental affairs for the NAE. In a statement to NAE board members, acting president Leith Anderson cited “a loss of trust in his [Cizik’s] credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituencies.”

On December 2, Cizik acknowledged — during an interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air — that he voted for Barack Obama in the Virginia primary, and suggested that Christians should not be afraid to vote for candidates who support abortion and same-sex “marriage.” He also admitted on that broadcast that he was “shifting” on the issue of marriage and that he supports homosexual civil unions.

In addition, Cizik has found himself at odds with most evangelicals on the issue of global warming, which he believes is a climate crisis created by human activity.

Mark TooleyMark Tooley with the Washington-based Institute on Religion & Democracy welcomes Cizik’s departure from the NAE. “Cizik has been very outspoken and in some ways ‘off the reservation’ for the last five or six years in terms of his global warming activism, which the board of NAE had initially somewhat disavowed — but that had not discouraged him,” he notes.

“So it left the impression that the board and the president of NAE were somewhat passive and that Richard Cizik pretty much could say and do almost whatever he wanted to do in Washington. But clearly that was not the case — at least this time.”

Tooley says Cizik’s support for same-sex civil unions appears to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Reaction to Cizik’s comments
In an interview before Cizik resigned, Tooley said he found it especially troubling that Cizik would consider the issue of same-sex marriage an evolving one for evangelicals, and in particular, younger evangelicals.

“The National Association of Evangelicals has official positions strongly supporting traditional marriage and opposing same-sex marriage, and certainly by implication same-sex civil unions,” he pointed out. “So it seemed to be a very clear case where Cizik was ignoring the very obvious and official positions of his own organization, for which he is supposed to be the chief spokesman and lobbyist in Washington.”

Tooley was not alone in his criticism. Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, considered Cizik’s views to be “not anywhere close to biblical orthodoxy, traditional Christian theology, nor the bulk of Evangelicals who ground their faith in the Bible.” She suggested that may be why the NAE vice president shared them on a forum to which most of his supposed “constituents” do not listen.

At least one Christian radio commentator delivered some biting criticism of Cizik in the wake of his remarks, suggesting that the NAE officer’s comments are one of the reasons for the moral decay in America. “The moral anarchy in America worsens daily largely do the refusal of evangelical Christians to stand for biblical truth in all areas of life,” said Ingrid Schlueter, co-host of Crosstalk America. “Those who are at war with God, the author of life, should be publicly confronted by evangelical Christians. Instead, they are aided and abetted in their evil by craven leaders like Cizik.”

Earlier this week, The Christian Post published an interview with NAE acting president Leith Anderson, who suggested that listeners were confused by Cizik’s words. His vice president’s comments, Anderson admitted, “did not appropriately reflect the positions of the [NAE] and its constituents. Our…stand on marriage, abortion, and other biblical values is long, clear, and unchanged.”

TIME magazine had named Cizik one of its top 100 most influential people in the world for 2008.