Richard Cizik Resigns from the National Association of Evangelicals
Richard Cizik resigned Wednesday night as vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) during a week of growing uproar over his comments that he is shifting his views on same-sex unions.
"Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologized, and affirmed our values, there is a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituencies," Leith Anderson, president of the NAE wrote to board members today. Cizik did not return calls for comment.
Last year, more than two dozen evangelical leaders sought to oust Cizik, who worked at the NAE for 28 years, because of his "relentless campaign" on global warming.
"For better or for worse, Rich became a great, polarizing figure," said Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship. "He was gradually, over a period of time, separating himself from the mainstream of evangelical belief and conviction. So I'm not surprised. I'm sorry for him, but I'm not disappointed for the evangelical movement."
Cizik spoke mostly on the environment in a December 2 interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, but he made brief remarks about same-sex civil unions, gay marriage, and his early support of President-elect Barack Obama.
In a short portion of the program, Gross asked him, "A couple of years ago when you were on our show, I asked you if you were changing your mind on that. And two years ago, you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more with younger voters, would you say you have changed on gay marriage?"
Cizik responded, "I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think."
"I was stunned when I heard it. I was momentarily speechless, and for me, that's quite a feat," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC is not a member of the NAE, but Land and Cizik share similar roles as spokesmen for organizations in Washington, D.C.
"[As spokesmen], we're not hired to express our personal opinions," Land said. "Clearly, under Rich's leadership in Washington, the NAE has increasingly taken positions that have been nontraditional positions for the NAE."
Anderson said the NAE is not an advocate for civil unions.
"The role of an NAE spokesperson is primarily on behalf of what we have said, not on behalf of what we have not said," Anderson told Christanity Today. "It's also to represent our constituency, and our constituency does not favor civil unions."
Cizik told Gross that he voted for Obama in the primaries, but stopped short of saying whom he voted for in the general election.
News of the interview initially traveled slowly, but Anderson said the NAE received a large number of e-mail complaints from members of the organization.
Some critics also complained about Cizik's remarks on abortion, though Cizik did not express any personal shift on the issue as he had on gay unions.
"Two-thirds of younger evangelicals say they would still vote for a candidate even if the candidate disagreed with them on the issue of abortion, and that's in spite of the fact that younger evangelicals . . . are decidedly pro-life," Cizik said. "In fact, health care is just as important to younger evangelicals as is abortion."
Cizik also spoke in favor of the government supplying contraceptives in response to Obama's campaign promises to reduce unintended pregnancies.