Almost a month after the controversial resignation of Wayne Pederson as president of the National Religious Broadcasters, prominent advocates on both sides are trying to soothe hurt feelings and move the influential association forward.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who was integral in Pederson's removal, donated $5,000 of his own money to pay for Pederson's expenses related to his aborted tenure. Meanwhile, Robert Neff, vice president of broadcasting for Moody Bible Institute, sent a March 5 letter to the executive committee apologizing for comments in a previous letter blasting unnamed "600-pound gorillas" and "power boys" who "railroaded" Pederson from office.

"I stated some things that I would wish, in terms of how I stated them, that I could have another go at," Neff told Christianity Today. "It has been far more inflammatory and distracting than what I wanted to indicate, and that was to express my disappointment for the outcome and also to encourage a reevaluation of the process of how the association got to that decision."

Neff's second letter, while expressing regret for "poorly chosen" words and indicating a desire to de-escalate the matter, does not revoke his call for Pederson's reinstatement or for an ethics investigation. He says that he has apologized to Dobson and that he was not speaking on behalf of Moody Bible Institute or its president, Joseph Stowell.

On March 1, Dobson, in his own letter to the executive committee, called Neff's earlier letter "a tragic escalation of what began as a policy issue and has deteriorated into a full-scale split in evangelicalism." In a conciliatory gesture, Dobson sent the $5,000 check to Focus on the Family, which then was to forward it to NRB.

An interview of Pederson in the January 5 Minneapolis Star Tribune sparked the controversy. "We're all entitled to our political views, and evangelicals tend to gravitate toward more conservative politics, but sometimes in taking our stands we've allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished," he said. Pederson said Christian broadcasters "get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized."

Pederson's statements infuriated several powerful broadcasters. American Family Association President Don Wildmon called for Pederson's resignation. Dobson asked Pederson to resign. Members of the organization wrote letters, sent e-mails, and placed telephone calls expressing their concerns over a change in the group's direction. Pederson submitted a letter of resignation February 8. The executive committee accepted the resignation February 15. At the start of the NRB's annual convention on February 16, members cast a non-binding vote accepting Pederson's resignation, 47-36. Passions were high at the convention, and many expressed their deep dissatisfaction at the process.

"I think everyone's talking reconciliation now and forgiveness, and [saying] let's be understanding of each others' position now," said Ron Mighell, general manager of KGLE-AM in Glendive, Montana. "But it came after the decision. What if we had expressed that before Wayne Pederson was released? We would have had a different outcome," said Mighell, a member of the association for more than 30 years. "You say a lot of things when you're victorious—you don't mind being gracious."

LaTonya Taylor is editorial resident for Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere

Also appearing on our site today:

Christian History Corner: Don't Touch That Dial | Could a bitter debate among religious broadcasters really cause a "full-scale split in evangelicalism"?

Related Christianity Today coverage includes:

Weblog: Battle for NRB Heats Up as Dobson, Moody Square Off | Robert Neff calls Focus on the Family head's actions "ungodly," Dobson says he's victim of "smear campaign." (March 5, 2002)
New NRB President Resigns | Christian broadcasters divided over politics-religion controversy. (Feb. 18, 2002)
Politics May Splinter NRB | Christian broadcasters may sack incoming president or bolt the organization. (Feb. 15, 2002)
Weblog: Saying Christian Radio is Too Political May Get Head of Religious Broadcasters Fired | The battle for Christian radio. (Feb. 22, 2002)
Daring to Discipline America | James Dobson's influence, already huge, is growing. Can he keep his focus? (March 1, 1999)

Other news coverage includes:

Silence isn't goldenWorld (March 9, 2002)
Dobson fires back in NRB fracas — World Net Daily (March 9, 2002)

The NRB controversy began following Pederson's comments in a January 5 article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.