(Photo: Ron Sider)
Dr. Ron Sider, a long time evangelical voice for social justice, has announced that next year he will be stepping down from his position as president of Evangelicals for Social Action.
Sider, who has authored several books including the influential 1977 Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, stated on Tuesday that he would be retiring effective June 2013.
In 1973, Sider organized the "Thanksgiving Workshop on Evangelical Social Concern," which resulted in the creation of the "Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Sider explained that he decided to retire as he would be 74 by that time and it seemed "appropriate for retiring."
"What really crystalized it was that 2013 will be the fortieth anniversary of ESA and we are planning a big fortieth anniversary celebration," said Sider. "I was planning to retire in the near future and as soon as I started thinking about that event … I decided that was the time for me to retire."
Taking his place at head of ESA will be two individuals, Dr. Paul Alexander of Baylor University and Dr. F. Albert "Al" Tizon of Graduate Theological Union.
"I think that there is something of a trend towards a more collaborative, cooperative leadership in a variety of circles today," said Sider, who described them as being "superb" individuals who have been working with the ESA in different capacities.
As Sider plans to step down, other evangelical leaders have expressed their compliments for a decades-long public career.
Jim Wallis, editor and CEO of Sojourners, told The Christian Post that Sider "has done more to change evangelical minds and hearts … on poverty and biblical justice than anyone else in our lifetime."
"There have been few theologians like Ron, who have such an interest in and capacity for analyzing public policy, but always subjecting it to the insights of biblical faith," said Wallis.
"Time and time again, Ron has sensed the need for a more collective and prophetic witness on the part of the church, or the need to bring the most thoughtful and insightful Christian leaders to focus on issues of deep concern."
Describing Sider as a "dear friend," Wallis explained to CP that he and Sider have worked together on several efforts and projects over the years.
"We have been to so many of the same places and often together – to the front lines of the poverty and war in this world that we both so wanted to change, to meetings at the White House and Congress, to international gatherings of church leaders," said Wallis.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), told The Christian Post that Sider personified the phrase "evangelical justice."
"Ron Sider expanded the optics of America's Evangelical narrative by initiating the commitment to reconcile justice with righteousness, and covenant with community," said Rodriguez. "Ron prepared the way where evangelicals one day will reconcile Billy Graham's message with Dr. Martin Luther King's march."
While Sider will be retiring from his position at ESA, the evangelical leader told CP that he still plans to do many things in retirement other than golfing.
"I will continue to write … I don't think retirement is a biblical concept," said Sider, who added that he also would continue teaching part time at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University, where he has been teaching since the 1970s.