The president of the National Association of Evangelicals reassured the organization’s Board of Directors as well as media outlets this past week that the group remains fully committed to its long-held stance on abortion, marriage and other biblical values after several controversial statements were made by the group’s vice president.
In a letter to the NAE’s Board of Directors, the Rev. Leith Anderson said that the wording of the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, during a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio) “did not appropriately reflect the positions of the National Association of Evangelicals and its constituents.”
“Our NAE stand on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged,” Anderson wrote in the letter to the directors, a portion of which he forwarded to several news agencies including The Christian Post, on Saturday.
He added, “Richard has strongly assured to me of his own support and agreement with our NAE values and positions. This was not understood by listeners from what he said.”
During NPR’s “Fresh Air” program on Dec. 2, Cizik said that Christians who oppose abortion can still find reasons to support pro-choice candidate and now President-elect Barack Obama. He revealed that Obama was his pick in the Virginia primary, but stopped short of stating who he voted for in the general election.
“I think it’s (faith) very important, but it is not the factor nor should it be [when voting], though there are those who by identity politics and culture war do that and that’s the most important factor," said Cizik in the interview.
“I say absolutely not. Character first – of which faith is a part, of course it helps determines one’s values – but there are other factors such as the philosophy of government … and lastly the issues,” he said. “So it’s possible for me to disagree with a candidate on high profile issues and still believe that on a basis of character of philosophy he is the better of two candidates.”
Pointing to evangelicals that voted for Obama as an example, Cizik said that in this election it was possible to disagree with the candidate on same-sex marriage and abortion but still vote for him.
“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 highlighted.
Young evangelicals care about other issues such as economics and the environment, he said.
“In fact, health care is just as important to younger evangelicals as is abortion,” Cizik noted. “And so they have a more pluralistic outlook than older white evangelicals, and they have a decidedly different posture with respect to the role of government here and abroad.”
Regarding gay marriage, Cizik made another unexpected statement when he said he believes in homosexual civil unions. However, he resisted from saying he supports redefining marriage and allowing gay marriage, although he admitted to be “shifting” on the issue.
Conservative radio host Ingrid Schlueter, co-host of the nationally syndicated Crosstalk Radio Talk Show, lambasted Cizik for his statement on voting for an abortion rights candidate.
"Richard Cizik seems more concerned about impressing NPR's liberal audience with his broad-mindedness than being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ,” Schlueter charged. “As an adoptive parent of two children given life by their birth mothers, I find it abhorrent that Mr. Cizik would sanction Christian support for the most radically pro-abortion President in the history of the nation.”
The talk show host went further to accuse evangelical Christians who do not uphold biblical truths in the public square as being partly responsibly for the “moral anarchy in America.”
“Those pastors and churches that stand for the unchanging truth of God's Word and the sanctity of human life should resoundingly rebuke Mr. Cizik and Leith Anderson, the President of NAE, for their abandonment of the pre-born today,” she said in a statement.
NAE President Leith Anderson, for his part, said that Cizik has expressed to him his “deep regret and apology” for the statements that caused confusion.
“I will work with him and with our staff to more appropriately speak on behalf of NAE and our values in the future," Anderson pledged.
The National Association of Evangelicals represents some 45,000 churches from over 50 denominations and represents about 30 million constituents. The NAE’s official position opposes abortion and gay marriage.