Unfortunately, in Cizik's December 2nd interview with National Public Radio, he placed himself at variance with long-held NAE platforms--most notably, same sex civil unions. Though Rich said he had not changed his mind about traditional marriage, he was "shifting" on the idea of civil unions. Open mouth, insert foot.
Regardless of your position on this issue, you have to understand why Cizik resigned (or was forced to resign, it seems). The NAE must be allowed to require someone serving in such a critical role to speak in harmony with the stated agenda of both NAE and its membership. If Cizik had decided that he was shifting on the abortion issue, the reaction from NAE would have been identical and justifiable. As sad as it is, that's not the end of the story.
After Cizik resigned, several media outlets including Baptist Press, which is basically the public relations department at the national office of the Southern Baptist Convention, ignored nearly 30 years of Cizik's notable service and instead ran stories calling him controversial and divisive. That isn't so bad when you consider that some on the right have actually called him "Satan's minion" for his strong environmental stance.
This was a sad development for many reasons, including the message it sends to the world. As someone once told me, "Christians are the only animals who kill their own wounded." Richard Cizik is undoubtedly hurting, and though we must respect the decision made by NAE, our goals as his brothers and sisters should not be to further beat him down.
It was in response to this and in an effort to see the continuance of Richard's work on a broad range of moral issues that over 50 evangelicals including myself wrote a public letter to Leith Anderson, President of the NAE. Signatories to this letter were from both the right and left; they were both democrats and conservatives; they were both young and more established. Other signatories included Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project, Lynne Hybels of Willowcreek Community Church, Brian McLaren, David Gushee, and Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary.
Our letter supports the right of the NAE to appoint spokespersons who support their stated platforms, celebrates Cizik's 28 years of faithful service, and encourages NAE to select a replacement "who will carry out Richard's vision of a broad Christian moral agenda" including the sanctity of life and compassion for the least of these.
If you too want to sign this letter, you can do so at WholeGospelAgenda.org.
What do you think? Do you think NAE made a good decision? Do you support a broad moral agenda as described in this letter? What do you think about civil unions?
**Update: "Evangelical Leaders Seek Broad Moral Agenda in Cizik Replacement," Associated Baptist Press**
**Update: "Evangelical Faction Warns against Christian Right," WorldNetDaily**