Gay conflicts within the
National Association of Evangelicals
2008: Vice-president Richard Cizik resigns
About Rev. Cizik:
Rev. Cizik was the
vice-president of governmental affairs for the National Association of
Evangelicals (NAE). He had been active in Washington DC for almost
three decades where he communicated evangelical concerns to government
leaders. However, in recent years he has become a controversial figure because he has
been advocating that the NEA and evangelicals generally broaden their political activities.
In the past,
these have been almost entirely concentrated on two hot-button issues:
advocated a broader agenda including adding such topics as: concerns over health care coverage, alleviation
of poverty, reducing global warming, and caring for the
environment in other ways, etc. 1 In 2007, more
than two dozen "old guard" conservative evangelical leaders attempted to have
Cizik removed from his post because of his "relentless campaign" on global
A pivotal radio interview:
On 2008-DEC-02 Rev. Cizik was interviewed on PBS' program Fresh Air
by Terry Gross. Most of the episode concentrated on global warming and
environmental concerns. However, near the start of the program, when he was asked about government recognition of loving, committed same-sex
relationships he deviated from the NAE's position which is to have
governments recognize such couples only as roommates, and their children -- if
any -- as illegitimate and unprotected.
"I’m shifting I have to admit. In other words I would willingly say I believe in
civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage from its
traditional definition, I don’t think. We have this tension going on in our
movement between what is church-building and what is nation-building. And I lean
in this spectrum at times — maybe we should concentrate on building values in
our own movement. We have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and
the rest that we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage
itself — heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to re-evaluate this and look at it
a little differently."
Rev. Cizik also volunteered information that seems to have come from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter survey of 2008-OCT:
- 52% of young white evangelicals support either SSM or civil unions for
loving, committed same-sex couples. 3,4
He also said that:
This is from a survey that he did not identify. This number is supported
by a Pew Research Center poll in 2007-MAY. They found that:
- About 40% of young evangelical Christians know a close friend or
family member who is gay.
- 41% of Americans had a close friend of family member who is gay.
- 39% of Protestants had such a friend or relative.
- 31% of white evangelicals had such a friend or relative. 3,5
One would expect that more than 31% of young white evangelicals would have a close
gay friend or family member; 40% sounds about right.
There appears to be a cause-and-effect relationship between these two items.
When an individual befriends a a gay person, the former often abandons their
hatred of homosexuality and their homophobia towards homosexuals. They begin to see them as fellow
humans whose similarities are much more numerous than their differences. More
sympathy towards same-sex couples to gain equal
rights, privileges and protections for themselves and their children is an
inevitable next step.
On an unrelated subject, Rev. Cizik also said that he favored the government
supplying contraceptives to reduce unintended pregnancies and thus reduce the
number of abortions.
NAE's position against same-sex marriage and civil unions:
The NAE's issued a statement in 2004 titled, "For
the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Public Engagement."
It defines many of its policies and positions.
document defines marriage as "a lifetime relationship between one man and one
family life is so important to healthy human functioning that we oppose
government efforts to trespass on its territory: whether by encroaching on
parental responsibilities to educate their children, by treating other kinds of
households as the family's social and legal equivalent, or by creating economic
disincentives to marriage. ... We also oppose innovations such as same-sex
'marriage,' ... We also oppose the expansion of '[human] rights talk' to encompass
so-called rights such as 'same-sex marriage' or 'the right to die'."
In this document, they followed the near universal evangelical convention of
enclosing the word marriage in quotation marks when it refers to same-sex
marriage -- as in "same-sex 'marriage'." They appear to do this in order to
denigrate the relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples.
Reactions to the Fresh Air interview:
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC)
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission holds a position in the SBC
similar to Cizik's in the NAE . He said:
"I was stunned when I heard it. I was momentarily speechless, and for me,
that’s quite a feat. ... [As spokesmen], we’re not hired to express our
personal opinions. Clearly, under Rich’s leadership in Washington, the NAE
has increasingly taken positions that have been nontraditional positions for
An article in the leading American evangelical magazine Christianity Today published some of Rev. Cizik's statement on SSM and civil unions. Two comments
posted by readers of the article illustrate
of belief among evangelicals:
- "Dale" wrote:
"Ok it is time to look at what marriage is and what it is not. What marriage is
is a religious institution ordained by God. It is also cultural, acceptable and
valued outside the Christian experiences. It is not a State right or
responsibility. The State is setup to only choose to recognize the religious
union. In many countries people get married in the church institution of their
choosing and then apply for some sort of license of a civil union. The easy way
to take care of the problem is for us to encourage the State to develop some
sort of legal civil 'family' union (and they would be allowed to recognize what
the church unites) and allow the church (religious institution) to have control
over whom they choose to join I in holy matrimony. Please remember we are not a
Theocracy, we (as the USA) may have been designed on religious principles but we
are a Republic Democratic and were never designed to be a Theocracy. Only a
Theocracy could mandate a State Religious Marriage System. I do not believe we
want to be a Theocracy, that would open up a whole new can of worms, nor is that
God's plan for us on this side. Let the Church do their part and the State do
Theirs. Think about it."
- "SReed" wrote:
"If this is the way Mr.
Cizik now believes, it is just as well that he leave NAE and let someone
takeover who has not become 'of the world.' In his answer about gay marriage and
civil unions he says, 'I’m always looking for ways to reframe issues, give the
biblical point of view a different slant, if you will, and look it, we have to.
The whole world, literally, the planet is changing around us, and if you don’t
change the way you think and adapt ... you may ultimately be a loser' ..."
doesn't just give the biblical point of view a different slant, but instead he
abandons it altogether. Jesus said that the world would hate us if we followed
Him, if we stood by scripture, but I would rather do this and lose some battles
than to unconditionally surrender to those who hate us. He points out that we
Christians need to examine divorce and traditional marriage (so true) but that
doesn't make homosexual relationships right in any way. I wish Mr. Cizik well,
but pray that he rethinks his positions." 2
Cizik leaves the NAE:
Cizik resigned from the NAE, on the evening of DEC-10, effective the next
Leith Anderson, president of the NAE wrote to board members on DEC-11
"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. ... "The role of an NAE
spokesperson is primarily on behalf of what we have said, not on behalf of what
we have not said. It's also to represent our constituency, and our constituency
does not favor civil unions."
Charles Colson, Watergate felon, a recipient of a Presidential Citizens Medal
in the week following Cizik's resignation, 7 and
the founder of Prison Fellowship said:
"For better or for worse, Rich became a great, polarizing
figure. 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."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Top evangelical leader resigns over gay unions remarks," ReligionNewsBlog, 2008-DEC-12, at:
- Sarah Pulliam, "Richard Cizik Resigns from the National Association of
Evangelicals; Cizik’s resignation comes after he said he was shifting on
same-sex unions," Christianity Today, 2008-DEC-11, at:
- "Rev Richard Cizik on God and global warming," NPR's Fresh Air program,
http://www.npr.org/ The data comes about 4 minutes, 10 seconds into the
- Dan Gilgoff, "Younger Evangelicals More Progressive on Issues. On
Candidates, Not So Much," Beliefnet, 2008-OCT-09, at:
- Shawn Neidorf & Rich Morin, "Four-in-Ten Americans Have Close Friends or
Relatives Who are Gay. Survey finds Familiarity Is Closely Linked to Greater
Tolerance, Pew Research Center. 2007-MAY-23, at:
- "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,"
Pages 7, 8, and 10, NAE, 2004, at:
http://www.nae.net/ This is a PDF file.
- Bill Berkowitz, "The Fallen Have Risen: Charles Colson honored by White
House," Scoop independent news, 2008-DEC-15, at:
Copyright © 2008 by the Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-DEC-23
Latest update and review: 2008-DEC-23
Compiler: B.A. Robinson