Cizik resigns from US evangelical body over same-sex differences

Prominent US evangelical Richard Cizik has stepped down as Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals after admitting in a recent interview that he had shifted his views on same-sex unions.

Cizik told US radio host Terry Gross that he did not endorse same-sex marriage but was open to same-sex civil unions, in contradiction to the official position of the NAE.

“I’m shifting, I have to admit,” he told Gross during a December 2 broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” programme. “In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don’t think.”

NAE President Leith Anderson said in a letter to the organisation’s board of directors that Mr Cizik had made statements in the interview “that did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents”.

“Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologised and affirmed our values there is a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituents,” said Anderson.

Anderson said he and Cizik, vice president for 28 years, had “mutually concluded that his resignation is a difficult but appropriate decision”.

In a follow-up letter to the board, Anderson stressed that “our NAE stand on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged”.

Other prominent US evangelical leaders have since responded to Cizik’s comments.

The President of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Richard Land was quoted by US magazine Christianity Today as saying, “I was stunned when I heard it. I was momentarily speechless, and for me, that’s quite a feat.”

Charles Colson, a popular evangelical commentator and founder of the US ministry, Prison Fellowship, said, "For better or for worse, Rich became a great, polarising 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."