RNS Covers the Retirement of National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson

Leith

Here is a taste of Adelle Banks’s piece at Religion News Service:

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Leith Anderson is a fan of the word “evangelical” and the Christians who claim that name.

But he knows the term may have outlived its usefulness in a polarized country where evangelical has often become a synonym for conservative Republican.

“I like the word ‘evangelical.’ I would like it to stand for what I think it has always stood for,” the retiring president of the National Association of Evangelicals said in a recent (Nov. 19) interview. “But if people want to abandon the term, let them abandon the term. That’s really not what matters. What really matters is their faith and their practice.”

Anderson, who has been NAE president since 2006, has worked to help people understand the diversity of what and who evangelicals are. He’s done so in the face of public polls showing that “white evangelicals” are among the most ardent supporters of President Donald Trump and his policies.

The longtime pastor wants evangelicals to be defined by their faith — not their politics.

“I want the standard to be what the Bible teaches, not what the polls report,” he said.

John Fea, professor of history at Messiah College, said Anderson has successfully balanced the NAE’s stances — advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, welcoming refugees and opposing racism while supporting traditional marriage and opposing abortion.

But Anderson, whom Fea called a “quiet spokesman” with a pastoral heart, has been overshadowed by fellow evangelicals Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. Those two are often seen as public faces of evangelicals and more likely to be quoted in the media.

“It’s a very awkward place,” said Fea, author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” “It doesn’t fit well in talk radio or the talking heads screaming at each other on cable news.”

Read the rest here.