DALLAS (BP)–The board of the National Religious Broadcasters voted unanimously Feb. 9 to formally end its relationship with the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that recently began a dialogue with the National Council of Churches.
Board members voted 81-0 to cut all ties, communications director Karl Stoll said. Since 1944, the Christian conservative broadcasters group has been affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals.
The broadcasters were concerned about the NAE’s interest in becoming involved with the National Council of Churches, Stoll said, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the broadcasters and the evangelical association “were going two different directions.”
He declined to define “different directions,” and top officials of the broadcasters group turned down requests for interviews.
Last spring, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. raised concerns about the NAE’s decision to drop its bylaw prohibiting member denominations from joint membership in the NCC.
“It is likely to send shock waves through the evangelical movement, and the decision raises once again the essential issue of evangelical definition,” Mohler wrote in World magazine column.
“The NAE motto has been ‘cooperation without compromise,'” Mohler noted. “If admitting NCC members to the NAE is not compromise, what is?”
The NAE board did not announce its decision to the news media during its annual convention, which ended Feb. 13 with record attendance of 5,550, Stoll said.
“We just felt like this was a situation that we didn’t want to make a big deal about,” Stoll told the Star-Telegram. “It was something that should be done quietly among our membership, among our board.”
Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called the vote “a backward step.”
Mannoia told the newspaper that when he talked briefly with Brandt Gustavson, president of the broadcasters’ group, Gustavson had expressed concern about the evangelical association’s dialogue with the National Council of Churches.
“We are unequivocally committed to the evangelical message,” Mannoia said. “We have no intention of merging with the National Council of Churches or altering our statement of faith or identity as evangelicals.”
The National Council of Churches is a liberal consortium of 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations that coordinates disaster relief, refugee aid and other social and justice programs.
The NAE was founded in 1942 as conservative Protestants sought to coalesce around a basic evangelical program and establish an alternative to the liberal Federal Council of Churches, the precursor to the NCC.
Last year, the evangelical association joined with other groups — including, originally, the National Council of Churches — in adopting a Christian Declaration of Marriage.
However, the National Council of Churches removed its support for the declaration, which affirmed marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman and opposed same-sex marriages.
Mannoia said the fact that his organization stood firmly on the side of traditional marriage should have been a plus, not a minus, with the National Religious Broadcasters.
“We will not compromise our evangelical beliefs for the sake of unity,” he said.