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Rick Warren, ERLC’s Richard Land among Time magazine’s 25 influential evangelicals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Joining Billy and Franklin Graham on Time magazine’s list of the 25 “Most Influential Evangelicals in America” were Southern Baptists Rick Warren, Richard Land, Chuck Colson and Tim & Beverly LaHaye.

“American Evangelicalism seems to defy unity, let alone hierarchy,” Time said in its Feb. 7 issue. “Yet its members share basic commitments. Time’s list focuses on those whose influence is on the rise or who have carved out a singular role.”

Time dubbed Warren “America’s New People’s Pastor,” noting that his book, “The Purpose-Driven Life,” has sold more than 20 million copies over the past two years and is the best-selling hardback in United States history. The magazine said when Warren — pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. — took the podium to pray on the closing night of Billy Graham’s crusade at the Rose Bowl in November, the 82,000 people cheered as if he had scored the winning touchdown.

“Although Franklin Graham is heir to the throne of the Billy Graham organization, many believe that Warren, 51, is the successor to the elder Graham for the role of America’s minister,” Time said.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, filled the slot of “God’s Lobbyist” on Time’s list. The magazine focused on Land’s connections to the White House and his influential role in shaping the Bush administration’s social policies.

“The men around his longtime friend George W. Bush don’t sit around waiting for Land’s call,” Time said. “They reach out to him, individually and as part of a weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.”

Colson, once imprisoned for his role in the Watergate scandal as an aide to President Richard Nixon, made Time’s list as “Reborn and Rehabilitated.” The founder of Prison Fellowship was commended by Time for helping to define compassionate conservatism and provide a model for faith-based initiatives. Today he is active in politics, advising Karl Rove on Sudan policy and lobbying against same-sex “marriage,” Time said.

As “The Christian Power Couple,” Tim and Beverly LaHaye share a spot on Time’s list. Tim LaHaye helped found Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, but it’s his coauthoring of the “Left Behind” series that will leave a lasting mark, Time said. The series has sold more than 42 million copies and served to set the image people have about how the world will end.

Beverly LaHaye founded Concerned Women for America, one of the most influential pro-life, pro-traditional marriage organizations in Washington.

Evangelists Billy and Franklin Graham also share a spot among the 25 most influential evangelicals as “Father and Son in the Spirit.” Time said while the father has had the ear of presidents for five decades, he has largely kept his distance from politics and devoted his life to saving souls. The son, on the other hand, is more eager to step into the political spotlight and give his opinion on issues such as homosexuality or the Iraq war, Time noted.

“Dr. Graham, having [ministered] to many Presidents, is more private about his counsel than Franklin, who speaks more to average Americans than their leaders,” Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, told Time.

Others on Time’s list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals were James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Rick Santorum, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican and a Catholic leader in pro-life and pro-family social causes; Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law & Justice; Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest who counsels President Bush on religious matters; Mark Noll, a scholar who contends that a high view of the Bible and high-level participation in American intellectual life can coexist; J.I. Packer, an Oxford-trained theologian, executive editor of Christianity Today and author of the cross-denominationally celebrated “Knowing God”; David Barton, vice chair of the Texas Republican Party and a loud voice in the church-state separation debate; Doug Coe, director of the Fellowship Foundation which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast; and Stuart Epperson, co-founder of Salem Communications, a religious and political broadcasting powerhouse.

Also on the list: Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals representing 30 million Christians from 52 denominations; Diane Knippers, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy; Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago and trainer of more than 100,000 pastors each year; Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter who relayed the president’s deepest convictions via religious references; Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, savings-and-loan multimillionaire philanthropists from Irvine, Calif., who have advanced the cause of faith-based activism; Luis Cortes, a Philadelphia minister who builds houses in poor communities and offers start-up loans to Hispanic businesses; T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter’s House near Dallas and author, movie producer and music mogul; Brian McLaren, a nondenominational Maryland pastor leading the “emerging church” movement; Joyce Meyer, the Bible teacher whose messages appear on more than 600 television stations and 400 radio stations; Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications, which published “The Faith of George W. Bush,” the first spiritual biography of the president; and Ralph Winter, director of the Frontier Mission Fellowship which promotes missionary work overseas and is producing a new generation of Christian message carriers.

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  • Erin Curry