His comments to the press sparked a firestorm and led to his resignation from National Religious Broadcasters, but now Wayne Pederson says his remarks were “misunderstood and exaggerated,” according to ASSIST News Service, or ANS.
As WorldNetDaily first reported in January, Pederson hadn’t even been installed as the new president of the NRB when he encountered calls for him to step down because of his reported desire to de-politicize the organization.
NRB is an association representing more than 1,300 evangelical Christian radio and television stations, program producers, multimedia developers and related organizations around the world.
Pederson moved from the elected position of chairman of NRB to become president Oct. 1, the unanimous choice of the board and executive committee to succeed longtime President E. Brandt Gustavson, who died of pancreatic cancer last May.
Pederson ran into a hornet’s nest of controversy after he gave an interview to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, his home town paper, in which he said he was concerned about the perception of the NRB as part of the “political right.”
“But what’s probably more disturbing to me is that evangelicals are identified politically more than theologically,” he was quoted as telling the paper. “We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized. To me the important thing is to keep focus on what’s important to us spiritually. We’re all entitled to our political views, and evangelicals tend to gravitate toward more conservative politics, but sometimes in taking our stands we’ve allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished.”
Pederson was further quoted by the paper as stating, “There’s an element in NRB that wants us to be politically oriented – to take stands on public issues, but that’s not in our constitution. Our constitution says we’re to make the Christian media as effective as it can be. We need not be pulled into the political arena.”
Pederson’s statements were criticized by many well-known Christian broadcasters, including Don Wildmon, president and founder of the American Family Association, Richard Bott, president of Bott Radio Network, and Tim LaHaye, founder of Tim LaHaye Ministries and the best-selling author of the “Left Behind” series.
According to the minutes of a Jan. 23 meeting of the NRB executive committee, Jerry Falwell, a powerful evangelical leader and WorldNetDaily columnist, told Pederson he would quietly leave NRB if the group changed direction – emphasizing only the spiritual rather than the socio-cultural-political issues that have partly defined the organization in recent years. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family Ministries, also told executive committee members he would withdraw from the organization and decline to speak at the opening session of the convention in Nashville, Tenn., if Pederson remained as president.
“I am not a confronter or a fighter – I’m a conciliator, maybe to a fault,” Pederson told ANS, “My desire in stepping down, was to save NRB from more hurt and more disunity.”
Pederson’s resignation was accepted by a non-binding vote of the full board of directors on the first day of the NRB convention earlier this month.
ANS reports Pederson expressed “surprise” and “disappointment” over the controversy in an interview on the last day of the event.
“When I made some comments about the level of priority of spiritual ministry versus the political, I had no intention of saying that we should not be doing political [activity] – that’s an important part of what many of NRB’s members do. It had to do with proper priorities, and many have interpreted that as saying we are moving away or devaluing the people who do politics,” ANS quotes Pederson as saying, “Obviously, NRB exists to protect the rights of many of our members to speak to the moral and social issues of our day. Unfortunately, it became misunderstood and exaggerated and kind of just got out hand.”
“I wish there had been an opportunity to talk privately about this more clearly,” Pederson commented to ANS, “It is never in the best interest of Christianity when our controversies are aired in public rather than trying to deal with them on a smaller group basis. I’m disappointed every time the world looks at Christians and sees this kind of criticism and disharmony, as we ought to be known for how we love one another. That was the mark of the early church, and it is my desire that that would be the mark of the church today – that the world would look at Christians and say, ‘Behold how they love one another.’”
In responding to an ANS question regarding how he and his wife, Norma, have dealt with the anger from some NRB members, Pederson replied, “We are deeply disappointed that this didn’t work out, as we had great dreams for NRB. But God has put a shield around us and we have quoted often Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble.’ So we have been strong spiritually and emotionally.”
As to his future plans, Pederson told ANS he expects to stay in Christian media in some form and will try to “stay engaged with NRB.”