In a conciliatory move aimed at repairing a rift among National Religious Broadcasters, Robert Neff, vice president of Moody Broadcasting Network, issued an apology for “certain words” used in his letter to NRB Chairman Glenn Plummer.
“I expressed myself in a way I should not have,” Neff told WorldNetDaily, referencing the Feb. 21 letter protesting the decision by the NRB executive committee and board to accept Wayne Pederson’s resignation as president of the organization.
In a letter to the NRB executive committee and board dated March 5, Neff wrote, “In retrospect, I fear my Feb. 21 letter has made your task more difficult … I apologize, and assure you that wasn’t my intent. My letter was written at the airport while leaving NRB out of great frustration and disappointment with the events leading up to and during the NRB Board meetings. In the process, I used some descriptive words, without naming individuals, which were poorly chosen and not helpful toward seeking a good resolution.”
In the Feb. 21 letter, obtained by WorldNetDaily, Neff targeted for criticism certain “power boys” and “600-pound gorillas” in the organization, who, he says, are quick to pick up their marbles and leave when things don’t go their way.
While the letter did not “name names,” it appeared to be referring to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, both of whom had quietly expressed concern at Pederson’s remarks about the direction of the NRB in a newspaper interview.
Dobson fired back in a March 1 letter to the NRB executive committee, calling Neff’s accusations “vicious and entirely uncalled for.”
“Obviously, he was talking about me and others,” Dobson wrote. “Let me set the record straight. I have made no public comments about Wayne Pederson, either in writing or on the air, and have written no letters about the matter at all – and nothing I’ve said on the telephone has approached the tone in Bob’s diatribe. Just this morning I turned down an invitation on National Public Radio to talk about the issue so as not to fan the flames further. I made only one comment during the NRB board meeting, in which I commended Wayne as a godly man who had served the Lord faithfully for more than 30 years. I took the microphone in that instance to say that our disagreement with Wayne is not personal, and that I had been neither offended nor hurt by his remarks. (Wayne had just apologized for hurting Jerry Falwell and me.) Mine was an entirely conciliatory statement, except for the fact that I disagreed with where he wanted to take NRB.”
The NRB controversy began in January when Pederson gave a newspaper interview in which he suggested the group had become too political and too closely identified with the “Religious Right.”
“But what’s probably more disturbing to me is that evangelicals are identified politically more than theologically,” Pederson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “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 went on to say, “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 said he planned to remedy that in his new term as president and chief executive officer, which was to begin at the annual meeting of the NRB last month in Nashville.
However, the executive committee and board of the group decided not to retain Pederson as a result of his remarks and other controversies that ensued as a result of his leadership.
Neff told WorldNetDaily he hopes his letter of apology “will lead toward reasoned thinking on the part of the executive committee who has the responsibility to take the next step and, hopefully, it will lead to a unifying of membership that got fractured a bit in the process.”
Neff also stressed that he “was speaking as a frustrated NRB board member and not on behalf of Moody Bible Institute or its president, Dr. Stowell.”
In his letter, Neff states he “called Dr. Dobson apologizing for using certain words and expressed a desire for reconciliation.”
Paul Hetrick with Focus on the Family confirms Neff and Dobson had a “cordial conversation.”
“Dr. Dobson accepted the apology and wants to put the whole matter behind them,” Hetrick told WorldNetDaily.
Pederson’s original comments were criticized by many well-known Christian broadcasters, including Don Wildmon, president and founder of the American Family Association, Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy with Focus on the Family, 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.
Pederson later said he believed the article in the Star Tribune took his words out of context. However, the NRB national office distributed copies of the article following its publication.