Ron Sider, president of ESA, to retire

Ron Sider, one of the main characters in Moral Minority, yesterday announced his retirement from Evangelicals for Social Action. He will step down in June 2013 and be replaced by Al Tizon and Paul Alexander (I’ll have more to say about them down the road). Read the news reports here and here.

Here are two excerpts from the manuscript. The first is from the introduction and describes how Sider helped launch the evangelical left of the 1970s:

Ron Sider promoted a Swiss-German Anabaptist strain of progressive evangelicalism. Author of the best-selling book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Sider espoused an ethic of simple living that extended the critique offered by third-world evangelicals. He also followed Senator Mark Hatfield’s lead into electoral politics. In 1972 Sider founded Evangelicals for McGovern, a group that campaigned on behalf of Democratic candidate George McGovern. This effort led directly to the first organized gathering of the evangelical left.

The second is from the epilogue, where I push Sider’s story forward to the present day:

Ron Sider, leader of the Thanksgiving Workshop, continued to preach Anabaptist messages of justice, peace, and simple living to evangelicals. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which catapulted Sider to prominence,sold nearly half a million copies by its fifth edition. As president of Evangelicals for Social Action and a professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary, he helped launch the Evangelical Environmental Network. In the early 1990s EEN campaigned for and donated $1 million to preserve the Endangered Species Act and in the early 2000s launched a “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign, which garnered articles in at least 4,000 media outlets over four months. With the exception of his pro-life stance, support for school vouchers, and 2000 vote for George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” (which he later said he regretted), Sider, like Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, routinely embraced Democratic policies. Yet ESA, characterized by Sider’s warm and conciliatory personality, can be distinguished from Sojourners’ more partisan style. Into the 2000s Sider and his wife Arbutus, a family therapist, still practiced simple living. They cooked out of the More-with-Less cookbook, by then in its 47th printing. They purchased most of their clothes at thrift stores and maintained a modest home in a mostly black neighborhood in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The décor, reported a journalist, was comfortably worn, falling “somewhere between Graduate Student and Junior Faculty.”

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