Some big news today about Dr. James Dobson. He's resigning as chairman of Focus on the Family. Get my take below, but first get up to speed by reading some excerpts from the Associated Press:
Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago, The Associated Press has learned.
Dobson notified the board of his decision Wednesday, and the 950 employees of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry were informed Friday morning at a monthly worship service, said Jim Daly, the group's president and chief executive officer.
Dobson, 72, will continue to host Focus on the Family's flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues, Daly said.
Dobson's resignation as board chairman "lessens his administrative burden" and is the latest step in a succession plan, the group said. Dobson began relinquishing control six years ago by stepping down as president and CEO.
"One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority," Dobson said in a statement. "... Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do."
While Focus on the Family emphasizes that it devotes most of its resources to offering parenting and marriage advice, it is best known for promoting conservative moral stands in politics.
In a way, this isn't a huge shock. Dr. Dobson is getting up there in age a little bit and there's no question that the evangelical movement is searching for a new, younger brand of leaders to pave the way. You can definitely make the argument that the evangelical movement is at somewhat of a crossroads. The traditional values of abortion and marriage will continue to be the bedrock for conservative evangelicals. There's no doubt about that.
However, appealing to a younger generation and some of their concerns about a wider range of issues is going to be at the center of a potential transition process.
As for Dr. Dobson, he will still be on the radio and listened to by millions around the country. His voice isn't going away and you can be sure when Dr. Dobson speaks people will definitely take note. But the search is on for, not only Dr. Dobson's eventual replacement, but also for new and innovative ways to reach younger evangelicals.
Obviously, moderate evangelicals are salivating at the chance to broaden the agenda and proclaim, "this is not your grandfather's evangelical movement."
But I wouldn't be so sure that sort of theory is going to take hold... at least not right away. Conservative evangelicals and there biblical absolute values should not be discounted. They stand for something. They believe they stand for the truth based on biblical scripture. The real question will be whether conservative evangelicals are willing to put other issues (poverty, climate change, health care) on the same level as the bedrock positions of abortion and marriage.
Already, we've seen some conservative evangelical leaders embrace this agenda. How many of the new emerging conservative leaders will follow suit?