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Retiring: Ron Sider, Social Justice Pioneer Who Authored One of Top 10 Books That Shaped Evangelicals

Will be replaced at Evangelicals for Social Action by 'consensus model' leadership team.

Ron Sider, founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), announced yesterday (Tues, Oct. 16) that he will retire in June 2013. His replacement: a "consensus model" leadership team of two co-directors.

Sider, who founded ESA in 1973, is most known for his ground-breaking 1977 book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. CT ranked the book No. 7 on its list of the Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.

Scot McKnight, in his review yesterday of Moral Minority by David Swartz, described Sider and his influence as follows:

Sider emerged out of a quietist Brethren in Christ Canadian family; he caught fire intellectually and studied at an Ivy League school, Yale, where he studied under Jaroslav Pelikan; and Sider's biggest influence was his radical call to evangelicals to become less consumerist, more aware of the impact of economy on the poor of this world, and the need to scale back.

Sider has frequently appeared in CT's pages, including CT's examination of Sider's "unsettling crusade" that asked: "Why does this man irritate so many people?"

CT has also carried interviews with Sider on how his views changed in the 20 years since he wrote his first book, his jeremiad on the "scandal" of the evangelical conscience (in one word: hypocrisy), his argument for courageous nonviolence, and his explanation of why four Christian Peacemakers Team members taken hostage in Iraq were there in the first place.

Sider has also commented on whether American evangelicals are stingy or generous with their money, whether mercury pollution is a pro-life issue, and whether Christians should give money to people on the street that ask for it.

ESA, now part of Eastern University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will replace Sider with two co-directors currently serving as professors at Eastern's Palmer Theological Seminary.

Paul Alexander, currently ESA's director of public policy, teaches Christian ethics and public policy at Palmer. His ESA bona fides: he "protested the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, was once fired for organizing against unethical business practices, and was jailed by the Los Angeles Police Department for peacefully protesting unfair labor standards in California."

Al Tizon, currently ESA's director of congregational ministry, teaches holistic ministry at Palmer. His bona fides: he "engaged in community development work, ministry to street children, and pastoral ministries among the poor in his native Philippines for almost ten years as missionaries with an international agency."

Quotes from the ESA press release:

"I am truly delighted with this bold shift," says Sider. "Paul and Al combine the gifts and passions of scholar, popularizer, and activist in a superb fashion and I am confident they will lead ESA into a new period of increased achievement and successful impact."

"Realizing that Jesus taught us to work for peace with justice saved me from my atheism," says Paul Alexander. "I'm excited and honored at the opportunity to work with and learn from a new generation of engaged Christian activists."

"I want to see every faith community that names the name of Jesus engaged in holistic ministry," says Al Tizon. "Imagine what a force the Church could be if it faithfully does evangelism, compassion and justice, and reconciliation ministries in their neighborhoods."

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