Leith Anderson is one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America, and yet he has been all but silent about President Donald Trump’s reshaping of American evangelicalism. Anderson has held basically every prominent job available to Christian pastors—leading an influential megachurch, teaching, writing books, serving in an advisory role in the Obama administration. Above all, he is an institutions guy: He is about to finish his second stint as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, or NAE, which is among the largest evangelical organizations in the United States, claiming to speak for millions of Americans in more than 45,000 churches spanning 40 denominations. In part because of this role, Anderson has been doggedly committed to promoting unity among Christians. Nearly every article about his NAE tenure points out that he won’t comment on political issues, and he’s rarely quoted or interviewed on cable news.
Especially under Trump, public depictions of evangelicalism have tended to be binary, but lopsided: Pastors such as Robert Jeffress—the Trump-supporting pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, who frequently appears on Fox News—have come to stand in for all conservative evangelicals, while profile after profile examines outspokenly progressive evangelical leaders who don’t necessarily have large constituencies. Anderson, 75, is part of a sizable group of evangelical leaders who largely get overlooked, in part because they have chosen a path of silence in politically tumultuous times.