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WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest evangelical umbrella group has tapped a veteran expert on refugee settlement and international relief efforts as its new top lobbyist in the nation’s capital.
Galen Carey was announced Wednesday (June 24) as director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. Carey, 53, has worked for more than 25 years with World Relief, the NAE’s humanitarian relief agency.
Carey succeeds the Rev. Richard Cizik, who resigned last December under pressure. Cizik had angered some evangelicals with his outspoken work on the environment and, finally, by seeming to signal support for same-sex civil unions in a National Public Radio interview.
NAE President Leith Anderson said Carey has “experience in areas that are of special importance” to the organization that represents more than 40 evangelical denominations. Carey starts the post on Aug. 1.
“One of the things I find most significant about him is that he not only is good in policy but he has hands-on experience — and it’s a long list — where he’s not just a theoretician but a practitioner,” said Anderson, a Minnesota megachurch pastor.
During Carey’s time with Baltimore-based World Relief, he lived in six countries, addressing floods in Mozambique, working to prevent HIV/AIDS in Burundi and overseeing relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami hit Indonesia.
While Carey’s strengths lie in refugees and international relief efforts, Anderson said he also has personal experience in some of NAE’s key issues: living among the poor in Chicago for 20 years, and opposing abortion by raising a child with Down syndrome.
Still, Carey “will have to learn in some areas where he has less experience,” Anderson acknowledged.
The NAE’s Washington agenda, laid out in a document called “For the Health of the Nation,” prioritizes religious freedom, peacemaking and human rights, as well as caring for the poor, protecting the environment and opposing same-sex marriage.
“You realize that there are policy issues upstream that impact what you’re doing,” Carey said. “And so what I hope is the experience I have had in the `real world’ could be useful in informing the policy and advocacy work.”
Carey spent three years, from 2002 to 2004, as World Relief’s director of advocacy and policy, and met with Bush administration officials and members of Congress on refugee and international development issues.
Anderson hopes Carey’s fluency in Spanish and past work with the United Nations on refugee resettlement will help the NAE as it continues developing its policy statement on immigration, which could be finalized in the fall.
Carey said working on immigration reform dovetails with NAE’s goal to care for the vulnerable. He thinks future policy will need to address both “respect for the law” and relief for families that have been separated.
“For legislation to pass, it has to address both those issues,” he said.
As for replacing Cizik, who has continued his environmental advocacy after leaving NAE, Anderson said he expects NAE will continue to consider “creation care” as one of its priorities.
“Richard was especially well-known and outspoken on that topic,” he said. “We need to give Galen the freedom to be himself and to speak from his own experience and authority. That doesn’t diminish the importance of creation care but I don’t expect that he will have the high visibility in that area that Richard Cizik has had.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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