Dobson resigns as chairman of Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family founder and president James Dobson. (Photo/Focus on the Family)

Focus on the Family founder and president James Dobson. (Photo/Focus on the Family)

James Dobson, the 72-year-old founder of the Colorado Springs-based evangelical empire Focus on the Family, is stepping down as chairman of the organization, The Associated Press reports:

DENVER (AP) — 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 weekly 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.

Dobson’s wife, Shirley, also stepped down from the board, the AP reports. It’s part of a reorganization aimed at bringing on new leadership to reach younger evangelicals who might not be as avid about “abortion, gay marriage and other issues Dobson views as most vital.”

Focus on the Family laid off more than 200 employees — roughly 20 percent of its workforce — last fall after spending $727,000 to support California’s Proposition 8 campaign to reverse a state court decision that allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Daly told the AP the the ministry is “right on track” with a new annual budget of $138 million.

Dobson “will continue to speak out as he always has — a private citizen and not a representative of the organization he founded,” Gary Schneeberger, a Focus on the Family spokesman, told the AP.

Schneeberger made headlines last week when he told Christianity Today the conservative Christian political movement needs to shed the term “religious right” because it can “create negative impressions.”

Dobson’s replacement as chairman didn’t go that far, the AP reports:

The new board chairman is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Patrick P. Caruana, a longtime board member and a former executive with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.

“I don’t see any dramatic departure from what Focus stands for,” Caruana said of Dobson’s leaving the board. “There are obviously younger people the ministry would like to reach, and we’re on track to do that.”

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Ernest Luning

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