Evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian organization he founded 32 years ago.
Mr. Dobson, 72, parlayed his daily radio show into a national role as one of the most influential voices of the so-called Christian right, helping make a place for social and religious conservatives in the Republican Party coalition while holding politicians’ feet to the fire on issues like abortion, traditional marriage and school vouchers.
A child psychologist by trade, Mr. Dobson plans to stay on for now as host of the organization’s popular radio program, which reaches an estimated 1.5 million U.S. listeners, and will continue to write the organization’s weekly newsletter, sent to 1.6 million people per month.
The move represents what Focus officials described as the next step in a transition plan to reduce Mr. Dobson’s administrative duties. The first step came six years ago when he stepped down as president and chief executive officer.
“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. I have wanted not to make that mistake with Focus on the Family, which is why I stepped back, first from the presidential duties six years ago, and now, from board chairmanship.”
While he described letting go as “difficult after three decades of intensive labor,” he added that “it is the wise thing to do.”
Mr. Dobson plans to continue speaking out on public policy issues through the organization’s political arm, Focus on the Family Action. Mr. Dobson endorsed Republican hopeful John McCain in the 2008 election after at first saying that he would not vote for him.
Focus has struggled in recent years to reach younger listeners through its flagship radio program, and was forced to cut 200 jobs from its payroll last fall, its biggest staff reduction ever. The organization has said that Mr. Dobson will host the radio program for as long as he likes, but has also introduced younger on-air personalities in the search for a successor.