NAE President Who Introduced Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ Speech Dies at 86

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Shawn Akers

Widely admired evangelical leader Arthur Gay, president of the National Association of Evangelicals in the 1980s and president of its humanitarian arm, World Relief, died July 26 at the age of 86.

On its website, the NAE expressed that “the positive impact he left at both organizations remains to this day.”

“Art Gay was one of the most gracious leaders I have ever known. He was a great encourager, always curious and wanting to learn more,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations of the NAE. “Art was an example of generous orthodoxy, speaking the truth in love.”

In his role as president of the NAE, Gay served as the organization’s spokesperson. A highlight of his term at the head of the group came in 1983 when he introduced President Ronald Reagan at the annual NAE convention.


During his speech, Reagan, who sought the continuing support of U.S. evangelicals, famously referred to communism and the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”

“The National Association of Evangelicals community, from coast to coast in our great land, deeply appreciates and values his love for the truth of the Bible and his (Reagan’s) commitment to its great moral values,” the NAE website conveyed that Gay said in his introduction.

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Gay also invited President George H.W. Bush to speak at the World Relief annual luncheon during the NAE’s 50th anniversary celebration at its convention in 1992.


Gay furthered his legacy of kingdom service from 1991 to 1996 as president of World Relief, extending the organization’s international programs. His leadership saw World Relief expand its refugee settlement program in the U.S. and launch new international programs in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Myanmar, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Art continued to care and pray for the global ministry of World Relief for decades after his own retirement from this role. He is a model of kingdom leadership who leaves a remarkable legacy,” said Myal Greene, current president and CEO of World Relief.

Gay also served as the longtime pastor of South Park Church in Park Ridge, Illinois and remained involved in leadership of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference denomination.

“We are so thankful for Art’s faithful leadership and ministry with the NAE, World Relief, South Park and so many more,” says Leith Anderson, president emeritus of NAE.


Arthur Gay enjoyed a deep relationship with the Lord. Read Rosanna Watts-Watson’s Kingdom Living Nowto develop your own with Him. {eoa}

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Shawn A. Akers is the online editor at Charisma Media.


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