Evangelicals and Social Engagement

 — Sept. 15, 200715 sept. 2007

“Evangelical theology stresses the importance of a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ and sees the transformation of individuals as an important part of the transformation of the world. However, the notion of a purely privatized faith in which the gospel only affects individual, personal or family life but has no wider implications for society must be rejected as inadequate.”

These words, taken from a new statement from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), point to an increasing commitment of the Evangelical community to address social issues and structures. The Philadelphia Statement on Evangelical Social Engagement is a summary of the discussions at a consultation on faith, providence and political involvement held July 31, 2007 at Palmer (Eastern Baptist) Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. The consultation was conducted by the WEA’s Theological Commission. The statement is not an approved policy statement of any Evangelical body.

For many people, Evangelicalism is synonymous with the Religious Right, at least in its U.S. forms. People like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Oral Roberts represent the public persona of the 1980s hegemony of right-wing politics in the Evangelical world. Numerous studies have shown the influence of Evangelicals in the presidential elections of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, sr., and George W. Bush, as well as numerous senators, members of Congress, and even local judges. In Canada, Evangelical involvement in party policy has been more controversial. Stockwell Day’s electoral prospects were seriously diminished by public suspicions of his religious faith. Stephen Harper has carefully proscribed discussion of his personal faith in order to avoid similar suspicions. In both the U.S. and Canada, right wing political causes have corresponded closely with the social issues discussed and addressed in many churches of an Evangelical persuasion. The continued influence of this constituency is undeniable, but it is now being challenged by other Evangelical voices.

Since the 1960s the Sojourners Community, led by the Rev. Jim Wallis, and numerous other groups have been the voice of the Evangelical social conscience. Some of these groups have experienced increasing attention from the media in the past few years. During the 2004 U.S. election, Call to Renewal promoted an active media campaign in the press, on tv and radio, and over the internet that declared “God is not a Republican or a Democrat!” Also in 2004, Ronald Sider published a book entitled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.” This book called Evangelicals to be more vocal in their commitment for social concerns.

Since 2003 Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), has been promoting what he calls “creation care.” This theologically articulated form of environmentalism has not been without controversy in the NAE constituency, but Cizik has stood his ground. He has insisted that Evangelicals take global warming seriously, and as a result has been challenged to resign by James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Although the NAE has not taken an official stance on global warming, other Evangelical leaders have established the Evangelical Climate Initiative in order to address these question in the Evangelical community.

Under the heading “A Call to Kingdom Living,” the Philadelphia Statement states:

“there are important areas common to most societies where followers of Jesus Christ must pray and work for the kingdom, such as seeking human rights and religious liberty, working against corruption, violence and war, alleviating poverty, protecting the family and the sanctity of life, and caring for creation…

The church, as the primary community in which the kingdom of God is manifested, ought to embody the graceful principles of that kingdom and bear witness in life, word and action to the power of the gospel to transform lives and societies…

The church must not use political power merely as a means of self-protection, but should seek the benefit of the community in which it lives with humility repentance, and in a spirit of unity.”

Posted: Sept. 15, 2007 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=349
Categories: NewsIn this article: environment, Evangelicals, justice, peace, social policy, statements, theology, World Evangelical Alliance
Transmis : 15 sept. 2007 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=349
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : environment, Evangelicals, justice, peace, social policy, statements, theology, World Evangelical Alliance

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