The Chicago Invitation

The Chicago Invitation: Diverse Evangelicals Continue the Journey

In 1973, a broad group of evangelical leaders released the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, calling for a greater commitment to Biblical justice that was missing in American evangelicalism. 45 years later, a diverse group of especially younger followers of Jesus, who emerged from and remain within the evangelical tradition, met in Chicago to continue to take up this Biblical mandate. We reflected on and affirmed the 1973 statement, which, in its time, was groundbreaking for addressing and combating materialism, militarism, systemic racism, and sexism—and which has inspired future generations. We also discerned together how to respond to the current crises in evangelicalism, which jeopardizes the reputation and witness of the Christian church.

Sadly, in 2018, several false narratives around the identity of evangelicals in the United States undermine Christian witness and distort American politics. Often, evangelicals are identified in the media and by the public as being predominantly white, right-wing, and unconcerned about the poor and oppressed. For example, the story that became nationally and globally dominant after the 2016 election was that 81 percent of “evangelicals” voted for Donald Trump, when, in fact, this group only represented the votes of “white” evangelicals. When evangelicals of color and younger evangelicals are accurately accounted for, the picture changes significantly. For example, evangelicals of color voted overwhelmingly otherwise.

In contrast to these false narratives, evangelicals compose an ethnically diverse group whose movement reflects a historical and ongoing commitment to Jesus, the authority of scripture, evangelism, and God’s Biblical call to justice.

As diverse evangelicals, our faith moves us to confess and lament that we have often fallen short of the Biblical values and commitments proclaimed in the gospel and affirmed in the 1973 Declaration. In addition to the 1973 Declaration, many diverse evangelicals, including women, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and Indigenous leaders, have put out strong statements that have often been ignored. Millions of people have left the faith, especially younger believers, during a time in which evangelicalism has become increasingly partisan and politicized. On both sides of the political aisle, we have demonized those who disagree with us and failed to love both our neighbors and our “enemies”, as Jesus instructs us to do. We should not be captive to any political party, because our allegiance belongs to Christ. Like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we believe the church is called to be the conscience of the state, not the master or the servant of the state.

We invite you to join us in the journey of following Jesus, who calls us to proclaim and live the Gospel committed to love and justice.

Affirming the 1973 Declaration, as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we recommit to an evangelical faith that follows Jesus’ example of living and sharing a gospel that always proclaims good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed. (Luke 4: 18-19)

We recommit to a Biblical justice that demonstrates the reign of God as we strive for abundant life for all God’s children, which must include combating economic inequality and exploitation.

We recommit to more faithfully and courageously follow Jesus, who affirmed the sacredness and dignity of all human life.

Building on the 1973 Declaration as well as other historic statements from diverse evangelicals, we also commit to love and protect all people—including life at every stage, people of color, women, indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ people, people who are living with disabilities or mental health issues, poor and impoverished people, and each one who is marginalized, hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or imprisoned. (Matthew 25:31-46)

We commit to care for and protect the earth as God’s creation.

We commit to resisting all manifestations of racism, white nationalism, and any forms of bigotry—all of which are sins against God.

We commit to resisting patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and any form of sexism, and to always affirm the dignity, voices, and leadership of women.

We commit to defend the dignity and rights of all people, particularly as we celebrate and embrace the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our nation and churches.

We hope and pray that this statement, and the positive actions it inspires, will help to counteract and transform false narratives and stories into liberating ones. We invite you to join us in the journey of following Jesus, who calls us to proclaim and live the Gospel committed to love and justice.

Ruth Bentley, Administrative Executive Director/Treasurer, National Black Evangelical Association

Amena Brown, Poet and Author

Dr. Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians

Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon, Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians

Jason Fileta, Executive Director, Micah Challenge USA

Sharon Gallagher, Editor, Radix Magazine

Dominique Gilliard, Author, Rethinking Incarceration

Aaron Graham, Lead Pastor, the District Church

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America

Lisa Sharon Harper, President and Founder, Freedom Road LLC

Andre Henry, Evangelicals for Social Action

Jon Huckins, Co-Founding Director, The Global Immersion Project

Dr. Joel Hunter, Chair, Community Resource Network

Hyepin Im, President and CEO, Faith and Community Empowerment

Erina Kim-Eubanks, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Hayward

Rich Kohng, Director of Civic Engagement, North Park University

Nikole Lim, Founder and International Director, Freely in Hope

Rev. Ben Lowe, Board Vice-Chair, Evangelicals for Social Action

Mayra Macedo-Nolan, Board Chair, Christian Community Development Association

Myles Markham, Programs and Organizing Coordinator, Reformation Project

Rev. Dr. Walter Arthur McCray, President, National Black Evangelical Association

David Moberg, Sociology Professor Emeritus, Marquette University

Dr. Stephen Mott, New England Conference, United Methodist Church

Ruth Padilla DeBorst, President, Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios

Rev. Dr. William E. Pannell, Emeritus Professor of Preaching, Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Pierard, Professor Emeritus of History, Indiana State University

Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, North Park Theological Seminary

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Author, Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World

Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action

Andrea Smith, Evangelicals for Justice

Rev. Gail Song Bantum, Executive Pastor, Quest Church

Rev. Adam Taylor, Executive Director, Sojourners

Al Tizon, Executive Minister of Serve Globally, Evangelical Covenant Church

Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Executive Director, Evangelicals for Social Action

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Pastor, Grace and Peace Church

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Director, School for Conversion

 

 APPENDIX I

The Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern (1973)