'Manifesto' Vexes Evangelicals; Panel Seeks Path of Centrism

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

'Manifesto' Vexes Evangelicals; Panel Seeks Path of Centrism


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A panel of 77 evangelical Christians issued a "manifesto" at the National Press Club yesterday ostensibly to clarify "the confusions and corruptions surrounding the term 'evangelical'" but which ended up causing ferment within their movement.

The 19-page document, which defined a middle path for the nation's 45 million evangelicals between "liberal revisionism and conservative fundamentalism," attacked the bandying about of the term "evangelical" by the religious right and left.

"Christians from both sides of the political spectrum, left as well as right, have made the mistake of politicizing faith," it said. "It would be no improvement to respond to a weakening of the religious right with a rejuvenation of the religious left. A politicized faith is faithless, foolish and disastrous for the church."

Evangelicals constitute about 26 percent of the U.S. population and are a potent political force, particularly within the Republican Party over the past 30 years, helping put Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush into the White House.

The document, posted at www.evangelicalmanifesto.com, also gave the history of evangelicalism in America, set forth seven beliefs basic to all evangelicals, described some fault lines within the movement and called for "a civil public square" where people of all religions can be heard on public policy. It warned against a worldwide backlash against all religion in public life and cautioned Christians against any "dangerous alliance between church and state."

Several drafters held a press conference yesterday to explain their motives. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, said they encountered friends who were ashamed to call themselves "evangelical" and were "embarrassed by the public behavior of some in the evangelical movement."

"When you have best-selling authors who appear on public television with feel-good gospels who have to apologize to their own churches that they have diluted the faith when they get home, something is profoundly wrong," said Os Guinness, founder of the Trinity Forum in Burke.

"When you have evangelical leaders who make predictions in the name of God which are by biblical standards false prophecy, something is badly wrong. When scholars and writers can look at the evangelical and political movement and call [their followers] theocrats or worse, fascists, something is badly wrong. …

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