In his most recent piece at the Sojourners website, Wallis sees some continuity between the issues addressed at the Wheaton consultation and the issues addressed at some of the earliest gatherings of the so-called “evangelical left.” He does not see progress.
That was 45 years ago. Reading it again at the Wheaton meeting was heartbreaking — realizing how far in the wrong direction “evangelicalism” has now gone, so diminished and distorted. In my tradition, we would call that spiritual “backsliding.” Read the declaration now — all of it — and see how much we have gone backwards.
Also take a look at the list of signers back in 1973. We were “young evangelicals,” including black evangelicals, the first evangelical feminists, some global evangelical leaders, but also some of the leading establishment white evangelical leaders at the time — including some who were invoked at the Wheaton meeting last week, like the founding editor of Christianity Today Carl F. H. Henry. As the final editor of the Chicago Declaration, I can attest that Henry and I we went back and forth on every “jot and title” as those who knew him would expect! This was a multiracial and intergenerational statement unanimously agreed to after two days of retreat together. We all felt it was work that God had done.
At the time, the “Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern” gained great attention in the evangelical world, schools, and seminaries, and it was a big news story. And until 1980, we were called the “young evangelicals” in a “new evangelical” movement.
So what happened?
Read the entire piece here. Then go get some historical context by reading two books:
Brantley Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice and David Swartz, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.