A new evangelical voice on immigration reform

Today evangelical leaders met on Capitol Hill to urge immigration reform. Their joint statement calls for bipartisan action according to the following six criteria:

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

The sixth is the one that distinguishes this statement from most conservative rhetoric on immigration policy (though the “and/or” language regarding citizenship softens the statement quite a bit). Still, the tone–and the list of names that signed the statement–mark a significant shift. The list features a wide range of evangelical perspectives including Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Sojourners, Max Lucado, Russell Moore, Margaret Feinberg, J.D. Greear, and Timothy George. Organizations included World Relief, Bread for the World, the Southern Baptist Covention’s Ethics & Public Policy Center, Esperanza, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

For a complete list and video footage, click here.

The Seminary Stewardship Alliance and creation care

Along with numerous other new organizations, the Seminary Stewardship Alliance represents a significant movement among evangelicals toward environmental justice (or creation care, as it’s sometimes called). The partner schools include Asbury, Denver, Fuller, George Fox, and Gordon-Conwell. On Earth Day leaders of the twelve schools convened at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., to sign a covenant.

Ultimate frisbee and progressive evangelicals

Time for a break from heavy topics like gender roles, war, politics, and intentional communities.

I’m an avid sports fan and player, and one of my favorites right now is ultimate frisbee (which, incidentally, is probably the top sport among young progressive evangelicals). In fact, my intramural team here at Asbury has won the school’s championship three out of the last four semesters. At any rate, check out this amazing catch. Even more amazing is that an ultimate frisbee game was televised!


How to start an intentional community

The Sojourners community circa 1980. This is one of the 25 photos in Moral Minority.

Hundreds of evangelical intentional communities started in the 1970s, among them the Christian World Liberation Front, Sojourners, Reba Place, Patchwork Central, and Jesus People-USA. Of the five I just mentioned, two of them survive to this day (Reba and JPUSA). There might be a couple of others among the hundreds, but not many lasted more than half a decade.

There’s been a revival of these communities in the last decade, especially within the New Monastic movement. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, member of the Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina, is one of the leaders of the New Monastics. Here he offers some advice for starting a new community:

You can learn about community elsewhere. But you can only make it happen–you can only ever have it–where you are. So find 3 to 5 people who will commit to share life together for six months or a year. Sit down and make a plan. Find an outside mentor for the group if you can. And schedule a time to evaluate your experiment after the initial commitment is over.

Evangelical feminism, the 1970s evangelical left, and one couple’s journey toward mutuality

Young egalitarian evangelicals this week are observing a “week of mutuality.” Here’s the concept and schedule. And here are a couple of interesting posts so far.

This kind of evangelical feminism isn’t new; it has roots in the evangelical left of the 1970s. Part of a larger group of progressive evangelicals who questioned American imperialism, racism, and materialism, a small group of women pushed for a line that denounced sexism in a document called “The Chicago Declaration” (1973). A year later these evangelical feminists (including a couple of men) launched the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. Their mission hit quite a bit of resistance. Nancy Hardesty and Letha Scanzoni struggled to publish a book, All We’re Meant to Be, that was rejected by six evangelical publishers in three years. This book (which was finally published!) and a growing oeuvre of evangelical feminist literature marshaled a lot of the exegetical work many now cite in the “Week of Mutuality”–and did so with winsomeness and wit. Check out these lines:

  • When some sympathetic evangelical men suggested that they should hold off on such controversial activities in order to study the issue more, one young evangelical feminist said, “’further study needed’ has been the Church’s standard answer to women for some time now!”
  • A wife of a progressive evangelical social activist said, “The creativity supposedly inherent in marriage and child rearing has squeezed spontaneity from my life. Why am I cooped up here in this lousy apartment while you go traipsing off across the country preaching freedom?”
  • Another wrote, “We did not become feminists and then try to fit our Christianity into feminist ideology. We became feminists because we were Christians.”

The following excerpt from my forthcoming book Moral Minority tells the story of Sharon Gallagher, a student at Westmont College and member of the Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF):

Perhaps most telling regarding the egalitarian claims of third-way evangelicals was their treatment of women. Gish encouraged married men to stay home to raise children while women entered the workforce. He advised men to wash dishes and women to fix cars in order to break down hierarchies of vocation and gender. Sharon Gallagher, after reading Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, began to resent mail addressed “To the Editor. Dear Sir.” Or to Mr. Sherren Gallagher.” Such slights led Gallagher, like early leaders of NOW also inspired by Feminine Mystique, to create consciousness-raising groups. She also successfully agitated for women elders in CWLF and occasionally refused to take notes in meetings. In feminism, Gallagher “found a name for the anger, rebellion, and loss of sense of self I had felt in college. As I reread the Bible, whole passages of Scripture became clear to me in new ways. I discovered passages that I had never heard theologized upon by male theologians.” Gallagher, along with several other converted women angered over alleged sexism in CWLF, successfully agitated to allow women to lead ministries and preach. Newly committed to “biblical feminism,” she also helped launch the Bay Area Evangelical Women’s Caucus and Green Leaf, its monthly newsletter, and joined secular feminist protests as a “co-belligerent.” Carrying signs reading “Jesus Was a Feminist” and “Worship God, Not Your Husband” at the 1975 United Nations-sponsored International Women’s Year conference in Mexico City, Gallagher’s commitment to “biblical feminism” extended the egalitarian impulse within CWLF.

We very quickly went from a family of two to four!

As I researched Gallagher, evangelical feminism, and the rest of my book manuscript, my wife Lisa and I ourselves were negotiating tricky gender roles. In August 2005 we were delighted–and surprised–to discover that Lisa was pregnant. In October Lisa applied to Ph.D. programs in sociology. In November we discovered we were having twins. In January she learned she had been accepted to grad school at Notre Dame. In March Andrew and Jon were born. In August Lisa began taking her first classes. Also in August I began staying at home to care for our babies. I wrote my dissertation manuscript during their naps and late at night.

Lisa “studying”

As you can imagine, that year was a roller coaster as we went from zero to one to two children and from one to two graduate programs. Were we were crazy to give it a shot? Would this jeopardize my fledgling academic career? Several concerned friends and family wondered if we were confusing biblical gender roles. But as Lisa and I talked and experimented and adjusted, we always came to consensus. It hasn’t always been easy, and a couple of years ago Lisa took a sabbatical from her program as I began a tenure-track job. But now that my schedule has relaxed, she’s restarting her program, and I’ll be watching our children (there are four now!) much more.

Six years later, we’re glad we did what we did. We’ve both sacrificed and pursued career ambitions. We’ve both flourished as stay-at-home parents. And our children have watched both of us changing diapers, washing dishes, studying books, and leaving home to work. Most important, they’ve watched each of us respect each other in a marriage of mutuality. The examples and writings of Gallagher, Scanzoni, and Hardesty in the 1970s gave us the courage and logic to give it a shot.

And here we are six years later!

The majority minority and the evangelical left

Whites now account for less than half of births in U.S.

Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom and contributor to the new Patheos blog “Anxious Bench,” recently posted on the emerging “majority minority.” Increasingly, Americans are nonwhite, and those nonwhite Americans by about 2050 will comprise the majority of the U.S. population. This has huge implications for American religion and politics. Depending on how things go down, it could be a promising development for evangelical non-rightists. Here’s a brief excerpt from the epilogue of Moral Minority:

In contemporary Brazil, for example, evangelicós have participated in all the major political parties. They and others, according to sociologist Paul Freston, have dismantled “facile equations of evangelicalism with conservative stances” and demonstrated “the distance of these actors—indeed, total independence of these actors—from the American evangelical right.” Many, like Ruth Padilla DeBorst, the influential daughter of Ecuadorian theologian René Padilla, have combined conservative theological and moral stances with progressive economic and foreign policy views in ways that defy the Western imagination. In a world where 60 percent of the world’s Christians now live outside the North Atlantic region and in a nation increasingly opened to nonwhite immigrants since the Immigration Act of 1965, these views—especially if joined with black evangelical and white progressive voices—will only continue to carry more weight.

Religious right vs. evangelical left

Jonathan Merritt

Check out the fascinating case of Jonathan Merritt, a young centrist evangelical who became an environmentalist at a Southern Baptist seminary. Even though he was the son of a SBC power broker, Merritt was subjected to the coercion of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, which is the public policy arm of the SBC.

Some things never change. Back in the 1970s, progressive evangelicals were the targets of a newly energized religious right. Bill Bright promised “to pray the wrath of God” down on Senator Mark Hatfield. For more on that story, check out John Turner’s terrific book on Campus Crusade.

Mark Hatfield

Here’s a taste of Merritt’s story:

ERLC leaders prodded me to abandon the efforts, luring me with soft bribes and hard threats. They told me if I turned the project over to them, they would rewrite it. In return, they would pay for the public release and open up doors for speaking engagements. When I rejected the offer, they said they were obligated to contact signatories and dismantle the effort themselves. With the precision of a five-star political machine, ERLC leaders began locating signatories and trying to convince them to remove their names. Falsehoods circulated about my “hidden agendas” and “political ties.” Emails sent with the cadence of machine gun fire became impossible to contain.

Bill Bright

At the time, I was a second year seminary student, unaware of the power and determination of the establishment. I never expected and wasn’t equipped to combat the hornets from the nest I’d accidentally kicked. The breaking point came late one night when I was studying for exams. I received a call from one of my favorite professors, someone I admire. He informed me that ERLC leadership was offering me one last chance to turn over the initiative. If I decided to move forward, the full force of their opposition would fall on me. This included telling “the truth” about my effort to denominational leaders, many whom I considered heroes. I was given 24 hours to consider their offer and decide.

Richard Mouw to retire

The first half of Moral Minority is biographically driven. Of the eight evangelicals I highlight, five are still living. One of them, Richard Mouw, currently serves as president of Fuller Theological Seminary. A number of years ago I spent a couple of days out at Fuller doing research for my dissertation. Mouw graciously sat for an interview with me in his spacious presidential office. I really enjoyed my conversation with him.

News just came that Mouw is planning to retire. Next academic year will be his last. Here’s the news release:

Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary president and professor of Christian philosophy, has announced that he will retire from the presidency in June 2013. The 2012-2013 academic year will be his last as president, a key leadership role he has held since 1993.  A widely respected scholar,  philosopher, communicator, and leader in the Evangelical world, Mouw has brought significant, positive change to both the seminary and the broader Church over the two decades of his presidency.

“Rich Mouw was destined to be president of Fuller,” says Fuller School of Theology Dean Howard Loewen. “He is fundamentally a conceptual leader with a big vision, and he has consistently demonstrated his deep passion for the transforming truth of the gospel, his ability to relate to his colleagues as a friend, and his heart as a consummate preacher and storyteller.”

Dr. Mouw first joined the Fuller faculty in 1985 as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics, coming with 17 years of experience as a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He then served for four years as provost and senior vice president before being appointed to the presidency in 1993.

Under his leadership, the seminary has seen many beneficial changes that have helped to fulfill Mouw’s vision of Fuller as a premier seminary that is reaching a world in need. Fuller extended its reach during Mouw’s tenure as the seminary’s network of regional campuses across seven states grew and developed, with a new campus recently established in Houston, Texas. The Master of Arts in Global Leadership became Fuller’s first online degree, and a Korean-language Doctor of Ministry program was established.

Creative courses of instruction, research centers, and innovative programs have been developed during Mouw’s presidency, from the Lee Edward Travis Research Institute in 1998 to the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts in 2001 to the Center for Missiological Research in 2008. New academic chairs have been established and filled by world-class scholars, and Mouw has continued in former president David Allan Hubbard’s tradition of attracting the finest board members so that Fuller’s has become one of the most highly recognized boards in Christian education.

Known and respected for his commitment to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue, Mouw has represented the Presbyterian Church (USA) as co-chair of the Reformed-Catholic Dialogue, helped establish an annual series of discussions with Los Angeles area pastors and rabbis, built relationships with the Mormon community, participated in extensive exchanges with Muslim scholars—and devoted himself in numerous other ways to communicating with others in the public square with “convicted civility.”

Called “the most influential Evangelical voice in America—a true Evangelical public intellectual” by Duke Divinity School’s Grant Wacker, Mouw is also a prolific author. His 19 books include, among others, Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World; He Shines in All That’s Fair, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, Praying at Burger King, two books on his theological hero—Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction and The Challenges of Cultural Discipleship—and, most recently, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals. Mouw has also served on several editorial boards, including Books and Culture, and has been the editor of the Reformed Journal.

Following a study leave during the 2013-2014 academic year, Mouw will continue his involvement with the Fuller community in a faculty role.

Fuller Seminary’s Board of Trustees will engage in a search process with the goal of a new president assuming responsibility on July 1, 2013.

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