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Monday, June 16, 2008

Headline: "Milquetoast Evangelical Manifesto meets Anglican Covenant Fudge: Have Nothing Much To Say"

It would appear that the Anglican Communion is not the only one to be beset by the Evangelical need (read: neurosis) to put things down on paper, carefully numbered, and signed on by absolutely everyone.

And, we’re not the only ones to see the proposed “Anglican Covenant” watered down to a point where the very ones who were its most ardent proponents, and indeed, authors, are now walking away from it. (Can you say GAFCON?)

I’m probably the last one in the universe to know this, but I was talking with a friend at lunch today who told me about the recent (within the last 5 or 6 weeks) publication of something entitled “An Evangelical Manifesto.” I googled it and discovered that apparently, it’s been discussed quite a bit in the secular press.

Hmmm . . . I guess I missed it in my weekly swing of some of the more evangelical blogs (Right now The Bullies are wetting themselves over some documents just released in the Bennison Trial. Can you say "uber-Christian hypocrites? Sad. Sad. Sad).

It was reportedly written to be a “decisive document” a credo that unified American evangelicals around the Christian principles that form the foundations of their faith (sound vaguely familiar)?

You can read about it here: ( The date on the document is May 7, 2008.

Who knew?

From what I can gather, it was born three years ago in the mind of Os Guinness, a Virginia based evangelical. So, together with people like the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, Richard Mouw, and David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, Guinness drafted seven Christian principles that every evangelical could agree on.

Problem is, the manifesto was so vetted that it didn’t say anything that anyone who even heard the word ‘evangelical’ couldn’t have made a wild guess about and been right.

It begins with this: “Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Get outta town! Really?

They also say: “Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human,” and, they also believe that salvation comes through grace, not deeds.

Son of a gun! All this time and I didn’t know it: I’m an evangelical.

You know, I’ll bet most of you who are reading this right now are saying, “Whoa! I’m an evangelical, too.”

Interestingly enough, while the document describes scripture as “our final rule for faith and practice,” it does NOT tackle the issue of the inerrancy of Scripture.

Neither does it deal with what I always thought prevented me from ever having a hope of being numbered among the ‘real’ Evangelicals: the obligation to convert the unconverted to Christ and the appropriateness of doing that in the public square.

They also make this amazing statement (well, amazing to me, anyway): “Evangelical belief is expressed as much in our worship and in our deeds as in our creeds.”

Sounds downright Anglican, doesn’t it? Do the words “lex orendi, lex credendi strike a familiar note?

The other fascinating thing I’ve learned is that some of the Evangelical heavyweights have not signed on: Not James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

Not Chuck Colson of the Prison Fellowship.

Neither has Richard Land of the Southern Baptists.

Also missing are Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, and although Rick Warren apparently had a hand in helping draft the document, his name does not appear among the signers.

However, Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner’s Magazine is a “charter signatory,” along with Mark Balley, President of The Dallas Seminary, Don Argue, chancellor of Northwest University, Sam Moffett, professor emeritus of Princeton, and Dean Hirsch, President of World Vision.

I didn’t see any Anglican or Episcopal signers, which I find absolutely fascinating.

All of that apparently makes no nevermind to the authors of the Manifesto. They write: “As followers of “the narrow way,” our concern is not for approval and popular esteem.”

Well, there it is, then.

Alan Jacobs, professor at Wheaton College, says that the problem with the Evangelical Manifesto is that it’s not a manifesto at all. It’s polite and embracing, he says, and a welcome change in religious discourse, but it’s porridge.

Hmm . . . I suspect ‘Evangelical Porridge’ and ‘Milquetoast Manifesto’ will taste just fine with ‘Anglican Covenant Fudge’.

Guess we’ll find out ‘round about August 3 from Lambeth Palace, Canterbury, England. Stay tuned.

Except, of course, if you are a 'narrow way' Evangelical - then you wouldn't give two figs about any of it, anyway.


David said...

Personally I find these Manifestos and Covenants very sad, and believe that in the long run they will prove to be absolutely meaningless.
Little more than the second or third to last desperate gasp of the patriarchy which could leave them grasping little more than the hollow shell of a monolith, while the Holy Spirit, works joyous healing and renewal elsewhere.

Implicitly, both documents are instruments of power. Power in the long run little more than the necessary illusion of the impotent- hence my suggestion that in the long run both documents will prove little more than historical artifacts, left behind in the wake of the awesome renewal God is calling all of creation into.
Just a thought....


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I agree, David, but I do find myself encouraged by what has happened to The Evangelical Manifesto in terms of The Anglican Covenant.

May it also be so for us.

Jim said...

Rev Elizabeth,

My fear is that because it has such high velocity support (Dr. Williams) the Anglican Covenant or something else very like the St. Andrew Would Leave draft will eventually be thrust upon us. Consider what has happened to the Windsor report's recommendations. We now have the phrase, "Windsor compliant," and slightly more sickening, "Windsor bishops."