In Rayburn House Office, Building Room 2456, a magnitude 7 evangelical press conference took place yesterday. "The Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform"was launched with over 100 signatures from the broadest collection of evangelical leaders anyone in the room could remember. Even as the press core hurried in to convert the small conference room into a sweatbox, prominent evangelical leaders from well-known organizations were calling in to sign up electronically...
If heaven does any kind of champagne celebration, a few bottles must have cracked open yesterday! Names as varied as Richard Land (Southern Baptist) Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals) Stephen Bauman (World Relief) Gabriel Salguero (National Latino Evangelical Coalition) Carlos Moran (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference) Jim Wallis (Sojourners) and Jim Daley (Focus on the Family) have all thrown their weight behind the document. These plus other names like Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) presented the press conference with the broadest gathering of evangelical witness I have ever known in over 25 years as an evangelical leader. The real fun was that none of the 3 participants I asked could - or would - tell me whose brainchild this was.
A real source of hope was that this unprecedented level of evangelical unity has been forged around immigration - one the most controversial political hot potatoes in American domestic politics. In fact, so seamless was this display of unity that this was the first press conference I have ever attended where the chairing was choreographed so neatly as to make it clear that that no one person was in charge of the event. Hopefully it’s the shape of things to come. Just the night before, a senior staff of the NAE had handed me two of their publications: one on the environment and the other on human sexuality. It seems a responsible kind of balance is descending on US evangelicalism. Even my old friend, the veteran campaigner Jim Wallis blended into the line up on what would have been considered as a radical no-go area for evangelicals 5 years ago.
Quite honestly the wheels could still come off the wagon. The inevitably tiresome subject of human sexuality will emerge. Marriage and Health Care are bound to test the mettle of this single-issue partnership, and everyone will be keeping a keen eye on how all of this affects donor support in the new radicalism. And as we are all painfully aware, presidential races can be bloody affairs in America, with evangelicals appearing as joust-masters.
We must pray that in the coming months this enlarged middle ground of evangelical radicalism will set the pace for a new approach to political engagement. If they accomplish this, not only will it bless America, it will bless the wider evangelical world.
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