The American “evangelical” Church finds itself at an important cultural juncture. In the wake of another presidential election, many disturbing realities about the state and integrity of this expression of the Church are being brought to light.
With good cause, several significant Christian organizations (several Missio Alliance authors included) have engaged these issues with respect to one of the candidates in particular through op-ed’s, declarations, and even denouncements. These are needed voices and we give thanks for them. At the same time, we feel that it is important to speak directly to the household of God, calling us, together, to a place of repentance, resistance, reconciliation, and renewal in view of what we are seeing and realizing about the state of “evangelical” Christianity.
We take this selection from Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment (a foundational document for our ethos and ministry) as an instructive reminder:
We love God above all rivals. We are commanded to love and worship the living God alone. But like Old Testament Israel we allow our love for God to be adulterated by going after the gods of this world, the gods of the people around us. We fall into syncretism, enticed by many idols such as greed, power and success, serving mammon rather than God. We accept dominant political and economic ideologies without biblical critique. We are tempted to compromise our belief in the uniqueness of Christ under the pressure of religious pluralism. Like Israel we need to hear the call of the prophets and of Jesus himself to repent, to forsake all such rivals, and to return to obedient love and worship of God alone.
It is in this spirit that Missio Alliance sets forth the following confession and call to action. Let us – all of us, but especially those of us with disproportionate amounts of cultural power and privilege – acknowledge our complicity in the sins of the American “evangelical” Church and our failure to fully reflect the way of Jesus.
Where the election has revealed mixed allegiances, we confess that we have not trusted in Jesus as our Lord and King.
We confess the ways we have become like the chief priests before Pilate who claimed they had no king but Caesar, forgetting God was their King. We have lived as if to proclaim that we have no king but the President of the United States, giving lie to our witness before all people that we are followers of Christ. We have for too long served the god of American nationalism rather than our Lord Jesus Christ.
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to the lordship of Christ through daily prayer and careful reflection on Scripture’s witness to the good news of God’s kingdom.
Where the election has revealed a lack of ecclesial integrity, we confess that we have abandoned our vocation as the people of God.
We confess that we have exchanged the birthright of being a blessing to all people for the poor pottage of political power. We have turned salvation into a moral and spiritual event for individuals, ignoring the social character of salvation and the necessity of our witness based on our love for one another, especially “the least of these.”
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to engagement in the worshipping and missional life of our local churches.
Where the election has revealed competing worldviews, we confess that we have lost sight of Scripture as the authoritative narrative of our true identity.
We confess that we have not allowed the inspired and infallible revelation given to us through the scriptures to have its full and proper authority in our lives. We have too easily obeyed the teachings of our faith that align with our political dispositions and neglected the teachings of our faith that do not.
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to a comprehensive holiness as we immerse ourselves in the narrative of Scripture and submit to the Holy Spirit, its author and our Lord.
Where the election has revealed racial injustice,we confess that we have perpetuated racial oppression by our actions and inactions, and defiled the image of God in people of color.
We confess any way we have rested secure at the top of the social hierarchy and have ignored the stories of daily abuse, oppression, and humiliation experienced by minorities within white American culture. We have too often exonerated ourselves because we are not individually “racists” or because we feel helpless to overcome “racism” even when we acknowledge that it exists.
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to understanding our privilege, how it affects our brothers and sisters of color, and learning to recognize and name systems of injustice we have unknowingly and knowingly perpetuated.
Where the election has revealed gender injustice, we confess that we have defiled the image of God in women.
We confess any way we have not stood for the honor and dignity of every woman among us, we have tolerated and even perpetuated “locker room” talk that objectifies women, perpetuates violent misogyny, and overlooks claims of assault by silencing victims through minimizing the offenses. We have waited far too long to listen to and learn from the abused women all around us and have waited too long to call out this crisis inside and outside the church.
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to creating safe places of listening to these stories and to fully honoring the image of God in women.
Where the election has revealed social injustice,we confess our failure to lovingly embrace and provide for the poor and marginalized.
We confess that, opting for the comfort of sameness and individual self-sufficiency, we have failed to embody God’s desire for churches to practice radical hospitality and sacrificial, interdependent living. As a result, those who are poor (materially or relationally) or socially marginalized, including mothers in distress and the unborn, have been cut off from the hope and healing of God among his people.
We therefore pledge to renew our commitment to humbly pursuing the “other” as loved and welcomed into our fellowships.
Lord, hear our prayer!
** This confession originated from a conversation between Mandy Smith, David Fitch, and Geoff Holsclaw on a recent episode of the Theology on Mission podcast. Many friends of varying gender, racial, and social backgrounds were consulted and have contributed to its final form. Please note: We fully acknowledge that these are by no means the only sins that we ought to name and repent of as the “evangelical” church. We name these sins because they seem to be at the forefront of a collective consciousness at the moment and in hope that beginning here will open up a space for God’s further work among us as his people.