From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a January 1994 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

At the start of a new year it is good to reflect on the social responsibility that a vital Christian faith engenders. Following Christ is necessarily tied to a concern for the poor and defenseless. Love of God and love of neighbor are two sides to the same door — we must do both to get through the door. And like the Samaritan we soon discover that our path often leads us to the broken and bleeding of humanity.

Anger and Abuse

This issue of the Perspective focuses on the Social Justice tradition, or the Compassionate Life. The issues in this aspect of life are always multi-layered and never easy, so we need the best thinking we can get to help us find our way. Donn Thomas, one of our Renovaré team members, shares with us very personally about the problems of anger and abuse among African-American males. Donn, who is African-American himself, grew up in inner-city Cleveland. It is important for us all to enter the unique context of African-American males in this country and feel their pain with them. And as we do so, we will garner many insights for contexts that are other than African-American and male.

Chicago Declaration II

Twenty years ago a group of Evangelical leaders gathered in Chicago to draft a statement on social justice that came to be known as Chicago Declaration”. Over the past two decades this has been a vigorous and influential document in heightening the social awareness of many Christian groups. On the twentieth anniversary of that declaration a call went out for Evangelical leaders to gather, to take stock of where we have come, and to issue a second statement — Chicago Declaration II: A Call for Evangelical Renewal.” Donn Thomas and I were asked to be delegates to this important effort whose number included such well-known Christian leaders as Ron Sider, Roberta Hestenes, John Perkins, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Tony Campolo, and Samuel Escobar. Others gathered for a variety of workshops on social issues while the delegates — about eighty in number — struggled for two days to draft the declaration.

The process we went through to draft CDII was almost as important as the declaration itself. With complex issues and deeply-felt concerns it would have been easy for the whole process to have broken down and each leader to go his/her own way. However we stayed with each other and finally, after an all night drafting session, we joyfully and tearfully echoed the early Christian affirmation, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

The document that came from those days of intensive, prayer-filled effort — Chicago Declaration II — is, I believe, of immense significance, and we are printing the entire text in this Perspective. I would encourage you to use it for ongoing study and reflection in your spiritual formation group and other settings.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Chicago Declaration II

Twenty years ago a group of evangelical Christians, committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of Scripture, gathered in Chicago to offer a declaration of social concern. Today in 1993, evangelicals sharing these same concerns and convictions have gathered again in Chicago to reflect and reconsider what we should do in the midst of a worsening social and moral crisis.

We Give Thanks

We give thanks for the Christian communities that are living out the sacrificial and compassionate demonstration of the reconciling love of God. Their faithfulness encourages us to follow Christ more closely in the power of the Holy Spirit. While we acknowledge our weaknesses and confess our failures, we take heart from the love of God at work in their lives and communities.

We Weep and Dream

We weep for those who do not know and confess Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. We dream of a missionary church that, by its witness and love, draws people into a living relationship with our Lord.

We weep over the persistence of racism, the broken relationships and the barriers that divide races and ethnic groups. We dream of churches that demonstrate the reconciling Gospel of Christ, uniting believers from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

We weep over the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, the scandal of hunger, and the growing number of people who live in oppressive conditions, insecurity, and danger. We dream of churches that work for education, economic empowerment and justice, both at the personal and structural levels, and that address the causes and the symptoms of poverty.

We weep over escalating violence, abuse, disregard for the sanctity of human life, and addiction to weapons — in both nations and neighborhoods — that destroy lives and breed fear. We dream of faith communities that model loving ways of resolving conflict, and seek to be peacemakers rather than passive spectators, calling the nations to justice and righteousness.

We weep over the brokenness expressed in relationships between generations, between men and women, in families, in distorted sexualities, and in cruel judgementalism. We dream of faith communities that honor and protect both our elders and our children, foster a genuine partnership and mutual submission between men and women, nourish healthy families, affirm celibate singleness, work for healing and compassion for all, and for the keeping of marriage covenants.

We weep over the spiritual emptiness and alienation of modern secular society. We dream of a redemptive church that restores personal identity, provides loving community, offers purpose in life, and brings transcendent values and moral conscience to the public square.

We weep over our exploitive practices and consumerist lifestyles that destroy God’s good creation. We dream of a Church that leads in caring for creation and calls Christians to serve as faithful partners of God in renewing and sustaining God’s handiwork.

In all of these, we have fallen so far short of God’s glory and awesome holiness, yet we rejoice that in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called by God to the obedience that comes from faith.

We Commit

Because of the hope we have in the Gospel, we dare to commit ourselves to the kingdom of God and oppose the demonic spiritual forces that seek to undermine the reign of God in this world. Because of our faith we dare to risk and seek the future that God has promised, and we give ourselves to works of love.

We recommit ourselves to grow in the knowledge and the love of God, drinking from the well of worship and praise, word and sacrament. We commit ourselves to sacrificial and loving engagement with God, with all other Christians, and with a needy world.

We commit ourselves to share the good news of Jesus Christ, by living and announcing the Gospel of the kingdom, so that all may come to know, love, and serve God.

We repent of our complacency, our reliance on technique, and our complicity with the evils of the status quo. We repudiate the idolatries of nation and economic system, and zealously dedicate ourselves to Christ and his kingdom’s values. We turn away from obsession with power, possessions, self-fulfillment, security and safety, and willingly risk discomfort and conflict as we live our dreams.

In 1973, we called evangelicals to social engagement: this call still stands. We are thankful that more social engagement is emerging, yet tragically it has frequently divided us along ideological lines. Too often recent evangelical political engagement has been uncivil and polarizing, has demonized opponents, and lacked careful analysis and biblical integrity. Faithfulness to the full authority of the Scriptures transcends traditional categories of left and right.

The Gospel is not divided — it embraces both the call to conversion and the summons to justice. Obedience to Jesus’ teaching and example demands congregations that integrate prayer, worship, evangelism, and social transformation.

We Pray

In the face of such complex and unremitting problems, we claim the promise of God to give wisdom to those who ask. Therefore we ask: Oh God, Giver and Sustainer of life, Holy Redeemer and Lord, comforting and empowering Spirit, teach us your ways, show us your will, give us your presence, and pour out your power. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

November 211993

Text First Published January 1994