Many of you have heard of the “Evangelical Manifesto.” But a whole lot of you have not. The latter are the point of this blog post. I am writing this post to discuss why the Manifesto, in my opinion, did not “work.”
I love the idea of the Manifesto. In fact, it represents so much of what I have been discussing concerning Evangelicalism and the implicit non-institutional identity that we have. The Manifesto was a confession of faith put together by many high profile Evangelical leaders attempting to define and clarify what Evangelicalism is. It had high hopes to remind Evangelicals of our tradition and our mission. Its hopes were to draw attention once again to the center—the anchor—of Evangelicalism by expressing a unified confession of what Evangelicalism is along with what it is not.
However, it did not work – well, that may not be the way to put it. It did not “work” in the sense that it never gained the notoriety or publicity that I believe was intended. The media barely recognized it, if at all. Churches and leaders did not draw attention to it. There was not even too much discussion about it on the bigger blogs.
Why? Why didn’t the Evangelical Manifesto “work”?
It is all about timing.
1. The election: It was produced just before a very emotional political campaign and essentially told Christians (at least this is what they heard) not to worry so much about political party affiliation. At the time, this was like saying Evangelicals are not committed to a particular candidate, which, in turn, said Evangelicals are not necessarily against abortion! I know it really did not say any of that, but that is what many heard because of the timing. Evangelicals were not in a state of mind where such encouragements would be effective. In fact, at the time, some Evangelicals saw it as a between-the-lines proposal encouraging us not not to let their Evangelicalism affect their vote.
2. The Emerging Church: There was an in-house, evangelical, emotional fit going on at the time concerning the “emerging/Emergent” church. No one knew what the emerging church was (including the emerging church), but most evangelical churches had all red flags concerning the “movement.” Since then, the emerging/Emergent church has all but exhausted itself and died, but, at the time, many Evangelicals interpreted the document as overly sympathetic to something they saw as nothing more than a teenager throwing a temper tantrum. Once again, wrong timing.
3. The steering committee was not broad enough: While having Os Guinness, Timothy George, and Dallas Willard on the committee is great, there needed to be the presence of some more high profile leaders. Not Bill Hybels or Rick Warren (both would be great to have, but too radio-active), but the likes of John Piper, Chuck Swindoll, Philip Yancey, Dan Kimball, and Billy Graham (then you could add Hybels and Warren and even James Dobson if he would be willing). There needed to be a representation to the public and a representation to scholarship. It looks like they only were able to pull off the scholarship representation but not the public representation. Even in the area of scholarship, it could have had more balance.
To be up front, I am not an insider to any of the goings-on of the committee or the development of the Manifesto. It may very well be that they tried to get broader representation and they could not. I don’t know. I am thinking this through because I do believe that some sort of Evangelical confession is needed, and it needs to “work.”
Those are my thoughts as to why the Manifesto did not “work.” How about you?