Reflecting on the 1973 Chicago Declaration: Legacies and Challenges for Christian Higher Education Today

How can evangelical communities work together amidst differences to cast a vision for gospel witness? This article focuses on the origins, process, and legacies of the 1973 Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, with reflections on its challenges to Christian higher education today. The process of crafting this document and its resulting institutional and sociocultural legacies provide insight on how a small group of evangelicals convened an incipient movement and attempted—with limited and perhaps unforeseen successes—to steer the United States evangelical church toward justice-oriented social action. There remains much scope within Christian higher education to cultivate a social imaginary in our learning communities that embraces faithful engagement with structures and systems as integral to Christian witness. Laura S. Meitzner Yoder serves as John Stott Endowed Chair of Human Needs and Global resources, and professor of environmental studies at Wheaton College. Amy Reynolds is associate professor of sociology at Wheaton College. James G. Huff, Jr. is associate professor of anthropology and associate director of Human Needs and Global resources at Wheaton College.

Over the 1973 Thanksgiving weekend, a group of fifty North American evangelical academics, publishers, and church leaders gathered at the YMCA Hotel in Chicago during a time of national political crisis. United in their yearning for “total discipleship” in all areas of public as well as private life, they aimed to craft a shared vision for a renewed United States evangelical “biblical social witness” and commitment toward Christian action on behalf of those suffering marginalization, oppression, and violence.

After days of earnest discussion and wrestling together, their resulting Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern (better known as the “Chicago Declaration”) was the enthusiastic articulation of aspirations from this group who envisioned the possibility and promise of a national evangelical movement that would embrace justice within their practice of faith and effect significant positive systemic change. For convener Ron Sider and others, “[t]hat evangelism and social concern are inseparable and that individual and structural sin are equally abhorrent to Jahweh are among the more important theological affirmations of the Chicago Declaration.” Participants hoped that this framing would have tangible, broad-reaching outcomes in socio-political and economic arenas of United States public life, especially focusing on global economic disparity, racial and sexist discrimination, materialistic overconsumption, militarism, and violence. Although their hope for a sea change in United States evangelicalism was not realized in subsequent years, the Chicago gathering and its Declaration established and continues to encourage a persistent strand that pursues these commitments in the United States evangelical church.

Before discussing the origins, legacies, and challenges it offers Christians in higher education today, we invite you to slowly read the pithy Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern itself. Consider: If you were to read this piece aloud in class without revealing its date, authorship, or context for your students, from what time period and writers might your students surmise that these words emanated? What aspects do you think would catch the attention of your students today?

“As evangelical Christians committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the full authority of the Word of God, we affirm that God lays total claim upon the lives of his people. We cannot, therefore, separate our lives in Christ from the situation in which God has placed us in the United States and the world.

We confess that we have not acknowledged the complete claims of God on our lives.

We acknowledge that God requires love. But we have not demonstrated the love of God to those suffering social abuses.

We acknowledge that God requires justice. But we have not proclaimed or demonstrated his justice to an unjust American society. Although the Lord calls us to defend the social and economic rights of the poor and the oppressed, we have mostly remained silent. We deplore the historic involvement of the church in America with racism and the conspicuous responsibility of the evangelical community for perpetuating the personal attitudes and institutional structures that have divided the body of Christ along color lines. Further, we have failed to condemn the exploitation of racism at home and abroad by our economic system.

We affirm that God abounds in mercy and that he forgives all who repent and turn from their sins. So we call our fellow evangelical Christians to demonstrate repentance in a Christian discipleship that confronts the social and political injustice of our nation.

We must attack the materialism of our culture and the maldistribution of the nation’s wealth and services. We recognize that as a nation we play a crucial role in the imbalance and injustice of international trade and development. Before God and a billion hungry neighbors, we must rethink our values regarding our present standard of living and promote a more just acquisition and distribution of the world’s resources.

We acknowledge our Christian responsibilities of citizenship. Therefore, we must challenge the misplaced trust of the nation in economic and military might—a proud trust that promotes a national pathology of war and violence which victimizes our neighbors at home and abroad. We must resist the temptation to make the nation and its institutions objects of near-religious loyalty.

We acknowledge that we have encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity. So we call both men and women to mutual submission and active discipleship.

We proclaim no new gospel, but the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, frees people from sin so that they might praise God through works of righteousness.

By this declaration, we endorse no political ideology or party, but call our nation’s leaders and people to that righteousness which exalts a nation.

We make this declaration in the biblical hope that Christ is coming to consummate the Kingdom and we accept his claim on our total discipleship till he comes.”

November 25, 1973, Chicago, Illinois

Background and context

In the early 1970s, United States evangelicals deeply concerned about Christian social engagement were making connections with each other to reflect on contemporary political circumstances. 7 Sider noted that this “rapidly growing movement of biblical social concern” occurred within the “creative ferment and rapid growth among evangelicals” fostered by the “continuing success of the Graham crusades, the Jesus Movement, and the more recent outbreaks of revival.” Ron Sider and others formed a group called Evangelicals for McGovern in 1972 to support the Democratic presidential nominee, in part to challenge the strong evangelical embrace of Richard Nixon; Sider served as the Secretary of the 16-member board of reference comprised of mostly white male college professors. As Evangelicals for McGovern’s chair Walden Howard wrote in his original appeal to evangelicals, “Let’s end the outdated stereotype that evangelical theology automatically means a politics unconcerned about the poor, minorities, and unnecessary military expenditures.” They sent out over 8,000 letters; although the group garnered little financial support and received criticism from political conservatives, it mobilized and appealed to a number of Christians. On October 11, 1972, the former Methodist pastor and history professor Senator George McGovern spoke in Edman Chapel at Wheaton College to a packed and vocally divided audience.

In the wake of McGovern’s landslide loss to Nixon, Sider wrote to supporters, “Where do we go from here? Certainly, we need to continue the political struggle for justice and peace! But do we need some organized structure for evangelical political action? Is an informal set of relationships built on personal friendship and contact at various religious gatherings sufficient? Or do we need an organization. . . . If you have some thoughts on this, drop me a paragraph or two.” Many individuals expressed a desire to continue engaging with each other on developing a vision for an evangelical role in justice-oriented political action, leading to the November 1973 Workshop where the Chicago Declaration was penned. However, unlike Evangelicals for McGovern, this group was avowedly non-partisan and drew from a broader spectrum of church leaders, with the resulting statement noting “we endorse no political ideology or party.” For those in both political parties, the political crisis of Watergate was an important prompt for the steering committee that organized the Thanksgiving Workshop on Evangelicals and Social Concern. As Sider noted, the “Watergate scandal has provoked not just dismay but deep reflection among many politically conservative evangelicals…….. forcing evangelicals to reexamine many fundamental assumptions about the supposed justice of governmental policy and practice both at home and abroad.” The all-male planning committee had much communication around who should be invited, seeking representatives from deliberately broad demographic and especially ecclesial landscapes across the United States.

Thanksgiving Workshop: Participation and process

The 1973 Thanksgiving Workshop participants came together with different expectations of priority focus areas, diversity, and representation; the crowd’s composition impacted the event itself, immediate outcomes, controversies, and its legacy. Aspiring to build an inclusive movement, the event was initiated and planned by a network of mostly white Christian academic men and deliberately located in Chicago (rather than suburban Wheaton, among other options considered) in order to reflect proximity to the social concerns of the meeting’s purpose. Several signatories noted that the event included “an extremely diverse group of evangelical leaders” and bridged “generation[al] . . . racial, sexual, and denominational gaps.” Some of the younger leaders had dismissed older evangelicals as uncaring about Christians’ corporate Biblical social responsibility, but “discovered a surprising degree of agreement (despite many differences on specific issues) on the part of elder evangelical statesmen.” While the 1973 gathering sought to include a broad spectrum of denominational and geographic representation in a time (as now) when evangelical identity and belonging were being redefined, it was apparent to some participants that their experiences, aspirations, and histories of activism were poorly understood and scarcely considered by the men who convened the meeting.

Participants’ sense of urgency, willingness, and capacity to recognize and to name systemic injustice varied. There were many models of evangelicals historically and actively addressing the justice issues under discussion—Ruth and William Bentley’s key roles in the 1963 founding of the National Association of Black Evangelicals, the work of John Perkins and later Mendenhall Ministries, the Latin American theologians including René Padilla and Samuel Escobar calling for integral mission—but these experiences had not been widely received as compelling resources or templates by and for the North American white church. It was exactly this “sound of silence . . . [f]oot- shuffling, side-stepping, and relaxing in the status quo” of white evangelicals that participants aimed to address. A Church of the Brethren representative reflected that for one longer steeped in Christian social action, the deliberations seemed to be “Johnny-come-lately concerns about racism, sexism, imperialism, and militarism.” The Chicago Declaration itself—unlike its 2018 reprise in the “Chicago Invitation” discussed below—did not acknowledge or position itself as building upon the long-standing and existing work of others, including centuries of struggle and witness by working-class and marginalized communities.

Participants who needed to advocate for additions to the 1973 Workshop’s content challenged the implicit default “we”—who were the assumed authors and audience, and whose priorities were paramount—in the document. The original pre-Workshop draft of the Chicago Declaration met with sharp criticism at the gathering’s start from Black and women attendees who called attention to their underrepresentation, while pacifists pointed out that the budgetary critique of the United States military-industrial complex made no mention of the current war’s effects on the Vietnamese. William Bentley, president of the National Black Evangelical Association, noted that “Blacks especially had to press aggressively for a strong statement on the complicity of white evangelicalism in the individual manifestations and group mechanisms that originated and perpetuate racial oppression in America.”

Editor and professor Nancy Hardesty observed that few participants could “recognize the sexism inherent in our social institutions. Some were almost totally unaware of the issues.” She noted reluctance to include any direct mention of sexism in the draft, even when proposed, stating that the Workshop was “one of the first occasions on which a group of conservative Christian leaders was obliged to take the issue of women’s rights seriously.” Samuel Escobar, the Peruvian director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship-Canada and the only international person at the event, lamented the deep pain he felt with “the shocking realization that maybe our people—our evangelical rank and file—are not ready for some truth at all. It is not only that a huge dose would prove to be fatal, but that just a drop will be too much.” Escobar noted that evangelicals may hear radical speakers, but then “carry on business as usual. Structures are not touched. Presuppositions are not criticized.” Subsequent meetings to enact concrete actions following the Chicago Declaration broadened this assumed community and its outcomes.

Continuing developments and legacies

While the November 1973 Workshop produced the Chicago Declaration, it is best not viewed as a stand-alone statement; it came from a particular history and was developed in the ensuing years with more concrete actions and activity. Subsequent meetings in November 1974 and November 1975 aimed to expand and to enact the original Declaration; as noted in the December 3 press release following the 1974 meeting, “an enlarged group of [134] evangelical leaders from all parts of the country returned to Chicago’s dingy YMCA over the Thanksgiving weekend to add actions to their words of last year. In order to implement last year’s Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, they developed and accepted, in plenary session, a host of specific action proposals.” Many of the signers were academics, and the 1974 proposals developed to flesh out the Chicago Declaration reflected the importance of research and scholarship around the statement’s goals. This meeting led to the creation of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), an organization committed to the Chicago Declaration principles. The 1974 Workshop was also tied to the start of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus, often seen as the start of institutional Biblical feminism.

A persistent challenge of the group was thinking about “who” they represented—not so much to exclude, but to allow for greater depth and consciousness raising among those they saw as their audience. Correspondence reveals how important it was to the group to have bridges with others, across religious lines. However, the Chicago Declaration was intended to speak specifically to those with an infallible view of the Bible, and those in the evangelical tradition in the United States that often failed to speak into social inequities. In the near term, the “we” of this group also expanded, with a recognition that racial diversity and gender representation was critical to understanding and addressing the issues. This was reflected in membership of the 1974 and 1975 steering committees, the people chairing portions of the meeting, and the invited guests. There were six task forces with assigned coordinators at the November 1974 meeting: raising consciousness (Jim Wallis, Sojourners community), economic inequality (John Alexander, The Other Side), political engagement (Wes Michaelson, reformed and ecumenical leader), education and research (Richard Pierard, Indiana State University professor of history), racism (William Bentley), and women (Nancy Hardesty).

A number of movements beyond Evangelicals for Social Action were influenced and energized, if not birthed, by the Chicago Declaration. The 1974 meeting resulted in nine specific proposals received by the participants gathered. “In the case of each proposal, a majority of the participants voted to accept the proposal as a valid way to implement the Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern . . . . implementation of specific proposals will be handled by the persons in each task force.” They acknowledge that some of these were widely accepted, while others were more contentious, particularly the submissions by the Black Task Force, the Women’s Task Force, and the proposal around Economic responsibility. American historian Joel Carpenter pointed out that networks involving some of the leaders active in community development who were present—such as John Perkins (Mendenhall) and Wyn Wright and Ron Potter (Voices of Calvary)—were important to the eventual founding of the Christian Community Development Association in 1992.

While Daughters of Sarah, a journal for Biblical feminism was first published around the time of the second Workshop, the Ecumenical Women’s Caucus points to the 1974 Workshop as central to its beginning. Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Hardesty’s All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today was connected to these conversations and was published by Word Books in 1974, receiving positive reviews from places like Christianity Today. Today, both the Ecumenical and Evangelical Women’s Caucus and Christians for Biblical Equality organizations trace their roots to these earlier discussions.

Precursors existed for much of the work being done by the task forces. For example, the Post American (later Sojourners) and Freedom Now (later The Other Side) both started publication before 1973; John Alexander and Jim Wallis were involved in starting those publications which were tied to particular communities. Economic inequality and militarism, issues addressed in these communities, were also key focus areas of the Chicago Declaration group—unlike today, where racism and sexism perhaps garner broader attention among Christian justice advocates. The 1974 proposal from John Alexander, “A Commitment of Economic responsibility,” called people to economic simplicity, to just distribution of global resources, to occupational responsibility in work choices, and to a “radically new moral atmosphere.” This emphasis continued through the 1977 publication of Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which eventually sold half a million copies and was named by Christianity Today as one of the most influential books on religion of the 20th century.

Forty years later, Carpenter highlighted among the Chicago Declaration’s outcomes what he saw as “enduring traits” that shape evangelical engagement. In addition to the previously mentioned impact on community development, he notes three others. First, Christians have social and political roles and responsibilities (even if they disagree)—and in fact, he mentions that leaders of Evangelicals for Social Action have noted the irony of the ensuing political engagement of the religious right. Secondly, there continues to be an “ongoing argument against the idea that evangelical equals conservative.” Lastly, these dialogues helped foster conversation with Global South leaders, furthered by the July 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The third Thanksgiving Workshop was held in 1975. Participants in the ongoing movements spawned in the earlier meetings called people to connect various issues, tracing linkages among racism, sexism, militarism, and resource inequality—both at home and abroad. Although awareness of their own social identities was less central, attention to the diverse interrelationships of justice issues emerged. Despite the initiatives and commitment by members of this group, a robust, unified socially engaged movement did not result from these discussions. In just a few short years, by the early 1980s, United States white evangelicals became even more closely aligned with conservative politics alongside the rise of the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition, which long focused and constrained white evangelical political engagement to a narrow set of issues that did not include any of the justice concerns in the Chicago Declaration. In 2018, Jim Wallis noted, “The declaration came out of a multiracial and intergenerational group that unanimously agreed upon the affirmations we included and felt the result reflected the work that God had done among and through us. That was 45 years ago. reading it today can be heartbreaking.

On the 45th anniversary of the Chicago Declaration in 2018, a “a diverse group of especially younger followers of Jesus, who emerged from and remain within the evangelical tradition” met in Chicago to affirm their commitments to reignite and reshape this movement for the current day and context in the “Chicago Invitation.” In this document, 39 signatories—including a small number of the original 1973 signers, and 16 women leaders—appreciatively affirmed and explicitly aimed to build on the 1973 Declaration “which inspired future generations.” Just as the 1973 Declaration was prompted by the domestic political crisis of Watergate that made many question evangelical identity, affiliations, and commitments, the 2018 Invitation directly referenced United States political events that contributed to what the participants noted was a false and problematic image of evangelicals as “a predominately white, politically right-wing faith group with little to no concern about the poor and oppressed.” Even as some debated continued affiliation with and use of the identifier, Chicago Invitation participants aimed to correct these “false narratives around the identity of evangelicals in the United States [that] undermine Christian witness and distort American politics” by making visible the politically, racially, ethnically diverse array of evangelicals.

Even as mid-1970s efforts to enact the Chicago Declaration broadened the “we” of evangelicals, there remains mixed awareness of how using “we” can still be exclusionary, often still assuming a dominant culture audience. For example, the statement’s focus on “Christian responsibilities of citizenship” may not speak to those who are undocumented or stateless, requiring more serious attention to diversity, representation, and voices. The 2018 Chicago gathering acknowledged what their 1973 forebears did not, stating: “In addition to the 1973 Declaration, many diverse evangelicals, including women, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and Indigenous leaders, have put out strong statements that have often been ignored.” As they noted, in the intervening decades, “Millions of people, especially younger believers, have left the faith during a time in which evangelicalism has become increasingly partisan and politicized.” Just as the 1973 Declaration disavowed partisan affiliation, the 2018 Invitation stated that evangelicals “should not be captive to any political party, because our allegiance belongs to Christ.”

Lessons for our learning communities today

The Chicago Declaration assumes a particular kind of social imaginary. From the outset, it forthrightly names and invites readers to recognize that their personal lives, larger social systems, and God’s working in the world are interconnected realities. The Chicago Declaration links personal values on living standards to global patterns of resource distribution, and it connects racialized attitudes to enduring institutional and international structures of racism, among other interconnections. readers, moreover, are asked to imagine how these relationships might be otherwise. It offers a vision of total Christian discipleship that embodies God’s work of reconciling all things, including transforming personal, social, institutional, and national realities. The Chicago Declaration’s visionary affirmations by a small group of North American evangelical Christians in 1973 and those who still seek to live out these affirmations continue to inspire us as educators working in Christian higher education.

However, its underlying social imaginary is not readily understood or consistently embodied in the learning communities where we work, teach, and learn as university educators and congregants. Many of our students, including those who have been deeply formed by growing up in evangelical churches, come into the classroom relatively unaware of how their lives are enmeshed with others in varied, complex, and contradictory ways. Instead, they tend to imagine their personal lives as fairly circumscribed, individualized domains of experience, while Christian social action remains an unfamiliar arena or is limited to a few topics. Asking our students to consider how their own wealth and consumption patterns are tied up in systems that generate and sustain poverty, for example, initially strikes many of them as an unusual (and, for some, a questionable) exercise. It can be easy to see others’ poverty as systemic but their wealth as simply personal—disconnected from patterns of (mal)distribution. Yet part of what we aim to do in the classroom is to awaken our students’ sociological and ecological imaginations, to help them see, in the words of C. Wright Mills, how all our personal “troubles” are caught up in larger “issues” and systems.

We recognize that developing such habits of systems thinking takes time. Learning to imagine one’s social existence accordingly remains a challenging endeavor, especially given that we and our students engage in habits and practices that reinforce a fairly disentangled social imaginary and individualistic mindset. The work of cultivating a more entangled social imaginary, therefore, is not simply about helping our students envision their social worlds differently. It also requires change in how we as college personnel ordinarily organize and live out the Christian university education project. Our learning together should orient us towards embracing the all-encompassing vision of total discipleship articulated by the Chicago Declaration.

We observe, too, that the Chicago Declaration calls for broad, diverse forms of social action, assuming that conciliatory and, to a lesser degree, confrontational practices of social engagement will be part of evangelical Christian public witness. It invites readers to embody neighborly love to those who suffer “social abuses,” even as it states that our Christian witness must include the overt “condemnation” at home and abroad of interconnected systems of racism and economic injustice. The systems-thinking embedded within the statement aligns with a vision of collective social engagement that compels us to confront and even “attack” systems that divide, victimize, and exploit. To “acknowledge that God requires justice” means that readers recognize the interacting personal and systemic dynamics that create injustice, acknowledge how their actions and inaction perpetuate such sinful dynamics, and commit to the long-term, hard work of building more just communities and life-oriented societies—both close to home and across a distance. The forthright proclamation and bold demonstration of the Chicago Declaration is a strikingly contrasting vision to being “nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of one’s health, and doing one’s best to be successful” that many students and other young people have internalized as appropriate Christian behavior.

While learning about pressing social, economic, political, and economic problems, our students wonder about what individual actions they can do right away or ask for recommendations of where to contribute financially – responses that may minimally disrupt privacy or privileged distance from suffering. Fewer ask how they can engage structural factors, understand and address systemic injustice, or participate directly in the longer-term work of collective action, which may be seen as “too political” or too financially or personally costly, and may contravene the received value of niceness. It is common to see among our students that acting on behalf of those who are poor and oppressed is optional or only for those with a special interest or “calling” to do so, rather than normative Christian behavior. Similarly, making sacrificial lifestyle changes, decisions, or commitments promoting others’ well-being is also seen as discretionary.

We have also observed that many students are dubious about the efficacy of broad, organized projects of change. They are wary of the integrity of organizational leaders, which is unsurprising and understandable given the oft-repeated stories of leadership failure they have heard over their twenty years. They often feel overwhelmed by the scale of social, economic, political, and environmental problems we consider in our courses and despair when learning about the challenges of devising comprehensive solutions. Why bother participating in projects of broader change, some ask, when the problems just persist or seemingly worsen?

This is not to say that our students are apathetic or indifferent. In fact, we are regularly inspired by their commitment to embody an inclusive and robust love of neighbor. As they embark on their college journey, they primarily think about personal and interpersonal actions as the best ways to participate in and to embody the love of neighbor—and the range of God’s redemptive, transformative action is similarly imagined. The church-based outreach activities they routinely experienced growing up are like those found in many evangelical churches in the United States—activities that generally prioritize “one-on-one approaches” to ministry and frame benevolent service to people in need as an essential expression of robust Christian piety. Correspondingly, the practices of social action to which they have been exposed are generally episodic, short-term, and project-oriented. They are well-acquainted with rituals of social action that are generally in the realm of charitable work. They are responsive to messages that frame financial giving, and sometimes increasing their ethical consumption, as what Christians do to change the world. Practices that focus on community organizing and working for collective change, envision ecumenical work for the common good, or call to reduce consumption for the sake of others are novel and little-known. As was true for many participants in the 1973 Thanksgiving Workshop, students are significantly less familiar with the diverse and creative ways that many Christians, especially those from racialized minority communities, the Global South/Majority World, and socioeconomically marginalized groups, have courageously employed disruptive social action practices that clearly name and confront systemic evils in their work against injustice.

We have seen that the 1973 Declaration was a product of a particular historical moment when a small group of evangelical Christians anticipated the emergence of a national movement, one that recognized the reality and need to repent from both individual and structural sins, and to affirm the indivisibility of evangelism and social concern in gospel witness. That the widespread movement Sider and his colleagues had envisioned did not emerge among the next generation of United States evangelicals does not minimize the significance of the Chicago Declaration. Perhaps its history and legacy are best understood as a story of struggle, one that tempers the “triumphalistic narratives” pervasive in many evangelical communities.


Recognizing social structures’ unjust elements may be learned earlier or more readily by those who suffer within systems than by those who benefit from them. Just as the participants in the 1973 Thanksgiving Workshop learned from the pointed critique they received from their underrepresented peers, many of us in the academy need to constantly examine from whom we are learning and with whom we are seeking community. These include the witness of those in the past and present who faithfully work towards a holistic practice of biblical justice and shalom in the midst of hardship and marginalization. A challenge for us as educators is to introduce our students to the historical and contemporary social movements, across geography and social context, that have been addressing injustice and social abuses in their own contexts for a long time. There is much scope for learning responses to wealth and poverty, suffering and oppression, violence and peacemaking in various disciplines and contexts: in the early church, with people from different locations and political circumstances, from those of ecclesial traditions other than our own. It is one thing to be attentive and to learn from suffering or marginalized communities how they have responded to the violence of militarism, racism, sexism, and economic injustice. It is another thing to intentionally allow our lives to be shaped by their witness and life testimonies.

Regularly learning from the church in other places can temper tendencies toward the ever-present danger of Christian nationalism and multiple forms of polarization that have markedly deepened in recent years to the point that people of opposing views may rarely interact. From today’s vantage point, convening people of disparate viewpoints and demographics to spend a holiday weekend together grappling with deeply held beliefs and fears to build a common vision seems remarkable. A theological insight from the Chicago Declaration was that to be biblical, evangelical Christians must overcome latent divisions in sharing God’s good news. As educators and church members, we can earnestly seek, as Sider wrote in the Chicago Declaration fifty years ago, to “discover new ways to listen and learn together. We simply cannot afford the carnal luxury of shouting stereotyped caricatures of each other across the airwaves and printed page.”

The 2018 Chicago Invitation is a reminder that a partisan church can impede its core ministry of reconciliation in the world, even as the church needs to engage the political issues of the day. Just as Sider urged social activists to learn about immersing their movement in prayer from those with political differences, with God’s help may evangelical Christian educators cultivate in ourselves, our students, and our other communities an intentional willingness and capacity to learn from people who are different from us. Perhaps with enough practice, we too will be equipped to sit together for three days to seek ways forward in living out a fuller faith.