The Chicago Declaration

In all my research, I never came across a good photo of the meeting, so this picture of Chicago YMCA from the 1920s will have to do.

The narrative of Moral Minority is structured around a meeting. Doesn’t sound promising, I know, except that there’s a gunshot (buy the book!). The meeting of several dozen progressive evangelical activists took place on Thanksgiving weekend in 1973 at a YMCA in downtown Chicago. It was a kind of coming-out party for the evangelical left, and major newspapers covered the gathering. The Washington Post reported that delegates sought to “launch a religious movement that could shake both political and religious life in America.” At the end of the weekend, delegates released a hard-hitting manifesto called the Chicago Declaration that confessed that evangelicals “have not proclaimed or demonstrated [God’s] justice to an unjust American society.”

My thick description of the Chicago meeting is located in Chapter 9 of Moral Minority. The last four chapters describe how the evangelical left failed to live up to the initial promise of the Chicago Declaration (why it became a moral minority instead of a moral majority). The first eight chapters, on the other hand, describe the emergence of the evangelical left in the years leading up to the 1973 Chicago Declaration–and the excitement over its significant potential. Each of these chapters is organized around biographical sketches of key delegates at the YMCA meeting in Chicago. Jim Wallis embodied the antiwar impulse of the evangelical left, Sharon Gallagher a communal impulse, Senator Mark Hatfield an electoral impulse, and so on. Over the next several months leading up to Moral Minority’s publication, I’ll be highlighting these important progressive evangelicals. Stay tuned . . .

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