Friday, October 28, 2005

Can Evangelicalism Return to its Social Justice Roots?

For months [Rick Warren] has alluded in general terms to an immense volunteer effort called the PEACE plan, aimed at transforming 400,000 churches in 47 nations into centers to nurse, feed and educate the poor and even turn them into entrepreneurs. Its details remain unknown, but its Rwandan element seems to have outrun the rest. Warren says he was "looking for a small country where we could actually work on a national model," and Kagame, impressed by The Purpose-Driven Life, volunteered Rwanda in March. In July Warren and 48 other American Evangelicals, who have backgrounds in areas like health, education, micro-enterprises and justice, held intensive planning meetings with Rwandan Cabinet ministers, governors, clergy and entrepreneurs. One dinner was attended by a third of the Rwandan Parliament. Says Scott Moreau, a professor of missiology at Wheaton College in Illinois: "I've never heard of this level of cooperation in the last 100 years between any megachurch, mission agency or even a denomination and a national government" (hyperlinks mine)

Time Magazine recently ran an article called Warren of Rwanda where they reported Rick Warren’s recent July meetings with a number of Rwandan leaders.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Boston College professor Alan Wolfe, the Director of The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, wrote of Rick Warren,

Historians are likely to pinpoint Mr. Warren's trip to Rwanda as the moment when conservative evangelical Protestantism made questions of social justice central to its concerns. …Rick Warren could have become satisfied with his national success and ignored problems abroad. Instead he has chosen to make issues of global poverty central to his ministry and for that he deserves his identification by Time magazine as one of the most important evangelicals in America.

(ht to Steve Bush on the Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank blog)

While appreciative, Wolfe is hardly triumphant of Warren’s effort, going on the express a concern that Warren’s Protestant Evangelicalism might itself precipitate strive in this predominantly Catholic country. And while also recognizing Warren’s sincerity, Wolfe is also worried that the Purpose-Driven life approach may be simplistic in this context.

Christianity Today also recently ran a cover story on Warren's efforts in Rwanda.

I can't help but feel positively about this return of Evangelicalism to the type of social justice activism it displayed at its birth in the 18th century (Whitfield founding orphanages in America, etc). I believe good things will come from this.

- the PEACE Plan Site

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