Last week, a group of 50 evangelical leaders met at Wheaton College in Illinois to talk about the state of evangelism.
While the members insisted it wasn’t an anti-Trump gathering, many that attended the meeting have voiced concerns regarding the evangelical movement and the direction it is headed during the Trump-era.
The meeting was organized by Doug Birdsall, an honorary chair of Lausanne, an international evangelical group that unites Christians from all over the world. The group included pastors such as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard and also has leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges, and seminaries.
Shortly after the meeting took place, it surfaced that some in attendance left the meeting due to “one-sided venting” against Trump and his administration. Some of the participants that felt that way actually left after the first day, skipping the second half of the meeting.
Many evangelicals attacked the meeting, calling it a Trump bashing, and arguing that it was doing the opposite of its intentions. Instead of uniting the group, it was breaking people into two categories – Trump supporting evangelicals and anti-Trump evangelicals.
Franklin Graham responded on Facebook, asserting that he is “not interested in fanning out in all kinds of directions,” that he wants to focus on one direction – Jesus Christ.
“I’m interested in focusing on one direction — reaching lost souls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Graham stated. “It is calling people to cross the line from death to life, in Him. That’s evangelism. And that’s what evangelicalism should be about.”
Skye Jethani, an author, speaker, consultant, ordained pastor, and member of the Wheaton meeting, recently addressed criticism regarding the meeting.
Jethani called the sources and reporting that called it a “crazy Trump bashing” misinformed. He stated that their facts were not real, because their sources were unnamed.
“News has been spreading about the meeting of 50 ethnically and denominationally diverse evangelical leaders at Wheaton College earlier this week to discuss the current condition of the movement. Unfortunately, some sources and reporters who were not at the gathering have been framing it as a “crazy Trump bashing” spectacle (CBN News) that led some to “walk out of the meeting” in protest (Fox News). Read those articles carefully and you’ll see references to unnamed sources with “intimate knowledge of the meeting,” but they’re not described as participants who were in the room.”
He called the reporting from CBN News and Fox News “inaccurate and exaggerated.”
Jethani stated that the meeting was held in order to have an uncomfortable conversation about evangelicalism in America and the importance of keeping a “consistent public witness that affirms the dignity of all people as created in the image of God.” He pointed out that the issues discussed at the meeting were problems before the 2016 election, and that President Trump was not the focus of the meeting. But that they prayed for the President.
He continued saying that a Jewish non-participating observer called the meeting “beautiful” and wished that the country could see more evangelicals model the “honesty, humility, compassion, and thoughtfulness he had observed in our meeting.”
Jethani ended saying that just because someone appreciated the group, it was not without discomfort.
“As I said, some of the conversations were difficult. It was a very diverse group — culturally, ethnically, racially, theologically, and politically. And they represented communities, churches, and organizations with incredibly diverse members. Some took risks by attending a meeting that some media outlets had branded as “anti-Trump” even before we met. I learned after the meeting that two attenders did not return for the second day, but they did fully participate in 8 hours of meetings on day one. I would hardly call that walking out in protest.”
To read more about the background of the meeting, and what those in attendance had to say, click HERE.
To read more about the critisim of the meeting, click HERE.