Envision '08 Charts Future of Faith in Politics

In the midst of election frenzy, a group of diverse Christian leaders gathered this week for an unprecedented conference that called for rethinking the role of faith in public life.

The Envision '08 conference gathered hundreds of evangelical, mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, and Christians of diverse racial backgrounds at Princeton University on June 8-10 to map out the future of Christian engagement in politics in the next century.

Prominent Christian leaders that spoke at the conference included Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and popular author and innovative Christian thinker Brian McLaren, among others.

"We are not just people of vision, but are also implementing a public strategy that will not only shape the Fall's election, but is transforming culture beyond politics, both in the United States and abroad," Cizik said of the leaders at the Envision conference.

Cizik, who was recently featured in TIME Magazine's top 100 most influential people in the world list, is a key figure in the green evangelical movement that has mobilized churches and Christians to cut carbon emissions and care for creation.

Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis urged attendees to make an impact on society by getting involved in the process.

"Whatever your candidate is, I am sure of one thing," Wallis said, "unless you participate in social movements, the big things won't change."

"Social movements are about the BIG choices – hope or cynicism, and hope is an act of faith," he said.

Envision '08 co-director Lisa Sharon Harper said the conference is an opportunity for followers of Jesus to prepare for their role in a new political era.

"No matter who gets elected, the real work of social change comes after all the confetti has hit the floor," said Harper, founder of New York Faith & Justice and author of the upcoming book Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat, in a statement.

At the end of the conference, the Envision declaration was drafted, which challenges the diverse Christian body to participate in "God's work to eradicate poverty, create peace, and build just communities and right relationships with the earth."

The "Envision the Future: A Declaration on the Common Good" aims to serve as the focal document for the movement of diverse Christians working together despite differences to better the nation and the world through engagement in the public square.