USCWM Responds to TIME Feature on Top Evangelicals

The United States Center for World Mission recently released a response to the Feb. 7 issue of TIME magazine in which its founder, Dr. Ralph Winter, was named one of America’s 25 most influential Evangelicals. The statement is one of several that have come out since the release of TIME’s debatable cover story.

While the USCWM said TIME's inclusion of Winter to the cover-story list was “a pleasant surprise,” the Center noted that “TIME’s description was confusing and misleading.”

In particular, the USCWM pointed out two statements.

To one statement, which read, “With his impassioned call in 1974 for Christians to serve the word’s ‘unreached peoples’ […], Ralph Winter revolutionized what remains (even today) the true lifeblood of Evangelicals-missionary work overseas,” the USCWM explained that Winter’s presentation in 1974 at the International congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland “was not the only factor in the truly major shift of perspective in the mission movement-a shift from going to countries and individuals to penetrate hitherto unreached peoples.”

To TIME’s second statement, which spoke of ministering to “Muslim converts to Christianity and African Christians with heretical beliefs,” the USCWM said that “Either the brief phone conversation with the TIME reporter was clearly confused, or TIME’s editors subsequently created confusion.”

“What Winter told the interviewer was that he believes we should lead Muslims to Christ, not necessarily to Christianity,” the USCWM added. “He also mentioned that new movements in Africa are sometimes heretical, not that these heretics are an object of our ministry.”

In addition to errors noted by the USCWM in TIME's seemingly well-intentioned cover story, America’s Evangelical community had brought out a number of other debatable statements following the story's Jan. 31 release.

On a web log posted in Christianity Today, CT “blogger” Ted Olsen noted there to be “28 names on [the] list of 25 (due to the inclusion of three couples), and not everyone is an American (CT executive editor J.I. Packer British born and lives in Canada).”

“But the trickiest word of all is that e-word: evangelicals,” Olsen wrote in the Jan. 31 posting. “Already, several bloggers are questioning the inclusion of First Things editor Richard John Neuhaus and Sen. Rick Santorum-both Roman Catholics.”

While Olsen said a “list of the 25 most influential evangelicals published by an Evangelical group (such as Christianity Today) would surely be somewhat different than TIME's list,” the CT blogger noted that TIME’s reporters “clearly did their homework and chose these names with care.”

Still, Olsen said “the de facto purpose of lists like this is to get people talking, to develop some kind of buzz, to spur some kind of debate.”