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.
I WAS a participant in the room and can assure you these reports are inaccurate and exaggerated.
We gathered to have an honest, and at times uncomfortable, conversation about the current state of American evangelicalism. All of the issues discussed predated the 2016 election and the focus of the dialogue was not the President or any current policy matters. The focus was how to have a consistent Christian public witness that affirms the dignity of all people as created in the image of God. We explored our history and affirmed when evangelicals did this well, and when necessary we lamented when we have not. There were extended times of prayer, confession, repentance, and open discussion. And, yes, we prayed for President Trump.
Near the end of the first day, a non-participating observer of the meeting felt compelled to take the microphone. He explained that he was Jewish and not an evangelical nor a Christian, but described what he had seen throughout the day as "beautiful." He hoped that more of the country could see evangelical leaders model the honesty, humility, compassion, and thoughtfulness he had observed in our meeting.
That affirmation does not mean the gathering was 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.
If you're interested in more accurate accounts of the meeting from people who were actually there, I recommend these reports:
By Peggy Wehmeyer:
Darrell Bock is quoted extensively in this article:
Finally, Michael Gerson was not in attendance, but his op-ed captures the spirit of the meeting:
Originally posted on Skye Jethani's Facebook page.