A recent document condemns the Church’s normalization of current corruption and oppression.
By Sarah Nelson
Several biblical and theological studies professors signed the Boston Declaration this month, a statement that condemns Christianity’s involvement with recent expressions of racism, homophobia and sexism in the American political climate.
“We declare that following Jesus today means fighting poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression from the deepest wells of our faith,” the opening paragraph of the declaration states.
BTS professor Christian Collins Winn was among the original authors of the statement along with Peter Heltzel, a theologian at New York Theological Seminary with an evangelical background and Pamela Lightsey, a queer womanist theologian at Boston University.
The Boston Declaration, according to Collins Winn, was inspired by the anti-Nazi Barmen Declaration of 1934 and anti-segregationist Belhar Confession written in South Africa in 1986. Like these two texts, the Boston Declaration “is attempting to respond to our current context in which we appear to have lost a sense of Jesus,” Collins Winn said.
“The document is an attempt to call, especially Christians, to turn away from this obsession with power,” he said. “And, in particular, the ways the desire for power is sort of blinding people to racism, homophobia, the white supremacy violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. A lot of normalizing of these things that are going on from the highest office.”
Talk of drafting a statement between the original signatories began Nov. 6, with the official declaration being released exactly two weeks later on Nov. 20. Collins Winn says the quick turnaround came from a sense of obligation from theologians to speak out against current trends of oppression.
“Choosing life” amidst the death-dealing powers of sin is the primary affirming statement in the declaration, which Collins Winn says means turning away from attempts to reject immigrants, rights to black and brown bodies, women and LGBTQ members.
Over 300 theologians have signed the original Boston Declaration, including professors from Baylor University, St. Thomas, Wheaton College, Azusa Pacific and Messiah College.
Professors Stina Busman Jost, Victor Ezigbo, Erik Leafblad and Bernon Lee are among the Bethel faculty who have signed the declaration thus far.
“It’s an important statement in this time,” Lee said. “I think the credibility of Christianity is at stake. We run the risk of falling into the abyss if we allow current political discourse, and what I consider to be less helpful strains of thinking along these lines, if we allow the church to be dragged into that quagmire.”
Since the Declaration has been released, Collins Winn said the most heartening moment came in the form of an email a student sent thanking him for speaking out. The student, according to Collins Winn, said the declaration made it possible for him to think Christianity has legitimacy in the midst of Christians supporting things that are “fundamentally not Christian.”
“When you have a student who’s like, ‘thank you for signing this,’ it means a lot,” Collins Winn said.
The full text of the Boston Declaration can be found at www.thebostondeclaration.com