What do charismatics and evangelical social activists have in common? Forty Christian leaders representing both camps met last month in Sierra Madre, California, to find out.
Historically, these groups have represented divergent perspectives on the priorities mandated by the Christian faith. But the paper “Words, Works, and Wonders: The Power and Justice of the Kingdom of God,” which came out of the meeting, affirms that the constituencies share “a commitment to the Bible as our authority and inspiration and to the Holy Spirit as our guide, convictor, and empowerer.” Moreover, the paper notes that some attending the conference came because they are seeking “a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit in their social action ministries,” while others attended because of a “growing conviction that the Holy Spirit … has a heart for the whole world and especially the poor.”
Michael Harper, director of an Anglican charismatic renewal organization in the United Kingdom, and Ronald Sider, executive director of Evangelicals for Social Action, coordinated the conference, at which all six continents were represented.
Sider characterized the meeting as the beginning of a dialogue. He said charismatics and social activists have a lot to learn from each other. “We evangelical social activists can learn to be open to the presence, the guidance, and the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The paper acknowledges that questions remain, including “How do we relate the call to suffer redemptively and the call to attain victory over evil?” The only specific proposal to emerge from the meeting was to continue the dialogue. The planning committee was asked to arrange a second meeting with additional participants for sometime within the next two years.
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