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Christians for Social Action Records

Identifier: CN 037

Scope and Contents

Collection correspondence, press releases and clippings, lists, minutes, reports, proposals, conference declaration, and financial records, chiefly from workshops sponsored by the Christians for Social Action, 1973-1976 (formerly Evangelicals for Social Action). The records in this collection deal mostly with the origins, agendas, and decisions of the 1973-1976 workshops along with some material which indicate the response to the workshop.


  • Created: 1965-1976

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

After World War II, several of the younger leaders of American Protestant evangelicals became concerned over what they saw as a lack of commitment among evangelicals to the proclamation and achievement of social justice. Partly this was a legacy of the most publicized split between the "fundamentalists" and "liberals" in the early years of the century which made many evangelicals suspicious of the so-called social gospel. However, in the 1960's and 1970's some evangelical preachers, theologians, and educators began to feel that they had gotten too far away from the Biblical injunctions on helping the poor and oppressed. Some of these men and women gathered together in Chicago in 1973 to prepare a statement on the need for Christian social action. According to the letter of invitation which went out, "At a recent conference at Calvin College, a planning committee (John Alexander, Myron Augsburger, Paul Henry, Rufus Jones, David O. Moberg, William Pannell, Richard Pierard, Ronald J. Sider, Lewis Smedes, and Jim Wallis) was formed to plan a Thanksgiving Workshop on Evangelicals and Social Concern. It is a workshop, not a conference. It will be a time for discussing, praying, and concrete planning, not a time for listening to papers." At this workshop, a statement called "A Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern" (also known as the Chicago Declaration) was signed by participants. In this statement they admitted that they had individually and corporately participated in forms of racism and exploitation and pledged themselves, according to a press release, to "rethink their lifestyle and work for a more just distribution of the world's resources." Out of this workshop grew the annual meetings of Evangelicals for Social Actions which were concerned with ways for implementing their concern. A Christian feminist group, the Evangelical Women's Caucus, in part grew out of the meetings of ESA.

Evangelicals for Social Action changed its name to Christians for Social Action in 2020.


4.00 Boxes

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

In 1965 an informal Consultation on Christian Unity was convened by Leslie R. Marston, Bishop Emeritus of the Free Methodist Church. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the obstacles toward unity and what activities evangelicals should be participating in. Rufus Jones read a paper on "What Program and Activities Should Evangelicals be Promoting and Implementing" which came out for a heavier emphasis on social justice. This paper influenced the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism and the Key '73 national evangelistic campaign which in turn influenced the formation of Evangelicals for Social Action. Folder 1-1 contains the papers read at the consultation (Fred P. Thompson, Jr., G. Aiken Taylor, John Warwich Montgomery and Carl H. Lundquist also presented papers) and correspondence defining the purposes of the meeting.

Another file (folder 1-3) contains records of the U.S. Congress on Evangelism held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1969. This was a regional congress held after the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism (sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Christianity Today magazine.) A concern for increasing evangelicals commitment to social justice was also a major theme of this meeting. The file contains correspondence leading up to the meeting, minutes of the executive and the national committees, press releases, budgets, programs and lists of committee members.

In 1972, some evangelicals organized to raise support for presidential candidate George McGovern. Correspondents in the files (folders 1-4) include Michael McIntyre, national coordinator of Religious Leaders for McGovern-Shriver; Walter Howard, Chairman of Evangelicals for McGovern; Ronald Sider, secretary of Evangelicals for McGovern; and Richard Pierard, board member of Evangelicals for McGovern. The letters outline goals and plans for the group, responses to those opposing the groups political views, and acknowledgement of campaign donations by Evangelicals. Also found in the collection is a press release (folder 1-7) from McGovern's speech from Wheaton College's Edman Chapel on October 11, 1972; campaign literature from the Wheaton speech (folder 1-5); and various press clippings (folder 1-6)about the candidate and Evangelicals for McGovern.

Most of the other files contain materials dealing with the ESA workshops. For the initial meeting in 1973 (folders 1-8 through 2-11), there is correspondence between Ronald Sider, Rufus Jones, Lewis Smedes, David Moberg, Richard Pierard and others which led to the decision to hold the workshop; drafts of the proposed declaration, minutes of planning committee; copies of the declaration; lists of original signers of the declaration; correspondence on funding and who to invite; press releases; planning committee memorandums; lists of participants; action proposals on how to implement the decisions of the meeting in the areas of racism, lifestyle, sexism, tithing, and political involvement; a worship liturgy; reportage of the meeting; and the results of a survey conducted by J. Robert Ross on the background of the signers of the Chicago Declaration. Correspondents, beside those already mentioned, include Paul Henry, Walden Howard, James Robert Ross, Paul Simon, Beth Burbank, Nancy Hardesty, Merold Westphal, Carolyn McIntire, Paul Little and Stephen Charles Matt.

Growing out of the ESA workshop of 1973 was a proposal to establish a Center for the Study of Biblical Social Concerns. Most of the material in folders 2-12 through 2-14 is correspondence setting up the study committee and detailing their work. The committee set forth objectives and specific duties for the Center such as serving as a research institution both on the theoretical and practical levels, providing educational resources, sponsoring meetings that deal with aspects of Biblical social concern, and facilitating the publication of research findings in the normal book and periodical channels. The Center never materialized.

For the 1974 Thanksgiving Workshop the collection contains similar materials in folders 2-15 through 3-13; grant proposals; correspondence on agenda, arrangements, and funding; letters reflecting views on how the ESA should develop; programs; lists of participants; financial records; ideas for the 1975 workshop press releases; a copy of the newsletter Daughters of Sarah published by evangelical feminists; and action proposals which include suggestions for a research center and responses to the equal rights amendment. Especially interesting is the correspondence between Dean Kelly from the staff of the National Council of Churches and Ronald Sider, chairman of the ESA on the favorable reaction of the NCC to the Chicago Declaration. Other correspondents include Howard Claassen, Pamela Cole, Rufus Jones, Nancy Hardesty, Paul Henry, Allan Krass, David Moberg, Richard Pierard, D. Elton Trueblood, Horace L. Fenton, Jr., Stephen Board, Ronald Cunsolo, Wesley A. Roberts, Paul Simon, Augustus Cerillo, Jr., Doug Dickey, Ruth Zerner, Fred P. Thompson, Jr., Roger W. Sherry, William W. Menzies and Bob Ross.

Folder 3-14 contains a list of participants in a Consultation on Social Justice and Biblical Faith held jointly by the ESA and the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.

The third ESA workshop was held over the 1975 Labor Day weekend, documented in folders 3-15 through 4-13. The theme was Biblical Models of Social Responsibility. Correspondence include some letters by Rufus Jones responding to critics of the ESA's program. Also included in the files are financial records; lists of participants; memos on arrangements (included in the file is a paper by Robert Webber titled "Historic Models of Social Responsibility"); an open letter by Judy Brown Hull describing the disputes of the 1975 meeting and the possible responses presented by Richard Pierard, Clark Pinnack, Donald Dayton, Dale Brown, and Gordon Spykman on various historic Christian responses to social problems, and reports from magazines and newspapers on the meeting. Correspondents include Dale Brown, Frank Gaebelein, Karin Michaelson, Joel D. Poe, Ron Sider, Arthur Simon, Richard Pierard, Stephen Charles Mott, Marvin J. Van Eldrin and Paul W. Brown.

Materials concerning the "Women in Transition: a Biblical Approach to Feminism" meeting sponsored by the Evangelical Women's Caucus and held November 1975 in Washington D.C. are together in one file (folder 4-14). These records include the paper read by Rufus Jones - "A Biblical Approach to Feminism;" correspondence with people responding to Jones' papers, notes taken by Jones during the meeting; arrangements materials, copies of programs; and news clippings.

The 1976 ESA Workshop on Racism met in Newark, New Jersey. Folders 4-16 through 4-24 contain correspondence dealing with the planning of the meeting; memos on the duties of task force leaders (the meeting was divided into task forces dealing with specific topics: the arts, Christian colleges, Christian communities, media, denominational executives, direct action, economics, politics, prisons, schools, seminaries, Third World, welfare, and changing the local church); minutes of planning meetings; and lists of participants.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were gathered directly from participants in Evangelicals for Social Action: Rufus Jones, Stephen C. Mott, James R. Ross, Marlin Van Elderen, and Richard Pierard.

Accession 78-1, 78-2, 78-3, 78-17, 79-17


Robert Shuster


Mary Ann Buffington

G. Gallup

1/17/90, revised L. Beloz

Collection 037 Christians for Social Action
Bob Shuster
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US