What does it mean to be evangelical?

Snowy Durham street

Snow in Durham!

Well I am back from my holiday. It was a much-needed break from the island and I crossed off a ‘first’ or two — it was my first time seeing snow fall! Many people find it hard to believe that I never saw snow come out of the sky until now, but I grew up in sub-tropical Darwin. Snow is not my natural habitat.

Steve and I were not very good at taking footage while we were out doing things, but we did film a video together about ten minutes before we were due to part ways. I also got a haircut. Haircuts are important.

In my week away I didn’t read any blogs at all, so I’ve been doing a lot of catch-up today. After a cursory browse of my RSS reader I’ve noticed that “Gigliogate”, as it’s been dubbed, has continued to grow, with Andrew Marin uninvited (disinvited? I don’t even know anymore) from speaking at the United Nations. Andrew seems to think it’s because he identifies himself as an evangelical.

I’m beginning to feel weird and gossipy so I don’t want to dwell on Louie Giglio’s inauguration mishaps any further, but there has been a lot of navel-gazing about evangelicalism generally, which is a conversation that’s really interesting to me.

For the record, I still identify as evangelical. I felt really ambivalent about the label up until I moved to Iona to work with the Iona Community and realised that actually, that’s still the best descriptor for whatever it is I am. The good folk who follow me on Tumblr ask me about this from time to time, and you can read my response if you wish.

Still, when high-profile evangelical leaders begin to speak against previously-unquestioned doctrine and Tony Campolo suggests evangelicalism is headed for a split, it makes me wonder if we’ve already, er, splat and I just don’t realise it yet.

But as Rachel Held Evans recently blogged, I’m pretty sure I’m still more at home in evangelical churches than in progressive/liberal ones, and I’m sure I’m not the only uneasy evangelical who feels this way. I’m still fairly confident that evangelicalism as a movement is robust enough to survive whatever stresses it’s going through now, even if it has to shrink in the process, but I don’t know if or how it will reform.

Perhaps worrying about labels like this is a waste of time — “evangelical” is a nebulous term anyway, and we can’t even seem to agree if it should be capitalised! — but the ongoing evolution of what it means to be evangelical will have a profound impact on the Christians who identify as such.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts. What do you think it means to be evangelical?

One thought on “What does it mean to be evangelical?

  1. Found your blog via your most recent video, and this is so interesting. : ) I identify myself as a catholic Anglican, but I’ve also spent a lot of time in evangelical contexts and find myself agreeing with many tenets of evangelicalism (high view of scripture, credal conservatism, importance of personal salvation and emphasis on relationship with God in Jesus). I wouldn’t call myself an evangelical, though, because of its association with several things I can’t agree with (penal substitution as a single model for atonement, social conservatism, uncritical engagement with scripture) – even though I know many evangelicals who think like I do about these matters. And actually, in many cases I am much closer to the evangelical perspective than to that of my fellow catholics. Hmm…

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