Monday, August 29, 2005

das evangelische kirke?

Anyone who has studied American Religious History knows that defining "evangelical" is a particularly tricky business. Fortunately, Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals provides an especially useful way of delineating references to contemporary American Evangelicalism.

According to the ISAE, there are three senses in which the term "evangelical" is used today:
  1. All Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. From British historian David Bebbington, a more concise (and probably accurate) rendering of Alister McGrath's six points: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
  2. An organic group of movements denoting a "style" as much as a set of beliefs. Groups as disparate as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists all come under the evangelical umbrella.<
  3. The self-ascribed label for a coalition that arose during the Second World War. This group came into being as a reaction against the perceived anti-intellectual, separates and belligerent nature of the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Importantly, its core personalities (like Carl Henry and Billy Graham), institutions (Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College), and organizations (such as the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ) have played a pivotal role in giving the wider movement a sense of cohesion that extends beyond "card-carrying" evangelicals.
As the coordinator for the YDS Evangelical Fellowship, I wonder which of these elements I am supposed to represent. Certainly there is some overlap, but our mission statement is heavy on definition one, and this seems to encourage certain people (particularly theological conservatives at odds with their denomiation) to get involved. However, midwestern and western evangelicals at YDS are often more interested in things like praise-and-worship nights, which seems to emphasize definition two. This, of course, makes all the evangelical Anglican's roll their's a difficult balancing act.

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