Evangelical identity is a complex question.1 It often involves intertwined matters of belief, practice, and relationality.
Dynamics in Defining Evangelicalism
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) characterizes evangelicals as committed to
- the importance of an individual, personal relationship with God;
- the primacy of Scripture;
- the availability of salvation uniquely through Messiah Jesus;
- practices that include sharing the gospel, serving the needy, speaking up for the marginalized, and loving God and neighbor; and
- diversity of practice in non-essentials.2
The term “evangelical” has its roots in a core commitment to the Christian gospel (εὐαγγέλιον), not least as tightly summarized in 1 Cor 15:3b–5.3 But as an identifier for a network of theological commitments, the term often carries many broader connotations as well.
In addition, the term carries with it different sets of connotations in different places (e.g., Europe, the United States). And these varied and sometimes conflicting definitions of what it means to be “evangelical” then further complicate the social and relational questions that are bound up with the term.
A Beginning to a New Discussion
Consequently, the WEA is partnering with the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge (KLC) to “explore and begin a conversation about what ‘evangelical’ means for the twenty-first century.”4
The start to this conversation has two parts, which I’d like to invite you to join:
- Complete this 5–10 minute survey about what you think evangelicalism means. Your response can be entirely anonymous. Optionally, you can enter an email address to participate in similar surveys in the future, but an anonymized address will certainly work for that purpose. If possible, it would be best to complete the survey by 31 August 2023. Thereafter, the survey will remain open while the WEA and KLC teams will begin analyzing the data.
- Register to attend the initial discussion. This Zoom meeting will be 20 September 2023, 5:30–7:00 pm (GMT+1), with a panel of members from the WEA and KLC. I’ll look forward to seeing you there!
For more on this summary and its hermeneutic relevance for the balance of Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15, see my essay in Scripture First: Biblical Interpretation That Fosters Christian Unity. ↩
“What Is Evangelicalism?,” The Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, n.d. ↩