Sunday, 24 October 2010

Open Evangelical?

"There are plenty of evangelicals out there who have left the door so widely open that they are virtually indistinguishable from... Inclusive Church"

These words were written recently by Andrew Carey (son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury) who is a columnist in The Church of England Newspaper. Like many columnists, Andrew Carey is often outspoken and I often find myself at odds with his kind of right wing ecclesiastical conservativism.

The context was his musings about the new Church of England General Synod which has just been elected for the next 5 years. It will be more Evangelical and more Liberal, he said, but then implies that it can be hard to tell the difference these days!

Now I have nothing against Inclusive Church - I do support their aims, and have attended their Executive Committee meetings in the past - but I objected to the way he was trying to say that any Evangelical who embraces a more open and inclusive approach has lost everything distinctive about her/his understanding of the Christian faith.

So I fired off a letter to the editor, and this week they published it ...

Here is what I wrote...

Dear Sir

I was fascinated by Andrew Carey's description of the new Synod (15th October) and in particular, his perceived overlap between evangelicals and liberals.

While I am pleased to see that Andrew now recognises the growing number of open evangelicals, I feel that he is perpetuating a mistaken view which is a grave danger to the Evangelical movement . That mistake is to define evangelicals by what they are 'against' rather than what they are 'for'. Any movement which is simply defined by what it shuts out is destined to a slow and painful demise. To seek to define evangelicals in this way will do exactly the same, and the church would be the poorer for it.

As a evangelical, I am for the preaching of the Gospel, enabling people to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and encouraging people to read the Bible themselves as the inspired Word of God. I believe that is at the heart of being an evangelical, and is a healthy approach which is, life giving, inspirational and challenging.

In an age where secularism is growing, and more & more people regard the church as outdated or irrelevant, isn't it more important than ever to be defined by the positive things we stand for, rather than by the things we are against.

I hope that Andrew Carey is right when he predicts a more evangelical General Synod, and I hope it will be indeed be a more open kind of evangelicalism, not simply the sort that seeks to shut people out.

(Thank you CEN)


  1. You are an Evangelical and you presumably know your Bible yet you say homosexuality is fine ? Accept the people, sins and all, but the practice is not OK and you should know it. Goodness, there are plenty of Biblical admonitions about it.
    I`m not even an Evangelical and it seems crystal clear to me.

  2. Dear Anonymous
    Perhaps you would like to direct me to the scriptures which talk about faithful, commtted, self-giving same sex relationships based on love?
    There are only 5 references in the Bible to homosexual acts. When read in context, the Bible clearly condemns selfish, lustful same sex acts based on depravity. It is much more difficult to justify applying these to loving mutual relationships.
    Perhaps you should read your Bible more carefully...

  3. Thank you for this, Benny. I think the word evangelical is becoming more and more hotly contested. I think it a great shame that so often the "litmus test" is whether an individual is against same sex relationships, a very limited and negative way of defining an evangelical.