Liberal, Gay and Evangelical

18 07 2007

Some may be surprised that I identify myself as an Evangelical.   I call myself that because I believe in spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken and fallen world.  The term “Evangelical” I have said over and over again has been co-opted by Christian Conversatives and Fundamentalists, and I long for the day when the religious right finally loses the monopoly on the name. 

Fleming Rutledge, a retired Episcopal Priest has listed a proposed Ten Evangelical Affirmations which I believe sums up what “Evangelical” means, which I am reprinting below.  I am a big fan of Fleming.   I wouldn’t describe her as a supporter of the full inclusion of GLBT folk in the Church (at least not in the way that we normally mean it), but I do believe her theology is very sound and I respect her scholarship.  You’ll definitely find her influence in some of my sermons.

Now … onto the affirmations …

  • Jesus Christ is the only-begotten incarnate Son of God the Father
  • Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of Israel, hailed by Moses and Elijah, the one in whom the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah is fulfilled
  • In the Crucifixion, the Triune God gave himself in the person of his Son, on our behalf and in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous
  • The Cross and the Resurrection were a single definitive act of God to overcome Sin, conquer Death, defeat the Evil Oneon his own turf, and inaugurate the new reality called the Kingdom of God
  • The Holy Scriptures are the true revelation of God’s own self, and the Bible is therefore unique among writings and can be trusted as the living and active Word of God.
  • We are incorporated into the new life of God for now and for all eternity through baptism, justified by grace along, through the gift of faith.
  • The Holy Spirit is actively at work in the world shaping both events and people to bring his ultimate redemptive purpose to pass.
  • God in Christ is gathering disciples, the saints of God, who embody his purposes through the ministry of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
  • It is the very essence of Christian faith to bear witness to this story of God, and therefore make his gospel known to all nations and peoples.
  • We look to the future of God, when Jesus Christ will come again in great glory to rectify all that is wrong and bring all things to their appointed summation.

Does anyone have any thoughts on any of these?  For myself, I think it’s interesting that she affirms two theories of atonement (point 3 being substitutionary atonement and point 4 being more of Christus Victor), which is something that not  many people do.  She also unsurprisingly takes a very high view of scripture, but she stops short of saying that it is “inerrant,” which is interesting.  I don’t think the bible is inerrant, but I do believe that it’s true and it can be trusted as being inspired by God. 

All in all, I think this is a very good snapshot of Evangelical theology.  I would be curious as to what others think.  I’m just curious more than anything, especially with those who might disagree with any of the above statements and why.




9 responses

18 07 2007
Pisco Sours

Sad to say, before I became a Christian, I always viewed the words “evangelism” and “evangelical” with deep suspicion, and I guess I still do. This is do in no small part to a particularly annoying Jews for Jesus former coworker who Would. Not. Shut. Up. She eventually left in order to go convert Jews in Israel, but i digress.

But anyway, growing up, “evangelical” always had an overtone of pushiness and aggressiveness to it. My baptismal sponsor doesn’t know this, but before my baptism she gave me a speech about how I had to go out and evangelize, evangelize, evangelize, and I just cringed. She almost lost me right there. Obviously, as you might expect, I rather prefer St. Francis’s formulation.

But let me ask you this. I’m not clear on what makes the affirmations you listed any different than what’s in the Creeds. What’s in there that not every Christian might believe in?

19 07 2007
Reverend boy

Hey Pisco, Great to hear from you as always 🙂 and your little cat too 😛

There is an emphasis in a large part of the Evangelical movement where there is a need for “winning souls for Christ” and helping to bring about a conversion experience. Their focus is on getting into heaven, and not so much working for the Kingdom of God in this world as we tend to do in the Episcopal Church. Oh, and yes, they can be very pushy and it’s like a badge of honor almost to have said “I’ve led x number of people to Christ” or some such thing.

I personally don’t see anything in Fleming’s statements that every Christian would not believe in. I do know that some Christians will say that they don’t really believe in a bodily Resurrection of Christ, they take a relatively low view of Scripture, and the whole idea of Second Coming of Christ gives others the heebie-jeebies.

So if anyone does object to any of the above affirmations, I would be interested in hearing why … again, not to start an argument or a debate, but just out of plain curiosity.

20 07 2007
Pisco Sours

So how do you evangelize?

20 07 2007
Reverend boy

The short answer is … People evangelize best by just living out their lives and their faith. I like the adage, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

24 07 2007

It’s this part that causes me dyspepsia, something I noted about her articles some time ago:

The Holy Scriptures are the true revelation of God’s own self, and the Bible is therefore unique among writings and can be trusted as the living and active Word of God.

No. Jesus Christ is the true revelation of God’s own self. who is the living and active Word of God (see Hebrews 4) The Scriptures are the unique testament to Jesus Christ.

I wrote about this today on my blog.

25 07 2007
Reverend boy

Hi *Christopher, thanks for stopping by again!

Like I said, she certainly takes a very high view of Holy Writ. And, thanks for pointing to your blog. Always good stuff to be found there.

You make a great point! … but i don’t know if i totally DISagree with her … do you think a better wording of her statement might be along the lines of “Holy Scriptures are a true revelation of God’s on self?” along with “Jesus Christ the perfect revelation of God?”

26 07 2007

Rev Boy –

As one who is rather “heretical” in my beliefs, I have problems with some of her statements.

We each come to spirituality through different paths – as different parts of God’s body, I think – so different tenets of Christian doctrine will appeal more strongly to some of us than to others – a part of our individual psychology (inherent personality traits) and environmental experiences.

I basically don’t agree with the absolute truth of her first 5 statements – but that’s just me. And, I’m aware that OCIBW…I believe much of those statements were constructed by the followers of Christ, rather than Christ himself. That is, man was yet again attempting to beat his tribal chest, and say my way is THE way. I think God is bigger than that – it’s man who’s got the problems with how others conceive of God, not God. Again – just me.

I’m in total agreement with her next 4 statements though, and I do believe this is the heart of Christ’s teachings. I do believe these are things Christ did communicate – Christians were a community, and being a Christian means behaving in a Christian way, and as you speak of, through example, showing others the benefit of living a Christian life – evangelism through “being”. There is a reason for the cliche actions speak louder than words, you know?

I’m also in agreement with Christopher her statement about the bible. Christ is Logos. I think the worst thing to happen to religion, personally, was the printing press. Made it get into the “preservation” business vs. the living, breathing, growing “practice” business – if the bible contains all there is to know, well then, what the heck do we need the Holy Spirit for? If live was being lived so perfectly way back when – what did Christ need to come for anyway? They had the word – they had the laws – God TOLD them what to do. Fact of the matter is, the Jewish tradtion has CENTURIES of time for their religion to grow and change while the stories were passed on in the oral tradition – influenced by local culture and outside religious practice. And the Jews have midrash – where they argue through the ages about how to interpret the scripture – what does it mean? There can be growth there.

As for her last affirmation, I have not a clue – I’m not sure what that would mean or what it would look like, but, unless it happens in my lifetime, I’m not going to spend an abudance of time worrying about it. What will be will be, and I will try to live as best I can. The “second coming” of Christ could be a metaphor for many things, rather than an acutal second coming or it could be that Christ will really walk the face of the earth again. These things are beyond me.

12 08 2007
Bob G

I’m right there with you, Rev’-boy. In our church today, to express an Evangelical leaning while being gay is, well, almost heretical among some folks. However, I find this more generational than anything.

I am thankful for this Anglican ethos that allows us all to wrestle and argue through all this stuff. My time in the Episcopal Church has only strengthened my understanding that I don’t know it all, that it isn’t all about me and what I want to believe to be true, and that my opinion is only that – opinion. Yet, my basic understanding of and experience of the faith has changed little (in the essentials, I mean).

19 02 2008

I am a Christian gay man and I am fed up with fundamentalists taking ownership of evangelism.

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