Support the Café

Search our Site

Can Progressive Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants come together?

Can Progressive Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants come together?

Ken Wilson, Co-Pastor of Blue Ocean Faith in Ann Arbor, says it is time progressive Evangelicals and mainline Protestant churches to come together and learn from each other. But first, they will have to overcome some stereotypes.

Huffington Post:

To be an Evangelical is to have at least a dash of contempt for the Mainline traditions (Episcopal, PCUSA, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and company). My Mainline friends tell me the reverse is also true. (My wife’s favorite Mainliner joke about Evangelicals: Why doesn’t God answer our prayers for world hunger? Because he’s too busy finding parking places for Evangelicals.) Evangelicals and Mainliners are the siblings who must put a line of painter’s tape down the middle of the bedroom if they have to share one at all.

Is it too much to ask that the progressive part of Progressive Evangelical leave that Evangelical marker behind?

This is a ripe moment for Mainliners and Evangelicals to stop the mutual stereotyping. Many Evangelicals are newly humbled by the widespread view–created by the Evangelical-Fundamentalist-Roman Catholic alliance called the “Religious Right” –that Christians are judgmental meanies. Mainliners are chastened by their shrinking numbers and diminished cultural voice–for being too nice to bother quoting in the culture war play-by-plays. This might produce enough humility to promote mutual learning from each other.

The humility to move past identity-defining stereotypes requires a jolt: in my case, a late- in-life marriage to an Episcopal priest. Someone I admire and really like. But I had already been softened up by befriending some Mainline clergy who didn’t fit my clannish evangelical stereotypes.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JC Fisher

I think commenters would be well-served by reading the whole HuffPo article.

I don’t know if Pastor Wilson is as “progressive” as I would like him to be. But coming from someone who was thrown out of the megachurch he’d co-founded for being too accepting of LGBTs, it behooves us to listen to him w/ compassion and a *search* for common ground. [And that’s BEFORE the fact he’s married to an Episcopal priest-who-happens-to-be-a-woman! Definite + points there. 😉 ]


The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

From a blog post by Parker Palmer with the same title as this poem. Google it.

Ric Schopke

The whole conversation in this post seems strange. I’ve served as a lay staff person with Mainline congregatations most of my adult life. I have not seen the Evangelical/Mainline animosity referred to in this post and comments. In fact, there are probably millions of Evangelicals in Mainline churches. Bebbington’s definition of “evangelical” is a very good description of historical Evangelicalism (which is primarily about theology, not about politics). An excellent book is “The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys”, by Mark Noll, a historian at the University of Notre Dame.

Ben Miller

I agree Ric, everyone here is talking about politics and is not addressing deeper topics of theology. We should look to Bebbington’s description to see that the animosity between Mainline/Evangelical groups is more of a political illusion than a theological reality.

Ben Miller

There is a simple definition of evangelical, originating with the respected historian of evangelicalism David Bebbington:

* biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible (e.g. all essential spiritual truth is to be found in its pages)

* crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross

* conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted

* activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort

By these standards, I am proud to call myself an evangelical Episcopalian. This definition does not rule out more “progressive” social views.

Chris Cooper

How sad to read the words of these cold hearted posters… I’m as “progressive” of an Epaicopalian as they come, but how can this be a bad thing????

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café