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.
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.