Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

What is an Evangelical?

I should back up here - since my site is named "Evangelical Update", I should define Evangelical. Even though this is one of my big pet peeves, here is the Dictionary.com definition:

1. Of, relating to, or in accordance with the Christian gospel, especially one of the four gospel books of the New Testament.
2. Evangelical Of, relating to, or being a Protestant church that founds its teaching on the gospel.
3. Evangelical Of, relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible, in salvation only through regeneration, and in a spiritually transformed personal life.
4. Evangelical
a. Of or relating to the Lutheran churches in Germany and Switzerland.
b. Of or relating to all Protestant churches in Germany.
5. Of or relating to the group in the Church of England that stresses personal conversion and salvation by faith.
6. Characterized by ardent or crusading enthusiasm; zealous: an evangelical liberal.

I've bolded #2 and #3; the most relevant definitions for this website. By those definitions you could consider just about any Protestant church Evangelical, so I've added the term "conservative" to the lists below. By conservative, I mean that that these churches to not generally consider the Bible to be a living document, subject to interpretation relative to modern culture.

There are countless Evangelical Christian Denominations. It's downright confusing when I start to list them and figure out the differences. As Amy told me, "...we [Evangelicals] have some significant differences which are probably insignificant to you."

Here are some denominations (some lumped together under one heading for clarity) that I would consider conservative Evangelical. If I've left anyone out, I'm sure the commenters will let me know [updated 5/10].

Conservative Evangelicals
Assemblies of God
Southern Baptist Convention
Reformed Protestant/Christian/Presbyterian
Baptist (many types - one exception below)
Many non-denominational congregations

NOT Usually considered conservative Evangelical (there are always splinter-group exceptions):
United Methodist
African Methodist Episcopal
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
United Church of Christ
Episcopal/Anglican (not Protestant)
American Baptist
Society of Friends (Quaker)

Here are some that I do not know where to fit, and will not generally comment on here:
Seventh Day Adventist
Jehovah's Witness
Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
Christian Science
Church of Christ

And then there are Catholics/Orthodox - I do not know much about Catholicism and am afraid to comment or categorize. But they should be listed here as Catholics are the largest Christian group on earth. Let me know if I've left a major group out. There are definitely Evangelicals within the Catholic/Orthodox church.

Catholic/Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholicism
Eastern Orthodox (Greek)
The Armenian Apostolic Church
The Coptic Orthodox Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church
The Syrian Orthodox Church

The "Cast of Characters" here is heavily weighted toward Reformed. I did not realize that this type of Christianity was still alive and well in the United States until my experience at my blog. And even then it took me a while to understand who these conservative Christians were who have a bigger problem with Oprah Winfrey than with the occasional drink of alcohol. Think of them as modern-day Puritans. In a future post I'll comment on how this segment of the Christian right and I are strange bedfellows in many respects.