I am claiming an adjective as a new noun. I’m an Ecumenical.
I have been in a soul searching season for the last couple of years and I have discovered that I’ve always been an Ecumenical, I just didn’t have the word for it. This post is my attempt to define it. My manifesto on being an Ecumenical.
I grew up Lutheran, became a Baptist, spent years in non-denominational and evangelical Protestant churches, became ordained in a pietistic denomination, currently work as a chaplain at a university founded by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and have started attending an Episcopal church. A church mutt, you might say, and I think being Ecumenical is deep in my bones.
For a long time, I proudly identified as an evangelical, but these days I find that term no longer means what it once meant.
The term evangelical originates in the Greek term euangelion, which means gospel, or good news. The Protestant faith tradition that took on that adjective is full of passionate people willing to share good news, who emphasize salvation by faith, individual and communal conversion and transformation, the authority of ancient scriptures, and a deep desire to bring people to a dynamic personal faith. I believe in this and it’s a part of who I have been for a long time.
But, to a lot of people, that is not what the term means anymore.
To a lot of people, ‘evangelical’ is synonymous with fundamentalist, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, and just plain anti-nice or -decent. When 81% of white evangelicals vote for a conservative presidential candidate that makes outlandishly racist, sexist, and xenophobic remarks, it sends a message, whether we realize it or not, that evangelicals are just that; white, conservative, racist, sexist, and xenophobic.
At this point, you might disagree with me and say, “Well, I’m not like that.” This might be true and I hope it is. We at least have to acknowledge, though, that this is how many people think of evangelicals. To them, evangelicals are not announcing good news, telling a better story for all people, or sharing hope.
The term evangelical has become tainted. Sure, we can try to reclaim it, and I know many individuals who are fighting to do just that. I’m thankful for their work. Sadly, I think that ship has sailed. I don’t think we should reclaim it, I think we should find a new term.
And, lucky for you, I did just that with turning Ecumenical into a noun. You’re welcome.
Of course, you’ll have to wait for my next post to understand how lucky you are and how I define Ecumenical.