What's an Evangelical?

This word might be among the most confusing for people.  In recent years, the phrase evangelical christian, has come to be associated with a more conservative branch of christianity.  But, it's a range.  On one hand you have someone like Tony Campolo and Shaine Claibourne who speak openly of their Christian faith and espouse care for the poor, economic justice and racial reconciliation.  But, also in the evangelical christian camp is Jerry Falwell, Jr who espouses gun ownership and anti-abortion anti-choice positions.

Then you have the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is really a mainline denomination, rooted in a European understanding of the word evangelical.  In Germany the name of the Lutheran church is the evangelical church or Evangelical Kirche.  The idea is that it is the church of the Good News.  Around the world, many Lutheran denominations or churches are called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, as one example.

All this can be very confusing for the average US American driving down the road when they see a sign for Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church.  What does that mean?  It depends on what that driver has recently heard, experienced or seen on TV.  Most of our (ELCA) congregations in New England do not resemble anything like the evangelical congregations that are often baptist, covenant or independent.  Should we shed the E word?  If it's a barrier to connecting with people, then yes.  It may be time to be Our Savior Lutheran Church, and let the evangelical, meaning good news, be something you live out in the actions of your congregation.