Belinda Groves – 2 July 2017

I am torn this morning between continuing my travelogue (I think we were up to Paris) or continuing the conversation – from last Sunday – about whether Canberra Baptist Church is an evangelical faith community.

It is an interesting question!

I think it is safe to assume most us would not identify as Evangelical Christians in the political arena – particularly as the term is defined in America.

Many of us have, however, grown up in churches that belonged squarely to the new Evangelical consensus of the latter twentieth century, conservative Evangelicalism.

This movement traced its origins to the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries and maintained conservative Protestant teaching, but sought to be more culturally attuned than fundamentalism. Its defining characteristics were an emphasis on conversion, biblical authority, substitutionary atonement (that Christ died as a substitute for sinful human beings by taking on himself the punishment for sin) and activism.

Over the years, however, many less conservative Evangelicals – and this is where I trace my own faith journey – have moved away from this mainstream consensus to varying degrees.

I understand conversion as the ongoing work of God within our lives, as unique to each person as each person is unique. I hold firmly to a high regard for Scripture; to the authority of this enduring testimony of God’s love for our world. I continue to wrestle with the meaning of the cross – discovering in Jesus’s death and resurrection a promise that nothing can defeat God’s love, and a path for disciples of that love. Finally, I continue to embrace activism – the understanding that I am part of the work, the mission of God.

On Easter Sunday morning, we visited Notre-Dame Cathedral. (So I also get to continue the travelogue!) We joined thousands of tourists and worshippers and were welcomed by the priest, “Today we have come, people from many different places, to celebrate together the resurrection of our Lord!” It was a powerful moment, and we stopped – as a family – and prayed; thanking God for the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, for the ongoing transforming power of that euangelion, that good news, in our lives and in our world.

When I look at our National Church Life Survey results, I see a group of people committed to action, to living their lives according to that euangelion – to loving neighbours and to caring about the world that God loves. I believe we are evangelical community.

And I think that that speaks louder than words – but, as 1 Peter 3 says, we should “be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.”

So, a challenge for all of us: are we ready, do we have the words, to explain the hope we are living.