I no longer call myself an 'Evangelical' and that makes me sad. I know what the word means in the New Testament and in Church history, and I have been proud and grateful for the word and all it meant. I was raised and ordained in a denomination which called itself 'Evangelical'.
What it used to mean is simply this: Evangelicals are 'Good Newsers' -- they are people centered in the Gospel, witnesses of the Good News of God's gift of grace to us in the life, work, death and resurrection of Jesus. Evangelicals were people who felt joyfully compelled to share the Gospel with all the world. Evangelicals were Christians whose mission in life was to proclaim and live the Gospel in all its fullness, both within their own clan and with cultures around the world.
But that understanding is nearly gone. Only a remnant of it remains. The word has become political short-hand. News commentators and pollsters now use the word to describe a political viewpoint, not an expression of faith. The word has been part of the Church for hundreds of years, and proudly so. It had rich and deep meaning; it expressed loving conviction in the power of God's grace, the importance of Scripture and an openness to all people in the world. Evangelical was not an American political term, it was the Good News that, in Christ, all people of whatever political party, living in countries far and wide, are invited to celebrate the Christian life.
Now, the word has lost its joyful spiritual meaning and has become political shorthand for a particular political persuasion. The word evangelical, once a Church word, is now a political term. The historical and rich meaning it once had has now been reduced to a political label. A beautiful, Biblical, powerful word has been co-opted. This is why I'm sad about it. We will find new Christian words which fully express the ancient beauty of this term, but it will take us a few decades to come up with it. In the meantime, I can only bid it a sad farewell.