Without commentating on the Evangelical Alliance kicking Steve Chalke’s Oasis ministries out of the Evangelical Alliance (I’ll link to some stuff later today), I present to you a diagram to help clarify some of the confusion about the word evangelical:
Some people use the word ‘evangelical’ to mean evangelical in doctrine. You know, believe in the creeds, the necessity of evangelism and teaching the bible, the priesthood of all believers, The EA Basis of Faith. Then some use the word to mean evangelical in culture. Singing modern worship songs and putting your hands in the air, having home groups, growing up going to Soul Survivor or Christian summer camps in boarding schools, giggling about how dated Shine Jesus Shine sounds. So, as per the diagram, you can be culturally evangelical without being doctrinally evangelical (i.e. Steve Chalke).
Confusion comes obviously when people are talking cross-purposes, when I’m using evangelical as a marker of doctrine and your using it as a marker of culture. But confusion also comes when people don’t agree on whether something is an issue of doctrine or culture. So, is gay marriage an issue of culture or doctrine? I firmly believe it’s a doctrinal issue; marriage is scripturally defined as between a man and a woman because it reflects Christ and his church. Some people believe it’s cultural. The bible doesn’t speak to us now on who can get married, so why can’t a same-sex couple get married? So some people will look at the gay marriage issue and say “why is the church falling out over a cultural issue?” others will say “how can these people claim to be evangelicals, when they approve something that is so clearly against what the bible teaches”.
A final point. The term evangelical is just that, a term. It’s helpful to define who you are and what you believe. At least, it is helpful till we can’t agree on what it means. So maybe clarify your terms when speaking to others. And don’t hold on to names too tightly. I imagine God cares not one jot whether you call yourself evangelical or not. He cares greatly about what you believe and how you act though.