What If Progressive Evangelicals Were Better Networked?
One of the “What if …” questions that emerged for me during my time at the VocationCARE training in Asheville last week was this: What if progressive evangelicals were better networked?
This question was sparked by a conversation I had with two women who both had similar backgrounds to mine. They shared stories of having been raised in conservative evangelical households, but both are now engaged in interfaith social justice work.
I found myself being challenged again with the question of whether or not I could identify myself as an evangelical. I’ve actually given interviews explaining why I’ve felt I could no longer call myself an evangelical — mostly because the “gatekeepers” had cast me out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!
But I was challenged by these sisters to really consider the possibility of being a progressive evangelical, which is a term I’ve heard before but hadn’t really thought about in a great long while. Who are the progressive evangelicals? And how are they organized? Who are their leaders?
Marcia Pally’s new book seems to be talking about this. My friend Rich McCullen embodies this in his ministry. Frank Schaeffer is alerting mainline denominations to the very existence of these mythical progressive evangelicals — and inviting us all to gather this summer at the Wild Goose Festival.
In our conversation, I quickly defaulted to naming off the usual suspects — Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Gabe Lyons, Rob Bell — but one sister quickly challenged me to consider that the era of big-platform leaders is over and that we don’t need a “great white hope” but rather grassroots networks of people committed to a common cause.
Which I completely agree with, and yet … We still need leaders, right? Perhaps leaders who function more as organizers or hosts, if you will, but leaders nonetheless. (Even starfish communities/organizations have leaders, after all — they’re just called different things.) So assuming that much …
Where are the grassroots networks for progressive evangelicals? And what are the common causes we can/should be engaged in?
I went looking, and I really couldn’t find many networks or places of connection for those who might self-identify as progressive evangelical. I found one lonely Facebook group with two members. (I became the third.) The closest thing to an existing network for progressive evangelicals (besides Sojourners) that I could find is the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, founded by Rich Cizik, David Gushee and others. What else is out there? or should be out there? What perhaps needs to be born?
So what do you think? What would happen if progressive evangelicals were better networked with each other?