World Travel

Post-Evangelical Snapshots

Everywhere I go, I meet a surging community of post-evangelicals. I would like to offer readers a few snapshots from half a year of travel.

Little Rock, March 30: I speak to the annual NASW social workers conference in downtown. My topic: The struggle against religious-based harm to LGBTQ people.” In a very conservative region, with Sarah Huckabee next door in the governor’s mansion, I engage hundreds of local and regionally based social workers who know all about the harm that traditionalist anti-queer religious teaching has done to their clients. The most memorable exchange is with a veteran social worker, who tells me: “I will never forget being called here the day one local young person, who was a lesbian rejected by her Christian parents, jumped to her death from the top of this hotel.”

Boston, April 8: I speak at the first regional gathering of the Post-Evangelical Collective, and then at a gathering of the congregation of Reservoir Church in Cambridge. I meet several dozen church members, seminarians, ministers and academics who have left evangelicalism behind for the now-familiar reasons: patriarchy, homophobia, Trumpism, anti-science, anti-intellectualism. A strong contingent of Asian American post-evangelicals offers their particular stories and describes their particular challenges.

Kalamazoo, May 20: I speak at Threads Church, a lovely little post-Vineyard Church and post-evangelical community that is fully inclusive and led by their first female pastor, Rebecca Bell. All agree Threads is Kalamazoo’s only post-evangelical church and it is much needed. When I arrived, this church’s small groups had been reading my After Evangelicalism in small groups, with the aid of Reservoir Church Pastor Steve Watson’s very helpful study guide.

Troy, Mich., June 4: This trip combines a speaking appearance related to LGBTQ inclusion with a Post-Evangelical Collective gathering of pastors, seminarians, etc. The organizer is a gifted pastor named Danny Cox. He was a leader at a big local megachurch, but his heart for the least of these, for including the excluded, including his own child, led him out on his own. His community, the Open Table Collective, appears to be filled with post-evangelicals. Is this church? Yes, but not in the traditional form.

Berlin, June 8-9: In a conference on “democracy and the liberal script,” several speakers present on right-wing Christian anti-democratic movements in Europe and the U.S., while I speak mainly to the constructive role of resistant pro-democracy, pro-rule-of-law Christians, for example, in the anti-torture movement after 9/11 in the U.S. The idea that Christianity can be a force for public good seems surprising to many. Sad, but well-deserved.

La Cañada, California, June 24-25: I am asked to speak to a Congregationalist church that has just decided to become fully LGBTQ inclusive. I learn that despite its progressive reputation, Southern California has some quite conservative communities. This is one of them. This church has just become the first fully inclusive congregation in town. In 2023. I meet local post-evangelicals who come out to my talk in part to honor the church’s stand. Fuller Seminary graduates come in some numbers. I am learning this prominent seminary has many post-evangelicals in its midst and among its graduates. LGBTQ inclusion is a big part of their desire for change.

Wild Goose Festival, NC, July 14-15: In the sweltering farmland near Hickory, I meet hundreds of post-evangelicals and a goodly number of post-Christians. A somewhat older crowd, some of these ex-evangelicals left long ago over issues such as women’s full inclusion, Southern white evangelical racism, and the general embrace of right-wing politics by fundamentalists and evangelicals. Plenty of younger folks are here as well, with their own more recent stories of departure.

Wilmette, Ill., Aug. 28: My next Post-Evangelical Collective regional meeting happens at a large Evangelical Covenant Church in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Current ECC leadership has drawn a line in the sand against queer inclusion, and some of that denomination’s most gifted leaders and churches have been pushed out. The ECC is (sadly) yet another ripe source of post-evangelicals, including leaders whose ministries and even credentials have been taken away from them, and churches that are now looking for new community.

“Here I also encounter unexpected justice- and mercy-focused outposts in spaces that remain evangelical.”

Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 8: Here I enter the world of Liz Rios, leader of the Passion Center. Rios is a justice-oriented Latina pastor who has asked me to come and address like-minded leaders and church folks. New in this experience were encounters with numbers of Latino/a pastors on their way into post-evangelicalism. Consider C, who lost his fundamentalist pastorate because his congregation was not interested in hearing him talk about Black Lives Matter or in putting mission funds into caring for the needs of poor local schoolkids. Here I also encounter unexpected justice- and mercy-focused outposts in spaces that remain evangelical. This is a reminder that some people’s hearts have left the Evangelical Paradigm, but their bodies remain in those spaces — where they can be agents of ministry, dissent and change, at least for a while.

The post-evangelical caravan moves this week to New York and Dallas. Sunday, I preach at the vibrant post-evangelical Restore Church in Austin. For those who wonder whether this movement is going to amount to anything, I say, it sure looks like it to me. Evangelicalism’s refugees are finding their way forward, and in these spaces, I really like what I am seeing.

This article first appeared on Baptist News Global.

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