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Matt Rees

classic - oh to have been a fly on the wall - would have loved to have seen people's faces!

mihael secen

i like it!!! and i couldn't agree more.


"I'll get my coat" was probably the perfect way to finish that one off!

Whilst I'm thankful for the evangelical heritage and role in played in my early walk of faith, like you it doesn't really factor much anymore. I think you are right that once we take the global family of Christ seriously, the evangelical thing starts to look less than compelling as an anchor for our identity. In some ways the post-evangelical thing becomes even less helpful because at least evangelicalism has some sort of historical hook into our psyche.

Maybe some folks would blow a fuse at your words, but I would hope at least some would connect with it on some level.


lovely! I like the comic moment, but I like even more your rationale re. identity and how we construct it. this was a great thing to read to start my day


thanks jonny for sticking up for all us nomads who resist (often under great duress)the pressure to conform to the evangelical/post evangelical cookie cutter mentality - i think that we global bedouins of faith have an important role to play in speaking about this issue in a way that is infused with the beauty, truth and goodness of Christ - you seem to do it very well - it is a lonely business though eh ?

Mike R

I would have loved to have heard the pin-drop silence after you finished that one. I bet it gave John Cage's 4:33 a run for its money..!

Couldn't agree more, too.


thanks - the interesting thing about the response was that a lot of people seemed to agree with me...

so there wasn't really a deathly silence, just a few surprised looks and grins!

i'm sure there were also people that didn't agree though...


It constantly surprises me the need we have to grip on to labels. Just as I think 'the church' might be changing you realise just how bogged down it remains. Amen to being in a Christ follower, thank you for expressing what so many of us believe in such as awkward forum.

Jon Hallewell

thanks for posting this - wish you had your camera on you at the time ;) I beginning to get fed up with the whole definitions debate and just want my identity to be defined by the life I live in Christ and with Christ in me.


good work man, I'm glad I wasn't there though, find the identity conversation to be soul destroying, too much of it right now in the US in Episcopal, Evangelical, Methodist, Presbyterian ... and on and on and on. Good to know you are putting the pin in the bubble.

Richard Sudworth

Good on you brotha! With you all the way with your thinking.....This is so familiar; I wonder that so much of this interaction reflects a generational issue too but well done Jonny!


Some reflections (not a rant!)

Erm.. just wondering Jonny, if the fact you did such a longish and passionate post about this, and also the higher than average number of comments you attracted means that it IS an issue for you and for others too.

I'm not an evangelical if it = USA fundamentalist or right wing politics.
I'm not an evangelical if it is a term that has become used by people who define themselves by what they are against
I'm not an evangelical if I don't listen to the views of others with an openness to being wrong
But I am an evangelical if I take God and his word seriously, believe Christ is my saviour etc etc (whatever the culture)

Is it just that the word has been hyjacked by others? I know what you mean about labels but could it be that Post-modern thinking is driving too much of the debate about all this, even on the web?

I'll get my coat

Grace and peace


i know what you mean derek - i wish i had all these comments on my photo posts!!!

it's entirely possible to reinvent the term if it's useful. it just isn't to me. for me it's tribal (i.e. i'm in this tribe not that one) - i don't want to play that game. and it's about a subculture i don't relate to. so i just don't see the point.

it genuinely isn't a big deal for me - it's not on my horizon much. that is the first situation i have been in like that. i did say i was your brother in law btw and passed on your regards so i hope you are not guilty by association - ha!

jon birch

hahaha! very funny story jonny!
you're right derek, the word evangelical has been hijacked by evangelicals! i'm always struck by peoples desire to label themselves anyway... it's like a shorthand to explaining who they are. a lot of great people, in my view, do themselves down by the labels they give themselves. evangelical, postmodernist, feminist... all labels just reduce people, and people reduce themselves by choice. weird!


I've never been able to understand 'one size fits all' Christianity. I've struggle with anyone (evangelical or otherwise!) who gives me their belief specification and expects me to swallow it all without question. As long as there are definitive labels I will always find myself an outsider - not through choice as I actually think it must feel very comfortable if you fit in, but I don't.

Well in, Jonny, for your maverick honesty. I expect it was a tumbleweed moment well worth witnessing! At least you came away with your integrity intact.

Dean Ayres

Jonny was bowled a googly when he was asked to respond to the whole of Christina Baxter's presentation, and introduce himself, all in one go. He handled it brilliantly. At the end of his response, someone behind me sounded unimpressed, but was drowned out by the cheers of other delegates.

Last year's Tablet Lecture by James Alison (http://thetablet.co.uk/pages/jamesalison ) obliquely tackles the subject of identity. He talks about the way that religions establish 'systems of goodness' used to define who is in (the saved) and who is out (the damned). He then argues that Jesus didn't come to establish a new system of goodness, but to do away with systems of goodness altogether. How freeing is that! Talk of evangelical (or any other religious group) identity is masked language for another system of goodness, used to exclude people and make us feel good about ourselves. Let's consign the idea to the bin.


Your post has certainly resonated with a lot of people, as it has with me as well, Jonny. You've articulated the issues well. I've been using the word "post-evangelical" to describe myself, but you've challenged my thinking even with that term! Using that or any other label just becomes another way of forming yet another tribe in protest to some other tribe.


Would have to agree with Brandon here. Excellent story.

Have to say though that I think the photos are fantastic. I am mostly jealous and wish I could 'see' things in the way you do. I will undertake to comment more!

Paul Fromont

Well articulated Jonny. I've been struck by similar thoughts a lot lately; and have decided I have no energy for either the evangelical or liberal agenda... Both terms hold little meaning for me, not for anyone else outside of church contexts...

As somebofy above (or below) said, it would have been good to be a fly on the wall.

Phillip Tovey

I was at the meeting and it was clear that the majority in the room agreed with Jonny. Writers for Grove Books may include conservative evangelicals but it was clear that its ethos is much more open. There was no desire to sign 'statements of faith' before publication, which had been suggested. If you look at the tiles and how they have developed you can see a much broader scope than books for the conservative. Jonny articulated a widely held view - held by many of the people in the room.

trefor W

Thanks Jonny for articulating something that i've 'felt' in the guts sense for a long time. whenever i hear 'we evangelicals' which supposedly includes me, i want to say "now hold on a minute... I'll get my coat, too"


An interesting post about what we dont believe.

Im from Northern Ireland where we define ourselves by what we are not. Readers of your post might think that you were rubbishing the views of christina baxter and a huge whack of practicing Christians.

not a very generous theology.


Hi Jonny,
Great story... its great to hear of a time when someone just says what needs saying!!
"I'll get my coat!" Indeed!!


Hi Jonny,
Great story... its great to hear of a time when someone just says what needs saying!!
"I'll get my coat!" Indeed!!

Mark Collinson

... the comments keep coming. It was great to meet you Jonny at the Grove conference - I really enjoyed the worship experience, and would have loved to have had a chance to talk further. As far as the debate that has sparked so much reaction, I've been helped enormously by Tim Keller's advice: we do need to draw lines in life, faith and doctrine, but we need to admit that where exactly we draw the line in the sand is often a judgement of personal circumstances, context and experience, guided by Scripture and the Spirit. Where we draw the line is not quite so important as our attitude to the people on the other side of the line that we've drawn. Whether we find people who don't know Christ as Lord on the other side of that line, or whether it's old-hat 'evangelicals', we need to have such an attitude of grace and love that we draw them to see our perspective on our side of the line (whether or not they decide to stay there).

Grove I think needs to contribute towards dragging a significant faithful and hardworking mainly anglican leadership into 21st century relevance and effectiveness. If any of you guys have ideas on how we can do that better, then let me know!

When you've finished converting the old evangelical world, come over to Europe... there's plenty of grace needed here!

Eli Dorman


I appreciate your willingness to challenge the presuppositions of an evangelical movement largely ridding the coat tails of christendom. I think we must remember that being evangelical means being people of the Good News. We are people shaped and formed by the message of God's love for us in Christ. We must recapture the idea that every Christ following believer is evangelical in the sense that we are people for whom the Bible is the Word of God, not just people who believe the Bible contains God's Word. I believe identity is the whole purpose of a relationship with Christ. Our identity is shaped in and through and by Christ as we draw close in love to him. As well, as we live in community with others our identity as evangelicals (people of the Word/Logos) our identity is shaped. What is that identity? In Christ we belong, we are loved, we are cherished beyond measure, and in His Church that love and sense of belonging define our experiences in relationship with one another. Let us not abandon the sense that there really is an evangelical identity, but let us remember rightly that it has nothing to do with our little tribe of believers huddled in our little cozy church building taking on the evil world out there. We are a global movement of passionate lovers of Christ purposefully living out the call of Christ in the Great Commission through loving acts of compassion and mercy in the world. This is who we are.

John Leach

You were put in a very difficult position at Grove, and you handled it well. I'm glad that Mark Collinson and Philip Tovey have corrected the impression which people might have gained that Grove is a reactionary organisation stuck in the past. But we do need to remember that the founding fathers of Grove had to go through quite a lot of persecution because of their evangelical convictions in a church which was anything but. I can remember a poignant debate on the Grove Worship group when we were talking about vestments: the wrinklies among us told stories of going out on a limb at their ordinations by refusing to wear stoles, and the stick they got for it, while the younger members simply could not see what the issue was, and didn't want to fight or even hear about yesterday's battles. It's easy to sit lightly to your position when you're doing OK, but sometimes it's worth holding onto minority views, like for example that of the alt.worship brigade, when no-one else really seems to understand you.

Simon  Heathfield


Glad to see the range of contributions here. Speaking as the partly responsible for the invite all, I can say is I concur with much of what is said above. But to add that from the feeling I picked up no one wanted you to get your coat and your honesty, openness and questions were welcomed as part of what Grove, in its best moments, wants to be about. We may formulate our language differently at times but the passion for Jesus was shared by many and said more than words. My only frustration was that I am crap at origami! Great to see you again and thanks for sharing God with us.


thanks everyone for the comments/conversation. and thanks simon for the invite - hope the rest of the time went well...


And is it any wonder that this is the most responde to blog for a long time?

You did a good job of not bending to the crowd. The wor evangelical is such a loaded term and (for me) creates more problems than it solves. I often refer to myself as "christian" when asked "what religion are you" or "what type of church" with the annoying repetitiveness that often prompts "that's not what I'm asking". I guess this is the privilage of an Irish Catholic/Scottish Protestant family background.

I think it is annoying that I often shy away from the term that describes the part of the body I oft identify with because it contains many loose canons/cannons. If we can't celebrate diversity as Christians then there isn't a hope for our engagement with the rest of society!

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