Alan's theme is the future of evangelicalism, inspired by last's week's Lausanne Conference in Cape Town (see the previous post). As we'd expect, there's good stuff there, and some useful critical questions to challenge any thinking evangelical. But the piece is still horribly generic, adopting a tone too familiar to anyone of my background who follows Anglican affairs in the media: "those funny evangelicals".
In the space of a short article, Bishop Alan suggests that evangelicals are culturally uptight, they don't like gay people very much (although they could if they tried hard enough), and although he is careful to say that he doesn't really think all evangelicals believe in a crude caricature of God, he kind of says it anyway (because some of them do). Of course it must be admitted that there are many who fit these stereotypes, and a little bit of leg-pulling does no harm. Regular followers will know that Always Hope is often quite rude about evangelicals. But then, reader, I am one (and not ashamed), and therein lies the difference.
For many in the Church of England, evangelicals have become an object at which they can cheerfully lob all sorts of bombs, ranging from the gentle curiosity of Alan Wilson to the frankly vicious smears of some commentators who are otherwise quite thoughtful and ought to know better. And frankly, for a Bishop like Alan, who must have dozens of evangelical parishes under his care in Buckinghamshire, to talk of evangelicals in the language of "them and us" is a bit disappointing too.
Evangelicals are not some odd sect on the fringe of things who can be safely patronised. J. I. Packer famously said that evangelicalism was normative Anglicanism, and while not all of us would want to push that so far as to say that everyone should be evangelical, we would like to be acknowledged as a part of the fabric, rather than a strange extremity. Evangelicalism within the Church of England is hugely important now, not least in numerical terms, and to be honest, has given birth to many of the best things that the Church has done in recent decades. It's also a richly diverse movement, undeserving of being caricatured in the way that it so often is (read the Church Times almost every week for examples). Evangelicals don't need to be brought into the Anglican fold, because they're already there. Some people just need to get used to the idea.