About Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

EEE3I’m very excited about becoming a contributor to GetReligion. It will be a real kick to do what I have often done as a reader — ponder the lens through which a particular article was written.

As an ordained minister who has written for newspapers since I graduated from seminary, I deeply believe that the religion beat demands sensitivity, knowledge, great listening skills — and a willingness to admit that you don’t know it all.

Although I confess that I don’t always like it, I am generally grateful, immediately or after I’ve thought it through, for the folks who took the time to question something I wrote — and make me check my own assumptions.

I would hope to do the same as a constructive critic here at GetReligion.

I’ll ask questions, offer some praise, and question possible factual errors or missing bits in a way that hopefully will open up a door, or new questions.

Meanwhile, here are a few relevant biographical details. I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a family in which politics was a blood sport and religion much more of an intellectual pursuit. After attending a nominally Episcopal prep school, I left the city for college with a great curiosity about what it meant to be a believer. It was while at Hamilton (Kirkland) College, through fellowship groups, chapel services, a group of nuns and the local Episcopal Church, that I really began to experience the presence of God in my life. The Great Anglican divines and poets, including John Donne and George Herbert, led me to the Christian faith.

I began my career as a freelance writer working for weeklies around Princeton, N.J., after graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary. When I was ordained as an Episcopal priest, I moved to Philadelphia, where I began writing for the diocesan paper. After time spent as an assistant chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, I became news editor for the old Episcopalian, until it moved to New York City.

I’ve been a stringer what is now Religion News Service, and a frequent commentator, book reviewer and features writer for The Philadephia Inquirer. I have a monthly column in The New Era in Lancaster, Pa.

I’ve served in a number of parishes, urban and suburban, evangelical and mainstream. But about six years ago I decided that I didn’t want to bear arms in the warfare roiling my denomination, and that I would do better as an observer. Currently our family attends a Lutheran church that marries the Gospel to social justice and an openness to new believers.

While I remain strongly eucharistically focused, I believe that our churches need to do a better job of reaching the indifferent or hurt or lost members of the flock. This can be done without sacrificing the basics of the faith, including creedal orthodoxy. I have also developed a deeper appreciation for the Anabaptist traditions, and their focus on communal holiness — something many of our larger denominations lack.

I can’t close without mentioning that I have two children who continually amaze me (and sometimes make me nuts). Our family lives outside (way outside) the Beltway in exurban Pennsylvania, where you can still see the stars at night — even if you can’t count them.

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  • Jerry

    Hi Elizabeth and welcome to the fray. I know it’s a bit of a personal question, but I’m curious what your favorite Bible passage is and why it appeal to you?

    In a journalistic sense, what do you think is the biggest religion story so far this year and why?

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Hi, Jerry:

    Thanks for the welcome and the good questions. The first one was relatively easy to answer, although I have a few favorites. The one I seem to go back to again and again is Galatians 5:22-24: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such there is no law.”

    I look for these qualities in Christian communities. They are powerfully attractive to me, and, I think, to others. Where I see the opposite, I have to question what kind of faithfulness they are trying to embody.

    As to the second question, my first, and probably obvious comment, would be that the big story is the way the American media has covered the candidates faith journeys. Why, for instance, aren’t we hearing more about Joe Biden’s beliefs? The learning curve for journalists seems particularly large this year-but this is a peculiar year.

    Another story, which perhaps hasn’t been addressed much yet, is how the economic crisis is affecting the faith of folks in the pews-and how clergy are addressing, or not addressing, that.

    But I’ve got a nagging feeling that I’m being parochial here, so I’ll keep thinking about this one!

    Best, Elizabeth

  • Darren

    Hurrah for another Donne/Herbert fan! My two favourite poets. In seminary, I did my final spiritual formation paper on Herbert’s “The Temple.”

    So do you have a favourite grid to view news through, comparable to the infamous TMatt trio?

  • AJ

    Interesting bio. My first real visit to this site. So as a new visitor I will say welcome. For a bit of background I am a practicing Roman Catholic, who will keep practicing until he gets it right, but like the late English writer and Catholic convert, Alice Thomas Ellis, I feel like when Vatican II “threw open the windows” that was not fresh air we were smelling.

    At any rate, what do you mean, exactly, by “…that marries the Gospel to social justice…?” I just happen, as I continue to read the Bible, see Christ as redeeming this world to welcome in the New Kingdom. I just don’t see our saviour as community organizer for the poor. I look forward to reading more from you and wish you all the best in this new endeavour.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Hi, Darren: I’m way on the right brain end of the spectrum, so I tend to feel my way into insight (and maybe sometimes off the deep end, who knows?) So, beyond the Nicene Creed, I don’t think I have a grid-except whether something promotes a deeper walk with Christ-discipleship.

    AJ-Thanks for your kind wishes. Sorry about the sloppy wording. I meant that I do see the Good News as good news both for this world and the next-salvation in the next life and compassion and help for the disadvantaged in this one. In general I see Jesus as pro-life, from before birth to the end of life.

    How do we differ?

  • Jerry

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such there is no law.”


    Another story, which perhaps hasn’t been addressed much yet, is how the economic crisis is affecting the faith of folks in the pews-and how clergy are addressing, or not addressing, that.

    This, to me, is one of the most critical issues. It’s not surprising that the media is obsessed with politics this year, of course, but that imbalance means that the media ignores what I think of as issues that are central to people’s lives. How people meet adversity can say quite a bit about what they really believe and the depth of their beliefs.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Agreed-and I’m not sure why we haven’t been seeing many of those stories. Yet, anyway.

  • Jeff in Ohio

    Welcome Ms. E;

    I’ve been reading this blog since just about day one, though I seldom comment. This is the first time I’ve welcomed a new addition as tmatt usually waits until the new lineup is functioning to announce it ; }. He hasn’t made a mistake in personnel yet, so I’m looking forward to your posts.

    As to the economy’s effect on the faith of Americans, I’ve seen one story linked on several conservative blogs (not the territory here, I know), but nothing else. You’d think it would be a popular sidebar to the “Meltdown” stories.


  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Welcome, Mother Elizabeth. I’d like to read more about your understanding of “communal holiness” in the Anabaptist tradition.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Hi, Father Greg: I live near Lancaster County, and I’ve been very impressed by the Amish culture- particularly after the awful tragedy of two years ago. Most of us are don’t live at arms length from popular American culture, of course. I certainly don’t! But their emphasis on forgiveness and gentleness, their constant attempt to be Christlike, has a great appeal to me.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is always good to see a new voice to go along with the great writers already here.
    As a Catholic I particularly liked your comment on the fact Sen. Biden’s faith should be probed more (certainly as much as Gov. Palin’s has already been.
    In the Senate Biden voted FOR the partial-birth abortion ban AND the Born Alive Act. Yet his boss, Obama, has said he is against any and all laws that in any way makes abortions even a bit more difficult to obtain (including opposing the Ill. Born Alive Act 4 times.) To that effect he has said he will endeavor to wipe all such laws from the books. So where does that leave Biden on these issues???? Has Obama expected him to “flip” like Reagan apparently made the first Bush do so in the pro-life direction.
    Certainly every possible shade of difference between Palin and McCain has been raked over. But nothing has
    been asked along these lines of Biden and McCain. Oh well! MAYBE at tonight’s debate–although it is to be “moderated” by a person with such a glaring conflict-of-interest and vested interest in an Obama victory she would never be allowed on a jury anywhere in America.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Yes, you are so right, Deacon John. I think there’s a large audience of citizens out there who would want to know more about McCain’s faith. So why are we focused (throwing some oil on the flames) on the religious life of a potential woman VP and the nation’s first major party black candidate for President? There probably are perfectly innocent reasons…

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ Raider51

    Ms. Evans,

    I, too, want to welcome you and say that I look forward to reading your thoughts and opinions. This is quite a team you have joined – I always look forward to being challenged, just as the media and journalists are challenged.


  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

    Thank you, wm. I’m looking forward to reading yours, too..I’ve already learned a lot — I just hope I don’t forget it!