I’m an Evangelical Pastor?

I’m an Evangelical Pastor? September 16, 2011

In her column on my marriage views, “Separation of church and state in marriage?“, Lisa Miller introduces me to her readers as “one well-known evangelical pastor in Minneapolis.”

“Well-known”?  Debatable.

“In Minneapolis”?  Yep.

“Evangelical pastor”?  I don’t think so.

To me, a pastor is someone who pastors — that is, someone who shepherds a group of people (usually referred to as a congregation), and who does that in a church (i.e., an InterVarsity staff person on a college campus is not, to my mind, is not a pastor).  While I occasionally preach, and even perform the odd wedding and funeral, I’m not a pastor.  She should have called me an “ordained clergyman.”  (I would also think that the Washington Post style guide would require her to refer to me as “the Rev. Dr.”  But that’s another issue altogether.)

More odd yet is that Miller calls me evangelical.  She didn’t ask me to identify myself as such, nor did she mention the word in our conversations.  I don’t claim to be an evangelical anywhere in my books or blogs.  And if she downloaded my bio from my website, the only thing that would qualify me as an evangelical, I think, is that I received an M.Div. from an evangelical seminary and some of my books have been published by evangelical publishers.

“Evangelical” seems to me a adjective that one can claim for oneself, but it doesn’t seem like someone can put that on you from a quick glance at your CV.  That’s why I’ve pushed for the term “incarnational Christian” to describe myself.

My mistake, I guess, was in not making that clear when a reporter called me.  It’s a mistake that I won’t make again.

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  • Tony,
    I couldn’t help but chuckle at that description of you since, as you say here, neither Evangelical nor pastor really apply to you.

    I’m not familiar with Miller’s writing, I hope this isn’t typical of the quality of her research.

    I am surprised to read that you didn’t push the incarnational Christian term. Wasn’t dealing with reporters one of the main reasons we created it?

  • “Incarnational Christian” pretty much sounds like an insider phrase to me. No one outside of you guys would even know what that means and even if it was adopted it would eventually be bastardized and politicized by the media.

    “Christian” wasn’t a “bad word” but it became one. “Evangelical” wasn’t a bad word but now it just freaks me out. “Emergent” wasn’t bad, but noone could actually define it, even those who called themselves such fought over what it meant if I recall.

    “Incarnational” just sounds like a coffee creamer. 🙂

    Receiving an M.Div. from an evangelical seminary would pretty much identify you as such if someone is just looking for a box to put you in. Tony, I’d label you a theologian that like to drink beer, but don’t they all??

  • JR

    Would Fuller Seminary be considered evangelical or incarnational Christian?

  • Aaron

    You are not a Christian.

  • I took the same stand back in May. I stand with you: http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/05/until-all-can-wed.html

  • Since labels we adopt generally inspire both questions and interpretations on the part of those who know our label, I, too, would gladly adopt “Incarnational Christian”. For me, this label may generate inquisitiveness (or perhaps, Inquisition!) about what it means. This could provide the foundation for a healthy dialogue. Thanks Pastor Tony, for shepherding my thoughts!

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