What does the “evangelical” in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America stand for? Is it a Lutheran who enjoys a hotdish and lefsa? Is it a Lutheran who enjoys fried chicken (or chicken pastry) and BBQ? If you ask a pollster “evangelical” is a sociological term. If you ask a pastor it is a denominational or doctrinal term. If you ask a politician it probably refers to a voting bloc.
If you look on the web page for the ELCA it says: “grounded in faith, in our biblical and Lutheran confessional sources and our love of God and neighbor.” It is the way that congregants live and practice their faith by following Christ when we live out our baptism where we are “marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are claimed, gathered, and sent for the sake of the world.”
If you need an elevator speech: Lutherans proclaim the good news of God in word and deed, we serve all people, following the example of Jesus and we strive for justice and peace in all the earth. If you need a dictionary definition evangelical is derived from the Greek word euangelion meaning “gospel” or “good news.” It is to be one who is dedicated to the message that Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity.
Maybe there is more to it than a text book answer. Maybe it is about questions like the one that Luther asked following an article of faith in the Small Catechism: What does this mean? This simple question is an invitation to think deeply. It is an opportunity to peel back the layers of an onion only to discover there is one more question “Why?” Living between the tension of faith and life is challenging. As a Lutheran, I’m OK with that.
A former professor of mine, George Marsden once quipped, “Evangelical has a diverse range of meaning-it is complex. Religion is always more complicated than “hallelujah” and “amen.”