We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
My Evangelical friends tend to assume that “Evangelical” in the name of our church means the same as what is described as “Evangelical” in Evangelical Churches or in Evangelicalism. It does not.
The “Evangelical” in Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada simply means “Pertaining to the Gospel” (the meaning given by the 16th century Reformation). This is to indicate that the Gospel has more authority than other teaching. The primary meaning of Gospel was God’s gracious love of all.
The “Evangelical” in Evangelical churches refers to a 19th century movement that emphasized personal conversion. Lutherans have never spoken much about personal conversion, though we would acknowledge its importance. But it’s not a one shot deal, and it’s not only about the individual, but it is a lifelong process which reorients us toward God and neighbour. Such renewal does not happen magically in the moment of conversion but through living in the community of the church where God teaches us to love people who are different from ourselves.
This is important to say because in the public debate the term “Evangelical” has become wholly associated with “Evangelical Churches” and “the Evangelical vote.” My Evangelical friends are not always happy about this association either, especially as “Evangelical vote” often describes a world view that divides the world into those who are “in” and those who are “out” and that is not reflective of the God who welcomes the stranger.
Some of this debate is reflected in the discussion about who can speak for Evangelical churches:
I am not an Evangelical in the modern sense, but as a Christian I must say that Franklin Graham (the keynote speaker at this year’s Festival of Hope) is representative neither of the love of God for all people, nor of this congregation and denomination.