Sunday, October 18, 2009
More on Labels
Since I posted about labels a few weeks ago, there have been a number of other posts on the subject (not that I'm claiming there's any connection with my post). Both Church Mouse and Bishop Alan pick up on the same Nicky Gumbel quote that I did. They both advocate consigning labels to the fiery pit, believing they are more a hindrance than a help, particularly in relation to those outside the church. Jonny Baker also expresses his dislike of labels such as evangelical, liberal etc (he is very complimentary about Fulcrum though). However, as so often, it is Richard Sudworth who offers one of the most nuanced and thoughtful pieces on the subject. Whilst acknowledging the shortcomings of labels, and the way they can be abused he stresses the importance of owning our heritage. Speaking from his own experience of moving in ecumenical circles, he suggests that people are actually looking for us to bring our heritage to the table. Having recently returned from an 'ecumenical' trip to the Bossey Ecumenical Institute and the World Council of Churches I concur. I found both that my 'evangelical' heritage was coming to the fore, and that it was looked for and listened to. This also emphasises the importance of our 'story' and heritage though. Labels need unpacking if they are not to miscommunicate. To some within 'the ecumenical movement', evangelical means something like unthinking, fundamentalist who is not interested in ecumenism. The fact that I might be able to engage with such people, whilst owning my evangelical heritage, would confound expectations and hopefully bring something important to the conversation. So I guess, like Richard (and also, it seems from the comments, Jason Clarke) I am both 'yes' and 'no' on labels, and the evangelical label in particular.