Labels are an important part of our life. There’s nothing worse than coming across a packet at the back of the freezer with no label on it, or shopping in a supermarket and not being able to find a price for the item. Labels give us the information we need in a form that is convenient to read and easy to understand.
Of course labels also have their drawbacks. We talk about “labelling” people, as something negative, and rightly so. When you can’t see past a person’s disability and only treat them as someone with difficulties, rather than gifts and talents, you are well on your way to becoming prejudiced against that person. However at the same time it has to be said that knowing a person’s condition can be useful if it means we can care for them in the right kind of way and show proper understanding.
I’ve been thinking about labels a lot recently in relation to our churches. I was at a conference last week with lots of other church leaders, many of whom came from “free churches”. To them, the fact I wore the label Anglican was a problem. In their eyes Anglican stand for compromise, fudge and sometimes plain wrong teaching. You could, I suppose, accuse them of “labelling” the Anglican church but there is an uncomfortably large amount of truth in their assessment.
That’s why at the last joint PCC meeting I introduced the term evangelical. I have tried to explain the term on this site before, but I am not sure how many people read these posts. The advantage with the term evangelical is that it helps outsiders understand what kind of church we are. The two PCCs talked about St Michael’s and St Barnabas as being Bible-centred, Jesus-focused and really evangelical is just a development of those terms.
To be evangelical means:
- To accept the Bible as the supreme source of authority for the Christian life.
- To believe that Jesus died in my place for my sins.
- To claim Jesus as the only Son of God, and the only sure way to salvation
- To be active in sharing a personal faith and in social action.
- To be open to the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think there’s anything that sits uneasily with where the two churches are at. To talk about our two churches being evangelical helps not only those of other denominations, but also makes it clear where we stand within the Anglican church, which sadly is divided, and where many churches do not share these same core beliefs.
Of course there is the danger of “labelling”. St Michael’s and St Barnabas still have their distinctive identity which is quite unique as far as I’m concerned. And if you are reading this as an outsider, you might just like to come along and find out what it is! Labels after all don’t tell you what exactly is in the tin, and you might just discover a pleasant surprise. I certainly hope so.