In seminary I knew I was different, but I didn’t have a name for what I was. I was the product of an unusual union of Christian traditions, and this left me feeling out of place. My early faith formation took place in small evangelical house churches where being born-again, faith healing, speaking in tongues, and the daily battle with the devil over my soul were paramount to the Christian life. At the same time, I was an active member of the First Congregational Church in Fairport, New York. This was a very proper church in the center of town that was concerned about the poor, prided itself on its youth and church school programs, and was always wary that the slate roof might spring a leak and cost a small fortune to repair.

I grew up in two worlds, one evangelical and Christian and the other liberal and Christian. The two never met face to face until they collided within me during seminary. I loved the passion, spirit, conviction, and holy mystery of evangelical faith, but I was repulsed by the exclusive nature of it. I loved my institutional church, with its broad welcome and its embrace of the diversity of God’s creation, but I loathed its barren sermons and limp faith. Was there a way to be a passionate, unapologetic Christian while still embracing the complexity of the world? Was there a way to be liberal and still love Jesus? Could the Christian message be energetically shared with the world while respecting the traditions of others? Could I be both liberal and evangelical? Was there anyone else like me?

Click here to continue reading the Fall 2005 Congregations magazine article “Coming Out—Liberal and Evangelical” by Chapin Garner.


Featured Resources

AL304_SM Practicing Right Relationship: Skills for Deepening Purpose, Finding Fulfillment, and Increasing Effectiveness in Your Congregation by Mary K. Sellon and Daniel P. Smith

In a book that is both profound and practical, Mary Sellon and Daniel Smith make the case that the health of churches and synagogues depends on congregations learning how to live out love in “right relationships.” Practicing Right Relationship offers theories, stories, and tools that will help congregations and their leaders learn how to build and maintain the loving relationships that provide the medium for God’s transforming work.

AL298_SMPaying Attention: Focusing Your Congregation on What Matters by Gary Peluso-Verdend

In this inspiring volume, Gary Peluso-Verdend issues a clarion call to congregational leaders to refocus their church’s attention on the core matters of Christian faith—the Word, the example of Christ, and an intentional embrace of theology and spiritual practice—to renew the congregation’s vision and to center itself again on God’s call. With study questions at the end of each chapter and an imagined conversation between people practicing theology in their congregation, Paying Attention provides an invaluable companion in a congregation’s journey toward purposeful, attentive faithfulness.

AL296_SM A New and Right Spirit: Creating an Authentic Church in a Consumer Culture by Rick Barger

In A New and Right Spirit, Barger argues for congregations to reexamine what it means to be an “authentic church” in a culture where authenticity is hard to come by. He exhorts leaders to turn away from the story of our culture and to return to the story of the church, which is grounded in Christ and the resurrection. Driven by that authentic story, the church becomes a powerful witness to God’s love for all and an effective minister to the needs of the world.