I was having coffee with an old school friend yesterday. He was in the local Charismatic church back then, I was in the local Dutch Reformed church back then. He is still in the same congregation, but even back then they were slowly moving away from the charismatic label and rather adopting the label evangelical, and I have been moving closer to… I’m not always sure what, but I like much of the emerging conversation.

He bemoans the fact that Americans have annexed the evangelical terminology, and complains about the way people misunderstands evangelicalism. So I asked him what exactly evangelical means. Without any hesitation he went on to tell me that there is no central creed. Not Lausanne. Not the Westminster confession (although, according to him, that one is the most common in the world where he moves around).

He continues to tell me that being evangelical is mainly about shared relationships. It’s people who journey together.

Sound familiar? Same thing those who associate with emerging thoughts would say.

Maybe there is more of a realization that we don’t have a common theology than we might think. Maybe many continue in the tradition they are not because they agree, but because they find community, friendship, in this tradition. So they’d rather disagree and remain in community.

Evangelicals would probably consider my friend to be in line with evangelical theology, but he wouldn’t make that a prerequisite to be part of the evangelical community, if I understand him correctly.

I’ve been listening to the 2007 Emergent Theological Conversation with Jack Caputo and Richard Kearney over the past few days, and the story of Derrida and Riccoeur, and how their personal relationship impacted they way they talked philosophy really touched me. This provides for true ecumenical conversations, where the relationship gets priority over the idea.

Not so easy, I agree. Peter Rollins points to this in second paragraph of this post, but maybe what we should be looking for is the idea which would give relationships priority over ideology or theology. Caputo’s love of God in chapter 1 of On Religion maybe?