21st Century Evangelicals: Reflections on research
by the Evangelical Alliance
Greg Smith, editor
Instant Apostle £12.99
THE Evangelical Alliance has engaged in sophisticated sociological
self-scrutiny. Pious aspirations are minimal, apart from phrases
about bridging the gap between Evangelical culture and the exposure
of its young people via social media to contemporary consumerism
This is where Evangelicals do somewhat better than other
Christians by maintaining boundaries against incursion; but these
are porous. Boundaries entail a high cost, and still decreasing
spirals of church involvement are only just kept at bay.
Nevertheless, Evangelicals retain more males, they pray hard and
participate actively, they engage enthusiastically in voluntary
work (especially the women and older generations), they appreciate
inspiring leadership, and they entertain hope and are loyal to
their churches. Like other Christians, active volunteers for church
work may be less available as older generations depart.
The Evangelical Alliance estimates its active constituency at
about two million, disproportionately middle-aged, middle-class,
and well educated, with a strong south- eastern base, (including
black-majority churches), and concentrated in the caring,
educational, or health professions. Evangelicals work hard, are
affluent and not in debt or on benefits. About one third are
Anglican, but they sit loose to denominations and seek relational
and informal satisfactions rather than formal liturgy in sacred
In their everyday theology they are mostly not creationists, but
they emphasise biblical authority, conversion, and the uniqueness
of Christ. They embrace a bifocal emphasis on the coming Kingdom
and the atonement, and they are dubious enough about hell to
envisage a merciful universalism. They oppose homosexuality, gay
marriage, and assisted suicide, but are more ambivalent on
abortion. Their emphasis on family and marriage coalesces with
traditional gender roles, though they openly report domestic
emotional abuse. Singles bother them.
Sylvia Collins-Mayo writes on gender; Mandy Robbins (with Greg
Smith) writes on "Life in the church"; Mandy Robbins and William
Kay write on the evolution of Charismatic movements; and Mathew
Guest covers politics. Guest shows that Evangelicals vote and
participate politically in spite of some scepticism.
Their liking for the Liberal Democrats has been badly hit by the
coalition. They combine theological conservatism with left-leaning
attitudes on justice issues, and on poverty at home and abroad,
they embrace a strong sense of overall British identity (with
minority openings to UKIP), and they value education with a
Christian component. Black Christians are Labour supporters, in
spite of their aspirational ethos.
The Revd Dr David Martin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology
at the London School of Economics.