The full Progressive Evangelical Institute Website will launch in January 2018
Progressive Evangelical Institute is a think tank The Progressive Evangelical Institute exists for the Study and Advancement of Progressive Evangelical Thought and Action. As a Think Tank organization we engage in research and advocacy on behalf of the, broadly defined, Progressive Evangelical movement.
The Needfor a more beautiful, inclusive common good in faith and civic life.
At Greater Things we believe it is only possible to change the religious narratives in the United States that feed into harmful and destructive mindsets, policies and practices, by changing the content and practice of influential religion.
In order to influence the religious narrative we must influence the Christian narrative as it serves as the dominant religious group in the United States.
Influencing the Christian narrative must include Catholic and Evangelical teaching. Much good work is being done in these areas as well as in the mainline Protestant traditions.
Greater Things has a unique ability to change the narrative of Christianity’s influence through the Progressive Evangelical expressions of faith through advocacy, messaging, broadcasting, coaching, education and training.
There are significant struggles in the United Stated that need to be and can be addressed by a more robust and inclusive conversation about the role and function of religion. This effort has partners on many fronts. Destructive problems including racism rooted in white supremacy, greed, exclusion, sexism, exploitation and others often find their support and even origin in religious thinking.
Religion in the United State plays a significant role in our collective imagination, often well beyond the number of personal adherents to faith. Religious imagination and teaching endures well beyond a person’s attendance of a religious community. Religious idea tend to be “sticky” in people’s thinking and subconscious. This can be seen in the number of people who support issues based on their faith even when they readily admit to not be a typical or consistent church or religious community participant.
According to current demographic statistics the are nearly 100 million Evangelicals. 30-40% of those do not identify with the Republican political party. That is 30-40 million people.
And, perhaps even more importantly, 20-30% of Evangelical leaders/pastors do not identify as conservatives.
There are many who feel voiceless and alone and are proud to join with others in public expressions of progressive evangelical faith.
Greater Things intends to increase these numbers to 40-60% of people and 40-60% percent of leaders over the next decade.
We believe this will create context for significant change in the American imagination as well as the faith community.
We believe this change is needed in North America, and, we believe this change is possible if the right conditions are in place.
Greater Things is prepared to induce the conditions necessary for this change.
The Historic Setting for Greater Things:
In the last 150 years, the American people have experienced repeated social transformations. From an agrarian society, through the industrial revolution, to the information age, to our globally-networked, culturally-creative world, we have witnessed upheaval, challenge and opportunity in all areas of our society, including religion.
In each set of cultural conditions, religious leaders found new and appropriate ways to establish connection across traditions. In the early 1900’s, faced with a wide range of social crises and inspired by the work of Walter Rauschenbusch, Protestant leaders forged a new kind of multi-denominational partnership for social justice: the Federal Council of Churches. About fifty years later, with a legacy of achievements for social justice that transformed America for the better, a new generation expanded that initiative into the National Council of Churches, whose good work continues today. Roman Catholics, freshly energized by Vatican II, entered into conversation with their Protestant sisters and brothers, and a season of ecumenism was born.
Meanwhile, the mid-twentieth century was the context for another new kind of religious connection that seized the tools of the burgeoning Information Age: Evangelicalism. Evangelicals came from a wide-range of cultural and theological backgrounds. They found creative new ways to work together - in Billy Graham crusades, through para-church groups like Youth for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and through radio and TV networks that blanketed the country with their message. With the help of hubs like the National Association of Evangelicals and media like Christianity Today, these diverse initiatives founds ways to raise the profile of their shared Evangelical identity to unprecedented levels.
In what many see a disappointing turn of events the Evangelical movement was largely swept into the Religious Right and conservative culture with a Southern Baptist and conservative takeover in the 1980’s and 90’s. It is this expression that has dominated the American religious landscape for several decades.
This unfortunate turn of events is reversible. Evangelical expressions of faith has existed as an alternative to the fundamentalist impulses in America and Christianity for decades. It is time to strengthen and make more public a positive, inclusive, well-informed evangelical expression of faith that is not beholden to fundamentalist leanings nor conservative politics.
Just as previous generations created means of collaboration appropriate to their contexts, Progressive Evangelical Christian leaders today must collaborate in fresh and effective ways for the common good in faith and civic life.
It is therefore possible and urgent that national leaders and organizations in America awaken to the moment - especially those from Progressive Evangelical settings who do not identify with the Religious Right, and who are not content with narratives of exclusion, violence and ultraconservative imagination of society.