- Evangelicalism is a stream that emerged among conservative Protestants in the united states in the 1940s who opposed the modernism that prevailed in many older churches but refused to joinFundamentalists in separating themselves from the larger Protestant world.In the 1940s, conservative leaders in the American (and to a lesser extent Canadian) Protestant community, most of whom belonged to Presbyterian, Baptist, and Congregationalist churches, divided into two groups. One group demanded that all conservatives separate themselves from liberal Protestants and refuse to cooperate with liberal churches, ministers, or members. These separatists formed the core of the Fundamentalist community.A second group, who also had left the liberal denominations, did not wish to withdraw from the wider Protestant culture and intellectual world, and wanted to maintain ties with conservatives who still remained members of those denominations. They hoped to build a large coalition including denominations committed to traditional Christian affirmations as well as individuals and churches within more liberal denominations who shared their conservative faith. They wanted to be aggressively evangelistic and keep a global perspective. This group came to be known as Evangelicals; they followed a path distinct from both Modernism and Fundamentalism.Evangelicalism did not break with Fundamentalism over doctrine. Both groups continued to find common ground in the doctrines of biblical authority, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, sinful humanity in need of salvation through faith, and holy living. Both saw a miraculous element in Christianity symbolized in the virgin birth, and both talked of God's intervention in human affairs, often in answer to prayer. Both opposed textual biblical criticism and biological evolution, though many Evangelicals came to a limited accommodation with both ideas. Both groups upheld the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, language developed at Princeton Theological seminary in the l9th century. Evangelicals would later accommodate conservatives who acknowledged the authority of the Bible but were uncomfortable with the particular formulations of the Princeton theology.Evangelicalism coalesced in the 1940s around several structures, most notably the National Association of Evangelicals. The association welcomed Evangelical denominations as well as congregations, ministers, and individuals of Evangelical perspective in other churches. The Fuller Theological Seminary was founded in Pasadena, California, in 1947 to train Evangelical ministers. Conservative scholars formed the Evangelical Theological Society in 1949, and a national voice was launched with the first issue of Christianity Today in 1956. A key role was played by one individual, evangelist Billy GRAHAM, who led the way in creating broad-based Evangelical coalitions first in North America and later around the world.The first generation of Evangelicalism concentrated on building structures to make up for the loss of access to seminaries, mission boards, and parachurch organizations. By the 1970s the movement had become a significant force in American religious life. Institutionally, Evangelicalism's broad coalition included not only Presbyterian, Baptist, and Congregational churches, but conservatives in African American churches, churches with roots in the Radical Reformation such as Mennonites and Brethren, Wesleyan Holiness churches, and most importantly, Pentecostal churches.Evangelicals, unlike the liberal Protestant churches, saw the potential of religious broadcasting. Leading the way were Pentecostal healing evangelist Oral Roberts (b. 1918) and Billy Graham (b. 1918). In the 1960s, Pat Robertson (b. 1930) founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) to provide a full day of Evangelical programming. CBN would later be joined by the Trinity Broadcasting Network.A certain distaste of centralized authority has made for a very decentralized movement built around a number of independent organizations, each performing one or more of the tasks previously assumed by the large denominational apparatuses in other churches. Parachurch organizations support missionaries, provideChristian higher education, publish Evangelical materials, and advocate various social causes. Among the more important new parachurch organizations were Campus Crusade for Christ, World Vision, and Focus on the Family.Evangelicalism sought to enter national debates on issues of primary importance to them, such as u.s. supreme Court decisions abolishing prayer in public schools (1963) and allowing abortion (1973). A major step in mobilizing conservative Christians, both Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, was taken in 1979 with the formation of the Moral Majority, which worked on the 1980 presidential campaign that swept Ronald Reagan into the White House. In the process, Evangelical political activists came to be identified with the Republican Party, which was seen as supportive of Evangelical perspectives on public acknowledgment of God and opposition to abortion and to the extension of rights to the homosexual community. The coalition of Evangelicals and conservative politicians was labeled the radical right by its critics. The Christian Coalition, founded in 1989 by Pat Robertson superseded the Moral Majority in the 1990s as the primary organization articulating the conservative Christian political agenda.Evangelicals have also focused upon world evangelism, often with the belief that the larger denominations had redefined missions as mere social work. Many older missionary parachurch organizations came to identify with the Evangelical cause, and many new missionary organizations were formed. The issues that led to the emergence of the American Evangelical community took on a global aspect as Evangelicals around the world critiqued the World Council of Churches. In many countries, the more conservative churches separated from their liberal sister communities and reorganized as Evangelicals, and countrywide alliances were formed that affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance, an Evangelical counterpart of the World Council of Churches (WCC). While still far smaller than the WCC, the alliance is growing at a rapid rate.By the end of the 20th century, Evangelicals had emerged as the second force beside liberal Protestantism as a voice of American Protestantism. As it has grown, it has become a much more diverse community, welcoming variant interpretations of the core beliefs it was created to defend.Further reading:■ Randall Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (Louisville, Ky.: Westminister John Knox Press, 2002)■ Mark Ellinsen, The Evangelical Movement: Growth, Impact, Controversy, Dialog (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Press, 1988)■ George Marsden, ed., Evangelicalism and Modern America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1984)■ Mark A. Shibley, Resurgent Evangelicalism in the United States: Mapping Cultural Change since 1970 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996)■ Glen H. Utter and John W. Storey, The Religious Right (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2001)■ David E Wells and John D. Woodbridge, The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Who They Are, Where They Are Changing (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1975).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.