Most evangelicals dislike attaching an adjective to the great word evangelical. But because names like “liberal evangelical” or even “catholic evangelical” are sometimes heard, those who adhere to historic evangelicalism have come to be called “conservative evangelicals.”

Sometimes the adjective is very appropriate. I recall hearing an evangelical leader whom I greatly respect and admire say, “I am a conservative. I am conservative in theology, in religion, in politics, and in economics.”

Non-evangelicals have often seized on this kind of conservatism and dismissed the whole evangelical movement as hopelessly obscurantist. Evangelicals have defended themselves by pointing out that it is senseless to give up lightly the gains of the past. Where the truth has been once established, it is not the path of wisdom to surrender it.

This is, of course, quite true. But it is also true that society rarely advances majority end foremost. While evangelicals have been busy conserving the great traditions of the past, others have often been trailblazers, striking out into new fields. It would not be true, of course, to say that evangelicals have been totally lacking here. There have always been evangelicals who have been daring innovators and who have refused to walk meekly in the old paths. But they have been comparatively few.

I wonder whether we are seeing something new on the evangelical scene. Wherever I look I seem to see evangelicals taking an initiative. While holding firmly to the basic evangelical position, many are refusing to be bound by the old evangelical shibboleths and are advocating radically new ideas and practices.

For example, at the end of August there was a national congress of evangelical Anglicans in Melbourne, Australia. ...

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