Recapturing the word evangelical

If ever a word has been hijacked and politicized and changed from its original meaning, it is the term “evangelical,” according to the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). When the ELCA was formed nearly 25 years ago, Chilstrom said the word “evangelical” was deliberately included in the name of the church.

“We did so to make it known that anyone who embraces that fundamental focus on Jesus Christ is welcome to be a member of one of our congregations: old, young, Democrat, Republican, Independent, African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, straight, gay, single, married – yes, anyone,” Chilstrom wrote in a March 6 letter to the editor of Green Valley News in Green Valley, Ariz.

But “ask most anyone on the street to define ‘evangelical’ and they will tell you it represents someone who is opposed to gun control, abortion and birth control; someone who favors tight immigration restrictions and prayer in the public schools. You get the picture. The press relentlessly speaks of the ‘Evangelical Block’ when it writes and broadcasts items about some members of the Republican Party and other conservative movements,” he wrote.

The root meaning of the word “goes back to the New Testament and the Greek language in which it was written,” wrote Chilstrom “Its meaning is almost disarming in its simplicity. It describes one who believes the Good News about Jesus Christ.”

Click here for the full text of Chilstrom’s letter, made available at

ELCA responding to recent storms in the Midwest and South

According to a March 6 e-Alert from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), congregations and ELCA Disaster Response are providing spiritual care, coordinating volunteer work through local partner agencies and laying the groundwork for further response in areas impacted by recent storms.

Between Feb. 22 and March 3, at least 64 tornadoes killed more than 50 people and injured many more in 14 states. Hundreds of homes, farms and businesses were damaged or destroyed.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response designated for “U.S. Severe Spring Storms” will be used entirely (100 percent) to help families whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by the storms.