Glossary for the RACE & Christian Community Initiative 



Evangelicals are people who are part of a global Christian movement that transcends Christian denominations, traditions, and subcultures. Evangelicals are difficult to define because there are no tenets on which they all agree or organizations to which they all submit.

By exploring definitions from various perspectives, readers can get a sense of the spirit of evangelical Christianity that, although present among people of diverse cultural, social, and political orientations, is united by theological emphases and beliefs.

RCCI’s current focus, Racial Education for White Evangelicals (ReWe), focuses on working with any White person who self-identifies as evangelical. With that having been said, ReWe gladly serves White people who do not fit this description as well.

From Christianity Today, Evangelicals’ flagship magazine:


Evangelicals are "a worldwide family of Bible-believing Christians committed to sharing with everyone everywhere the transforming good news of new life in Jesus Christ, an utterly free gift that comes through faith alone in the crucified and risen Savior.” [1] - Timothy George, Executive Editor of Christianity Today,

According to theologian, Allister McGrath


Evangelicalism is grounded on six convictions. Although these tenets are not unique to evangelicals, evangelicals set themselves apart by their emphasis on these beliefs. [2]


1) The supreme authority of Scripture as a source of knowledge of God and a guide to Christian living.

2)The majesty of Jesus Christ, both as incarnate God and Lord and as the Savior of sinful humanity.

3) The lordship of the Holy Spirit.

4) The need for personal conversion.

5) The priority of evangelism for both individual Christians and the church as a whole.

6) The importance of the Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship and growth.

According to historian, David Bebbington


The following four priorities define evangelicals:

1) Conversion: The belief that lives need to be transformed through a "born-again" experience and a lifelong process of following Jesus.

2)  Activism: The expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts.

3) Biblicism: A high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority.

4) Crucicentrism: A stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity. [3]

According to Sociologists, Christian Smith & Michael Emerson


Evangelicals are united in their beliefs that:

1)  Final, ultimate authority is in the Bible.

2)  Christ died for the salvation of all, and that anyone who accepts Christ as the one way to eternal life will be saved.

3)  Christians should share their faith, or evangelize.

4)  Engaging orthodoxy, or taking the conservative faith beyond the boundaries of the evangelical subculture and engaging the larger culture and society, is a key element of Christian life. [4]

Douglas Sweeney on Considering Historical Influences:


Responding to critiques that McGrath and Bebbington’s definitions are vague enough to include Christians who do not self-identify as evangelical or who pre-dated the movement, historian Douglas Sweeney suggests that evangelicals' uniqueness is shaped by its historical influences.


According to Sweeney, Evangelicalism is a movement rooted in classical Christian orthodoxy that has been shaped by:

"(1) Beliefs most clearly stated during the Protestant Reformation and [5]

(2) Practices shaped by the...Great Awakening." [6]

The Protestant Reformation, Sweeney asserts, was formative in evangelicals' commitment to "the orthodoxy (i.e., right doctrine and right worship) expressed in the ancient Christian creeds and promoted further by Reformers" through the doctrines of sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, and sola Christus." [7]

The Great Awakening shaped how the good news was shared in that it "engendered a new sense of gospel urgency and a new spirit of cooperation." This helped people see themselves less as a member of a theological tradition (as was customary during the sixteenth century Protestant disputes) and more as a unified Body of Christ. [8]


Racial Reconciliation:

In the Bible, "reconciliation" refers to a change in relationship from enmity to peace. Reconciliation is part of God's redemptive work: his restoring of all creation from the sickness of sin to his intended order.

The Bible most often uses "reconciliation" for how God reconciled himself to humanity through his work on the cross (e.g. Rom 5:8-15, 1 Cor. 7:11; 2 Cor. 5:18 - 20). There is a broader sense in which it is used, however, that refers to how Jesus' work on the cross reconciled people to one another (Eph. 2:14-16) and restored all of creation (Col. 1:20 cf. Rom 8:19-22).

Therefore, biblical reconciliation engages our relationship with God, one another, and the larger created order.  As part of God’s redemptive work, biblical reconciliation requires repentance, healing, and justice.

With this in mind, we affirm Brenda Salter McNiel's definition of "reconciliation":

"Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance, and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God's original intention for all creation to flourish." [1]



Shalom is a word that, though often understood as “peace,” far transcends the meaning of peace in the English language. Similar to the English understanding of “peace,” shalom captures the idea of the absence of conflict (Deut. 20:10-12, Josh. 9:15; 10:1). But it also includes the presence of completeness, wholeness, and harmony (Gen. 34:21; Zech. 6:13). It speaks of relationships that are characterized by true righteousness and justice.

Therefore, when God calls us to work towards shalom, he is not only telling us to refrain from violent action, but to foster holistic well-being. He is instructing us to bring forth righteousness, justice, and a state that reflects God’s right order of things: to restore the community to what the Lord intended it to be.

Perry Yoder, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, summarizes shalom well:  


We are tempted at times to think that peacekeeping is maintaining the status quo without conflict, but our study of shalom shows us that peacemaking is whitewashing when we think we can have peace in spite of oppression, exploitation and unjust laws…The Biblical understanding of peace…points positively to things being as they should be; when things are not that way, no amount of security, no amount of peacekeeping in the sense of law and order and public tranquility will make for peace. Only a change in the way things are will allow be realized. Only a transformation of society so that things really are all right will make for biblical peace. [1]



1 - Douglas A. Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), Kindle, location 132 – 134.

2 - Gerald R. McDermott, The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 6.

3 - "What Is an Evangelical?," National Association of Evangelicals, accessed January 12, 2015,

4. Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 3.

5. Douglas A. Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), Kindle, 145.

6. Ibid., 239.

7. Ibid., 250-261. Naturally, those who are not Protestant do not adhere to these doctrines in the same way as Protestants do. Regardless, Sweeney acknowledges these influences none-the-less.

8. Gerald R. McDermott, The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 319, 339.


Racial Reconciliation

1 – Brenda Salter McNeil, Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice (Downer Groves, IL: IVP Books, 2015), 22.



1- Perry B. Yoder,  Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace

 (Newton, KN.: Faith and Life Press, 1987), 18, 22.