18 March 2015
Mythbusting book shows evangelicals engage in politics for the benefit of others
Evangelical Christians put the welfare of those in greatest need above their own interests, according to new research ahead of the general election.
Over nine out of 10 evangelicals want the UK government to speak out more strongly on issues of human rights and religious liberty in countries with oppressive regimes and the same number think we have to continue to campaign hard if we are to make poverty history.
The findings come in a groundbreaking new book, 21st Century Evangelicals, from the Evangelical Alliance based on five years of surveys into the beliefs and actions of evangelicals in the UK. This research backs up the conclusions of their recent Faith in politics? report showing the high political activism among evangelicals.
Following more than a dozen short reports, the Alliance drew together leading academics in theology and the social sciences who looked in depth at the data and contributed their analysis and reflection. The book is made up of chapters tackling subjects including social involvement, politics, global mission, gender and families, each with a response from an experienced practitioner.
The research shows the emergence of a distinct social and political evangelical identity which is highly engaged and working for the good of both those around them in their communities and those in need across the world. Four out of five evangelicals say they have volunteered in a church activity serving the wider community in the last year and over a third do this each week. Over half consciously try and buy fair trade and nearly as many are involved in child sponsorship (43 per cent). The book also reveals that four out of 10 evangelicals have been overseas for mission or development work.
21st Century Evangelicals busts many of the myths of what evangelicals look like, and delving beneath the surface of the surveys provides an impressive portrait of a vibrant and active part of the UK Church.
In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in religious belief and its unexpected resilience in a world where it was predicted to demise. This book explains why evangelical Christians are of particular interest, as the churches they are part of are usually the ones bucking the trend of nationwide decline.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance and author of the book's concluding chapter, commented on the research: "The research shows that those with strong orthodox beliefs and moral values are far more likely than average to be involved in serving their communities and participating in voluntary projects.
"What this book shows is that the purpose of their political engagement is primarily focused on serving other people –particularly those in acute need."
The Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, commented on the book's publication: "The research produces many fascinating insights which will inform the way evangelicals understand themselves and their movement."
Greg Smith, editor of the volume, said: "The data we have compiled is a treasure chest of information about evangelicals in the UK. In the book we have been able to delve deeper than in the initial reports, and our team of authors has set out their analysis in the framework of contemporary academic debates, while writing in a style that should be accessible to all."
21st Century Evangelicals is out now, published by Instant Apostle.
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Notes to Editors
- 21st Century Evangelicals edited by Greg Smith (9781909728257 / paperback £12.99) is published by Instant Apostle and is available from Christian bookshops and on-line retailers in printed and kindle formats.
- A review copy of the book is available upon request.
- The book's editor, Greg Smith, is research manager at the Evangelical Alliance and is also a William Temple Foundation Associate Research Fellow.
- Chapter authors:
- Rev Dr Steve R. Holmes: Baptist minister and Senior Lecturer in Theology at the University of St Andrews. He chairs the Evangelical Alliance's Theology Advisory Group (TAG).
- Dr Mandy Robbins: Reader in Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Glyndwr University, Wrexham.
- Dr Matthew Guest: Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion at Durham University.
- Dr Keith J. White: Visiting Tutor at Spurgeon's College, Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary and Asian Graduate School of Theology.
- Dr Sylvia Collins-Mayo: Head of the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Kingston University.
- Professor William K. Kay: Professor of Theology at Glyndwr University, Wrexham.
- Dr William Ackah: Lecturer in Community and Voluntary Sector Studies in the Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London.
- Dr Dave Landrum: Director of Advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance.
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org