My church experience hasn’t revolved much around any one denomination. In high school I was part of a Baptist church, but I didn’t call myself a Baptist. College brought about a mixture of different ministries and churches, but the most predominant one was a non-denominational church that had branched off from Calvary Chapel. After college, I spent almost a year going to church on occasion, but eventually wound up in an EV-Free church (Emmaus Life in Eugene), though, again, I didn’t think of myself as part of the EV-Free denomination. Each of the churches I have been most involved with were simply my church families.
Obviously this is related to Brian’s post from a few days ago as well as the recent concern for the “Evangelical” label, but with a slightly broader discussion of our labels within Christianity (perhaps even “Christian” itself). On my own blog, I have a subtitle that I’ve been thinking about editing to something else. It reads, “Adventures of a Young Jesus Freak” and while I should probably edit out the “Young” part, I’ve been rethinking the whole “Jesus Freak” label altogether. So when it comes to the label of “Evangelical” or “Mainline” or something else entirely, I’m a little bit hesitant in adopting a label because, at least for myself, I’m not sure if a label would serve much of a purpose in describing who I am and how I think or believe.
My school has “Evangelical” in its title, but it is quite different than other self-identified “Evangelical” environments I’ve experienced. Questions are welcomed here – in fact, on a typical day of class, I usually leave with more questions than I had when I arrived. Not to say that all the “Evangelical” environments I experienced had shunned questions, but to say there weren’t many being asked and if there were, I didn’t get the sense that they were diving very deep. So in many ways, I love the “Evangelical” atmosphere at George Fox (also because the student body comprises of many different denominations and branches).
Since I have been in seminary, I have noticed that I feel less inclined to “side” with any particular denomination. Instead, I feel my capacity for perspective has been enlarged through my experiences with classmates and professors. What I mean is, I feel as though I could almost go from church to church without ever feeling unwelcomed. If Christianity is one giant group of people and our denominations are camps, then I imagine myself as one of those who wanders from camp to camp.
Much of my lack of association with denominations and labels has been part of my own spiritual development before I arrived to seminary. Yet I find that my seminary experience has compelled me to be even less interested in those labels. In other words, based off of content from classes as well as interactions with fellow students and professors, I do not see much value in identifying as “Evangelical” or “Baptist” or even as a “Jesus Freak.”
But I would like to hear from your seminary experience. Is your seminary denominationally attached? Do you feel more inclined to associate with that label, “Evangelical” in broader terms, or something else? How do you think that your seminary experience has changed the way you see labels (if it has changed at all)?