Formed from the noun evangel (from the Greek euanggelion, "good news"), it means simply "pertaining to the gospel." Hooker referred to the Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis as "Evangelical Hymns" since their texts come from the Gospel of Luke.
During the intra-Protestant controversies in Germany and Switzerland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Lutherans were called evangelical and Calvinists were called reformed. The Evangelical Church is the official name of the church formed in Germany by the union of Lutherans and Calvinists. In England a movement in the eighteenth century formed under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield was called indiscriminately "methodist" or "evangelical." English evangelical teaching was characterized by emphasis on atoning sanctification and marked by "enthusiasm." Evangelicals who remained within the Church of England formed an evangelical or low church party, often at odds with the Laudian, catholic, or high church party.
The evangelical movement in the Episcopal Church was influenced strongly by the Great Awakening in America during the mid-eighteenth century. Episcopal evangelicals reflected American evangelicalism in many ways, including a characteristic emphasis on personal religion and religious emotion, personal conversion, the authority of the Bible as centered in the revelation of God in Christ, the importance of justification by faith, the preaching of the Word and the study of the gospel, the centrality of the cross for salvation, the importance of the believer's direct relationship with God, and a desire for pure and undefiled religion which included a strong aversion to worldliness and threats to public morals. Episcopal evangelicals attended prayer meetings which included informal prayers and enthusiastic singing of hymns. Evangelicals wrote many of the hymns that were used in the first years of the Episcopal Church. Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church used the Prayer Book and participated in the sacraments, but they did not emphasize the importance of sacramental form or the importance of apostolic succession. They saw much value in the less liturgical style of other Protestant churches and were impatient with canonical restrictions that prevented their participation in the services of other Protestant denominations or the participation of other Protestant ministers in Episcopal services. They were opposed to ritual excess, which they associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine of Ohio challenged the theology of the Oxford Movement in his Oxford Divinity (1841), which identified Oxford divinity with the Roman Catholic Church and urged that both served to undermine the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith. The evangelicals gave rise to the low church party in the Episcopal Church. Evangelicals have been at the center of the overseas missionary work of the Episcopal Church since the 1830s. Noted evangelicals in the Episcopal Church included Bishops Richard Channing Moore and William Meade of Virginia; Philander Chase, Gregory T. Bedell, McIlvaine of Ohio; Alexander Viets Griswold of the Eastern Diocese, who later served as Presiding Bishop; and Alonzo Potter of Pennsylvania. Other notable evangelicals were Elizabeth Channing Moore, and the Rev. William H. Wilmer, who served as president of William and Mary College; and Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Evangelical principles guided the founding of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, by Meade, Wilmer, and others; and the founding by Chase of Kenyon College and Gambier Theological Seminary (later Bexley Hall) in Ohio.