Some prefer to describe “mainline” denominations with words such as “ecumenical” or “establishment” or “old-line” or even “mainstream.” Whichever words you choose, they point to a group of churches that, not so long ago, functioned as the unofficial religious establishment of the U.S.
These churches have lasted over time and have played a significant role in the life of U.S. society and culture. They also have tried to avoid moving too far from the religious and cultural center of American life. As the nation swings from left to right, these churches have acted as forces of moderation.
“Mainline” denominations include the ELCA, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, the American Baptist Church, and the Reformed Church in America.
Will each of the 525,600 minutes of 2006 bring mainline denominations
in the U.S. closer to extinction? Or will each minute advance them
closer to new life? Are the cracks—and there are cracks—in the
denominational egg signs of imminent demise or life struggling to be
Kenneth Inskeep, director of ELCA Research and Evaluation, and I explored those questions and more in Chasing Down A Rumor: The Death of Mainline Denominations (Augsburg Books, 2005). Among our observations about these churches:
|Mary Ann Moller-Gunderson takes up timeless questions during her sermon at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Lake Geneva, Wis. , and offers answers rooted in traditional Lutheran theology. The 100-year-old congregation of 800 was facing closure when she was called as pastor 11 years ago.|
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