Envisioning a new future for mainline Protestants: pubs and piercings?
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"Mainline" Protestants include the largest branches of Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and other traditional denominations. Patheos invited Protestant thinkers to explore how traditional denominations will "retool" themselves for a new century, given the "well-documented mainline decline" in membership.
Sam Alexander, a Presbyterian pastor in San Rafael, Calif., implores fellow Christians to face changes for the future:
"We can hang onto what we have been ... we can hang on to our endless, divisive fights for purity and justice; we can proceed with our useless, interminable efforts to get a culture that has left us behind, to come back; or we can commit our last breath to a still more glorious dawn just now beginning to rise. ..."
Jim Burklo, dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, sees hope in the "remarkable creativity springing out of hundreds of progressive congregations and groups in the U.S. today."
Phillip Clayton, professor at Claremont School of Theology, argues that a change in theology is not needed, but "new visions of what the church is and what it does" is needed. He says that new churches will "stretch and challenge you ... take openness to forms and practices you've never seen before," including:
Go to Patheos.com for more essays on the Future of Mainline Protestantism by the following authors: Rev. Jerry. D. Campbell, Adam Walker Cleaveland, Monica A. Coleman, James Calvin Davis, Kenda Creasy Dean, Bruce G. Epperly, Greg Garrett, Anne Howard, James J. Kang, J. Ryan Parker, Brian McLaren, David LaMotte, Anthony B. Pinn, Robert John Russell, Josef Sorett and Peter Wallace.
The website will offer new articles each day this week, including interviews with denominational leaders Bishop Larry Goodpaster (United Methodist Church) and the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow (Presbyterian Church USA) on the future of mainline denominations.
Pam Stout covers Faith and Home & Garden coverage for AnnArbor.com. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.