Inspired by the Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, a Presbyterian pastor and scholar, Religion News Service has been running a poll to come up with a new nickname for what are currently referred to as the “mainline” Protestant churches. Cathy Lee Grossman has the results.
* “Liberal Church” led with 24 percent of the votes. But the word carried a double whammy. Some liked the social and political connotation. Others used “Liberal” as a slam on a church they thought was too loose on doctrines of sin and salvation. Merritt said Monday she preferred a different spin: “Liberationist Church,” she said, “because it taps into the good news that our beliefs lead us to seek liberation for all the oppressed, to expand freedom for all.”
* Next, at 17 percent, were those who said labels just don’t work for religious distinctions anymore. National surveys find growing numbers just want to call themselves “Christian.”
* “Grandma’s Church” drew only 3 percent of votes despite its ring of truth: It has the greatest percentage of members age 65 and older of any Christian tradition. “Old Line” drew 6 percent.
I think I agree with Mark Silk who, Grossman reports, favors sticking with mainline because “it identifies a social location in American communities — a religious tradition that takes a broad view of its responsibilities to the community at large — that continues to serve as meaningful shorthand.”