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Should we rename the “mainline” church? An update

Should we rename the “mainline” church? An update

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.”


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Michael Russell

“Old School” has interesting street cred these days.

Though it is awkward

“Enlightenment Friendly” is better than Liberal. As is “Progressive Christian”

John B. Chilton

Jesus in on the mainline. ‘Nuf said,

William R. MacKaye

I’m perfectly happy with “mainline,” but I note crankily that I am not a Protestant. I am an Anglican.

In fact, I think Protestant is a term best avoided. It tends to mask rich, differing Christian traditions, the distinctive spiritualities of Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Mennonites, Quakers, and so on, that we all can be enriched by. Protestant, on the other hand, means nothing more than not Roman Catholic. We can and should be enriched by Roman Catholics as well.

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