Have Americans lost faith in the old "mainline" churches?
Millions are attending unaffiliated churches that lack liberal, irrelevant and even litigious national hierarchies. Will Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians gradually fade away?
The Southern Baptist Convention reports 16.2 million members. Again, it is difficult to report actual Baptist numbers due to all the unaffiliated and independent Baptists that dot the countryside – Alliance Baptists, American Baptists, Bible Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Continental Baptists, Evangelical Free Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Full Gospel Baptists, Fundamental Baptists, General Baptists, Indian Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Missionary Baptists, National Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Regular Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Six-Principle Baptists, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, United Baptists, Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and Unity Baptists.
Given the rise in such non-mainline groups, will the old Protestant churches soon fade away? Their defenders roll their eyes in boredom at assertions that they are approaching irrelevancy. But, frankly, if somebody announced that all 150 of the Shakers left in the U.S. had voted against funding NASA, who would care?
Today’s old mainline Protestant churches have shrugged off such baggage as the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the divinity of Jesus. Their apologists sigh impatiently at any talk of sin or repentance or hell – making the casual observer wonder why they don’t remove the stained glass windows, too – which eventually are going to offend somebody.
Douthat suggests that the Episcopalians and Presbyterians “pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world. Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.”