Author Topic: Death of mainline protestantism  (Read 24999 times)

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #90 on: July 29, 2008, 04:52:16 PM »
Marshall Hahn writes (re my modest suggestions)'
I came across this gem from Pastor Austin. ....

I respond:
And a moment of strange, unfamiliar warmth swept over me for just a nanosecond...

Then Pastor Hahn writes (re my comments about an imperfect church body):
Conceivably with such imperfections that it may lead one to conclude that the only faithful response is to separate from a particular congregation, synod, diocese, presbytery, class, or denomination.  It is conceiving of such a possibility that is the subject of this thread.  And it is helpful to keep these suggestions from Pastor Austin in mind while considering this possiblity.

And I respond:
Ah, chilled back to "reality," or at least one view of it.
So now the "death of mainline Protestantism" is taken as a given, and the subject of this thread is how to leave it ere putrefacton sets in.
Then - of course and alas!- my modest suggestions are no longer appropriate.

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #91 on: July 29, 2008, 04:53:45 PM »
Pastor Buechler writes (re my comment on the denominationalism of previous times):
True, but it does say that it was certainly better for them and for the country when they actually stood on distinctives instead of brushed them aside for some feel good theology.

I ask:
Explain how it was "better".

buechler

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #92 on: July 29, 2008, 04:56:53 PM »
Pastor Buechler writes (re my comment on the denominationalism of previous times):
True, but it does say that it was certainly better for them and for the country when they actually stood on distinctives instead of brushed them aside for some feel good theology.

I ask:
Explain how it was "better".

I respond: Read the whole article again carefully. ;) Since it is Bottum's article you will have to seek his understanding.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler
« Last Edit: July 29, 2008, 05:01:17 PM by buechler »

Marshall_Hahn

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #93 on: July 30, 2008, 10:43:23 AM »
Marshall Hahn writes (re my modest suggestions)'
I came across this gem from Pastor Austin. ....

I respond:
And a moment of strange, unfamiliar warmth swept over me for just a nanosecond...

Then Pastor Hahn writes (re my comments about an imperfect church body):
Conceivably with such imperfections that it may lead one to conclude that the only faithful response is to separate from a particular congregation, synod, diocese, presbytery, class, or denomination.  It is conceiving of such a possibility that is the subject of this thread.  And it is helpful to keep these suggestions from Pastor Austin in mind while considering this possiblity.

And I respond:
Ah, chilled back to "reality," or at least one view of it.
So now the "death of mainline Protestantism" is taken as a given, and the subject of this thread is how to leave it ere putrefacton sets in.
Then - of course and alas!- my modest suggestions are no longer appropriate.
How so, Pastor Austin?  "Conceiving of such a possibility" is a long way from considering something as a given - it is simply that:  thinking about the possible ramifications if such a situation became a reality.  The situation that I am considering is this:  what would be the point at which those "imperfections" would lead me to conclude that the most faithful response is to separate?  I am saddened if such an exercise upsets your sensibilities, but I believe it is prudent to consider such things in light of the article mentioned, the situations I see (from afar) in some of our full communion partner churches, and proposals that have come before our ELCA.  And I do consider your suggestions to be thoughtful and good reminders to me and others who are considering these things.  And I am glad that, for one shining nanosecond, at least, we were joined in a moment of heart-warming communion.

Marshall Hahn

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #94 on: July 30, 2008, 11:18:51 AM »
My apologies, Marshall Hahn, but I read your comments as saying that we were at the point where decisions had to be made, that the "imperfections" had been defined and determined to be cause for leaving.
If we are still discussing non-schismatic "imperfections," then let the discussion - in good, warm fellowship - continue.
Cheers,

TravisW

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #95 on: July 31, 2008, 02:18:50 AM »
I have no theology nor statistics to add to this thread.  All I have is personal observation and my own opinions.  Take it for what it's worth.

As we are quite aware, the mainline Lutheran synods have experienced a massive decline since the 1960s.  This has followed the same trend as other mainline churches.  Why? 

The WWII and "silent generation" generally grew up in church.  As we all know, not all were ardent adherents to their respective faiths, but that was the status of American culture of the time.  That culture was consistent in America post-WWII.  (Europe post-WWII is a COMPLETELY different story)  American mainline churches offered a fairly balanced theology in the 1940s and 1950s.  It was easy to be a mainline Protestant Christian in America then.  Those who were not believers still attended church, because it was a cultural staple---that's what people did, and the theology was palatable to a degree. 

This started changing in the 1960's.  A different generation grew to adulthood.  This was a generation that valued personal experience over potential theological truth and cultural mores.  The buzz-phrase of the 70's, as far as I understand, commonly became about a personal relationship with God.  Within a relatively short timeframe, it became popular for people to "go fishing rather than to go to church." "It's better to think about God while fishing than think about fishing when in church".  Moreover, it became more common for people to just stop going to church altogether--that started to become an accepted cultural norm.  "Church is just a building". 

This has changed again with my generation (x).  Those whose parents were borderline believers are agnostics.  We are moving toward the post-WWII European paradigm.  Simple theists rarely attend church anymore---it is no longer a societal norm.  Those of devout belief wind up going to more conservative churches.  Why would they do that?  Because the mainline churches are completely behind the times, and are trying to keep up with the wrong audience.  What would have been a marginal Lutheran in the 1960s is now a non-practicing agnostic.  What would have been a devout Lutheran in the 1970s is now becoming a devout Evangelical.  As the mainline churches move left politically, and towards a liberal theology, their importance diminishes as those who are theologically liberal become non-practicing Universalists.

Since I'm Norwegian, cheap, and cynical; I tend to think that a lot of people are being strung along with a lot of hopes that will be dashed.  I tend to think that the mainline churches have tended to move left politically and theologically to avoid butting financial heads with the non-denoms and Evangelicals.  I tend to think that some shepherds are willing to let some sheep die so that the flock will, in some way, survive; rather than keeping solid watch for theological wolves.

...and that's a layman's opinion on mainline protestant churches.   

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #96 on: July 31, 2008, 03:50:27 AM »
I agree with most of the sociological analysis; but there can be a good discussion on the connection between that and the theological situation.
Until the 1960s, almost everyone "went to church" or had some connection with the church and that was part of "life." (They also joined bowling leagues, the VFW and American Legion, PTA and fraternal lodges, also a part of "life.") There was community disapproval leveled at those who did not do those things.
That is no longer the case.
Some might contend that the social and intellectual upheavals of the 1960s contributed to the decline of the church, as standard beliefs were questioned and challenged. But I contend that many found the church's engagement with the world appealing, refreshing and stimulating; and that the new approach to theology - now seen as discussion, give-and-take, and an intellectual exercise rather than unquestioning "faith" - kept many people connected with the church, which they now saw as more relevant and "modern" (not a bad word).
It did not all go well. As with the Reformation, some took the "new" ways too far; others used them as an excuse for abandoning the church altogether.
Others continued as before and others who had bad experiences in the church (see the new book "unChristian") could leave without societal disapproval.
The social and intellectual turmoil also stimulated a reaction; and a new kind of "conservatism." Many found the questioning a great threat, and sought places where they believed they would get clear, black-and-white, yes-or-no answers to worrisome problems.
As to whether the decline in mainline church is "massive," and if so, the meaning of that decline; I don't think any of our analyses are compelling. Is there a "new Reformation," and if so, is it the rise of evangelicals or the rise of socially and theologically tumultuous church bodies? Who is playing the roles of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and those folks; and who is attempting to preserve the "church" against the upstarts?
Personally, I'm sure not willing to "let any sheep die." Some may find God calling them to another kind of expression of faith than now exists in many "mainline" churches. Sorry to lose them, but they are still part of the body of Christ. Others may be finding what might be considered "new" expressions of the Christian faith, with elements (like ordination for women, gays and lesbians) that trouble other parts of the Church. They, too, are still part of the body of Christ.





ptmccain

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #97 on: July 31, 2008, 06:01:35 AM »
Personally, I'm sure not willing to "let any sheep die."

Except for those in the womb?

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #98 on: July 31, 2008, 08:28:03 AM »
Pastor McCain injects, following my comment about not letting any of the "sheep" "die":
Except for those in the womb?

I respond:
A dependable and predictable ham-handed response, offered with the usual lack of grace and fellowship, and totally unrelated to the comment that I made or to the reasoned and polite remarks from TravisW. 
 

buechler

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #99 on: July 31, 2008, 08:55:26 AM »
Pastor McCain injects, following my comment about not letting any of the "sheep" "die":
Except for those in the womb?

I respond:
A dependable and predictable ham-handed response, offered with the usual lack of grace and fellowship, and totally unrelated to the comment that I made or to the reasoned and polite remarks from TravisW. 
 

Actually Paul's response is quite on target with regards the title of this thread. If one reads the article and views what is happening in the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc. Those denominations who have made changes in these things (as well as others) have become irrelevant since they have become at best a mirror of secular culture and at worst helpers in foisting American Civil Religion upon the sheep of the Lord's flock. The sheep scatter and go where they can be safe.

The death of mainline protestantism is based not only on each denomination giving up its distinctives for the sake of collective. The death is based on thse denominations giving up what is distinctively Christian for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective (or at least the cultural collective portrayed by pop culture and academia).

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler

Charles_Austin

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #100 on: July 31, 2008, 09:54:39 AM »
Pastor Buechler writes
...(in) the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc.
I comment:
No, there has not been a "major shift" from "biblical faithfulness," there has been a shift from what some of you declare to be faithfulness. But some of you do not have the last word for all of us.

Pastor Buechler:
Those denominations who have made changes in these things (as well as others) have become irrelevant since they have become at best a mirror of secular culture and at worst helpers in foisting American Civil Religion upon the sheep of the Lord's flock.
Me:
Where have you been? One of the key themes of those whom you so much despise has been to resist the "civil religion" that assumes far too much about the "religion" of the nation in which we live. This civil religion puts Christianity, or at least God, at the core of all public and political events and links that with the nation. It is the mainline churches that have opposed this misappropriation of the faith.

Pastor Buechler:
The death of mainline protestantism is based not only on each denomination giving up its distinctives for the sake of collective.
Me:
Piffle. Lutherans are still "Lutheran." Methodists are still Methodist (with the various Wesleyan differences). We work more closely together, but we are not one super-church, all squooshed together in a "collective," are we?

Pastor Buechler:
 The death is based on thse denominations giving up what is distinctively Christian for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective (or at least the cultural collective portrayed by pop culture and academia).
Me:
So ahead lies, I fear, more massive discussions about what is "distinctly Christian," and whether we have given it up. You say it is "for the sake of relevance with the cultural collective."
I say that is an unfair and untrue characterization. Does not much of the critique of consumerism, celebrity-ism, American jingoism, and related things in the "cultural collective" come from mainline churches?

swbohler

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #101 on: July 31, 2008, 10:31:27 AM »
Rev. Austin,

Heretics and heterodox always say that they are being faithful to God.  I mean, who would listen to them if they said they were not?

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #102 on: July 31, 2008, 10:42:18 AM »
Heretics and heterodox always say that they are being faithful to God. 
And the orthodox always say that they are being faithful to tradition.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #103 on: July 31, 2008, 11:27:06 AM »
This started changing in the 1960's.  A different generation grew to adulthood.  This was a generation that valued personal experience over potential theological truth and cultural mores.  The buzz-phrase of the 70's, as far as I understand, commonly became about a personal relationship with God.  Within a relatively short timeframe, it became popular for people to "go fishing rather than to go to church." "It's better to think about God while fishing than think about fishing when in church".  Moreover, it became more common for people to just stop going to church altogether--that started to become an accepted cultural norm.  "Church is just a building".
The 70's gave birth to the "Jesus Movement" and the Charismatic Movement". Dennis Bennett's book, Nine O'Clock in the Morning relates how speaking in tongues had become part of this Episcopal priest's religious experience. When he first publicly shared this experience in 1960, he was asked to resign from his parish. He did, but was called to another one. That is often seen as the beginning of the movement. 1971 was when Maranatha Music began with their first album, The Everlasting, Loving Jesus Music Concert" or Maranatha One came out. Contemporary Christian Music was birthed. I wonder, Is Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa (where Maranatha Music began) considered the first mega-church?

In 1969 I traveled with the Lutheran Evangelical Movement [LEM] headquartered in Minneapolis. Lutheran Youth Encouter [LYE] was beginning in the midwest. Out west, Lutheran Youth Alive [LYA] was being organized. They sponsored congresses for high school youth. (I did a little bit of work with them.) In 1964-1968 I was involved with Young Life at my high school. We grew to be the largest club in the State of Oregon averaging over 200 kids each week. One of the key books and phrases that was used by them was "How to be a Christian without being religious." (It says something about their view of the folks in most congregations.)

So while mainline denomination were decreasing, there was the rise of non-denominational, mega-churches with more performance oriented worship and decision-theology.

There was the rise of non-congregation oriented organizations to spread the gospel. Even as individuals were moving more towards "doin' my own thing," so also there were organizations "doin' their own thing." LEM, LYE, LYA, Young Life, had no official connections with any denomination and, at times, they were critical of denominations.

Did these groups arise to fill a gap that wasn't being done by congregations? Did they arise to meet the needs of the changing culture at the time, e.g., styles of music?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2008, 11:31:11 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: Death of mainline protestantism
« Reply #104 on: July 31, 2008, 12:18:15 PM »
Pastor Buechler writes
...(in) the mainline churches (those who make up the membership of NCC) one sees that there has been a major shift from biblical faithfulness especially with regards abortion, gay/lesbian sex, the estate of marriage, the naming of God, the worship of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ the incarnation of God, etc.
I comment:
No, there has not been a "major shift" from "biblical faithfulness," there has been a shift from what some of you declare to be faithfulness. But some of you do not have the last word for all of us.

Perhaps we should be talking not about the death of mainline protestantism but the death of authority in the church.  The Bible is ususally held, at least in Lutheran circles, to be the ultimate authority for what is taught and practiced in the church.  But what the Bible ultimately teaches is subject to interpretation and as we have seen in our discussions here that interpretation varies from person to person and from group to group with apparently no way to affirm one interpretation as better or more accurate than another other than I think this way even if you don't so I don't have to accept your interpretation.  So "revisionists" and "traditionalists" both claim to follow the Bible and arrive at opposit conclusions.  How are church people to decide which way to follow?  By what appeals to them?  By who they like?  By what the society around us has decided is the nice position on issues?  By who can say the most nice sounding things without really being pinned down to taking a stand?  Charles complains when being accused of following a shift away from biblical faithfulness that he is not faithful only to what some say constitutes biblical faithfulness.  Yet why should I follow Charles' ideas either, what proof does he offer that his is being more faithful to the Bible than those who dispute his position.

It seems that what we are left with is that there is no authority to say what the church should or should not do.  "Traditionalists" are urged to stay as a part of the church as long as they do not cause trouble or get in the way of the "Revisionsit" elite who are leading the church into the glbt agenda.  Is this how the big tent operates, all are equal but some are more equal than others and the traditional will be tolerated at best?

Dan
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LCMS