- Mainline (Protestant)
: "for other uses see
The mainline (also sometimes called
mainstream) or mainline Protestant denominations are those Protestant denominations with a mix of conservative, moderate, and liberal theologies. The hallmark of the mainline churches is "moderation". Their theologies tend to be influenced by the Historical-critical methodand culture at large, consciously or not. Ministers and members of mainline churches generally are comfortable with inclusive languagetranslations of the Bible.
They tend to be open to new ideas and societal changes without abandoning what they consider to be the historical basis of the
Christianfaith. [ [http://www.ecai.org/nara/nara_article.html The Decline of Mainline Protestantism] ] This places them to the left of the evangelical churches. They have been increasingly open to the ordination of women. They have been far from uniform in their reaction to homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals, though less dogmatic on these issues than either the Roman Catholic Churchor the more conservative Protestant churches. Mainline churches take no set view with regard to military service — all provide chaplains to the United States armed forcesand none are historically peace churchesexcept the Church of the Brethren— but express reservations about aggressive use of military force for any reason.
Mainline churches tend to belong to organizations such as the
National Council of Churchesand World Council of Churches.
Many or most mainline denominations teach that the Bible is God's word in function, but also remain open to new understandings of it. Few would suggest that the Bible was verbally and plenarily inspired as some biblical inerrantists maintain.
Most mainline denominations do not expect strict acceptance of everything written about or spoken by
Jesusin the New Testament. Most are Trinitarian, however, meaning they accept and/or require belief in the doctrine that God exists as one "essence" in three "persons": the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.
Use of the term "mainline"
The term "mainline" may imply a certain numerical majority or dominant presence in mainstream society that is no longer accurate. The
Association of Religion Data Archives(ARDA) counts 26,344,933 members of mainline churches versus 39,930,869 members of evangelical Protestant churches. [http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/mainline.asp Mainline protestant denominations] ] There is evidence that there has been a shift in membership from mainline denominations to other churches. [ [http://www.leanalytics.com/research/ExeSummaryChurchFinanceMarket.pdf "The U.S. Church Finance Market: 2005-2010"] Non-denominational membership doubled between 1990 and 2001. ( April 1, 2006report)]
The inclusion of a denomination in the mainline category does not imply that every member of that denomination, nor even every member of their
clergy, accepts some of the beliefs generally held in common by other mainline churches. They allow considerable theological latitude. Moreover, mainline denominations have within them Confessing Movements or charismatic renewal movements which are more conservative in tone.
Some denominations with similar names, and historical ties to mainline groups are not considered mainline. For example, while the
American Baptist Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA)are mainline, the Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and the Presbyterian Church in Americaare Evangelical.
* American Baptist Churches in the USA 1,442,824 members (2001) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1454.asp ABC membership] ]
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)804,842 members (2001) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1071.asp DoC membership] ]
* Congregational Christian Churches, (not part of any national CCC body)
Episcopal Church in the United States of America2,369,477 members
Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America4,850,000 members (2007) [ [http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070313/26305_Lutherans_Report_Global_Membership_Increase%2C_Western_Decrease.htm Lutherans Report Global Membership Increase] ]
International Council of Community Churches200,263 members (2000) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1313.asp ICCC membership] ]
Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches 44,000 members (1998) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1142.asp UFMCC membership] ]
Moravian Churchin America, Alaska Province
* Moravian Church in America, Northern Province 24,650 members (2003) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1334.asp Moravian Northern Province membership] ]
* Moravian Church in America, Southern Province 21,513 members (1991) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1335.asp Moravian Southern Province membership] ]
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches65,569 members (2000) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1462.asp NACCC membership] ]
North American Baptist Conference
Presbyterian Church (USA)2,300,000 members (2007) [ [http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070609/27876_Presbyterians_Report_2006_Losses%2C_Gains.htm Presbyterians Report 2006 Losses] ]
Reformed Church in America285,453 members (2001) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_934.asp Reformed membership] ]
Religious Society of Friends(Quakers)
United Church of Christ1,359,105 members (2001) [ [http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1463.asp UCC membership] ]
United Methodist Church8,070,000 members (2006) [ [http://www.christianpost.com/article/20060425/22581_Methodists_Continue_to_See_Consistent_Drop_in_U.S._Church_Membership.htm Methodists Continue to See Consistent Drop in U.S. Church Membership] ]
The largest U.S. mainline churches are sometimes referred to as the "Seven Sisters of American Protestantism".* [ [http://www.resourcingchristianity.org/Project.aspx?ID=850011 Protestant Establishment I (Craigville Conference)] ] The term was apparently coined by William Hutchison [Hutchison, William, "Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Establishment in America, 1900-1960" (1989), Cambridge U. Press, ISBN 0-521-40601-3] in reference to the major liberal groups of
American Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists / United Church of Christ, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians during the period between 1900 and 1960.
The Association of Religion Data Archives has difficulties collecting data on traditionally
African Americandenominations. Those churches most likely to be identified as mainline include these Methodist groups:
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
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