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Mainline

From Academic Kids

Template:Dablink In the United States, the Mainline churches are those Protestant denominations with moderate theologies which attempt to be open to new ideas and societal changes without abandoning what they consider to be the historical basis of the Christian faith. They are neither ultra-liberal groups such as the Unitarian Universalist church is, nor fundamentalist in their beliefs. These groups have been more open to demands for the ordination of women. They have been far from uniform in their reaction to the gay rights movement, but have not rejected it out of hand in the way that it has been by the Roman Catholic Church and the more conservative Protestant churches. They take a moderate view with regards to military service – all provide chaplains to the US Armed Forces and none are historically peace churches except possibly the Church of the Brethren – but all express reservations about aggressive use of miltary force for any reason.


The hallmark of the mainline churches would seemlingly be moderation. Only a few members or pastors in them would condemn the use of alcohol in moderation. Their theologies tend to be moderate and influenced, consciously or not, by the higher criticism. Most ministers and most members seem to be comfortable with modern-language translations of the Bible.

Contents

The nature of Biblical Truth

Most mainline traditions follow the traditional Christian belief in the triune nature of God, but do not necessarily require acceptance of everything either stated about Jesus or claimed as having been said by him in the New Testament, especially the statements to the effect that he represented the sole legitimate path to God. Few would suggest that either Testament was verbally and plenarily inspired, that is, the result of God through the Holy Spirit directly dictating his revealed word to human authors, as more conservative groups generally maintain. While many, perhaps most, members of mainline churches accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus, few would actually make such acceptance a requisite for membership or a position to which others must necessarily be bound. Ignorance concerning the precise circumstances surrounding the creation of the Bible leads to a lot of speculation as to how the words in it should be interpreted. There is a general consensus that Scripture, while very important, must both be interpreted through the lens of the cultures in which it was originally written, and examined, like everything else, using God-given reason. Some students of mainline traditions (for example, John Spong) have explicitly written of their belief that religious authorities throughout history rewrote and reinterpreted the text to account for cultural shifts. Others claim that this is Revisionist history, and denounce this deliberate reinterpretation as an attempt to rewrite the Bible according to what people want to hear. Despite their Post-modern disagreements as to the origins and exact meaning of the Bible, mainline traditions acknowledge truth emanating from the Bible but do not always agree as to the form that biblical truth must take.

Black mainline question

There is some discussion about whether historically black denominations sharing the beliefs stated above are truly "mainline" churches. Some argue that they are not, since blacks were traditionally excluded from "mainline" society in the United States, and that is in fact why these denominations even exist. Many proponents of racial desegregation feel that these shared beliefs mean that traditionally black churches can indeed be "mainline" and that moderate black Protestant denominations are indeed part of this identity.

Use of the term "mainline"

The term "mainline" can be controversial in that, to some, it can imply a certain numerical majority or dominant presence in mainstream society that may not be accurate today. Critics of the term often point at the loss of membership in most of the "mainline" churches in recent decades.

The inclusion of a church in the "mainline" does not imply that the beliefs common to "mainline" churches are held in common by every member of these churches or even every member of their clergy. All of them allow a considerable theological latitude, and each of them contains within it a Confessing Movement or "renewal movement" which is more conservative in tone. Another important fact is that not every church with a name similar to a mainline church should necessarily be deemed to be "mainline", although in most instances there are historical ties between such groups. For example, while the American Baptist Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church USA are considered mainline, the Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, and the Presbyterian Church in America are too conservative to be regarded as "mainline" in the sense contemplated here.

Denominations

Broadly speaking, the larger U.S. mainline churches are:

Black denominations most likely to be identified as mainline are the larger Methodist ones, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the AME Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Disciples, Episcopal Church, ICCC, PCUSA, UCC, and the three historically black Communions listed--AME, AME Zion, and CME churches--are all members of Churches Uniting in Christ, which is an effort to coordinate their works to prevent needless duplications of effort, and to view each other as valid Christians participating in the universal Church's mission of spreading the message of the hope of salvation; many hope that this will serve as a prelude to a merged national "superdenomination" somewhat analogous to the United Church of Canada. Additionally, the ELCA is "partner in mission and dialogue" to this movement, albeit not as of 2005 a full member of it.

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