In Protestant circles, certain denominations, since colonial times, have been called “mainline” churches. Among them are Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists, and some Reformed and Baptist bodies. Descendants of various powerful impulses arising in the Reformation, they sought to reach into all parts of the world with a message of transformation grounded in Jesus Christ and Holy scripture. Many looked upon them as the bellwether of Christian faith and practice. Members of mainline churches were thought of as genuine centrists committed to ecumenical relationships, authentic education, and traditional values. 

However, about the middle of the nineteenth century, certain attitudes and practices began to emerge among mainline adherents. The Bible, especially among the educated, became more an object of study and analysis than an authoritative guide to faith and inspiration. Traditional statements of belief, while still lauded as important milestones in the development of various denominations, gradually decreased in importance. Secular approaches to theology, philosophy, sociology, biology and psychology were adopted as interpretive tools for biblical and doctrinal studies. Eventually, mainline denominations began to assume the mantle of leadership in the world’s Christian community. They dedicated themselves to their vision of ecumenical and interfaith efforts with the goal of establishing their understanding of cooperation and peace among Christians and other people groups.

What has been the cumulative result of nearly two centuries of mainline Protestant development? Consider the following:

  1. From ancient times, Christians looked to the faithful union of a man and a woman resulting in children, raised to the glory of God as the foundational social unit of church and society. Moving with the rhythms of pop culture, mainline bodies redefined and reduced the importance of traditional family roles.

  2. One of the key elements in their family redefinition is their endorsement and approval of same-sex relationships and marriage. All mainline denominations, either in part or completely, have opened the door wide to same-sex claims and gender diverse philosophy. 
  3. For them, any close association between two individuals can qualify as marriage and any gathering of three or more people living together may be called family.

  4. In accepting the above, mainline adherents have embraced a double fallacy. Along with other same-sex and gender diverse supporters, they assume fixed physical factors are the cause of both identity and action. Furthermore, feelings alone are all that’s necessary to determine one’s orientation and/or identity.

  5. Mainline bodies have now placed themselves at the disposal of entities seeking to weaken traditional family roles and promote LGBTQIAP, etc. agendas. They are perfectly willing to bless governmental and advocacy group efforts doing so, even if Christians and other religious believers are punished in the process.

  6. In their arrogance, mainline doctrine and practice are destroying spirituality. By promoting philosophies that rely solely on feelings for verification of identity and behavior, and dedication to orientations that prohibit amendment of behavior, they betray all of Christian history and faith. In the mainline view, human biology and psychology cancel out the work of God in human personality. So much for the message of transformation they once preached far and wide.

There are other points which could be made. But the above demonstrate the deep divisions introduced into the Christian community by mainline accommodations to culture. They also reveal why mainline is now sideline.

Dr. William P. Tarbell                                                                                                                                                                  4251 Desert Rain Ct. Sparks, NV 89436 (803) 920-4060