Guest / Limited Access /

Mainline Protestants

Mainline Protestantism, consisting of the Congregational, Presbyterian, and Episcopal denominations, used to be a dominant force in American life, both in terms of church membership figures and cultural prestige. Since the mid-20th century, however, the mainline has increasingly jettisoned traditional Christian teachings in favor of social activism, with the consequence that both membership figures and cultural prestige have undergone a precipitous decline. Today, mainline denominations are frequently riven by conflict between progressive and traditionalist factions, which battle over property rights, theological and political stances, mission statements, and control of leadership posts.

More on Mainline Protestants See All

News Feed More

  • Religion Dispatches: Can Faith-Based Organizing for Gun Control Work?
    Differences in the structure of mainline Protestant churches, compared to evangelical churches, play a role in shaping (or not) congregants’ political ideology. In mainline Protestant churches, “pastors tend to follow denominational teaching,” but lay leaders in the church are not well-informed about these denominational stances, said Lydia Bean, a sociologist and executive director of Faith in Texas, which organizes churches for social justice.
  • Religion Dispatches: Why The Church Can’t Stop Gun Violence
    Not only are more liberal denominations split on gun control, they’re distracted by any number of other issues: hunger, homelessness, anti-racism, advocating for LGBT rights, refugee resettlement, Israel-Palestine and on and on and on. Anybody who’s spent time in a mainline Protestant church knows that it seems like there’s a new cause every damn day. It’s difficult to coalesce around any one issue.

Recommended Resources

Why Lent Is Good for Bad Christians
Why Lent Is Good for Bad Christians
The somber season leading up to Easter might feel like punishment. In fact, for people like me, it's sheer grace.
CT BookstoreView All

Enter The Vault


Browse our Full Library of online archives, including past issues of CT magazine.