How To Fix A Mainline

Can the historic denominations be saved? Tony Campolo thinks so.

CAN MAINLINE DENOMINATIONS MAKE A COMEBACK?by Tony Campolo (Judson, 205 pp.; $15, paper). Reviewed by Robert W. Patterson, a minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and writer in Cincinnati. He formerly served on the staff of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Growing up in the Philadelphia area has disadvantages, evangelically speaking, when compared to Chicagoland or Southern California; but whatever the City of Brotherly Love lacks is compensated for by the indefatigable Tony Campolo, the quintessential evangelical personality, who has been a dominant presence in the region since the early 1970s. Like many youngsters raised in the Delaware Valley, I vividly remember Tony, as he is affectionately known, passionately stirring crowds of teenagers into following Christ at the Tabernacle in the former Methodist camp meeting, Ocean City, New Jersey—not to mention his more intimate moments as retreat speaker for my church youth group.

Campolo’s knack for reaching young people with his Don Rickies looks and humor has not dissipated over the years, but in becoming a national figure, he has played more the role of a prophet, warning Christians about the seductions of the American dream, turning their affections to the plight of the poor, and relentlessly smashing the shibboleths of the evangelical subculture—but also shooting frequently from the hip on matters theological and otherwise. That has not always endeared him to other evangelical leaders. His 1983 book, A Reasonable Faith (Word), led Bill Bright of Campus Crusade abruptly to cancel Tony’s appearance at a 1985 youth rally in Washington, D.C., and to his summoning before an ad ...

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