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The Spirit Hasn't Left Mainline (Part 1 of 3)
Moderated by Tony Campolo| August 11, 1997
The mainline churches have been in decline ever since the 1960s, having lost about a fifth of their combined membership (see graph, p. 17). Deeply divided, these mainline churches are in a struggle for their souls. On the one side, it is argued, are the orthodox folk who believe their faith is rooted in the absolute truth of biblical faith as transmitted through their own traditions; on the other side are the progressives who believe that truth is shaped over time by our changing personal and social contexts. Fault lines in these mainline denominations are especially exposed in debates over abortion and homosexuality and a myriad of political issues.
From its very beginning, Christianity Today has had an integral connection to mainline Protestantism. Its first editor and executive editor were members of mainline denominations; and even today, four of the nine ct editors are "mainliners," including the executive and managing editors. Then and now, CT intends to encourage and minister to the thousands of evangelical pastors and laypeople concerned with maintaining the faith once delivered to the saints and sharing that faith in word and deed. These denominations have been the carriers of the Reformation faith, standard-bearers of orthodoxy, and witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite the size, resiliency, and oftentimes independence of the evangelical movement outside the mainline churches, evangelicalism has been and continues to be nurtured by the mainline traditions.
Participants in the mainline forum are William C. Frey, Roberta Hestenes, and William H. Willimon.
Tony Campolo served as moderator of the forum. Author of Can Mainline Denominations Make a Comeback? (Judson), Campolo is professor of sociology at Eastern ...1