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Mainline Christianity

The Past and Future of America's Majority Faith

Jason Lantzer

Publication Year: 2012

Since the Revolutionary War, Mainline Christianity has been comprised of the Seven Sisters of American Protestantism—the Congregational Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Convention, and the Disciples of Christ.
These denominations have been the dominant cultural representatives since the nineteenth century of how and where the majority of American Christians worship. Today, however, the Seven Sisters no longer represent most American Christians. The Mainline has been shrinking while evangelical and fundamentalist churches, as well as non denominational congregations and mega churches, have been attracting more and more members.
In this comprehensive and accessible book, Jason S. Lantzer chronicles the rise and fall of the Seven Sisters, documenting the ways in which they stopped shaping American culture and began to be shaped by it. After reviewing and critiquing the standard decline narrative of the Mainline he argues for a reconceptualization of the Mainline for the twenty-first century, a new grouping of Seven Sisters that seeks to recognize the vibrancy of American Christianity.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This book began life as an email exchange in 2006. After posting a reply to an online discussion forum about the use of terminology in describing various religious groups, I received an email from Jennifer Hammer of New York University Press asking if I had ever considered expanding my thoughts into something more. ...

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pp. 1-6

“So, what is the Mainline?” Anyone who has taught a course on American religious history has heard this question numerous times, and usually more than once during the course of a semester. On the surface, this seems to be an easy question to answer. The Mainline is made up of the “Seven Sisters” of American Protestantism:1 ...

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1. The Genesis of the Mainline

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pp. 7-26

In 2007, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in Virginia, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom journeyed to the United States.1 As the visiting monarch toured the re-created settlement, few commentators noted that the Britain’s head of state was also the head of the Church of England, ...

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2. Building the New Jerusalem: The High Tide of the Seven Sisters

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pp. 27-48

“Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February . . .” With these words Harriet Beecher Stowe began one of the most popular, controversial, and important works in American literature: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Written in response to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and published in book form in 1852, Stowe’s work is generally credited ...

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3. A Mighty Fortress in Decline

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pp. 49-64

In 1929, one of the most prominent Methodist congregations in New York City announced plans for a new church home. The Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church purchased property on Park Avenue for a larger building. By the fall, on the eve of the stock market crash, details were finalized for the construction of one of the most stunning churches in the nation. ...

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4. The Politics of Decline

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pp. 65-84

Founded in 1695, Christ Church Episcopal in Philadelphia boasts a rich history. Home to patriots (including a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Hopkinson) and loyalists (Hopkinson’s brother-in-law, the Reverend Jacob Duche, who was for a time the chaplain of the Continental Congress before emerging as a Tory) during the Revolution, ...

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5. In a State of Perpetual Decline

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pp. 85-104

Meridian Street United Methodist Church is the mother church of Methodism in Indianapolis. Founded in 1821, on what would eventually be the site of the statehouse, the congregation has been home to prominent city leaders as well as a vice president of the United States, a U.S. senator, and the governor of the state, not to mention leaders within the denomination. ...

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6. Unto the Ends of the Earth: Global Christianity and Mainline Decline

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pp. 105-120

The historic squares in Savannah, Georgia, are full of churches. Visitors to Johnson Square are soon drawn to the classic columns of Christ Church. The plaques in front of the building inform readers that this is the mother church of Anglicanism in Georgia and that the congregation was served by both John and Charles Wesley as well as by George Whitefield. ...

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7. The Emergence of a New Mainline

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pp. 121-138

As we have seen, the Mainline of the Seven Sisters as defined by the United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Episcopal, and American Baptist churches no longer holds. Moreover, using this old definition negates the current importance of those outside of the Protestant tradition, as well as many within it. ...


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pp. 139-182


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pp. 183-187

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About the Author

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pp. 188

Jason S. Lantzer is an adjunct professor of history at Butler University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the author of “Prohibition Is Here to Stay:” The Reverend Edward S. Shumaker and the Dry Crusade in America. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814753323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814753309
Print-ISBN-10: 0814753302

Publication Year: 2012