Behold I make all things new! Even you. How eagerly you began this century that you so confidently called "Christian." You organized to beat the Devil, to build, to expand, to crusade, to re form, to grow. Quite a contrast to the way your century ends. You, who enjoyed thinking of yourselves as "mainline," got sidelined. Though you are averse to taking my Word literally, for my sake, and for yours, I hope that you will at least take these words seriously.
I, the One who so exuberantly turned water into wine at Cana, tire of your propensity to turn wine into water at your bureaucracies in Nashville, Minneapolis, and Louisville. The best thing about you is your past. What does that tell you? My, how you loved to organize and build! You made North America into the most thoroughly Protestant Christian place in the world. Hospitals, orphanages, schools, nursing homes, printing presses. You really took love of neighbor to a new level, and I'm grateful. And while I enjoyed dismantling sacred edifices rather than building them, you built some beautiful churches. Give me The Lutheran Hymnal any day over most of those tasteless "praise choruses" of some of my evangelical friends.
Fosdick, Harkness, Peale, Steimlie, Thurman, Achtemeier can preach for me any time they like. I wish some of them would steer a bit closer to the Scriptures, but I'll speak to them individually about that. When you mainliners stop talking about me, your preaching tends to get moralistic and trite. I hate that. It wouldn't kill you to get back to the Bible.
You know me, I love to make the oldline new. If you will stick with me, I shall give you a future, new wineskins, and all that. I am Lord of Life, not death. I shall move you from mordant decline to life. I've still got plans for you. You'll be smaller, but small can be good. Ask the Mennonites. You will no longer be in charge of the nation, if you ever were. Remember, the national church thing was your idea of church, not mine. Get back to the basics like worship, service, and witness. Don't mourn the downsizing of your bureaucracy. You were once good at mission. Now that much of North America has never heard of me, it's about time to start thinking of yourselves as missionaries.
Your marginalization may be providential. I promise you renewal, not restoration. Many will be grateful for your mainline open-handedness, the way you manage to make room for such a wide range of faithfulness within your congregations, your confidence that the church is more than an isolated congregation, that I ought to have a Body, and that the witness of the Saints is worth celebrating today.
Personally, I think you tend to be open-minded to a fault. Laditudinarian ism is you all over. I wish you would hire some theologians with some guts for a change. Can't you find something more fun to do than General Assemblies, General Conferences, and Diocesan Conventions? Some of your good ideas from the last century may need a decent burial if I can work birth in you in the next.
One more thing. Please get out of the middle of the road! That's where all the accidents happen, theologically speaking. Remember, I wasn't crucified for my moderation.
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