(Bap. Stan.) Vicki Brown–Denominations””dying or transforming into something new?

“Denominationalism is not dead but, increasingly, it’s only one of several options for organizing the church in America,” explained Baptist historian Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and professor of church history at Wake Forest School of Divinity.

Increasing pluralism in the United States and the decreasing influence of Protestantism are forcing denominational leaders to ask hard questions about identity, viability and relevance.

Pluralism, “which Baptists helped put into place,” is becoming more normative, Leonard said. The rise of the “nones”””people with no connection to organized religion”” also plays into the challenges denominations face.

Gone are the days when communities formulated policy and activities around the church. “We are living through the death rattle of the Protestant privilege,” Leonard said.

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6 comments on “(Bap. Stan.) Vicki Brown–Denominations””dying or transforming into something new?

  1. David Keller says:

    Two thoughts: Most young people no longer consider “denomination” particularly important. For better or worse they are consumers of religion in two significant ways. First, they pick and choose what doctrines they want to adhere to. Second, they pick churches for things like who has the best nursery or youth program, best functions and often who offers the best business contacts. Because of the way the mainline churches have developed since the 1960s, we make it easy for them to do that. The other problem is the self focus of this article. “The question is are we thriving. Are we living out the faith”. That statement is a non-sequitur. You can not live out the faith if you are in maintenance mode, having programs for yourself. The Church is supposed to be the only institution that exists for the benefit of those who are not yet members. As Bp. Herzog used to say,”any farmer can tell you. If it ain’t growing, it’s dead.”

  2. Brian of Maryland says:

    The cultural earthquake is not simply past tense, but on-going. The foundations are cracking and the edifice of Builder created institutions is turning to rubble. But, there are tender shoots of authentic Christian discipleship pushing up through the refuse. So for me the question becomes future tense. Given the movement toward a discipling culture must grow up through the collapsed machinery of mainline denominationalism, once those efforts come out into the light and start growing, what will that new life owe the rubble? IMHO, there’s a huge Reformation going on right now in Western culture and those who reach GenY and are left standing will represent Christianity in North America. Mainline denominations are thus far failing. In other words, all mainline denominations are toast.

  3. Sarah1 says:

    I’m a bit jaundiced with discussion about denominations and “churches” or what’s dying and what’s thriving, because as a whole, I’ve noticed that essentially Christians are the same. And Christians are in big trouble in the US. Unfortunately, wherever we go we carry “we” with us.

    I’m reminded of the clergyman who departed TEC with his flock, “planted” a church, and then complained that they didn’t know how to evangelize.


    Because they’re the same people.

    Sure the mainlines are toast — they’re distinguished by “being toast much faster” than other churches by virtue of their being led by people who don’t believe the Gospel.

    But there’s a reason why those churches ended up being led by people who don’t believe the Gospel. And there’s a reason why the AMA and the ABA and the Boy Scouts of America and the Senate and the APA and the colleges and universities and the media and the arts and businesses are led by people who don’t believe the Gospel.

    We are living in a dying culture and I don’t see any indication that Christians, by and large and with the exception of a few noted examples otherwise, are capable of having much impact on that dying culture or of even building their own, alternative, cohesive, winsome cultures.

    Generally speaking, I’m not impressed with us. I’m not impressed with me. So discussions about “dying denominations” actually seem more like red herrings to distract us from a much larger and much more horrifying reality.

  4. Milton says:

    Sarah1, you have articulated clearly the growing realization I have had for some time now and crystallized by a re-elected president who seems a true representative of so much of the electorate. The US as a whole and even many Christians and Christian churches are a recapitulation of the book of Jeremiah. It didn’t end well then and I fear it may not end well now. We can and are commanded to reach out to individuals and groups with the Gospel and the living, risen Jesus Christ and be used to save those who will. But I do not hold much hope of transforming the culture as a whole. Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison!

  5. David Keller says:

    Sarah and Milton, My wife and I were talking about this last evening. During that conversation I recalled a line from “Band of Brothers”. At the beginning of the Battle of the Buldge CPT Winters is told by an ordinance lieutenant that they are surrounded. Winters says “We’re paratroopers, lieutenant. We’re supposed to be surrounded.” My point is this. The decline of denominations in general and of Christianity in particular is not necessarily something to moan and wail about. It may just be an opportunity, if we are willing to take it. But it won’t happen in a mainstream denomination. If you are an evangelist you must “go”. I am in a thriving one year old church, outside of TEC, but still part of the greater Anglican Communion. No one is there because of the nursery, the high end oyster and wine soirées, the youth program or for business contacts. They are there to hear and spread the Gospel. We already know we will plant another church eventually and if we outgrow our present building, we will pay it forward and give it to a new congregation, as it was given to us by a Baptist congregation. After all. We are Christains. We are supposed to be surrounded.

  6. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “If you are an evangelist you must “go”.

    I’m happily engaged in evangelization while in a mainstream denomination and have been for years now. If others are constrained in their evangelization based on whatever church they’re a part of, okay. That’s irrelevant to me.

    But my larger point was this anyway. I’m far far far more impressed with the paratroopers than the Christians here in the US. And that includes me and everybody else. I don’t give a fig about which Christians are in what “denominations” or “non-denominations” [i]since it’s the Christians[/i] that I think are flamingly inferior, regardless of where they reside.