It was not as if these congregations chose the most theologically conservative new homes.
The great majority of congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) chose to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Few chose to join the larger Presbyterian Church in America, which does not permit women clergy.
Similarly, congregations leaving the ELCA overwhelmingly bypassed the more conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod denominations for the new Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the North American Lutheran Church.
Still, the future does not look bright for reconciliation, analysts noted.
“There is an exhaustion factor of having fought for decades,” Thompson said.
Among some denominational leaders, he said, there is a sense, “The bad guys have left.”
And leaders of congregations departing their former mainline Protestant denominations told Carthage researchers they were happy to be in a new place.
When the church leaders were asked if they had any regrets about their decision to leave, “The only thing they’d ever say is we should have left sooner.”