The Mainline Question

The Mainline Question

If the mainline churches are not legitimate heirs to their tradition, and if there is no viable path to saving them from themselves, we should have no interest in propping up their institutions whose sole identity is based on rejecting orthodoxy and providing a veneer of Christianity to the dominant leftist ideology.

A Response to Richard Ackerman

In the mid-1970s, a recent honors graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Wynn Kenyon (1948-2012), reported to his Presbytery that he would be willing to serve with women pastors and would not use his position to obstruct the ordination process of women pastors, but he could not in good conscience participate in the ordination ceremony of women. In response to this minor inconvenience, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) overturned Kenyon’s ordination. There could be no pushback no matter how compromised.

At the same time, it was quite possible and perhaps even common at that time for ministers in mainline Presbyterianism to deny virtually every sentence of the Apostles Creed (virgin birth, bodily resurrection, second coming, etc.) without any disciplinary consequences. How was it even possible that modern egalitarian concerns could trump the most ancient confession of the universal church? The answer is that a new religion had replaced mainline Presbyterianism just as it had replaced all the mainline traditions. It has worn those traditions like a skinsuit and occupied their buildings and carried on their names, but it is a blasphemous fraud.

In “The Secret to Retaking American Culture,” Richard Ackerman grapples with the mainline question by attempting to make the case for a conservative Reconquista of the mainline Protestant churches by way of joining, recruiting, networking, and outlasting the governing Leftists. This is a beautiful theory, but in reality, it is a naive fallacy, which by necessity makes it a foolish theory. In this response to Acerkman, I hope to show that the mainline churches are not only unworthy of saving, but also there is no realistic path for saving them.

The Mainline Are Not Legitimate Heirs

The author speaks of the history of the mainline as once having money, power, and prestige. They had Yale and Harvard. They hosted Handel’s Messiah. Nearly everyone who was anyone attended their services. Although I could only nitpick the author’s idyllic portrayal of those golden years, I am going to put the bulk of my attention on where the author and I differ most: the assessment, not of what the mainline churches “had,” but of what they currently “have” and whether what they currently have is worthy of saving intervention.

Ackerman maintains: “Mainline churches have the names, accomplishments, and works of generations upon generations of faithful Christians literally carved in stone, something that is utterly irreplaceable.” This is rather grandiose language for saying that the mainline churches have a corporation, a trademark, and some marvelous storefronts. Those legal possessions are quite impressive in worldly terms, but the church is much more than that.

The church is primarily a spiritual body of the heavenly kingdom. Having the storefronts and trademark is fine, but it must be more than whitewashed tombs full of dead people’s names, accomplishments, and works along with every type of uncleanliness. What is the point of those things? Christ has given the visible church on earth the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, and although the visible church sometimes appears small and aesthetically unappealing in the eyes of men, it is and will be preserved by God against the rage of the whole world until the end.

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