There can be little doubt that what Gushee writes is coming to pass. He is one a number of people who once described themselves as evangelical who have “evolved” on issues of “justice” Gushee is–if you will–the missing link, the transitional species, between fundamentalists and evangelicals, on the one hand, and equality-loving progressives, on the other. He’s trying to “[defend] the Religion of Jesus from intolerant ideologues” who believe that what Jesus taught is amplified, clarified, and applied in the writings of the Apostle Paul and others.
The decline of the mainline church has been well documented. Membership in denominations like my former one–the Presbyterian Church (USA)–reached their peak in the 1960. Membership has steadily declined since that time. The reduction in membership means that current models for ministry cannot be adequately funded, which has produced significant personnel reductions at denominational headquarters, and elsewhere too.
Hatch shows how religion in the early republic veered away from those forms of Christianity that were regnant in Europe and under whose leadership the new nation had been formed—the “Calvinist Orthodoxy” of the Old School Presbyterians. The Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Episcopalians were all eclipsed by the growth of the various sects within Protestant Christianity. These sects valued the preacher as an everyman, rejecting the notion of a cultured and educated clergy. Preaching came to be associated with the exhortative style of the frontier evangelist rather than the rhetorical finesse of the Ivy League graduate.
Our Gracious Heavenly Father–
We gather for the purpose of exalting you
and giving you the honor that is your due.
I prayed this Pastoral Prayer in today’s Sanctuary service. It is loosely based on the revival hymn “Softly and Tenderly,”