Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 24th, 2017 by Joel Watts

from 1965 to today… understanding the crisis of Mainline Protestantism

“The real ecumenical crisis today is not between Catholics and Protestants but between traditional and experimental forms of church life. If church leaders do not recognize this, within a few decades we shall see a cleavage in the church that will be comparable to the one that appeared in the sixteenth century.” – Harvey Cox, The Secular City, 1965.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


8 Responses to “from 1965 to today… understanding the crisis of Mainline Protestantism”
  1. Keith Caldwell says

    How did the UMC become mainline protestant? Was not john Wesley an Anglican Priest? Do we not require a priestly function in blessing the Host and the Cup or can any lay person give the great thanks giving and pray that the bread and wine be made the body and blood of Christ that we the lay people might become the body of Christ to the World? I am slightly confused as to how a people with Anglican roots became protestants, I know I never protested anything that would hold fast to the biblical beliefs. Please help me to understand.

    • Hi Keith, Are you serious?

      • Keith Caldwell says

        Yes the questions I asked are truths. I am only looking for answers as to what happened to the Methodist Episcopal Church that started in In December 1784. I am told John Wesley was a man of one book, The Bible, we also know he read the Book of Common Prayer 1558 edition on a regular daily basis. This in fact what the Methodist Church is founded on and I am asking the questions how did we go astray.

    • You might find this book helpful: “The Rise of Theological Liberalism and The Decline of American Methodism”. It is available from Seedbed Publishing in their store at seedbed.com.

      After spending 4 long, disheartening years listening to every voice I could find within the UMC I developed some thoughts as to how and why the UMC arrived to its present state; sadly, this book basically confirmed what I was thinking and added some details!

  2. I think its a good question but one where there isn’t adequate space here. Perhaps with various replies a thread will more fully develop an answer.
    We generally refer to everyone who is not Catholic or Orthodox as Protestant. But Anglicans (Methodists) were not born of the Reformation and are not, strictly speaking, Protestants.
    John Wesley never intended to establish a new church and to the degree he provided any doctrine or polity it was with the understanding that it would be in a greater Anglican context.

    • I fully agree that Anglicans do not fit in the tighter definition of Protestant and thus existing as a via media between Roman Catholics and the Reformers. And yet, the oldest U.S. Anglican denomination (The Episcopal Church) has a second official name: The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

  3. Keith Caldwell says

    Thank you, I agree. However many church leaders do not understand what we or what we are. This takes us back to the start of the conversation, If church leaders do not recognize this, within a few decades we shall see a cleavage in the church that will be comparable to the one that appeared in the sixteenth century.” – Harvey Cox, The Secular City, 1965.

  4. I don’t know the background of Harvey Cox, but having gone to high school and college in the 60’s, I suspect that this quote derived from:
    1. Catholic/Protestant controversy surrounding Kennedy being elected (which he rightly downplayed) by 1965.

    2. The surge of, shall we say, “strange religions” on campus throughtout the U.S..
    Transcendental meditation (went to one of their invitations one time – UHM UHM UHM (recited over and over again – didn’t do much for me). The only appeal was that the girl followers always seem pretty nice. But that’s another story.

    Along with Peace, Love, LSD, and Timothy Leary’s church of the constant high, or mind expansion, or whatever you want to call it. Thankfully, I never got into that.

    I am glad all these mind expanding so-called religions with drugs have lost their luster. I’d accept gay marriage much more easily than LSD in the communion wafer, I think. A lot of friends got totally screwed up in to 60’s on drugs.

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