"Mainline" Christians?


Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, was recently quoted as saying:

[quote=Dr. Dobson]Twenty-five million Christians of various stripes – Catholics, mainline, other perspectives – did not register.

So, what is the definition of a “mainline” Christian?

I mean, there’s more Catholics in the U.S. than Baptists. More Catholics than Methodists. More Catholics than any other Christian denomination in this country (and, indeed, in the world).

So what makes the plurality Christian denomination “non-mainline”?


I think main-line refers to protestant religions like Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist. Religions that broke off during the reformation.


Since James Dobson is a Protestant, I am sure when he says “mainline” that he is referring to Protestants, which is why he mentioned Catholics separate.


Mainline Protestant denominations usually refers to Lutherans, Episcopalians (Anglicans), Methodists, Presbyterians, and one other and I am drawing a blank here. Basically, they are the denominations that came to the US from Europe, not the home-grown American split off sects.


“Mainline” or “Mainstream” usually refer to the “liberal” Protestant denominations, but can occasionally refer more broadly to any non-free-church denomination.

The 7 sisters of American Liberal Protestantism are:

  1. The United Methodist Church

  2. The Episcopal Church (USA)

  3. The Presbyterian Church (USA)

  4. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

  5. The American Baptist Church (Formerly the Northern baptists)

  6. The United Church of Christ (Formerly the Congregational Church, combined with a number of smaller churches)

  7. The Reformed Church in America (A Dutch-American body)

Although you will find members in these churches who hold to a fairly biblical standard of doctrine and morality, by and large, the official organs (Seminaries, Headquarters, Local Offices) espouse an affirmation of things like:

  1. The ordination of women.

  2. The rights of Gay and Lesbian couples to marry, or if not, that homosexuality and homosexual acts are not, in themselves, sinful.

  3. The unimpeded right of a woman to get an abortion.

Just to name three…

Check out how many of these groups have been actively involved with the Roman Catholic Church in the US in ‘ecumenical dialogue’.


Internationally, Roman Catholic ecumenists have taken part in ‘encounter sessions’ with several of the churches affiliated by connection with these church and which hold identical opinions.


Your information is false. The only one of the denominations you list that officially teaches the moral neutrality of same-sex acts, or allows for same-sex “marriage,” is the UCC. Many of the others do contain a number of seminaries and other “organs” that hold more liberal views, so you’re not entirely wrong, but you give a rather misleading impression. Of course, ECUSA would now appear to be aligning itself with the UCC on this. But the UMC and PCUSA have both repeatedly rejected such a move, and the UMC appears to be moving in a more conservative direction.

I’m also not sure that these denominations would favor the “unimpeded” right to abortion, though they certainly come far too close for comfort. The UMC has modified its language to express serious concerns about abortion, but has unfortunately stopped short of condemning it outright.



Contarini, I am willing to stand corrected on that, perhaps I ought to have said that these denominations have people in them, working at the highest levels who approve the gay and lesbian ‘lifestyle’…it certainly won’t be long until all these churches are in favor.

As for abortion, I know this, that several of the churches mentioned provide for abortion on demand in their health coverage to their employees.


“Mainline” is often used as shorthand for “mainline Protestant”, as opposed to conservative/fundamentalist and Pentecostal Protestants.

There’s an old spiritual entitled “Jesus is on the mainline, tell him what you want”. I doubt that the author meant to say that Jesus is only to be found in liberal Protestant denominations, especially given the fact that the rock band Aerosmith did a cover of the gospel song on its latest blues-and-gospel album, “Bonkin’ on Bobo”.



Actually I always read it as major denominations rather than small independent store fronts, one church communities under one pastor - that kind of thing.

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