While I am always cautious about aligning myself with Rachel Held Evans, some of her personal struggles and blog posts deeply resonate with me. Here is one entitled “The Mainline and Me.” Some disenfranchised evangelicals are finding a new home in mainline denominations. Yet, I agree with Rachel that you can feel like you are between a rock and a hard place. You feel alienated from evangelicalism, yet a move to the mainline seems like jumping from one extreme to another! Since I am considerably more conservative than Rachel Held Evans, I was comforted to know that even she feels uncomfortable with switching to the mainline!
What to do? You experience such feelings of angst and frustration. It is hard to feel like you belong no where. You are too “liberal” for the evangelicals, but too “conservative” for the mainliners.
One option is to find an evangelically influenced mainline church. These do exist. There are mainline churches with leaders who are evangelical and who bring a distinct evangelical atmosphere to their church. We have found one locally – it happens to be United Methodist. We’ve been visiting a couple months and feel hopeful. They hold firm to core doctrines of the faith, yet don’t have the same hang ups as evangelicals. The pastor is very open, and admits that some United Methodist churches are sadly liberal and have drifted from core doctrines of the faith. He believes this is the reason the UMC has been in a state of decline. Clearly he is trying to lead his church in a different way, and this church is experiencing considerable growth.
This church is like a blend between evangelicalism and the mainline, and various disenfranchised people may be able to find a home in congregations like it. We need more of them. If you are a disenfranchised evangelical, this may be an option for you!
Yet, it became clear to me this evening that this transition is not going to be an easy one for me. I do believe this church will work for us in the long run, but I think it is going to be a rather slow adaptation. While evangelically influenced, it is mainline.
I am a fish out of water!
I’ve been distinctly evangelical my entire life. While I’ve grown disillusioned with evangelicalism over the last few years, it is all I have ever known. It is the only water I have ever swam in. I’m also an introvert, and as other introverts can attest, we can be slow to adapt to new situations. Feeling like a fish out of water can be much more challenging for us. It isn’t quite so easy as wearing a fishbowl on your head like the fish from Chicken Little and functioning normally! (I love that movie! Any other fans?) Introverts are also more self-conscious and a fish bowl on the head only attracts unwanted attention!
In a class for new people at this church, most of the others were from some type of distinct mainline background. They seem to be drawn in by the greater depth of teaching they are experiencing at this church. This is a good thing. But, for us, it is actually the opposite…While pleased with the depth, it is less than we are accustomed to.
As some doctrines of the UMC were reviewed in this class, there was a spontaneous recitation of the Apostle’s Creed. Uh…I am familiar with the creeds as I’ve studied them…but I don’t have them memorized and was only able to stumble through it. (As everyone else said it loud and clear!) Just another small illustration of feeling like the oddball. I suppose I could have run circles around them reciting Bible verses and won every “sword drill” with frightening speed.
Hoping I’ll be able to breath the mainline air sooner than later…I’m also unsure how to breath in a church that allows women full freedom to serve!
**Adding a note to emphasize that I realize I’m speaking in generalities and stereotypes to some extent! For example, there are some very shallow evangelical churches out there with fluffy preaching, who claim to believe core doctrines, but rarely teach them. Some mainline churches can actually be better with their creeds, confirmation classes, and such.