Notes from the Mainline: A Reflection on The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World
As a Christian who has morphed in my spiritual journey from a fundamentalist to an active participant in a mainline congregation, I welcome any perspective that can help me navigate this time of sea change in the Church of the followers of Jesus that we presently are experiencing in the 21st century. Derek Penwell in his new book makes a contribution from his place in the non-credal and non-confessional part of the mainline church that is based in an historical development of denominations in the United State, in an awareness of aware of the rapid pace and style of social change, and with a vision of hope for ways forward trusting in the presence of God
Because of his education and experience, Penwell makes trenchant connections between historical roots and contemporary sensibilities in mainline churches. Rather than adopting a tone of “off with the old, on with the new,” he lays some very helpful foundation for using and re-imagining the traditions of the Church in today’s emerging milieu for church-goers; at the end of each chapter written on a topic of concern for this moment, he creates a list of accessible possibilities to be tried in local congregations in their pursuit of being faithful in their ministries in the locations where they find themselves. He also avoids the trap of majoring only in methods and strategies in which the heart of the gospel can be lost; he is very clear that “survival,” if that is what the Church is to do, is a matter of being and teaching Christ in the world, as a gift, not as a conflict that need to be won.I sometimes found his ad hoc, conversational and breezy style of writing distracting, imagining that it worked better in a classroom or lecture hall. But the generous and hopeful tone of the message to those of who are baffled by the “post-denominational world” is encouraging and pragmatic. It calls us back to God whose person, whose work and whose surprise never fails us.