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The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline$
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Elesha J. Coffman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199938599

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199938599.001.0001

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(p.217) 8 Conclusion
The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline

Elesha J. Coffman

Oxford University Press

The familiar narrative of mainline decline, though not without supporting evidence, distorts the tradition’s history in ways that become clear through comparison to the story of The Christian Century. Put simply, the Century did not proceed from strength to strength in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century and then enter a tailspin in the 1960s. Neither did the mainline, if it is examined as a religious tradition—as “an historically extended, socially embodied argument”—rather than tallied as the sum of bodies in pews and dollars in collection plates. Both the magazine and the tradition largely abandoned their efforts to “win America” for Protestantism in the 1960s. It is possible to interpret this as a decline, but it is equally possible to describe it is as a shift in strategy, a new phase of the extended argument about how the church ought to function in the world.

Keywords:   Mainline, tradition, The Christian Century, decline, Protestantism

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