On Mainline Reconquista and American Renewal
What have American “conservatives” actually succeeded in conserving over the past century? Faith? The Church? Family? Schools? Given the current state of all these areas, the answer is clearly “none of the above.” The uncomfortable truth is that conservative Christians have lost every single cultural battle within living memory. Secular Leftism has succeeded in its long march through society and has captured every major cultural institution. Universities have been converted into Leftist factories, marriage has been replaced with a sexual free-for-all, and religion has been replaced with radical political causes. The fruits of this are clear. Every year, rates of marriage, Church attendance, and religious affiliation decline, while the rates of depression and loneliness skyrocket, especially in the younger generations.
How the Left Conquered Society
Left-wing elites know a secret about society that many modern conservatives unfortunately overlook: cultural change happens through elite institutions. To change a culture, one must capture the mainstream universities, media, and other cultural centers. While conservative Christians have focused on evangelizing individuals, generally those with less cultural influence, the Left has successfully evangelized the centers of culture and exerted top-down influence. Another secret they know is that religion was originally at the heart of the culture and its major institutions. Every Western culture was built on a certain institutional Church. For England, it was the Church of England; for Italy, it was the Roman Catholic Church; and for America, it was the mainline Protestant Churches. Therefore, Leftists have been very intentional in hijacking the most culturally important churches in every Western nation and replacing them with their own ideology.
Mainline Denominations vs Evangelical Offshoots
In the context of Protestant denominations, “mainline” refers to the churches with direct historical and institutional continuity to the churches that American culture was founded on. The old historic Episcopal Church at the center of your average major city, the beautiful local Presbyterian church where performances of Handel’s Messiah are held, or the Methodist Church that runs the largest food pantry in town, all most likely belong to these mainline Protestant denominations, which include, but are not limited to, the PCUSA, the UMC, the ELCA, the UCC, and The Episcopal Church. Not all Protestant Churches are mainline, however. All of the mainline denominations, to varying degrees, have been taken over by theological liberalism over the past hundred years, adopting a watered-down version of the Gospel and an embrace of exclusively left-wing political causes. In response, many smaller, Evangelical denominations have split off from their mainline counterparts in protest, forming denominations like the PCA, the OPC, the ACNA, and most recently the GMC. However, any time these groups split off, they were forced to leave behind their generational resources, including seminaries, endowments, cultural connections, and – often – their historic buildings.
An increasing number of Christians over the years have abandoned denominations altogether, forming new “non-denominational” churches. These churches, along with the Evangelical offshoots, have been relatively successful at winning new members, while the mainline Churches have had a long, steady membership decline. As it stands today, conservative offshoot denominations and non-denominational churches have more growth, but mainline denominations have far more resources and historic, cultural connections.
The Lost Power of the Mainline
Before the mainline denominations got hijacked by liberalism and subsequently began to wither away, they accomplished what modern conservative churches can scarcely dream of. Firstly, they gave each Protestant tradition a united front, whether Presbyterian, Methodist, or Episcopalian, so that large church bodies could address the culture as one voice, rather than a contradictory soup of splintered factions. Secondly, they had the resources to build great cultural institutions such as Yale, Duke and Princeton, which gave them the power to not only influence the culture on an institutional level, but be at the forefront of innovation and positive progress. Thirdly, they were houses for the Christian heritage of society. It is hard for modern Christians to conceive of going to the same church as their great-grandparents, but that was the expected practice before “church shopping” and “church growth” became commonplace. Mainline churches have the names, accomplishments, and works of generations upon generations of faithful Christians literally carved in stone, something that is utterly irreplaceable. The great contemporary Lutheran theologian Dr. Jordan B. Cooper has said that Protestants are absent from modern cultural conversations, while Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians still have a seat at the table, because the established Protestant institutions – the mainline Churches – have largely been lost.
The Faithful Remnant of the Mainline
While large sections of each mainline Protestant denomination have been hijacked by theological liberalism to varying degrees, each mainline denomination also has a strong minority of churches, pastors, and bishops that have stood firm on historic biblical doctrine. The PCUSA has the Fellowship Community, which is a network of theologically conservative churches, including several major ones like National Presbyterian Church D.C. and First Presbyterian Church Hollywood. The Episcopal Church has several conservative Bishops who will not allow same-sex marriage in their diocese, as well as a strong alliance of conservative priests and bishops called Communion Partners. While most conservative United Methodist churches have broken off to form the new Global Methodist denomination, there are a decent handful that have not. Even the UCC, the most liberal denomination in America, has a network of “Faithful and Welcoming” churches, which is the biblical alternative to “Open and Affirming”. While mainline denominations overall are rapidly shrinking, the only churches within these denominations that have not been dying out are the theologically conservative ones.
Seeing our own churches liberalize rapidly while simultaneously bleeding membership has been a call to action for many of us traditional mainline Protestants. At the beginning of 2023, we started Operation Reconquista, a long-term plan for Bible-believing Christians to retake the mainline denominations. Our strategy was simple and depended on the simple rule that liberal congregations always die out while conservative ones don’t. So all we needed to do was strengthen the conservative minority of congregations in these broadly liberal denominations, knowing that they would eventually become a majority. Our plan had 5 steps.
First, we did research and scout out mainline churches across the country to find out which ones are theologically conservative. We sent brave pioneers to investigate local mainline churches. Then, between the months of January and April, we created a custom online map of theologically moderate-to-conservative churches in each mainline denomination. By the end, we had hundreds of theologically sound churches that were PCUSA, Episcopal, United Methodist, and more on our map.
2: Community Forming
On the first day of June, which was the month when a lot of people would be shocked to see a pride flag on their church for the first time, we started the official Reconquista discord server, an online community platform. We used our social media influence to call all faithful mainline Protestants everywhere to join it. Within the first couple weeks, we gathered hundreds of people on our server, and by using our map, hundreds more found mainline churches to attend and then proceeded to join our group as well. Our discord community is split into subgroups for each denomination, so we were able to start a specific Reconquista group for Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.
3. Connections and Alliances
Some of the people who joined our discord community were pastors, so they got us connected to the various conservative alliances that already exist in these mainline denominations. In September, the Rev. Jake Dell, an Episcopal priest who had written articles endorsing us, invited the leaders of our Episcopalian Reconquista community to a national gathering of conservative Episcopalian priests and bishops in Dallas, TX. There, we handed out the articles he had written, and got dozens of priests on board with our movement, including a few bishops. The Episcopal Reconquista founded their own independent organization called the Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal and got connected to Communion Partners, the conservative alliance of Episcopal priests. We Presbyterians have done something similar. We started Presbyterians for the Kingdom, and are getting connected to Theology Matters, an existing organization dedicated to getting orthodox PCUSA pastors through seminaries and into PCUSA church pulpits. The rest of the denominations in the Reconquista have all made their own denomination-specific organizations. These organizations continue to grow every day, and are working with faithful pastors in their mainline denominations to evangelize and produce theological content.
This is what will come next. Now that we are making alliances and thriving conservative sub-communities within these mainline denominations, all we need to do is wait for a little while for the liberal churches to keep dying out. This will be easier than ever, given that there is such a severe pastor shortage. Most mainline churches are in fact so desperate for leadership, that they will let any young person who joins have a major position. This means that, in addition to preserving conservative congregations, we can also push moderate mainline congregations in a more conservative direction. This will take up to a generation, but the math checks out. There are so many more Evangelicals who attend church regularly than Mainliners, and that gap continues to widen. The more Evangelicals we can get to start flooding the mainline churches, the sooner they will be retaken. Once the conservative minority becomes a majority, we can finally reverse all the liberal changes that have happened over the years and enforce adherence to the confessions and creeds.
Our final goal is to reunify all the mainline denominations with their conservative offshoot counterparts. That means re-unifying the PCA and PCUSA, re-unifying the Episcopal Church and the ACNA, re-unifying the United Methodist Church with the Global Methodist Church, and so forth. Mainline denominations have a surplus of resources, but a shortage of members and pastors. Evangelical offshoots have a surplus of members and pastors, but a shortage of resources. So reunification seems like the obvious solution, but in order for that to be realistic, we need to correct the errors of the mainlines that caused these splits to happen in the first place.
You cannot revive a culture without reviving the churches it was founded upon. American culture was founded upon the churches that have now become the mainline Protestant churches. The only hope for American culture in the foreseeable future is if these extremely culturally significant churches see a true spiritual revival, and return to the gospel. Mathematically and practically, this is completely possible and is already beginning to go into effect. The question is, are we up to the challenge?
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