The term "mainline Protestant" has outlived its usefulness. In the mid-20th century, the mainline denominations represented a majority of all churchgoers in this country. They were considered "mainstream." Today the mainline Protestant denominations could more accurately be called "designer churches."
Mainline denominations were known for their involvement in their community and the world at large. As citizens in a democratic republic, they took seriously their responsibility to live out their faith and see that God's moral values were reflected in our laws.
Not anymore! Since the 1960s, the moral values that are unequivocal in the Bible began clashing with the world's values. Slowly, issues like abortion, fornication, adultery and homosexuality became subjects of debate within these denominations.
As a result, these mainline churches began drifting away from God's standards and began designing their own rules of conduct. That's when their numbers began shrinking. Today, these designer churches are not only a minority among all Christian denominations, but a minority among Protestant churches as a whole.
Last week's decision by the Presbyterian Church USA to approve homosexual marriage was no surprise. In 2011, the denomination voted to allow the ordination of gay men and women in same-sex relationships. It was only a matter of time until the PCUSA went the way of many other mainline churches and adopted the entire homosexual agenda.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative faith-based alliance that keeps track of these developments, says, "Only declining denominations reject historic Christian standards, and in nearly every case that rejection reinforces the decline."
As recently as 2010, the PCUSA had 2.1 million members. Today it is down to 1.76 million. One wonders why it has any members at at all.
If you can decide which of God's moral laws to obey, how important can God really be? Why not just go to the beach? Many are. Others are joining evangelical and fundamentalist congregations.
Last week, some speakers at the Presbyterian assembly in Detroit said they were afraid this decision would cause more conservative people to leave the church. They should be more concerned about God leaving the church!
Some argue that the biblical pronouncements against homosexuality are outdated. One rightfully can make a distinction between ritual and moral law. Christ's sacrifice did away with the need for observing the Old Testament rituals, which were meant to show us God's holiness and our need for a savior. However, God's moral law remains unchanged.
In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus made that abundantly clear:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law. … For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
The biblical pronouncements against homosexuality are unambiguous: Leviticus 18 is an expansion of the Seventh Commandment. It is not an exhaustive sexual code, but it is consistent with God's purpose for human sexuality as presented in Genesis. It lists homosexuality among certain gross offenses that were common at that time.
This pronouncement against homosexual acts is repeated and expanded in the New Testament in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.
The Bible says, "All sin and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Christ paid the price for our sins. He will forgive any sin we confess. However, that forgiveness is conditional. It is based on repentance and our willingness to turn from what the Bible refers to as our "wicked ways."
Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15)
None of us is perfect. That's why we need a savior. We all fail from time to time, but this is different than making a decision to deliberately live in a condition of sin.
In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus also gave us this warning:
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
Everyone struggles with sin. Most struggle with sexual sin of one kind or another. However, these are the very sins the designer churches wish to excuse.
We can be thankful that we still live in a country where we are free to believe in God or not. We can choose to follow His ways or not.
Some think there is a third way – and that's why they attend designer churches.
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