In a recent interview with the Century, historian David Hollinger talks about his preference for the phrase “ecumenical Protestants” to describe non-evangelical mid-20th-century American Protestants, instead of the more frequently used terms “liberal” and “mainline.”
“Ecumenical” refers to a specific, vital and largely defining impulse within the groups I am describing. It also provides a more specific and appropriate contrast to evangelical. The term evangelical comes into currency in the mid-century to refer to a combination of fundamentalists and Holiness, Pentecostals and others; ecumenical refers to the consolidation of the ecumenical point of view in the big conferences of 1942 and 1945.
I appreciated this shift in vocabulary because I have long disliked both the terms “liberal” and “mainline” to refer to whatever-kind-of-Protestant it is that I am.
About a year ago my wife bought a gadget that checks all of the Christmas lights on a string and alerts the user to the one that is burned out. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. Then one day, while I was checking lights one by one (like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation), she showed me how the gadget worked. It was wonderful!
Ross Douthat's gotten a lot of pushback for using his soapbox to complain that liberal Christianity lacks "a religious reason for its own existence." And with good reason—it'd be nice if the national paper of record's faithiest columnist could at least spin a fresher argument against us mainliners.
In the summer we usually make a pilgrimage of sorts to visit family in Minnesota lake country. I generally think at least once on such a trip—usually while sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake—“I wish I could just stay here forever.”
The United Church of Canada has decided to proceed with the review of Gretta Vosper, an ordained minister, that could lead to her being defrocked. Vosper openly says that she believes neither in God nor the Bible, going against the denomination’s ordination vows, which include belief in a triune God. Her lawyers have submitted 1,687 pages challenging the review, but the judicial committee responded with a terse, one-page response saying it saw no reason why the review, not yet scheduled, shouldn’t proceed. Vosper’s Toronto congregation is standing behind her. The review was initiated after Vosper sent an open letter to the church’s spiritual leader following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. In the letter Vosper argued that belief in God can motivate people to do bad things (Canadian Press, March 31).