"When people talk about Protestantism, it's about evangelicalism and Pentecostalism," says Diana Butler Bass, a senior researcher at the Virginia Theological Seminary. "Most people think mainline Protestant churches are dead." Director of the Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, a three-year study of 50 churches across the country that's scheduled to end in 2006, Bass set out to find whether the stereotype is true—or whether, as she puts it, there's "a new kind of mainline congregation developing in the United States that's moderate to liberal theologically, taking traditional Christian practices seriously, and is experiencing an unnoticed vitality."
. . .
"It offers a potential pattern that mainline congregations can embark on that could spark new life.
"It clearly has very political consequences because of the amalgam they are: They are liberal and socially active in terms of their public involvement. These places are very much the middle of American religion. They talk in a language of being in the middle.
"We were with them during the 2004 elections. They don't want to be used by the political extremes. They're extraordinarily upset about the characterization of congregations being identified with the religious right. They'd say, "We're faithful but we're not fundamentalists."
"They're interested in figuring out how to do that in the public square, and, if they do, that it might change the public conversation about the role of religion and party politics right now. So I think whatever happens will end up having public and political consequences."
Thanks to Carolyn of Orkney for the link.