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Reviving the Mainline: An Overview of Clergy Support for Evangelical Renewal Movements

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Evangelical renewal movements (ERMs) are proliferating in the old Protestant mainline and they show few signs of splitting from their parent denominations. Ironically, the very theological pluralism that ERMs seek to eliminate has provided an opportunity for their entry and a barrier for their expulsion. This essay offers an introduction to the evangelical movements arising in the mainline and reports the initial findings from a survey of United Methodist clergy's involvement in ERMs. As expected, United Methodist clergy are predominantly older, white males leading small congregations. Surprisingly, however, fully 29 percent of the clergy do not have a seminary degree and more than half of those with seminary degrees did not attend United Methodist-affiliated schools—with 22 percent attending an evangelical seminary. The clergy involved in ERMs are younger, more likely to have attended evangelical seminaries (or no seminary at all), and hold more exclusive Christian beliefs. The survey also found that the once isolated evangelical clergy of the United Methodist Church are now embedded in evangelical associations and hold friendships with other evangelical clergy. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Seattle Pacific University, Department of Sociology 2: Pennsylvania State University, Department of Sociology

Publication date: December 1, 2002


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