Mainline Christianity

The Past and Future of America's Majority Faith

196 pages

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814753309



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Jason S. Lantzer is Adjunct Professor of History at Indiana University Purdue University and at Butler University. He is the author of Prohibition is Here to Stay: The Rev. Edward S. Shumaker and the Dry Crusade in America.

All books by Jason S. Lantzer

Since the Revolutionary War, Mainline Christianity has been comprised of the Seven Sisters of American Protestantism—the Congregational Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Convention, and the Disciples of Christ.

These denominations have been the dominant cultural representatives since the nineteenth century of how and where the majority of American Christians worship. Today, however, the Seven Sisters no longer represent most American Christians. The Mainline has been shrinking while evangelical and fundamentalist churches, as well as non denominational congregations and mega churches, have been attracting more and more members.

In this comprehensive and accessible book, Jason S. Lantzer chronicles the rise and fall of the Seven Sisters, documenting the ways in which they stopped shaping American culture and began to be shaped by it. After reviewing and critiquing the standard decline narrative of the Mainline he argues for a reconceptualization of the Mainline for the twenty-first century, a new grouping of Seven Sisters that seeks to recognize the vibrancy of American Christianity.


  • "Provides a wide-ranging survey and trenchant critique of the history of mainline Christianity in America. Lantzer's cautionary tale of the mainline's decline offers a stimulating introduction to these denominations--Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, and others--which remain the church home for tens of millions of American Christians."

    —Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University, author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution

  • "Recommended for lower-division undergraduates and above [as well as] general readers."


  • "Jason S. Lantzer provides an excellent denomination-by-denomination analysis."

    The Journal of American History

  • "While in some circles, the very premise of Christianity being 'mainline' in any form in the twenty-first-century America is hotly contested, Lantzer wants to retain and redefine the term."

    —Dwight Zscheile, Lutheran Quarterly

  • "Lantzer of Butler University sees a new mainline emerging from ashes of the old...showing extensive historiographical knowledge and drawing upon manuscript collections, court records, and personal interviews."

    —Justus D. Doenecke, Anglican and Episcopal History

  • “…there is much to appreciate in this book.  It provides a useful, concise history of the American Mainline.  […] Mainline Christianity provides a thoughtful, reasoned, and focused overview of this fascinating segment of American religious life.”

    Review of Religious Research

  • "[…] [T]he book is a valuable resource.  Lantzer’s redefinition of mainline and reorientation of the declension narrative are worth this book’s publication and the reader’s attention.”

    Church History