This is a photo of a 1977 christmas church program that I participated in. I'm in the back row, second from the left. I thought I'd post it, for fun, but also in response to a common assertion one finds on the right. The claim is that the mainline protestant churches have no center, they simply exist in reaction to conservative or "orthodox" forms of Christianity.
As someone who has spent my entire life in the mainline church, I find the right's claim to be without basis. I grew up in a church with a definite religious vision, a gospel. It found expression in the very life of the church, from my youth group, to community work, to the selling of pies at the local fair. It was a gospel rooted in certain vision of community and God's love for us. That experience continues to inform my faith today.
Now certainly there are a number of folks who are fleeing conservative churches and are seeking more open places to work out their faith. This is something to be celebrated, though often the right would rather they left the faith altogether then find a church home that allows for such openness. My Irony recently wrote a thought provoking piece on the experience of leaving fundamentalism and some of the issues which can mark such a journey. It's worth a read.
But I'd propose an idea that some may have not considered before. Perhaps there is something attractive, for many members whether new or old, about the religious life and vision of the mainline church. It may be why I remain in the church and why others leave behind conservative churches and join more liberal religious bodies. Certainly the membership numbers favor the right, but some of us are left out of the picture when those numbers are trotted out.