Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium

Donald E. Miller, Author
Donald E. Miller, Author University of California Press $35 (262p) ISBN 978-0-520-20938-1
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 262 pages - 978-0-520-21811-6
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Since the 1960s, American Protestantism has undergone significant changes, as mainline churches have experienced declines in membership. However, the new face of American Protestantism may be seen, according to Miller, in the ""new paradigm churches,"" mega-organizations that transcend denominational polity and structure to bring Christianity to larger numbers of people in both conventional and nonconventional ways. Miller, professor of Religion at the University of Southern California, focuses his study on three such groups--Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Hope Chapel--to show the ways in which American Protestantism is being reinvented. He begins his study with a brief history of these new movements that traces their origins to the ""hippies and beach baptisms"" of the '60s, a time when, he notes, Christians were seeking ways to spread their message successfully to social groups for whom traditional worship and religious structure were irrelevant. These non-mainline groups were successful primarily, according to Miller, because they combined an emphasis on the simple message and organizational structure of first-century Christianity with contemporary ""methods of worship, rock music, and a variety of support and interest groups."" Miller examines the ways in which these groups ""democratized the sacred,"" handing the organizational authority and interpretation of the Bible over to the congregations. Miller's evenhanded and balanced interpretation provides important insights into the character of contemporary American religion. (Sept.)
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