The Mainline in Late Modernity

Tradition and Innovation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Maren Freudenberg
  • Louisville, KY: 
    Lexington Books/Fortress Academic
    , December
     242 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by L. DeAne Lagerquist forthcoming.


In the last fifty years, religion in America has changed dramatically, and Mainline Protestantism is following suit. This book reveals a fundamental transformation taking place in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA is looking to postdenominational Christianity for inspiration on how to attract people to the pews, but is at the same time intent on preserving its confessional, liturgical tradition as much as possible in late modernity. As American religion grows increasingly experiential and individualistic, the ELCA is caught between its church heritage and a highly innovative culture that demands participative structures and a personal relationship with the divine. In the midst of this tension, the ELCA is deflating its church hierarchy and encouraging people to become involved in congregations on their own terms, while it continues to celebrate its confessional, liturgical identity. But can this balance between individual and institution be upheld in the long run? Or will the democratization and pluralization of the faith ultimately undermine the church? This book explores how the ELCA attempts to resist the forces of Americanization in late modernity even as it slowly but surely comes to resemble mainstream American religion more and more.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Maren Freudenberg is research associate at the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany.

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