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While others lament the declining attendance of mainline churches and blame it on a stodgy and out of date tradition, Jackson W. Carroll offers a more hopeful perspective. According to Carroll, the key to the future health and vitality of mainline churches can be found in that same tradition. In Mainline to the Future: Congregations for the 21st Century, Carroll states that tension between change and tradition has always been part of the Protestant heritage. He believes that when older practices are challenged by change, tradition can no longer be accepted at face value and must be adapted. In this spirit, Carroll calls mainline churches to "go forward, remembering." Neither change nor tradition supercedes the other. Both are gifts of divine grace that enable churches to live faithfully in the world. When churches no longer accept tradition as unchangeable, they are free to engage in dialogue with the secular culture and are able to retrieve and reinterpret selective aspects of their tradition in ways that are meaningful for today's congregations. True to the Protestant tradition itself, the ability to adapt allows the authority of tradition to shift from being "out there" to being "in here." Thus does the church reclaim its interpretive power to make the Gospel relevant to every time and place.
While others lament the declining attendance of mainline churches and blame it on an out-of-date tradition, Jackson Carroll offers a more hopeful perspective, arguing that they key to future vitality can be found in the same tradition. According to Carroll, the tension between tradition and change has always been part of the Protestant heritage, and he argues that now is a time when being faithful requires adaptation.
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