Latest ‘Mainline Protestant’ Renewal Development Is Intriguing, But Is It Quixotic?


(ANALYSIS) On Oct. 31, the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of 95 Theses that initiated the Protestant break with Rome, an upstart U.S. group issued new theses demanding that seven mainline Protestant denominations (listed below) restore devotion to their onetime biblical orthodoxy.

In one of this American generation’s most significant disruptions, mainline churches — once so influential in American religion, education and cultural values — have suffered unprecedented declines in numbers and vitality. The new “Operation Reconquista” protest launched on Reformation Day squarely puts the blame for all that on liberalism.

Such a boldly ambitious game plan warrants some news attention. So far, the movement has received limited coverage and only in parochial media, such as the progressive Baptist News Global and Christianity Today.

Given the entrenched church leadership these insurgents oppose, the effort looks quixotic, but it could become noteworthy even if no gradual turnarounds of the denominations ever occur. It’s potentially intriguing if these insurgents at least recreate the largely defunct organized conservative beachheads within denominations that are ever more resolute in their doctrinal liberalism.

This strategy conflicts with the trend of minority evangelicals in mainline churches to surrender, quit in frustration and join either burgeoning nondenominational congregations or breakaway denominations. The United Methodist Church is currently suffering the biggest split since the Civil War. Conservatives report that 24% or more of UMC congregations have lately departed, nearly 7,300 in total, mostly to join the new Global Methodist Church.

But Reconquista strategists want the mainline’s remaining conservative members to stay put. They argue that these grand old denominations have future potential and that parishioners must restore the vast valuable assets “hijacked” by the doctrinal left to the purposes intended by past generations of faithful donors.

Notes on verbiage: First, “mainline” Protestant denominations are identified by origins in Colonial times, memberships that are predominantly White and well off, affiliation with the National Council of Churches, and a flexibly tolerant attitude about Christian teachings, in contrast with strict evangelical and conservative groups. Sociologists have long called them the “Seven Sisters.”

Second, “Reconquista” is an oddly militant choice of the name, one with roots in the Christian campaign to expel Muslim control of medieval Spain and Portugal.

As reporters would expect, the 2023 Reconquista defines marriage as “between one man and one woman” and “utterly” rejects “the sexual revolution, hookup culture, no-fault divorce, pornography, homosexual relations, modern gender theory, and the LGBTQ+ movement.” Due to “scientifically proven fact,” it believes abortion is “murder.” It condemns “all forms of racism, whether white supremacy or critical race theory.” Meanwhile, participants have varied views on women clergy and evolution.

Yet the seven 95 Theses texts are chiefly concerned with vigorous support for traditional doctrines, on which the Presbyterians’ statement is typical of what’s affirmed in the separate theses aimed at the other six denominations. It covers the attributes of God, that “Jesus is truly God” and “the only way to God,” defense of the Bible’s authority against claimed inconsistencies, the reality of miracles and much, much more.

Spurning the “religious right” as well as the left, the Presbyterians insist that churches “must not make an alliance with any secular political faction.”

At this point, we must invoke the first of the Five W’s of basic journalism. Who are we talking about? That’s hard to say, and invites some simple investigative reporting. The movement claims to have rallied 1,000 participants led by a “council” whose members are not named. Most activists appear to be young adults who are lay members, with few clergy involved.

The cause apparently originated with, but is not necessarily led or organized by, an anonymous young lay Presbyterian who converted to Christianity as a teen and calls himself Redeemed Zoomer. He launched a channel in 2020, is active on Instagram, and also posts opinions at

Here are contacts for Reconquista organizers within these seven denominations. Most reveal no names of their participants. This lineup omits the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which analysts usually include as part of the classic mainline.

American Baptist Churches USA — Amusingly, this Reconquista contingent posts only a succinct “9.5 Theses.” There’s no separate website but contact via [email protected].

Episcopal Church — The Reconquista is backed by the “Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal” reached at [email protected].

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — The related Society of Orthodox Lutheran Advocates (SOLA. Get it?) has this website with email at [email protected].

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — This affiliate is “Presbyterians for the Kingdom” and via email at [email protected], which is also the email contact for the mysterious Redeemed Zoomer.

Reformed Church in America — Their affiliate is “Reformed Revivalists in America,” which has no website. Emails go to [email protected].

United Church of Christ — The related “Puritans of the UCC” has no website. Emails go to [email protected].

United Methodist Church — The affiliated “Young Methodists for Tradition” Website is with email [email protected].

This piece first appeared at

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