Conservative, mainline and
liberal "wings" in Protestantism
"Now I beseech you...that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly
joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:10, The Christian Scriptures (New Testament),
Divisions within Christianity:
In its earliest years, the Christian religion was divided into three major
religious movements: the Gnostics, Jewish Christians, and Pauline
Christians. There were also many minor versions of Christianity. Often, there
would be many competing forms of the religion in a given city -- much like
today. The Gnostic Christians almost disappeared, but are experiencing a period of rapid
growth today. The Jewish Christians -- the original form of the religion -- were
largely wiped out by the Roman Army and eventually disappeared from the scene. Almost all
current Christian groups trace their lineage back to the Pauline Christian
Today, there are many ways of classifying the over 1,000 Christian faith groups
in North America:
By "wing."The conservative, mainline, and liberal wings
of Protestantism are described below.
According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World
Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD
30 to 2200," there are 34,000 separate
Christian groups in the world today. "Over half of them are
independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big
Differences among Christian faith groups are so great that some observers
have suggested that a useful way of classifying Christian groups is to view them
as a number of separate religions with
different beliefs and practices, who share:
This section describes how people have attempted to classify individual
Protestant Christians and Protestant Christian
denominations into liberal and conservative -- or liberal, mainline and conservative
It also describes some of the conflicts both within and among Protestant
denominations. These divisions and conflicts are largely traceable to different
methods of interpreting the Bible. Ranging from the most conservative to the most liberal Christians we see the
following three belief systems:
Since God cannot make mistakes their writings are also
inerrant -- without error -- in their
original autograph version.
It is only when a person is saved --
they repent of their sin and trust Jesus as
Lord and Savior -- that the Holy Spirit is allowed to control them and shows them
what the biblical text really means. Unless a person is first saved,
their interpretation of the Bible will inevitably be in
All passages are
useful for the believer.
The Bible contains the Word of God. However, it also
contains material that we must reject because
it has always been opposed to the will of God. This includes passages which condone slavery;
exhibit religious intolerance; involve the torturing prisoners; treat
women as property; require the execution of non-virgin brides, witches
and gays; and which advocate genocide, sexism, racism, homophobia,
The Bible is a wide-ranging human document.
It was written by very human
and fallible people who were not directly inspired by God.
The main motivation of the authors was to promote the beliefs of their
The Bible calls for justice and decent treatment of all persons.
are vitally important today.
With such a different approaches to the Bible it is extremely rare that
conservative and liberal Christians will agree on anything about its
message. By starting with such diverse beliefs about the Bible,
conservative, mainline, and liberal Protestants come to totally different conclusions about its
We will deal mainly with the over 1,000 Protestant and Anglican denominations
in this section. However, the conservative / liberal split is seen also within Roman
Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, etc.