A Peculiar Beat: St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Decatur, Illinois: A Microcosm of Traditioned Innovation and Adaptive Change in American Protestantism

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Browning, Robert Michael
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Middle Tennessee State University
Since World War II the historiography of American Protestantism has identified two simple categories of Protestants: liberal mainline and conservative evangelical. However, social changes in American Protestantism, especially since the 1960s, reflect not only evidence of amalgamation of Protestantism in America but also the need to identify a category of Protestants that no longer fits the dominant dichotomy. I argue for at least a third category of American Protestants, which I term traditionalist innovators. These college-educated evangelicals have held to traditional biblical theology but have been willing to innovate in the use of modern technology, music, and intellectual/academic pursuits. To make this case, I apply the work of both American religious historians and ethnomusicologists to a case study of a midsized industrial city in the Midwest and one of its Lutheran-Missouri Synod churches to exhibit, in microcosm, the adaptations of American evangelicals that have produced traditionalist innovators over time.
Contemporary Christian Music, Evangelical, Innovation, Lutheran, Protestantism, Tradition