"Whatever Happened to Grace?: Reclaiming Grace in the 21st Century Church"
Membership in white mainline Protestant churches in the United States has declined over the past fifty years, particularly in recent years as an increasing number of people choose to define themselves as “nones” (meaning they have no religious preference) or “dones” (meaning they are done with attending a particular church and have abandoned traditional religious beliefs). This is in part, I argue, due to a loss of grace in the local congregation. This loss of grace is the result of the redefining of grace by United States culture, religious icons, and authors. It is also due to the judgmental, joyless, and unwelcoming nature of some church communities (perceived and/or real). In this paper, I explore grace as we find it in Scripture and as it has been understood by theologians (particularly those of the Reformed tradition) and offer stories and examples of how the church can be a community of grace through practices of hospitality, forgiveness, reconciliation, and attitudes of gratitude and joy.