Where’s the Mainline?

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compassion.jpgA week from today, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but not, apparently, John McCain, will be participating in something called the Compassion Forum at Messiah College, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This forum has been whomped up as an opportunity, nine days before the Pennsylvania primary, for the presidential candidates to show that they care about the great humanitarian issues of all time and our time–poverty and Darfur, human rights and torture and, yes, abortion’s on the list too. The thing is being coordinated (I guess that means organized) by Faith in Public Life and (here’s the point) is being supported by a range of religious leaders across the ideological perspective.
OK, it’s a bit left of center, in the evangelical mode: the Wallises and Siders are prominent. But the president of the Southern Baptist Convention has lent his name to the thing. There are Catholics and Jews and African American Protestants and Muslims. Conspicuous by their absence, however, are representatives of the Protestant mainline. There’s one identified Episcopal clergy person, yes. But no one representing the National Council of Churches or any of the big mainline denominational bodies. Once upon a time, and not all that long ago, any interfaith operation with the word “compassion” in it would have had mainline Protestants at the center, organizing and coordinating and sponsoring. Didn’t anyone think to invite them? Did they decline to participate? Was backing by some conservatives contingent on their not participating? Maybe this is simply another commentary on the decline of the mainline. But I’d like to know the back story.