(By Dale M. Coulter, First Things). The last time we saw such a massive shift in Protestantism was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the Holiness and Pentecostal movements spawned over ten major denominations. When one adds to this the formation of the Wesleyan Church (1843), the Free Methodist Church (1860), and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (1870), all of which came out of the old Methodist Episcopal Church, it is easy to see just how large the divisions and realignments were.
It now seems apparent that something similar is occurring in the final decades of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. Not only are there new denominations forming, such as the Association of Vineyard Churches (1982), networks of churches are emerging that are quickly becoming a nucleus for local congregations leaving mainline Protestantism.
The trend of realignment among mainline churches can be seen in the formation of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (2012), the North American Lutheran Church (2010), and the Anglican Church of North America (2009). Both ECO and NALC were formed from networks of ministers and churches that had decided that renewal from within existing Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican denominations was no longer possible. This realignment first began with the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (1973).
A similar move may be occurring within the United Methodist Church. The largest UMC congregation in the Mississippi Conference just finalized its departure.