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As the faithful experimented with new options, they became increasingly demanding and insisted upon new ways of doing business within their home churches. For example, parishioners within mainline denominations insisted that their churches adapt to the modern world by ordaining women. Others called on church leaders to work for the passage of civil- rights legislation and to denounce the Vietnam War. Protestants grew inspiration from the Roman Catholic proceedings of Vatican II (1962 -1965), in which a church more hierarchical than most in Protestantism nevertheless affirmed and expanded the roles of its laity. If laity could speak with power in Catholic circles, the reasoning went, then Protestants unencumbered by religious bureaucracy should certainly feel empowered to speak out.

The church responded with surprising alacrity to its newly emboldened parishioners. In a seismic departure from centuries of scriptural interpretation, according to which only men were presumed acceptable church leaders, several mainline denominations began ordaining women in the 1960s and 1970s. These moves cause some controversy, but they also satisfied intense calls from the pews for the Church to set a bold example for gender equality in society. Mainline churches also indulged their clientele by revamping the practice of ministerial counseling. The modified version would involve principles appropriated from psychotherapy, such as mirroring and letting parishioners find their own answers instead of offering directive advice. In this era of skepticism towards authority these changes in counseling techniques helped make parishioners more comfortable by bringing clergy down a notch from their positions of power.

In effect God’s representatives now present themselves not as authorities but instead as companions for the journey wherever it may lead.” (G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Thieves in the Temple, 2010, p.16-17)

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