Diversity and Denominationalism

Last year the NY Times noted, “the looming question for many Christian churches and denominations is no longer whether doctrinal boundaries are too absolute and exclusive but whether these groups can define and maintain any clear-cut identity at all.” Is denominationalism necessery to preserve Christian diversity?

6 thoughts on “Diversity and Denominationalism

  1. I’ve seen a cartoon where someone says something like “Of course that dispute is why our denomination was founded, but nobody worries about it any more”.
    Within most denoms there is mauch variation between churches in style, size and teaching. If every church in England was Anglican, there would still be plenty of variation.
    But churches don’t need to distinguish themselves from other churches – the Church needs to follow Christ and this distinguish itself from the world.


  2. I was thinking the same, that there is almost as much variation within denominations than between them, so there are obviously multiple sources of diversity. I still think denominations can maintain a distinct identity, but they are only one source of identity and not necessarily the most important one.
    I differ on the statement that “churches don’t need to distinguish themselves from other churches” though. I think a certain amount of diversity is healthy. For without an acceptance of diversity the next question that arises is who gets to set the standard for uniformity? That’s the path to cultural imperialism.
    So the next question becomes, what level of diversity is acceptable? In defining this I draw attention to the saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In this I think it is important to state, our Christian identity is primary, our denominational identity is utterly secondary.


  3. Matt, I agree with you in principle but who defines what is essential? No schism was ever undertaken lightly and at the time all these dividing (distinguishing) issues were considered essential. Given the difficulty of knowing what is essential and what is not, I am forced to conclude that the last part of your statement is most important: “In all things, charity.”


  4. I think a pretty good guide to what is essential is that which Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants mutually agree on. Such as the life, death and resurrection of Christ, such as baptism as our primary initiation rite. You’d be hard put to find a denomination that doesn’t agree on these.
    Things which schisms are fought over are generally more nit picking in nature. Such as water depth for baptism.


  5. The Great Schism that divided the Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox was mainly due to disagreeing on an ‘i’ they were arguing over the substance vs the essence of Jesus/Trinity which in Latin or Greek looks exactly the same except for the one extra letter the ‘i’.
    It is said that by about 2037 that a good deal of the denomintaions will be extinct if the continue on their current projection. As far as I uderstand it here in the UK many diferent denominations are working side by side in mission which was predicted by Jonathan Bartley in his book Faith & Politics After Christendom. There have been a number of words with the prefix post and denomination is one of them so here in the UK/Europe it is normal to hear post-denominationalism, post-Christendom, post-Christian, postmodernism, etc,. Ecumenicalism is growing here. Philip jenkins writing in Christianity today spoke of a theology of extinction. Now I know that is very depressing for some of you, but i think that there is hope. The Chinese symbol for courage is the combination of the symbols challenge and opportunity and both exist now.


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