Denominationalism is the belief that some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. This belief is not accepted by all Christian churches. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not use this term as its implication of interchangeability does not agree with their theological teachings. Denominationalism is a largely Protestant concept among Christians.
The idea was first articulated by Independents within the Puritan movement. They argued that differences among Christians were inevitable, but that separation based on these differences was not necessarily schism. Christians are obligated to practice their beliefs rather than remain within a church with which they disagree, but they must also recognize their imperfect knowledge and not condemn other Christians as apostate over unimportant matters.
in English-speaking countries
Denominational families include:
- Bible Study Movement
- Catholicism, although the Roman Catholic Church considers itself the original Church (and as such, "pre-denominational"), not a denomination;
- Mormonism or Latter Day Saints, a distinctive form of the restoration movement.
- Eastern Orthodoxy, although the Orthodox and Apostolic churches consider themselves the original churches and not denominations;
- Reformed churches
These families of churches can be further sub-divided.
Individual denominations or communions include:
- The Anglican Communion (Anglican family)
- The Continuing Anglican churches (Anglican family)
- The Southern Baptist Convention (Baptist family)
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Lutheran family)
- The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (Lutheran family)
- The United Methodist Church (Methodist family)
- The Free Methodist Church (Methodist family)
- The Christian Reformed Church (Reformed family)
- The Reformed Church in America (Reformed family)
- The Roman Catholic Church (Catholic family)
- The Old Catholic churches (Catholic family)
- The Disciples of Christ (Restorationist family)
- The Churches of Christ (Restorationist family)
- The Jehovah's Witnesses (Bible Students Movement family)
Some Christians view denominationalism as a regrettable fact. As of 2011, divisions are becoming less sharp, and there is increasing cooperation between denominations (See denomination for a distinction between denomination and association in religious governance).
Theological denominationalism ultimately denies reality to any apparent doctrinal differences among the "denominations", reducing all differences to mere matters de nomina ("of names").
A denomination in this sense is created when part of a church no longer feel they can accept the leadership of that church as a spiritual leadership due to a different view of doctrine or what they see as immoral behaviour, but the schism does not in any way reflect either group leaving the Church as a theoretical whole.
This particular doctrine is, of course, unacceptable to those Christian groups that see themselves as being the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" as a whole. This includes Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Oriental Orthodoxy, each of which claims to be the subsistence of the exclusive "Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church". In these churches, it is not possible to have a separation over doctrinal or leadership issues, and any such attempts automatically are a type of schism. Despite unfortunate situations in the past, leading up to the Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, many Orthodox and Oriental churches of recent times have returned to unity with the Catholic Church, yet have kept many of their characteristic distinctions identity as approved Rites
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