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  AMERICAN DENOMINATIONS

INTRODUCTION: Denominationalism is an American phenomenon. Immigrants who brought the beliefs and practices of their old state church to America started many denominations. Many of these churches had offshoots and the number of denominations has mushroomed. This bulletin will look at only a few of the denominations found currently in America.

DENOMINATION: Baptists

Statistics:*
bulletAmerican Baptist Association (1,705) 250,000
bulletAmerican Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. (5,823) 1,517,400
bulletBaptist Bible Fellowship International (3,600) 1,500,00
bulletBaptist General Conference (857) 135,008
bulletBaptist Missionary Association of America (1,355)231,191
bulletConservative Baptist Association of America (1,084) 200,000
bulletFree Will Baptists, National Association of (2,496) 207,576
bulletGeneral Association of Rgular Baptist Churches (1,458) 136,380
bulletGeneral Baptist, General Association of (876) 74,156
bulletNational Baptist Convention of America (2,500) 3,500,000
bulletNational Baptist Convention, U.S.A. (33,000) 8,200,000
bulletNational Missionary Baptist Convention of America (not available) 2,500,000
bulletNorth American Baptist Conference (263) 43,236
bulletProgressive National Baptist Convention (2,000) 2,500,000
bulletSeperate Baptist in Christ (100) 8,000
bulletSeventh Day Baptist General Conference (86) 4,400
bulletSouthern Baptist Convention (40,039) 15,663,296
bulletSovereign Grace Baptists (300) 3,000

History:

Baptists have been classified as part of the radical reformation because of their objection of sacramentalism, infant baptism, and the union of church and state. The first Baptist church in England was formed in 1611 when the followers of John Smyth returned from Holland. Baptists have been influenced by both Arminian (General Baptists) theology and by Calvinistic (Particular Baptists) theology. The American Baptist Home Mission Society was formed in 1832. Baptists in the North and South separated in 1845 over the issue of slavery.

Authority:

The Bible is the sole source of authority for Baptists.

Religious Practices:

Baptists observe two church ordinances. The first church ordinance is believer's baptism by immersion. The second church ordinance is the Lord's Supper. Baptists have a congregational form of church government. The members of each local Baptist chruch make decisions for the church through democratic votes. Each church is autonomous.

Religious Tenets:

Baptism is only to be performed on those who have made a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ through faith and repentance. Since the Bible is their sole authority, Baptists reject authoritarian creeds. They have, however, issued statements of faith that represent the beliefs of most Baptists. Baptists believe that the government should not be involved in the establishment of religion. Traditionally, Baptists have taken stands against the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and in recent years, many have argued against abortion.

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DENOMINATION: Churches of Christ (Disciples of Christ)

Statistics:

bulletChristian Church (Disciples of Christ) (4,036) 929,725
bulletChurches of Christ (13,020) 1,655,000

History:

Churches of Christ grew out of the Disciples of Christ movement that began in the early nineteenth century. They are part of the Restoration Movement that Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander, helped establish. In 1832, they united with many of the followers of Barton Stone and later became known as the Disciples of Christ. in the early twentieth century, some Disciples of Christ felt their movement had drifted away from its original purpose. In 1906, a group let by David Lipsomb asked Federal census takers not to list the Churches of Christ with the Disciples of Christ. This marked the beginning of the Churches of Christ as a distinct group from the Disciples of Christ.

Authority:

The Churches of Christ claim the Bible as their sole authority. Their byword is "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent."

Religious Practices:

The Lord's Supper is one of the three elements central in Churches of Christ worship. The other two elements are preaching and believer's baptism by immersion in a Church of Christ. They observe the Lord's Supper each week. Churches of Christ have a congregational form of church government. Each local church is autonomous and self-governing. They have no formal denominational structure beyond the local church. The Churches of Christ do not view themselves as a denomination. They claim to observe no rituals that were not practiced in the first century church. Those associated with the Churches of Christ reject the use of instruments in worship.

Religious Tenets:

They are Arminian in theology. They believe people are free to accept or reject God's offer of salvation. Each person must cooperate with God's offer through his or her own response of faith, repentance, and baptism. Many understand faith as an intellectual acceptance of the biblical facts about Jesus. Churches of Christ teach that baptism by immersion for believers in essential for the remission of sins and is necessary for salvation. They believe that Christians may sin in such a way that they lose their salvation.

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DENOMINATION: Eastern Orthodox

Statistics:

bulletAlbanian Orthodox Diocese of America (2) 1,875
bulletAmerican Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek, 19,321
bulletAntiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of, 300,000
bulletApostolic Catholic Assyrian Ch. of the East, 120,000
bulletArmenian Apostolic Church of America (32) 150,000
bulletArmenian Church of America, Diocese of the (72) 414,000
bulletBulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church (9) 1,100
bulletCoptic Orthodox Church (85) 180,000
bulletGreek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (535) 1,950,000
bulletOrthodox Church in America (600) 2,000,000
bulletRomanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (37) 65,000
bulletSerbian Orthodox Church in U.S.A. & Canada (68) 67,000
bulletSyrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (Archdiocese of the U.S.A. and Canada) (17) 32,500
bulletTrue Orthodox Church of Greece (SOMC), American Exarchate (9) 1,080

History:

The Orthodox Church traces its origin to the establishment of the Christian church on the day of Pentecost. They separated from the western Latin Church in A.D. 1054.

Authority:

Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, especially as recorded in the writings of the Church Fathers.

Religious Practices:

The Orthodox Church recognizes seven sacraments or mysteries. The sacraments of the Orthodox Church are the Eucharist, Baptism, Chrismation, Ordination, Penance, Marriage, and Holy Oil for the sick. They believe that the elements of the sacraments become grace filled through the power of the Holy Spirit. They reject the use of statues as religious objects and instead use icons. Orthodox clergy may marry before ordination. Liturgical following the customs of the eastern churches.

Religious Tenets:

The Orthodox Church rejects both the supremacy of the Bishop of Roman as well as his papal infallibility. They reject the immaculate conception of Mary because of their rejection of the doctrine of original sin. They do affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary as well as her bodily assumption. They also give Mary the title "Mother of God." They also reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of the filioque that states the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Instead, the Orthodox maintain that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father.

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DENOMINATION: Episcopal Church (a branch of the Anglican Church communion)

Statistics:

bullet(7,388) 2,504,682

History:

The Anglican Church began when Henry VIII separated the English Church from Rome. The Episcopal Church became a denomination, distinct from the Church of England, after the American Revolution. The Episcopal Church has been ordaining women to the priesthood since 1988.

Authority:

The Episcopal Church believes the Bible is divinely inspired. They also accept the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds. The Episcopal Church gives its members great latitude in interpreting its doctrine.

Religious Practices:

The Episcopal Church has two main sacraments, baptism and the Eucharist. Infants are baptized and several modes of baptism are acceptable. The Episcopal Church consists of a union of autonomous dioceses. Each diocese elects a bishop as its religious leader. Each parish elects a rector who oversees the local congregation. The Eucharist is the most important part of the worship service. The service follows the Book of Common Prayer. The Episcopal Church has great diversity in its worship. Some churches are liturgical with a complex ritual, while other churches are more informal and evangelistic.

Religious Tenets:

While the Episcopal Church accepts the Bible and the historic creeds of the church, it gives members freedom in doctrinal beliefs. It stresses the use of the Book of Common Prayer in worship more than it does the acceptance of particular beliefs.

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DENOMINATION: Lutherans

Statistics:

bulletApostolic Lutheran Church of America (60) 7,700
bulletChurch of the Lutheran Brethren of America (119) 25,548
bulletChurch of the Lutheran Confession (71) 8,864
bulletConservative Lutheran Association (8) 1,047
bulletEstonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (23) 3,989
bulletEvangelical Lutheran Ch. in America (10,973) 5,199,048
bulletEvangelical Lutheran Synod (128) 25,379
bulletFree Lutheran Congregations, Association of (234) 30,769
bulletLatvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (55) 12,446
bulletLutheran Church -- Missouri Synod (6,148) 2,596,927
bulletLutheran Churches, American Association of (94) 22,061
bulletProtestant Conference (Lutheran) (7) 1,150
bulletWisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (1,251) 414,874

History:

Lutheranism began in 1517 with the religious revolution begun by Martin Luther in Wittenberg Germany. Lutherís followers became very numerous in Germany and Scandinavia. As people from these countries came to America, they established Lutheran churches.

Authority:

One of the key differences between Luther and the Roman Catholic Church was over the issue of authority. Luther argued that the Scripture was the sole authority for determining belief and practice. The 1580 Book of Concord is the normative statement of Lutheran beliefs.

Religious Practices:

Baptism is necessary for spiritual regeneration. The sacramental view of the Lordís Supper is retained but transubstantiation is rejected. There is diversity among Lutherans in church government. They range from congregational to Episcopal in church government. There is no uniform liturgy among Lutherans. The altars and vestments from Catholicism have been retained. The preaching of the word is considered the most important part of the worship service.

Religious Tenets:

Traditionally, Lutherans have believed in the sufficiency of Scripture alone as the guide to religious truth. They have also emphasized that redemption comes through faith alone and that the church sacraments are only helps to faith. Luther rejected the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. This view of the Lordís Supper claims that the elements literally become the body and blood of Jesus during the Eucharist, though the outward or physical characteristics of the bread and wine are not changed. Luther advocated the view known as consubstantiation to describe what happens during the Lordís Supper. This view argues that the elements are both bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ at the same time.

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DENOMINATION: Methodists

Statistics:

bulletAfrican Methodist Episcopal Church (8,000) 3,500,000
bulletAfrican Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (3,098) 1,230,842
bulletAllegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection (120) 2,056
bulletEvangelical Methodist Church (132) 8,500
bulletFree Methodist Church of North America (1,050) 74,585
bulletFundamental Methodist Church (12) 787
bulletPrimitive Methodist Church, U.S.A. (79) 7,298
bulletSouthern Methodist Church (126) 7,876
bulletUnited Methodist Church (36,559) 8,584,125
bulletThe Wesleyan Church (U.S.A.) (1,609) 116,763

History:

In 1729, a group of students at Oxford University in England began meeting together for methodical prayer and Scripture reading. They were called Methodists because of their methodical approach towards prayer. Methodism as a popular religious movement began in 1738 when John and Charles Wesley began evangelistic preaching. The Wesleys were ordained ministers of the Church of England. His followers in America became an independent denomination after the American Revolution.

Authority:

Methodists beliefs are derived from Scripture as enlightened by tradition, personal experience, and reason.

Religious Practices:

Methodists have two sacraments, which they believe, are symbols and pledges of Godís love. These two sacraments are baptism and communion (Lordís Supper). Methodists practice infant baptism. The Lordís Supper is a memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Methodists have an Episcopal form of church government that is similar in many ways to the organization of the federal government. The United Methodists, for example, have the General Conference as their top legislative body, with the nine members of their Judicial Council functioning as a supreme court. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church acts as an executive branch. There is variety in worship styles among Methodist.

Religious Tenets:

Methodists are Arminian in theology following the teachings of John Wesley. They believe that Godís prevenient grace precedes salvation and makes it possible for the sinner to respond to the gospel. Methodists believe that it is possible for Christians to sin in such a way that they lose their salvation.

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DENOMINATION: Pentecostals

Statistics:

bulletApostolic Faith Mission (Portland, OR) (54) 4,500
bulletApostolic Faith Mission Church of God (28) 11,000
bulletApostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God (160) 12,369
bulletAssemblies of God (11,764) 2,324,615
bulletBible Church of Christ (6) 6,850
bulletChurch of God (Cleveland, TN) (5,918) 722,541
bulletChurch of God in Christ (15,300) 5,499,875
bulletChurch of God of Prophecy (2,005) 70,570
bulletCongregational Holiness Church (190) 2,468
bulletChurch of the Foursquare Gospel (1,710) 222,658
bulletOpen Bible Standard Churches (361) 45,988
bulletPentecostal Assemblies of the World (1,760) 1,000,000
bulletPentecostal Church of God (1,209) 113,400
bulletPentecostal Free Will Baptist Church (163) 18,500
bulletUnited Pentecostal Church, International (3,730) 550,000

History:

The first recorded instance of tongues speaking occurred in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas under the ministry of Charles Parham. In 1906 tongues speaking broke out among the followers of William J. Seymour in Los Angeles, California. They rented a building on Azusa Street and quickly grew attracting much attention. From this group, the modern day practice of tongues speaking spread across the world. The term Pentecostalism refers to a broad movement of groups concerned with tongues speaking and Holiness.

Authority:

The Scripture, and in some cases new revelations given by the Holy Spirit.

Religious Practices:

Baptism by the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues is sought by Pentecostals. Most Pentecostal groups observe Baptism (usually by immersion) and the Lordís Supper. There is diversity in church government among Pentecostal groups, but many are congregational. Worship style is very spontaneous and informal. Speaking in tongues will often break out in Pentecostal worship services.

Religious Tenets:

They believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible are active and present in the church today. They claim that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is manifested by speaking in tongues. Pentecostals tend to be Arminian in theology with an emphasis on perfectionism and holiness. While many Pentecostal believe in the doctrine of the Trinity there are Pentecostal groups that reject it.

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DENOMINATION: Presbyterian (Reformed Churches)

Statistics:

bulletAssociate Reformed Presbyterian Church (General Synod) (206) 38,936
bulletCumberland Presbyterian Church (772) 90,125
bulletEvangelical Presbyterian Church (177) 56,499
bulletKorean Presbyterian Church in America (203) 26,988
bulletOrthodox Presbyterian Church (181) 20,151
bulletPresbyterian Church in America (1,263) 257,556 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (11,399) 3,698,136
bulletReformed Presbyterian Church of North America (70) 5,657

History:

John Calvin laid the theological foundations for Presbyterianism and other Reformed Churches in Switzerland during the 16th century. Calvin emphasized the sovereignty of God in all matters. Presbyterianism is the name given the church established by the followers of Calvin in Scotland. Under the leadership of John Knox, the Presbyterian Church became the official church of Scotland. The Presbyterian Church was planted in America as Scottish and Scottish-Irish immigrates arrived in the British colonies.

Authority:

The Scripture is their sole source of authority.

Religious Practices:

Presbyterians practice Baptism (including infants) and the Lordís Supper with the elements symbolizing Christís spiritual presence. Their worship services have little liturgy and the sermon is considered the most important part of the service.

Religious Tenets:

The Westminster Confession of Faith summaries the established Presbyterian beliefs. Their Calvinistic theology has traditionally been summarized by the acrostic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

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DENOMINATION: Roman Catholic

Statistics:

bullet(19,723) 60,190,605

History:

Roman Catholics claim the Apostle Peter, the first bishop of Rome, founded their church. Secular historians date the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution (with centralization and papal authority) to the fifth and six centuries.

Authority:

Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the church are the three sources of authority for the Roman Catholic Church.

Religious Practices:

There are seven sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. The sacraments are baptism (includes infant), confirmation, Eucharist (Mass), penance (Confession), Matrimony, and the anointing of the sick. Roman Catholic services are liturgical but since Vatican II, the services are performed in the language spoken by the parishioners. The bishop of Rome is the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Religious Tenets:

Roman Catholics affirm the Triune nature of the God of the Bible. They believe that the Pope is capable of making infallible statements on matters of faith. They maintain that Mary was born without original sin, that she continued as a virgin throughout her life, and that at the end of her days on earth she was taken up body and soul into heaven. Catholics believe that Mary and other saints can hear their prayers. Roman Catholics also distinguish between mortal and venial sin. Mortal sin destroys the sanctifying grace of God within the individual and necessitates forgiveness through the sacrament of Penance. Venial sin is a sin that either is not serious, or does not involve full knowledge or complete consent. Unlike mortal sin it does not destroy the saving grace of God in the individual.

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DENOMINATION: United Church of Christ

Statistics:

bullet(6,180) 1,501,310

History:

The United Church of Christ is the result of several mergers involving four distinct denominations. The last merger occurred in 1957 and established the United Church of Christ. The four denominations making up this new church are the Congregational, Christian, Evangelical Synod, and the Reformed Church.

Authority:

The Scripture is their source of authority but they do not limit it by traditional interpretations.

Religious Practices:

Baptism (including infant) and the Lordís Supper is observed by the United Church of Christ. Their churches tend to have simple worship services with the sermon as the central focus. Their churches are free to act in accordance with the collective decision of its members.

Religious Tenets:

The United Church of Christ adopted a non-binding statement of faith in Oberlin, Ohio in 1959. It stresses the priesthood of all believers and the freedom of members to believe and act in accordance with their perception of Godís will. The church also encourages its members to work for justice and the liberation of all people.

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