Are there any non-Catholic Christian congregations that belong to more than one denomination simultaneously?

This came up in another thread, about a church that belongs both to a Baptist denomination and to the United Church of Christ (UCC). Is this ever done, and if so, why? How is this handled?

I have in mind one church that is actually affiliated with two denominations simultaneously, not congregations that share a building and some resources, but which remain separate. The combined Roman Catholic/Episcopal parish in Virginia Beach is an interesting concept, but not quite what I have in mind.

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Didn’t the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Canada merge in the early 1900s?

Yes, pretty much so. The unified body took the name “United Church of Canada”.

I have to wonder if that could work here “south of the border”. Neither Methodists, Presbyterians, nor Congregationalists have apostolic succession, nor ordained priests, so is there much of any real consequence that divides them? Anything doctrinal?

According to Wikipedia, the UCC is pro-choice on abortion. That is sad.

Yes, it is done. As to how it is handled, quite easily in congregational traditions where local congregations are completely independent. “Denominations” in these traditions are simply voluntary associations. It is possible, for example, for a Baptist church to belong to both the Southern Baptist Convention and the historically black National Baptist Convention (which is the case with some Black Baptist churches).

In regards to the United Church of Christ, this denomination is congregational as well. The denomination exercises very little control over local churches. Therefore, it is possible for a single congregation to affiliate with the UCC and a Baptist convention at the same time.

In Baptist churches and in the Congregationalist tradition (of which the UCC is part), local churches call and ordain their own clergy, so there would be no conflict in that regard.

There are also congregations jointly affiliated with the UCC and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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Historically, Congregationalists and Presbyterians agreed on most things except church polity. Both were Calvinists, but Presbyterians believed in a church hierarchy (General Assembly, Synods, Presbyteries and finally the local church session). Congregationalists believed the local church was independent. There was an attempt to unite American Congregationalists and Presbyterians in the 1800s called the Plan of Union. However, for various reasons, it didn’t last.

Methodists are much different from these two historically. However, the United Church of Canada was founded by more liberal Protestants, so by that point, the different denominations were all liberal theologically and the historical differences didn’t matter as much. But in general they all practiced infant baptism and neither had bishops (Canadian Methodists followed British Methodist practice of not having bishops). So, for Protestant churches all moving in a liberal theological direction, I don’t think it was too much of a jump to unite under one institutional umbrella.

In the US, the United Methodists and Episcopal Church have been in talks about achieving full altar and pulpit fellowship. It would require the Methodist bishops to be incorporated into the historic Anglican lines of succession.


In the United Kingdom an arrangement, known as a Local Ecumenical Partnership is quite common. There is a written agreement between the denominations concerned about how the Church operates and there is one congregation, one Church, one minister, one set of finances but the Church belongs to two (or more) denominations. Most commonly involved seem to be the United Reformed Church (a merger between Presbyterians and Congregationalists), Methodists and Church of England. I have also known Baptists involved. Sometimes, although one Church, it has separate membership lists for each denomination involved.

In the Czech Republic, the Moravian Church split over leadership issues. A third of the congregations then entered the presbyterian Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, under the Herrnhut seniorate. They retain their three step ordination (they’re episcopal). What is interesting, is that both the Herrnhut seniorate and the remaining Moravian Church are part of the worldwide Moravian Unity, where each is a different province. The rest of the ECCB is not affiliated to the Worldwide Moravian Unity.

I would think in a fully congregational Tradition, the congregation itself is the denomination. It’s what the individual really belongs to. You might say “I’m a Southern Baptist” but you personally don’t belong to that convention. Your church does.

This is different from the RCC or Episcopal Church, where you are baptized into that international Church.

For a congregational Tradition, I would think double affiliation is not too confusing for the individual, since he or she follows statement of doctrine set by the congregation itself. But it might be a little expensive for the congregation, unless there are good benefits.

The most common reason for a British style Local Ecumenical Partnership to be formed is that two churches, from different, but not that different, traditions, that are in close proximity to each other are both struggling to survive and decide to merge, but both still want to keep their own denominational identity.

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Seems like that is a common cause for merging both locally and also nationally. In Sweden, the Svenska Missionskyrkan (The Mission Covenant Church of Sweden) established Equmeniakyrkan (Uniting Church in Sweden) together with the Baptists Union in Sweden and the Methodist Church of Sweden in 2011.

This was a better option in the past than nowadays. Some denominations have wildly changed their positions on doctrine and morality, usually in the direction of the secular culture.

Thus what once seemed a compatible partner turns into a most incompatible partner. But now you are handcuffed to them.

Perhaps the local members of the now rogue denomination are still faithful Christians. But they, and indirectly you, are still getting part of their formation from bad sources. Maybe you are more mature in the faith, do you can shake off the bad stuff. But the younger members?

I have heard of cases where, for instance, an Anglican parish in union with Canterbury, and a “continuing” dissenting Anglican congregation, will continue to use the same parish church, sharing it between themselves. That sounds very Anglican.

It would be something like a diocesan Catholic parish sharing its facilities with the SSPX. However, there have been recent cases of the SSPX being invited to offer Mass in diocesan churches. Never thought I’d live to see the day when that would happen. Very pleased to see this.

That isn’t how most people use the word denomination. It isn’t even how Baptists use the word. The first national Baptist convention in the US (of which the Southern Baptists and the Northern Baptists split from over the issue of slavery) was officially named the “General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions.”

While you are correct, Southern Baptists would still share certain commonalities, traditions, institutions and perspectives that “denominate” them off from other Christians and even other Baptists.

@commenter Let me add: There is a difference between an “American Baptist” and a “Southern Baptist” and an “Independent Fundamentalist Baptist” and we can call these denominations within the Baptist tradition (but in the case of the IFBs they are a “denomination” in a loose sense of the word having no actual institutional body uniting them).

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I knew a Protestant minister who told me that he was a minister of the Disciples of Christ. Because of an arrangement they had with the Methodists one of their bishops decreed that he was also a Methodist minister. Because of a similar type of arrangement with a Lutheran community he was allowed to celebrate a wedding in one of their churches.

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