What Is A "Denomination"?


O.K., as an offshoot of a currently derailed thread about the term “Protestant,” here’s your chance.

How would you define a “denomination”? Specifically, is there such a thing as a “non-denominational” church? Is the Catholic Church just another denomination?


Have at it, folks…


Simple. A demonination is any denominator put underneath the fraction line.

Therefore, a non-denomination church is a church that doesnt divide into a common denominator

Hope that hlps :wink:


I’ve had this argument many times with my non-denom friends. I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “non-denomination” when it comes to religious practice. Basically, denomination means to name, to describe. If you go into a non-denom church you will find specific teachings, based on theologies and biblical interpretations, that align with other denominational groups. The
Bible does NOT self-interpret, and theologies come out of the minds of theologians, past and present. Non-denom churches are that in name only. They are always under the influence of other people, whether alive or dead. Non-denominational is just another denomination.


Well, according to the dictionary a denomination is “a group of religious congregations having its own organization and a distinctive faith.”

That said, I believe “non-denominational” is a denomination. In my experience, they all seem to believe pretty much the same thing and organize their churches the same way (quasi-Baptist without the baggage of that label).


I see this definition:

christian denomination:A denomination in the Christian sense is an identifiable religious body, organization under a common name, structure, and/or doctrine.

Non-denominational churches are not under any comon name or structure or Doctrine.

To say non-denominational is a denomination implies that all non-denominational churches are similar. NOn-denominational churches are NOT all similar. some are so far from “quasi-baptist” it could knock you over. They certianly have no group or person overseeing them to keep them similar.


Those Christian communities that are imperfectly joined to the One Church established by Christ are rightly called “denominations”, not Churches.

. . .the Spirit of Christ only says and does what Christ does and wants; and Christ both intended to found One, visible Communion that was built on Peter and the Twelve (Matt. 16:13ff) to be an extension of His personal ascended and resurrected body and accomplished that intention by sending the Holy Spirit upon the community of about 120 gathered around Mary, His Mother, and the Twelve, transforming that gathered community into a supernatural Communion of the Church on Pentecost, a visible body of people organically related visibly among head and members, clergy and laity, and interiorly by the life of grace and charisms.



I’d like to start with several premises:[LIST]
*]Christ was very clear that he intended to found ONE Church – he never spoke of churches in the plural, such as “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I found my churches.”
*]Christ intended his Church to be visible --a light that would not be hidden, not an “invisible” Church.
*]At the Last Supper he prayed that the world would come to believe because of the unity of the Church – impossible to do, both if the Church is seperated into thousands of competing factions, and if it were an invisible Church.
*]There is no New Testament precedent or justification for a multitude of competing and independent “churches”: In the Acts and Epistles, the local churches that exist in seperate places are not independent, but under the central authority of the Apostles. There is no biblical justification for this arrangement to be changed. There was only ONE Church.
*]For 1500 years this Church (including the Orthodox) has been ONE, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. It is an undeniable fact that this same Church exists to this very day.[/LIST]The original Church cannot be a denomination; denominations are, by definition, fragments and break-off’s of the original whole. Any thing that isn’t the main body of something it belongs to, is a denomination of that main body.

We can think of it in terms of a nation’s wealth: The United States has a base amount of wealth in it’s Treasury. All other representations of this wealth can come in various forms; bank notes, if you will – $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, $1, and various coins. All of these are called --you guessed it – denominations. They are not the original wealth of the Treasury, only small, broken off bits of it that nonetheless could not exist without the Treasury as a whole.

In the same way, non-Catholic Christian faith communities, while they may still be Christians, are all denominations, and are thus little bits and pieces of the whole – the whole spiritual treasury and fulness of truth that is found only in the Catholic Church.


As I see it, it is quite simple. Christ founded ONE church. But different groups [heretics and apostates] have decided to leave that church.

THey have set up their OWN rival churches. But that cannot be, since Christ founded only ONE church. Therefore, to be polite, those who are not in the ONE church, belong to other communities. Now, if they sincerely profess the death and resurrection, and see Christ as the Son of God, then they are Christian, but while outside the One Church, are ‘communities of Christians’ or ‘denominations’.


Well, I’d assume that a particular “non-denominational” church would consider itself to exist and be identifiable as a group, say, the Prarie Creek Non-Denominational Church, or whatever name it has. (I made that name up). You can point and say, I mean this group of Christians, and not those Christians over there. That is part of what “denomination” means, but there can be more to it.

I think people will talk about Christianity as a whole, and then different parts or groupings within it. That’s just life. Ask a “non-denominational” what they mean by it. They are likely trying to assert something in particular by the word. I’d always assumed they wished to assert that they did not consider themselves to be part of any larger grouping than their congregation.


All divisions of the Christian faith are denominations, some are simply larger than others. The various Lutheran Churches are denominations, the Methodist Church is a denomination, the Greek Orthodox Church is a denomination, “non-denominational” churches are denominations, just smaller examples of the type. The Catholic Church is a denomination, the largest such denomination in the US and the World. Believe me, Catholics are the only ones who see themselves as not being a denomination. Which of these denominations teach the truth, fully or otherwise? That’s another question.


I just went into a great amount of detail to explain why that is not true. Just simply disagreeing without offering justification is not very convincing, it is simply – denial. What part of Post #7, specifically, is not true?

Believe me, Catholics are the only ones who see themselves as not being a denomination.

Because it happens to be true, as I just explained. :slight_smile:


My take on Non-Denominational churches (I’ve been to many, many, many of them :wink: ) is that they **are **a denomination, (in that they have incorporated various belief systems from existing denominations) that choose not to give themselves an identifying name or spell out any doctrines or creeds that allows people to have a clear idea of what is believed and taught there. Many times because what they believe evolves according to the enlightenment of the leader/founder of their particular community. You end up spending months in a community of believers before you catch on to the fact that they are teaching this and that, and then you finally realize you have wasted yet another year of your life trying desperately to find that church that you can rest in and have faith that they aren’t teaching you error.

And eventually, when you have exhausted your own strength in trying to figure it all out, you turn to Christ himself and beg for help. And then He sends you to the, gulp, :eek: Catholic Church.

:smiley: :dancing: :yup:


:yup: My sister is non-denom. :frowning: I’m praying that she come back to the Church. :gopray:


:rotfl: So true!


:nope: No, not at all. How can it be when the Catholic Church was the FIRST and ONLY Church to be in existance before the reformation. It is the ONE and ONLY Church that Jesus Christ built on Peter the Rock.


Using the factors that you yourself set forth, I’d like to know by what means you exclude the Orthodox from being a denomination? They have been separated from the Catholic Church for almost a thousand years. If the Orthodox are not denominations simply because they share most (but not all) of the theology of the Catholic Church, then what about other schismatic Catholic groupings? Are they also not denominations?


Those are very good questions!

The Orthodox are not a “denomination,” not simply because they share most of the theology of the Catholic Church, but because they have a valid priesthood and apostolic succession for their bishops. Just as did the Catholic Church, their line of bishops has remained unbroken since the time of the Apostles.

Schismatic Catholic groups are a related but different issue. Many of these groups have valid orders because their priests were ordained by valid bishops. But since --unlike the Orthodox --they were derivatively Latin Rite, and have consciously seperated themselves from the authority of Rome, they are schismatic, not self-initiated-from-scratch denominations.

Hope that helps.:slight_smile:


Ask a televangelist and he/she will answer “of course there are ones, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, hundreds and so on”.:smiley:


I think this may be the key. I grew up in a non-denominational church. All of my family are still there. What I noticed after I started discussing our respective beliefs with my cradle Catholic husband is that my church did not name or describe their beliefs. Basically, there was no real doctrine to speak of except “If you believe what the Bible says you’re welcome here”. Sometimes (rarely) we would recite the Apostles’ Creed, but those beliefs were never really discussed. My Pastor basically got up every Sunday and told us in various ways that we should lead good, Christian lives. There was no clear teaching of the Christian faith.

So there is such a thing as a non-denominational church and the same is quite accurate. It’s a church that doesn’t clearly name or describe their beliefs.


So, if I understand you correctly, you do not include Churches that are separated from Rome as separate denominations provided that they possess a valid priesthood and apostolic succession. I don’t think that would be a commonly understood definition of “denomination”…there is a little too much theology in your definition. Somebody above posted this definition: “a group of religious congregations having its own organization and a distinctive faith.” Something along these lines has always been my understanding.

Also, what about the Church of England? If the Pope had not issued Apostolicae Curae, would the Church of England and related Anglican Churches not be considered denominations? I think that would be the case based on your reasoning. Nonetheless, regardless of whether Anglican orders are valid or not, the Anglican Churches are separate denominations from the Catholic Church.

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