[thechat] Mythology was comics

deke web at master.gen.in.us
Thu May 24 07:24:58 CDT 2001

On 23 May 2001, at 16:15, McCreath_David posted a message which said:

> Oh, come on, deke. Maybe I come from a buncha crazy Presbyterian liberals or
> something, but I don't know *any* members of *any* Christian denomination
> that unquestioningly accept every single article of doctrine of their
> church. 

The churches that say, "Well, this is what we *say* we believe,
but ain't nobody actually *buys* this shit" are in deep doo-doo.
The Presbyterian church is one of them.  

The Methodist church merged with the Evangelical United 
Brethern about 30-35 years ago, and although the churches
have a common history, they couldn't decide which statement
of doctrine to adopt; there were some fundamental differences
which they couldn't resolve, so they simply decided to have
both, insisting that there was no difference. And in ten years,
the merged church, the United Methodists, had fewer members
than the Methodist had by themselves before the merger. 

Because if a church doesn't believe in anything, it's just a
social club with a kitchen in the basement, and it faces the same
grim future as most lodges - TV is cheap and entertaining.

If you look at the churches that are *growing* in size, you will
find that they invariably have a strong set of beliefs, commonly
held. One of the fastest growing denominations in the US is 
the Old Order Amish. Most members believe strongly in their
doctrine. The Unitarian Universalist denomination is also 
growing, and you'll find that most members agree with church
doctrine - although it's fairly minimalistic doctrine.

>    A large group of religious congregations united 
>    under a common faith and name and organized under 
>    a single administrative and legal hierarchy. 
>    (Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the 
>    English Language, Third Edition Copyright © 1996, 

When they first published the American Heritage dictionary, it was
controversial because they described usage of words, rather than
defining them. And this description of "denomination" shows why 
it was controversial.

There's only single administrative hierarchy to denominations with
an episcopal structure. Baptists are a non-episcopal denomination,
with congregations running the show instead of a bishop.

And the Old Order Amish is an example of a denomination without
a "legal hierarchy". Their congregations have no buildings, no bank
accounts, no hymnals or prayer books, no assets whatsoever, and
no membership lists. People freely congregate in individual homes,
and while they have deacons and bishops, the church leaders have
influence, not power.

And the AH description begs the point: how large is large? Twenty 
congregations? Four hundred? Two thousand? Do you need fewer
congregations if they average 8000 members each, more if they 
average 13 members?

If you want a definition of a denomination, I recommend the one
used by the Internal Revenue Service, which includes Baptists 
and OOAmish - and so-called "nondenominational christians":

The IRS defines a religious denomination as "a religious group 
or community of believers having some form of ecclesiastical 
government, a creed or statement of faith, some form of worship, a 
formal or informal code of doctrine and discipline, religious services 
and ceremonies, established places or religious worship, religious 
congregations, or comparable indication of a bona fide religious 


 "The church is near but the road is icy; 
  the bar is far away but I will walk carefully." 
                            -- Russian Proverb

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