Church government by the pastor

Continuing our earlier discussion about denominations and non-denominations, we need to consider another factor:  church government.  Some denominations define themselves not by their theology but by the way they are governed.    Presbyterians have a system of elders (presbyters, in the Greek).  Episcopalians have bishops.  Congregationalists have voters.  Other denominations have some variation or combination of these three basic structures.  But non-denominational congregations tend to have a different approach to church government that I think is unique in church history. [Read more...]

Churches, sects, denominations, and non-denominations

Sociologist of religion Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran) discusses the phenomenon of the Sunday Assembly, which we blogged about yesterday.  He said the fact that atheists too are gathering together following the pattern of religious activities demonstrates the almost universal human need to worship (or the equivalent) and to join together with others who hold common religious or philosophical convictions.

In the course of his discussion, he draws on older sociologists who distinguish between different kinds of religious institutions:  a church (which a person is born into) and a sect (which a person chooses to join).  Such a distinction, it seems to me, grows out of the European state church.  American religion, according to Dr. Berger, has added the concept of the denomination, which a person may be born into or choose freely to join.  Dr. Berger further says that denominations of one sort or another–in the sense of “a community of value, religious or otherwise,” have become inevitable in America, extending even to atheists.

After the jump, read his argument and some questions I have about “non-denominational” churches.  [Read more...]


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