Is the Catholic Church a denomination?

“Don’t mention the war!” is a wonderful catch phrase from “The Germans” episode of the British television series Fawlty Towers.

John Cleese, playing a concussed and bandaged Basil Fawlty, inadvertently insults a party of German tourists dining at his hotel. Even though he warns his assistant Polly, “don’t mention the War”, he proceeds to do so with each line taking on a sharper tone. The comedy reaches its zenith when Basil gives an impression of Adolf Hitler and goose-steps around the hotel.

The humor in this episode comes from the interplay between the slightly mad Basil Fawlty’s attempts at maintaining  bourgeois respectability and his anti-German jokes. The audience knows the mad Basil is the real Basil. Basil’s respectable language is all very well, but reality has a knack of continuing to exist independently of his attempt to bind it through verbal gymnastics.

A recent article in the Oklahoman entitled “State leaders react to new Catholic rite for Anglicans” brought this language game to my mind. Read on one level, the Oklahoman article couples loose reporting with unexamined statements offered by the protagonists. On another level, one where language has precise meanings and history, it comes across as an equal opportunity hit piece — one that can offend Anglicans and Catholics.

Let me show you what I hear in this story.

The Oklahoman offers a local angle on the news of the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter for Anglicans seeking a corporate place within the Roman Catholic Church. The lede begins:

Oklahoma’s Episcopal bishop said switching from one denomination to another is nothing new.

“Just as the Roman Catholic Church has received people from other denominations, the Episcopal Church has received people from other denominations as well,” the Rt. Rev. Edward Konieczny, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, said Wednesday.

Perhaps I have been down too deep and too long in the ocean of religion reporting, but my first response was “Whoa! Was this an anti-Catholic smack-down from the Episcopal bishop? Was he calling the Catholic Church a denomination?” I might well be misreading this, but this is not something you say in polite religious company.

The article then offers a some background and an explanation of the ordinariate that is somewhat messy. Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, who left the Episcopal Church in 2007 for the Roman Catholic Church and was appointed head of the ordinariate, is identified as the former bishop of New Mexico when he was the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. The article states that Episcopal clergy who join become Catholic clergy, but does not say that these clergy must be re-ordained and will not automatically be allowed to become priests. Not fatal, but it would be nice to get this right. It further states:

The Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter will allow a special Anglican-style Catholic Mass that can include sections from the Book of Common Prayer and other Anglican liturgies.

Yes — but. Is there is more to it than Anglican-like, or Anglican-lite Catholic Masses? No explanation so far of the concept that this is a jurisdiction within the Catholic Church akin to a diocese for those members of the Anglican churches who have come to believe the truth claims of the Catholic Church — and believe they are called to enter the Catholic Church. The story then quotes a local Catholic voice.

“What they’re basically doing is taking the traditional Anglican approach and becoming part of the Catholic Church,” said George Rigazzi, a canon lawyer who is director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s Office of Family Life.

“They are allowed to keep their uniqueness as Anglicans but still be in communion with Rome.”

Yes — but. There is more to it than this. What does “uniqueness as Anglicans” mean? What are they being allowed to keep?

This new structure grew out of a controversial 2009 effort by Pope Benedict to persuade conservative Anglicans to align with Rome under an exemption that allows Anglican priests, laity and even entire congregations to convert while keeping their prized music and prayers. … “The beauty of this is they are maintaining their tradition while being in communion with Rome,” [Rigazzi] said.

Why the adjective? Controversial to whom? Anglicans who become Catholics may keep their prized music and prayers and may maintain their traditions — which means what exactly? Anglican prayers, after all, are what differentiates Anglicans from Catholics.

I assume I know what the bishop means — people move between church homes all the time. But the Roman Catholic Church rejects the notion that it is a denomination. The Episcopal Church too rejects the notion that it is a denomination. It is a “true church”, a branch of the “one, holy and apostolic church” along with the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

I assume I know what the canon lawyer means — Anglicans liturgies have aesthetic value. But can Anglicanism be reduced merely to a Catholic-lite denomination with pretty liturgies? The concept of the sacrifice of the mass, real presence and such are antithetical to Anglican prayers at the Holy Communion.

This incompatibility is what lies behind that segment of the Anglo-Catholic movement known as Anglo-Papalists — Anglicans (mostly in the Church of England) that use the Roman Catholic missal instead of the Book of Common Prayer because the missal is a more faithful statement of their beliefs than the Prayer Book. This is from where many of the members of the English ordinariate are coming. Is this true in America?

Why my mind was drawn to Basil Fawlty at the outset of this article was the sense that the “Don’t mention the war!” meme had morphed into “Don’t mention denominations!” The D word is offered up front, pulled back, and without being spoken again its meaning introduced into the discussion of the ordinariate. Anglicans and Roman Catholics are, after all, different Christian denominations — a supposition both would reject.

While to many observers there is little to distinguish between the Catholic and Anglican churches save for the Pope and married clergy, there are substantial doctrinal differences between the two that are glossed over in most accounts of the ordinariate.

What I find missing in this story, and many of the stories about the ordinariate, is the sense from those going over to Rome that they are entering the true church — the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Preserving liturgical forms is important, but it is this sense that they have reached their true home — or have come home as some Catholics like to say — that is missing from these stories.

In other words, the motivation for the actors in these stories is unconvincing. It is kept at a level of aesthetics, when it has more to do with a search for truth.

Am I being fair to the Oklahoman? Putting aside the surface level errors is the lack of convincing motive due to inexpert reporting or an inadequate explanation, a faulty apologetic, from the Catholic Church as to the purpose of the ordinariate? What say you GetReligion readers?

Monstrance image courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • Mike O.

    Let’s say there’s a story about Manuel (he’s from Barcelona) converting to or from Catholicism. Is there a general term that can be used to describing his transfer from one subset of christianity to another if “denomination” is unacceptable? Is there a style guide recommendation for such things?

  • Lori Pieper

    I have always thought that “denomination” was only typically used for Protestant churches. I don’t think it’s that useful a word. If it’s a question of mentioning two different bodies, you could say someone is converting from the Catholic Church to X Church or whatever it calls itself. Of course if you have to speak of them in the plural, there is something of a quandary, because something like “different x’s of Christianity” leaves you having to choose between “branches” which is too broad, “churches,” which actually may not describe all of them,, and none of these things really give an idea of an original unity that has come apart.

    One other error in the story: Please, for the 100th and hopefully last time, Pope Benedict didn’t issue Anglicanorum Coetibus to persuade Anglicans of anything. It was his generous response to groups of Anglicans who had approached HIM, hoping to become Catholic as a body.

  • Reg

    Of course Roman Catholicism is a denomination. Denomination is a perfectly good, neutral word to refer to Christian church bodies. Churches want to reject the label because it equalizes them and puts them on the same level of every other body claiming to be the one true church, but so what? Every church body believes its teachings most correct or it wouldn’t exist. Should the news media weigh the strength of different denominations’ claims to be the one true church?

  • Martha

    Hey, at least he called us another denomination and not another religion altogether, as this quote from an Episcopalian ecumenist in “The Washington Post” did (link courtesy of the Midwest Conservative Journal):

    ““If this papacy sees this as the only way to dialogue with other religions, that’s troubling,” said the Very Rev. Thomas Ferguson, who from 2001 until 2010 worked on ecumenical outreach.”

    See? Episcopalians and Roman Catholics are not just different denominations, they’re different religions!

  • carl jacobs

    I agree that ‘denomination’ is a word that should be used only of Protestant churches. A denomination is properly thought of as a subgroup of ‘Protestant.’ It stems from the Protestant idea that the Church is composed of all believers and therefore does not exclusively exist in any single organizational instantiation. To use the word ‘denomination’ of the Roman Catholic Church is to imply ontological sameness between Protestant and Catholic. Neither Protestant nor Catholic would accept this.


  • http://!)! Passing By

    Catholic here, but not offended by an Episcopal bishop using “denomination”. I’ve known lots of Episcopalians, and some Catholics, who will use the word. “Anti-catholic”, to me, requires a level of malice, or at least smug superiority, totally absent here.

    The article did contain serious errors, noted in the post and the comments so far. To me the most egregious would be that noted by Fr. Conger, which is the tendency to glide over the substantial theological (including ecclesiological) differences between the Anglican and Catholic Faiths. The folks in the Ordinariates will not be keeping the 39 Articles or the Cramnerian prayers, at least the Protestant parts. These folks will be Catholics, not Anglicans. Even the spokesman for the Catholic diocese doesn’t seem to fully get that.

    A better article, I think, was in the Houston Chronicle, although it suffers from an impossible headline and opening paragraph unsupported by Fr. Steenson’s actual quoted words. The rest is pretty good and definitely more accurate than the Oklahoman piece.

  • http://none Jeaux White

    Completely lost in this discussion is reason why people are massively deserting The Episcopal Church in the first place. It seems to me that the “middle way approach” to bridge the gap between classic Reformation theology and Roman Catholic theology has truly failed. The Protestant and Catholic notions about Regeneration differ too radically to be reconciled. Those Episcopalians who believe in sacramental infant baptism as spiritual regeneration will be attracted to Roman Catholicism. Those who believe in the evangelical Protestant view as expressed in “Being Born Again” will probably join the newly organized “Anglican” churches. The Episcopalians who remain in their greatly diminished church will probably tend towards the old fads of universalism, unitarianism, or even quazi-atheism and quazi-agnostism.

  • R9

    I had no idea it was objectionable to call Catholicism a denomination! It’s just a word for the various subgroups of Christianity, which is useful to have even if some of those claim to be the One True Church or whatever.

  • Mark Baddeley

    This recalls an earlier debate we had about whether The Episcopal Church is ‘Protestant’ or not. There’s no doubt that many Episcopalians (and Anglicans throughout the world) subscribe to the branch theory. But there’s many who don’t and who would be just fine with ‘denomination’ to describe Anglicanism.

    The post seems to suggest that it is the official position of the Episcopal Church that it is not a denomination. Which seems an odd position to take when tmatt’s radar was alerted by the Episcopal bishop implying that both TEC and the Catholic Church are ‘denominations’. You’d think a bishop would know that that was completely wrong if it really was the case that:

    Anglicans and Roman Catholics are, after all, different Christian denominations — a supposition both would reject.[italics added]

    Once again,yes, the Roman Catholic Church rejects that supposition. But Anglicanism does not, nor does it accept that supposition. Anglicans differ on whether they accept or reject the supposition.

  • Kate

    The word ‘denomination’ doesn’t offend me, as a Catholic – I don’t really expect our ‘separated brethren’ to be sensitive to the tone the word might have. (And there really isn’t a terribly handy alternative word). Especially since the word was used in a quote, I don’t really feel there’s a journalistic issue here.

    I agree though that there is very little substance in this story – that is, the ‘WHY’ of these conversions is completely neglected.

  • Allie

    As a Catholic, I would never describe myself as belonging to a Christian denomination for the reasons quoted above. However, I would only expect to see that distinction made in a Catholic article. When more than one church considers all other churches to be a denomination of themselves, I think all bets are off and the secular dictionary definition should be used. Otherwise, you have to play favorites and pick a church to be the one, true church, which isn’t very balanced reporting.

  • Bain Wellington

    It is unfortunate that the sole Catholic input in the highlighted article comes from a lay canonist (Mr. Rigazzi) who serves as an associate judge on the inter-diocesan marriage tribunal for the ecclesiastical province of Oklahoma City. He is not, on the face of it, a specialist in the ecclesiological or even theological disciplines which bear on the issue in hand.

    Nobody familiar with developments would agree, without serious qualification, with what is attributed to Mr. Rigazzi:-

    This new structure [the Ordinariate] grew out of a controversial 2009 effort by Pope Benedict to persuade conservative Anglicans to align with Rome under an exemption that allows Anglican priests, laity and even entire congregations to convert while keeping their prized music and prayers

    The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus of 2009 (which is what Mr. Rigazzi alludes to) is not “an effort by Pope Benedict to persuade” anybody to do anything [Lori Pieper @2 has noted this already]. What it does (see the preamble) is provide a structure for erecting and regulating Personal Ordinariates (think of them as non-territorial bishoprics):-

    for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner

    Not, therefore, “and even entire congregations”, but, in fact, specifically and exclusively entire congregations.

    Individual Anglicans (whether lay or in Anglican orders) retain the right to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church in the usual way.

    As for “keeping their prized music and prayers”, the Apostolic Constitution provides as follows (Article III) :-

    Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.


    To interpret the Ordinariates as focussed on music and prayers is a woeful under-estimate of what is actually envisaged, viz. the retention (subject to approval by the Holy See) of the “liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions” of Anglicans.

    If the local Catholic go-to is so muddled on the subject, it is no surprise the journalist has fallen down in a heap.

  • sari

    Denomination is routinely used to refer to splits in all faiths, not just Christianity. Calling the “one, true Church” a denomination is no different that calling “Torah-true” Judaism (Orthodoxy) a denomination. Each claims an unbroken line to the founders of their faith. Secular media should not be in the business of elevating or validating one religious group over another. It would have been more appropriate for the journalist to point out how the churches self-reference and why.

  • Brett

    Since “denomination” was in a quote and since the story’s angle doesn’t hinge on whether or not that word is used, I don’t think Ms. Hinton is obligated to follow up the bishop’s remarks with some kind of disclaimer about how Roman Catholics do not refer to themselves with that label.

    The rest of the story is sloppy. As a regular reader of the Oklahoman, I would say that Ms. Hinton has written some good pieces but too often she is not careful, and this piece falls into that group.

  • ceemac


    When I graduated from a protestant seminary the commencement speaker was the local RC Bishop…. In his address he referred to “My Denomination.”

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Since “church” has such a nebula of meanings, from a local congregation to an entire organization worldwide, to a building separate from its members and operators, and in certain contexts to claims of there being a single “Christian Church” encompassing various historically divergent groups”, the word “denomination” is a good word to be able to use to refer to separately named (the root of the word “denominate”) religious organizations. It has no value judgment about the truth or falsity or value about any organization.

    It is not needed when one is talking about one’s own religious body with other members of that body; in that case, “the Church” is going to be used.

    But when referring to two or more religious bodies, it is helpful to have a term that can refer to them collectively, especially when categorizing them by similarities and differences (e.g. “Some denominations believe . . .”). Not only society needs to have such a neutral term, the laws do also, such as laws granting tax exemptions to similarly situated “religious denominations”, etc.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: The concept of the sacrifice of the mass, real presence and such are antithetical to Anglican prayers at the Holy Communion.

    I don’t think this is really true. I’m pretty sure most Anglicans believe in the Real Presence in some form. Many believe in something more or less the same as transubstantiation, and that the Mass is a holy sacrifice. You can be an Anglican in good standing and believe in the Real Presence, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, etc. It’s true that not all Anglicans believe such, but some certainly do (and I would think that pretty much Anglo-Catholics do).

    My home parish uses the Anglican Service Book, not the BCP, but the notes in the ASB are very clear that the essence of the bread and wine change to flesh and blood.

    The big dividing line between Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics isn’t the Real Presence, it’s the claim of papal supremacy. If you believe that the Pope is head of the church (as opposed to simply a bishop among other bishops) then you’re not really Anglican any more, at least in my book.

  • Chris Bannon

    Most people including Roman Catholics fail to realize that Rome has 22 rites under the umbrella of the Bishop of Rome. With the break of the Ancient Catholic Church in 1054 a.d. The Patriarchs of Constanople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem became the Eastern Orthodox Church and Western Europe became the Western (Latin) Church of Rome under the Patriarch of Rome, the Pope. The Marionites of Lebanon stayed with Rome and were never part of the split. 14-15 centuries a parts of Orthodox groups, left their denominaton and signed union agreements that guaranted they would keep their liturgical life and ceremony, married clergy, celibate bishops. The Anglicans of today would become #23 of Rites in the Roman Church.

  • northcoast

    The 39 Articles of Religion in the Anglican and Episcopal Books of Common Prayer detail some 17th century Anglican doctrines that departed from Roman Catholic teaching. Anglo- Catholics seem to have determined their own version of the middle way.

    I have been unaware that the BCP liturgy might actually conflict with Roman Catholic doctrine. Also, while Anglicans and Episcopalians “believe in the holy catholic church,” I’m not used to hearing reference to the True Church.

  • http://none TMDonahoo

    The Catholic church has the distinction of being the only Christian Church for 1500 years that was until Martin Luther, started his group then John Knox, King Henry VIII etc started their groups. The Catholic Church is still the same institution it was at year 1500 and will continue to be. The after the fact groups that to this day strive for legitimacy are infact denominations. Of course you have Catholics leave the church, because the curch doesnt accept women priest, the homosexual life style and Divorce and re marriage. That is why people leave the Catholic Church. People comming in to the Catholic Church however, are comming in because the discovered the original not created my any man with its ever evolving theologies. There is a big difference.

  • Julia

    The Anglicans of today would become #23 of Rites in the Roman Church.

    Actually, it will be a subsection of the Latin/Western Rite or Church and not a new Rite (mostly self-governing church). Within the Latin Rite/Western Church, there is already an Anglican Use that is based on the ancient Sarum Rite, as is the BCP put together by Cranmer.

    There are two senses to the word “rite”.
    1) a sui generis church such as the Maronites
    2) a particular style of liturgy or ritual.

    Several of the Eastern Catholic churches use the Byzantine rite or ritual-style of liturgy, but they are different self-governing churches. There are still several ancient rites within the Western/Latin Church: Ambrosian – still used in Milan; an ancient Spanish rite still used in Toledo; and several others particular to some religious orders.

    The Roman rite, which is by far the most common in the West is the Mass and sacraments with the ritual as used in Rome.

    It would be less confusing if two different words were always used, but often “Rite” is used to indicate a particular Church in union with the Pope as well as a particular style of liturgy. The use of the adjective “Roman” also often confuses things.

    There are three major groupings of Rites based on this initial transmission of the faith, the Roman, the Antiochian (Syria) and the Alexandrian (Egypt). Later on the Byzantine derived as a major Rite from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. From these four derive the over 20 liturgical Rites present in the Church today.

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    No. 20 seems to have forgotten the 250 million or so adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy, who understandably contest the claim that the Roman Catholic Church was the only expression of authentic Christianity that existed prior to the Reformation.

  • Julia

    The Catholic Church does not claim that it was the “only expression of authentic Christianity that existed prior to the Reformation”. It has always recognized Eastern Orthodoxy as authentic although the two have some disagreements.

  • Daniel

    It’s All right with me if you talk about–brand not denomination. The concept of religious branding may be substituted for the word denomination when we talk about religious traditions.

  • asshur

    About the d… word: I deeply distrust anyone which talks about his/hers own religious body as a denomination (unless it is a congregationalist body, where it makes some sense) as it’s a word with relativisitc overtones … But, lacking a better generic term, i don’t object too much on its american english usage in the third person.
    BTW, the Catholic Church only recognizes Church status to the Oriental/Eastern ones, and a few selected other bodies (of which the Anglican Communion is NOT part). The official term “eclesial communities” for the rest is rather dull.

    OTOH, although is was the other way; what’s wrong with Peter fishing?; is He not the Great Fisherman of Men? ;-)

  • Larry the Grump Rasczak

    “Anglicans liturgies have aesthetic value. But can Anglicanism be reduced merely to a Catholic-lite denomination with pretty liturgies?”

    As a Catholic who goes to an Anglican Church, I would say the answer is pretty much yes to that.

    With the exception of a few “hard core” parishes, the Episcopal Church in the USA, is nothing BUT a pretty liturgy. I assume much the same is the case in the UK as well. Lets face it, “Episcopal Theology” is pretty much a contradiction in terms these days when you have Episcopal Priests claiming all sorts of heritical things, including that they are also Moslems, or Wiccans. I’ve been to Episcopal Churches where the lector read the Gospel (in this case it was the story of the loaves and fishes) and then the Priest got up and spent his entire sermon contradicting and explaining the Gosple away, telling how no miracle really happened, how people were just sharing food they brought, etc. It made me wonder why he was a priest in the first place… till I estimated his age and realized that seminary probably got him a Vietnam draft deferment.

    So, except for a few of the more theologically minded, I don’t think the “Anglican Party line” on issues like “real presence” matter to the Average Anglican in the pew because there IS NO “Anglican Party Line” on the issue, or on any issue, besides which fork to use first at dinner.

    The Episcopal church is a “believe what you want as long as you enjoy the Messiah Singalong and evening song”, so for most the attachment to the church is an emotional attachment to the liturgy and ritual. As such the answer to your question is yes.

  • Ken

    I would have thought that ever since the Roman church anathamatized the gospel at the Council of Trent “cult” would be a more suitable word than “denomination.”

  • Hector

    Re: So, except for a few of the more theologically minded, I don’t think the “Anglican Party line” on issues like “real presence” matter to the Average Anglican in the pew because there IS NO “Anglican Party Line” on the issue, or on any issue

    That’s actually sort of true, unfortunately. However, don’t forget that that same doctrinal laxity and flexibility that allows some people to abuse and water down the Gospels, have also allowed Anglo-Catholic priests to move their parishes in a genuinely catholic direction, Anglican evangelicals to be genuinely evangelical, Anglicans who care about social justice issues to be enthusiastic about those, and so forth. The internal freedom of belief of the Anglican communion is both a good thing and a bad thing. A more theologically unified church wouldn’t have ever allowed the Oxford Movement to happen.

    I think you’re probably right that doctrinal laxity will prove to be unsustainable in the long run, and that the Episcopal church will split appart, but I’d just make the point that doctrinal laxity doesn’t mean that everyone is a liberal, it means that some people are liberal, others Anglo-Catholic, others evangelical, et cetera.

    Re: I would have thought that ever since the Roman church anathamatized the gospel at the Council of Trent “cult” would be a more suitable word than “denomination.”

    Really, what does this even mean?

  • Sarah @ Beaten Copper Lamp

    I’m inclined to agree with Larry. Anglican/Anglo-Catholic/very High Church parish liturgies are, aesthetically, “more Catholic than the Pope,” but their theology varies.
    When I was researching my master’s thesis on the history of vestments in the Episcopal Church, I quickly learned how important word choice was and how wildly the meaning of words could vary. One of the few constants was the concept of one’s group as a Church, not simply a denomination. Everyone I researched wanted to feel connected to centuries of tradition and to know that they were authentically expressing Christianity as it was from the beginning. More is at stake when you’re dealing with Churches, and that’s exactly what this conversion trend is about. You are spot on in saying the new ordinariate results from a search for truth.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Hector -

    I think you are at something that matters with respect to the story at hand. A Zwinglian memorialist and an Anglo-catholic who believes in Transubstantiation can kneel side by side and receive Communion at an Anglican altar, and that is perfectly acceptable. If you look at the Anglican Canon of the Mass, you can see that Cramner inserted both perspectives. So while persons with differing views of the Eucharist might both receive, that is not ok.

    The Anglican way, as you note, is it’s glory and may be it’s downfall. That’s not for me to say. My point is that the differences are more substantial than whether you as an Anglican believe in the Immaculate Conception or not. As a Catholic, I don’t have that decision to make. The journalistic point comes about when reporters glide over the differences, as I think they did in the Oklahoman story.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    So while persons with differing views of the Eucharist might both receive, that is not ok.

    So while Catholics with differing views of …

    Bad me.

  • Timothy Winterstein

    I think I understand the Roman Catholic objection to the word “denomination,” but in a news item, is it any different from speaking of denominations of money? The Church under the Pope is “denominated” as the Roman Catholic Church. It comes from the Latin for “name,” right? There are probably some issues with how the press understands the differently denominated parts of the Christian religion, but is there any other word that more clearly identifies whether one is speaking of a group that claims to be part of (or the whole of) the Christian religion, versus groups that claim to be different religions altogether?

  • Julia

    is there any other word that more clearly identifies whether one is speaking of a group that claims to be part of (or the whole of) the Christian religion, versus groups that claim to be different religions altogether?

    So – for whom is “denomination” appropriate?

  • Peggy R

    I can understand it being hard for a journalist to get some of these details right. It is complicated. As Julia points out, there is an Anglican Use liturgy for converted Anglican parishes. What exactly is meant by the traditions that Anglicans can keep is complex, I think. I can’t enumerate those things.

    As for “denomination,” I didn’t know until a few years ago that the Roman Catholic Church is not a denomination. So, it’s not a surprise that we’ve fallen into using that word too. (Our sense of Catholic identity is rather weakened.) Protestant faiths and traditions, of which there are many are “denominated” under several names which were once just the mainlines. Now, they are infinite, I think. And yes, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, in spite of the things that separate them from Rome are in communion and part of the “one, true Church.”

  • http://none Jeaux White

    Definition of DENOMINATION from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at

    1: an act of denominating
    2: a value or size of a series of values or sizes (as of money)
    3: name, designation; especially : a general name for a category
    4: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices

    Seriously some of you folks need to start using the dictionary instead of your theological “BS” as an authority for how the English Language determines the meaning of a word like “denomination.”
    The Roman Catholic Church and The Episcopal Church are BOTH DENOMINATIONS according to the English Language! Misusing the the English Language just because it challenges your poorly thought theological theories is intellectually dishonest! I suppose that is my way of calling you double speakers liars.

    • geoconger

      I write to offer an editorial aside. The above comment is the sort that usually winds up in the trash bin as it offers an argumentum ad hominem, it engages the man not the issues.

      The point raised by the comment is that his or her understanding of a dictionary entry questions one of the premises of the story. In this instance denomination can mean a “religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.” This is a respectable argument to make.

      However, the post takes a libelous turn — charging intellectual dishonesty and branding the authors and other commentators as liars. Now this is a silly thing to do. Resorting to invective can be a sign of a shallow mind, mental instability or frustration. What ever its reasons it does render the initial argument moot as readers and editors see no point in engaging with the writer.

      So please — critique stories, critique arguments, offer examples and opinions as to why something is right or wrong, but don’t be such a fool as to try to score points. The pleasure is momentary but the penalty is the loss of your voice in future debates.

  • Daniel

    So, in place of denomination, would 1. sect, 2. cultis, or 3. religious body be preferable? Or would two or thre of these classifications be preferable to saying “denomination?”

  • Ruth Konda

    The picture is of a reliquary, not a monstrance. A reliquary holds a relic of a saint, a monstrance displays a consecrated host for veneration.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    #36 -

    Why not “church”?