My List of “Approved Denominations”

Very frequently I receive e-mails from individuals (and some have asked here) for help finding a church. Often what they mean is–a denomination. I can hardly help them find a church in a geographical area I’m not familiar with (without spending a lot of time on the project). So I find it helpful to mention denominations to them–ones that I have reason to believe exist in their area.

So, here I am going to do what I have never done before and hope it is helpful to church seekers.

There are inherent risks in this, of course. First, I will inevitably omit some denominations because I don’t know enough about them. (Although I have been an unpaid consultant for the Handbook of Denominations in the United States and mentioned by the editor in the introduction. Denominations has long been a kind of hobby of mine.) Second, I may recommend a denomination that includes individual churches I would NOT recommend. Third, I may omit a denomination that includes very good individual churches that, if I knew about them, I would recommend. Fourth, in some cases I may be recommending a denomination based on their own information and it might not be completely reliable. I will do my best to work around those risks and avoid them, but I can’t guarantee anything.

What I suggest is that if a person reading my list is intrigued by a denomination, he or she look at its web site and ask the local church questions about doctrines, practices, etc. What I’m doing here is excluding many without naming them. Of course, that’s not to say that any denomination not named in my list is “bad.” It may just mean I don’t know enough about it to recommend it.

What are my criteria for inclusion? First, the denomination has to be trinitarian. Second, it has to be broadly evangelical (and Protestant), not sectarian or rigidly fundamentalist, or primarily liberal (pluralistic, inclusive). Third, it has to be at least open to Arminians. That is, I will not recommend it if it is, as a denomination, confessionally Calvinist, such that an Arminian cannot teach or serve or hold office. Calvinists have other resources for finding a good church for them. There are numerous Calvinist bloggers who will be happy, I’m sure, to help them locate a good church. I know of few Arminian bloggers who are knowledgeable about denominations who will help those with an Arminian orientation find one. (I hear from such people often enough to know this to be the case!)

Please note: I am not including so-called “mainline Protestant” denominations here. These include some evangelical congregations, but they are not denominations I could say to an inquirer “Find a church of this denomination and it’s probably evangelical and friendly to Arminians.” Of course, if I know of an evangelical and Arminian-friendly congregation where the person lives I’ll recommend they check it out. Overall and in general, however, the so-called “mainline Protestant” denominations are not noted for being evangelical.

So here is my list, for what it’s worth:

Anabaptist and Quaker: Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, Mennonite Church, U.S.A., Missionary Church, Evangelical Friends International. (These I would recomend if the person inquiring was pacifist or seeking a “peace church” congregation to affiliate with. I would only recommend a Friends or Quaker church if the person could find some other way to participate in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.)

Brethren and Pietist: Brethren Church (Ashland), Brethren in Christ Church, Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Evangelical Congregational Church, Evangelical Covenant Church, Evangelical Free Church of America.

Baptist: American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. (many are evangelical, and the denomination as a whole calls itself evangelical), Baptist General Convention of Texas, Conservative Baptist Association of America (CBAmerica), Baptist General Conference/Converge Worldwide, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (some are evangelical, some are more liberal), General Association of General Baptists, National Association of Free Will Baptists, National Baptist Convention (some are evangelical, some are more liberal), National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. (same as the NBC), North American Baptist Conference, Original Free Will Baptist Convention, United American Free Will Baptist Church.

Methodist: African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Evangelical Church of North America, Evangelical Methodist Church, The Salvation Army. (Note: I would only recommend The Salvation Army with the caveat that the person needs to find some way to participate in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.)

Holiness (these are mostly offshoots of the Methodist tradition): The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of Christ, Holiness, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Church of God (Holiness), Church of the Nazarene, Churches of Christ in Christian Union, Churches of God, General Conference (Winebrenner), The Free Methodist Church of North America, The Wesleyan Church.

Christian and Restorationist Churches (Stone-Campbellite Tradition): Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Christian Congregation, Inc.

Adventist: Advent Christian Church General Conference, Grace Communion International (formerly the Worldwide Church of God).

Pentecostal: Assemblies of God, International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Church of God in Christ, Congregational Holiness Church, Elim Fellowship, Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God, Independent Assemblies of God, Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Open Bible Churches, Pentecostal Church of God, Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, United Holy Church of God, Vineyard Churches International. (Note: I would only recommend one of these denominations if the person were seeking a Pentecostal-Charismatic type of church or were open to it.)

Now, a word about some other denominations and networks of churches:

Lutheran: There may be some Lutheran churches that are open to Arminianism that are not liberal/inclusive. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of American includes some large, growing, very evangelical congregations such as Lutheran Church of Hope (West Des Moines, Iowa). Some are charismatic. Most of these are probably open to Arminians even though Arminianism is not historically part of the Lutheran theological tradition. Some conservative, evangelical Lutheran denominations that are not sectarian or fundamentalist that may be open to Arminians include The American Association of Lutheran Churches, The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America.

The United Methodist Church is a large, “mainline” denomination that includes many evangelical congregations such as The Woodlands United Methodist Church in suburban Houston, Texas. However, many UMC churches are liberal/inclusive. All Methodist churches and offshoots are open to Arminianism now that the Calvinist Methodist Church has merged into a Reformed denomination.

Congregational and Reformed Churches: Most are Calvinist in orientation and would not allow Arminians to teach or hold church offices. However, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, although not Arminian, is more open to Arminian sensibilities than other Presbyterian denominations. (The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. is a large, “mainline” denomination that is largely liberal/inclusivist but includes many evangelical congregations. Some of them may be open to Arminians, but, generally speaking, they adhere to the Westminister Confession of Faith which is contrary to Arminian belief.) The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC) is evangelical and not as rigidly Calvinist as most Reformed churches.

Calvary Chapels are conservative, evangelical and, for the most part Arminian.

There are several relatively new Anglican and Episcopal denominations that are evangelical and amenable to Arminian theology. I am not familiar enough with any of them to name them here.

I have met and interacted with and worshiped with Seventh Day Adventists who are evangelical and Arminian. However, the SDA denomination is not usually considered “evangelical” in the historic American “movement” sense of the word. Nevertheless, I see it moving in that direction.

What about the Southern Baptist Convention? It is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Among its churches one can find almost anything, but the overall drift of the denomination has been to the conservative side in recent decades. Most of its churches, however, are “mainstream” evangelical in terms of ethos. Some are fundamentalist; few are  liberal. (Nearly all, if not all, of the liberal or progressive ones left the SBC to join one of the several offshoots such as the Alliance of Baptists.) Many are open to Arminians (so long as they do not oppose the “security of the believer”) although Arminianism is not a term widely embraced among Southern Baptists. The common Southern Baptist ethos is compatible with Arminianism, but there is a surge of Calvinism among its churches and in some of its seminaries. It is very difficult to generalize about “Southern Baptists,” so I don’t include the denomination in my list of “approved denominations.” My advice to inquirers about Southern Baptist churches is to check each one out individually and watch out for fundamentalism (e.g., elevation of secondary doctrines to dogmas) and Calvinism.

A note to potential commenters: I will not post comments that include negative comments about specific denominations by name. Feel free to argue that I have omitted one that fits my criteria.

 

 

  • Jeff

    Dr. Olson,

    Church should not reflect our societies way of looking at people. We should never have the regular member, and then the silver member, the gold member, and the platinum. But those ones I mentioned have it inevitably because what is emphasized is the status not the love of each other

    • rogereolson

      I edited your comment because I’m determined not to name denominations in this discussion thread. However, you last point is well taken. However, if one begins eliminating from such a list (of approved denominations) every denomination that has some flaw, there would be none left in the list.

    • http://www.roblundberg.org rob lundberg

      One group that I didn’t see in the essay was the Bible Church movement which have a tendency of being Calvinistic in their doctrine, almost to a fault. The ones I have been in and served have had kind of an us against the other churches mentality like they are the only ones that have the gospel right. What would you say about this movement?

      • rogereolson

        I am familiar with many “Bible churches” throughout the country, but I’m not aware of any organizational or historical-fraternal unity among them. Some of them have roots in the Plymouth Brethren tradition, but many are totally independent churches started by graduates of dispensationalist seminaries or Bible colleges. Remember that my list was of denominations I would recommend to people seeking my advice about finding a church to attend. “Find a Bible church” wouldn’t be very helpful.

  • http://tachesterton.blogspot.com Tim Chesterton

    Hah! Well, Roger, you may not include my denomination (the Anglican Church of Canada) on your list (for reasons I fully understand) but this Anglican has no horsitation at all in recommending you to his friends as one of his favourite bloggers!

    • rogereolson

      I only mentioned U.S. denominations. I’m not knowledgeable enough about denominations outside the U.S. to decide whether they should go in my list and I never get e-mails from people outside the U.S. asking for help in finding a church to attend.

  • http://cramercomments.blogspot.com D C Cramer

    Glad to see you list the Missionary Church on your “approved denominations” list, though I don’t think I would recommend it to a pacifist, as few of us still remember its Mennonite heritage. Would probably fit better under the “Holiness” category, given its Wesleyan and Keswickian influences, though even those are not all that prevalent in most Missionary Church congregations today. Its main emphases today are church planting and missions (http://www.mcusa.org/). Do you have a category for generic, Arminian-leaning evangelical churches?

    • rogereolson

      Many denominations fall into two or more categories. I followed the Handbook of Denominations’ categorizations. But you might know better which category that denomination belongs in. Perhaps you should write to the Handbook editor and make that suggestion? His name is Craig Atwood. I think you can google to find him.

  • http://boastingweakness.blogspot.com/ Matt Richard

    I didn’t see the Baptist General Association of Virgina listed. To my knowledge, they would be very similar to the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

    • rogereolson

      It’s not in the Handbook of Denominations. Should it be? The BGCT is now a distinct denomination with churches in surrounding states. You might want to lobby the Handbook to get it included there if it is a distinct denomination.

  • http://www.paulhschultz.com Paul Schultz

    Just a comment on where you placed the “Missionary Church”….granted, it is a bit of an eclectic group and thus fairly difficult to pigeonhole …and although it does have some distant Anabaptist roots in the past…I think it is more at home in the Holiness tradition (although certainly the more Calvinistic branches of the Missionary Church may beg to differ). Wesley’s doctrine of a second work of grace is still on the books of the Missionary Church constitution (if not on every church’s website). And annual revival meetings at “camps” are used to reinvigorate a view of Wesleyan sanctification among the faithful “pilgrims”. But, in my 40+ years in the Missionary Church I can’t recall a single sermon on pacifism.

    • rogereolson

      I was following the Handbook of Denomination’s categories. Another reader here sent me the same suggestion as yours. Perhaps the Handbook needs to make that change. What would the denomination’s leaders want (as far as where it is listed in the Handbook)?

  • Jesse Reese

    The Anglican Church in North America has a generally ancient-future Arminian/Charismatic majority (which is increasing as former AMiA churches join up), but there is much diversity beneath that face. I would say that it fits your criteria EXCEPT that they are not DEFINITIVELY evangelical due to the presence of Anglo-Catholics, classical Calvinists, and classical High Churchmen. But there is enough of a majority that I would still consider it for your list – in any given city or town where there are ACNA churches, you can more than likely find an evangelical one open to Arminianism.

  • Just Sayin’

    I’m disappointed that you have nothing to say about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

    • rogereolson

      Would any faithful Catholic or Orthodox theologian put any Protestant denominations on his or her list of approved denominations to recommend to people? Not in my experience.

  • http://libraryandlectern.blogspot.com Matt G

    Good list. But how about the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)? While they are sacramental, they are evangelical and creedal.

    • rogereolson

      I am not very familiar with them. In what sense are they evangelical?

      • Jesse Reese

        If I may, I would say that a majority of ACNA churches would agree with the qualification of the term offered in this article on Trinity School for Ministry’s website, which cites Packer’s six distinctives:

        http://www.tsm.edu/about_trinity/a_case_for_evangelical_anglicanism

      • paul

        My ACNA church–the only one I’m really familiar with–tries to center itself in the three streams (as they call it) of liturgical, evangelical, and charismatic worship. As per the evangelical side, I’ve grown up in evangelical churches, and I would say they are very much evangelical in beliefs (e.g., high view of and priority on Scripture and a personal relationship with Christ–the pastor states before Eucharist that only those who have personally recieved Christ may partake) and, to an extant, ethos–contemporary praise and worship service and many people concerned with normal evangelical causes like crisis pregnancy centers and, at times frustrating for me, unqualified support of Israel and Republicans (not officially but there’s a strong religious right vibe sometimes). All of this mixes with a strong focus on the Eucharist and the Creeds (e.g., Apostles, Nicene, and Chalcedonian Definition) as well as Charismatic gifts, including a Monday Night “Healing Service.”

  • carol

    Roger, May I request a follow-up to this post? I have been searching and searching for a study bibles w/notes reflective of Arminian theology. Do you have any recommendations?

    • rogereolson

      Personally, I don’t like study Bibles. People too often use the notes as inspired or as crutches to avoid doing serious Bible study (e.g., in commentaries). The only one I use and recommend is the Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV). The notes are not theological but clarifying of the text when there’s a textual issue.

  • Jeff Martin

    Sorry about that, I didn’t read your last paragraph as carefully as I should have. So let me redo it simply saying that Pentecostal churches should not be considered because of the inevitable problem every member faces when the majority of them never speak in tongues and feel guilty their whole life since apparently they do not have enough faith for the baptism of the Spirit. A horrible thing to do to people. Also any other denominations which have different levels of membership, relying on a modern business model of membership rather then emphasizing that each member is part of a body and cannot function without the other.

    • rogereolson

      I said I would only recommend Pentecostal denominations to Pentecostals or persons open to that. But, I also think most churches have levels of membership. For example, many churches (Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal) will only allow tithing members to hold church offices. Isn’t that having layers or levels of membership? I could name a number of other ways in which non-Pentecostal churches have levels of membership without officially stating such.

    • Phil Miller

      I think that in most Pentecostal churches the emphasis that was once placed on speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism is greatly diminished. I grew up in the AoG, and my dad is still an AoG pastor, and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get talked about nearly as much now. Granted I’m no longer in an AoG church, but I don’t hear it mentioned very much by people I know who are there. I do think they still have altar calls for Spirit baptism occasionally. Right now, though, I’m attending a Vineyard church, and, honestly the issue has never come up.

      Before that, I was a member an independent Pentecostal church that was a majority African American congregation, and again, it never really came up the whole time I was there. There weren’t altar calls for people to come and receive Spirit baptism like there was when I was growing up. Perhaps it happened at prayer services and the like, but it wasn’t nearly as huge a deal. All I’m saying is that there is diversity in Pentecostal churches as to how this issue is approached.

  • http://brentwhite.wordpress.com Brent White

    United Methodist elder here (I live in the Atlanta area). I totally get why you’re reluctant to name my denomination. I wouldn’t either, in general, although the extent to which UMC churches fit your criteria depend largely on geography. There are hopeful signs, though: We are becoming less “mainline,” much to the chagrin of my liberal colleagues. The parts of the church that are growing rapidly are in the southern hemisphere, and their voice at the denominational table is getting louder. They are strongly evangelical. My hope is that they’ll come to America and teach us how to be Methodists again.

    As of last summer, we are in “full communion” with a few of the Methodist denominations you do endorse: AME, AME Zion, and CME.

  • Jeff

    Dr. Olson,

    You said, “However, if one begins eliminating from such a list (of approved denominations) every denomination that has some flaw, there would be none left in the list.”

    But you eliminated the whole gamut of Calvinistic churches in one full swoop! I am just following suit. Also the problem with Pentecostals is that most of them have the doctrine of initial physical evidence in their statement of faith. I am well aware that all denominations have flaws, but I am talking about a systematic flaw inherent to the denomination that causes great distress among its members. I also am well aware that many Pentecostal ministers do not talk about initial evidence much for fear of it being a distraction and causing problems. Hmmm….they have a good point!

    With regard to levels of membership, it is similar to what I said in the previous paragraph. One particular denomination I know has it codified and plainly stated that there are levels of membership, which is absolutely horrible. Holding a church office is a separate issue, I am simply referring to membership. Although it brings up another issue about what qualifications we have for leaders. I remember Dr. Roy Ciampa from Gordon Conwell tell me one time that the description of the leader in the church in the Pastorals are full of adjectives that are used for all believers throughout the epistles, save for one – the ability to teach.

    A point from this is that it is silly to require leaders to tithe but not members if you thought it was necessary. A leader is basically a mature member who has the ability to teach. That should be the requirement and stop the nonsense of holding the pastor to believe in premillenialism (a side issue) and not require of a member. The idea that this kind of standard teaches people is that hopefully one day you will come around to be mature and believe that premillenialism is true, BUT until then you are an immature Christian! Balderdash!

  • Josh

    Roger,

    Please write about an Arminian prospective on providence concerning this election.

    • rogereolson

      I assume you meant “perspective?” I would be happy to write about an Arminian perspective on providence (and have). But I don’t focus on particular events like “this election.” I don’t think we can know for sure what God’s level of involvement is in particular events. “God is in charge but not in control.” What I wonder is what politically conservative Calvinists (and others who believe in meticulous providence) are thinking about it. I think it is a sheer contradiction to say (as I’m sure some of them are saying) that God controls everything that happens for a divine purpose but that his shouldn’t have happened (or is a terrible outcome or whatever). They should be dancing in the streets “knowing” that God’s will was done even if they are disappointed with the outcome. Arminians don’t have that problem of falling into contradiction when something happens we don’t agree with or think is bad.

      • http://theoparadox.blogspot.com Derek Ashton

        Dr. Olson,

        I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. Politically conservative Calvinists are likely to say they are saddened by the apparent fact that God has allowed America to fall under the judgment of having a liberal president. Doubtless, America deserves it. The judgment is just. But we had hoped and prayed for a greater display of mercy, and not judgment, for our nation.

        In any case, we would not rejoice and dance in the streets when evil (or what we perceive as evil) occurs, saying, “God has ordained it, so it is good!” Per Romans 8:28, we affirm that God will ultimately work it together for our good. However, we grieve over the evil itself and hate it, as God does. At the same time, we recognize that He has wisely ordained what occurred and will use it to His wise purpose.

        Some might call this a contradiction. I call it the surprising revelation of a greater and more glorious God than we can wrap our small minds around. He’s worthy to be praised, trusted and rejoiced in — no matter the evil that His Providence might ordain. No evil can change the fact that He is good, merciful and just.

        To be sure, I would feel much more consistent if I carved certain passages out of my Bible. I’d be a lot less baffled by a God whose attributes don’t include the mysteries of Providence. But I don’t believe that would fully reflect the God of the Bible.

        Blessings,
        Derek

        • rogereolson

          You will not be surprised that I consider it a blatant contradiction. Thanks for your input, however.

          • http://theoparadox.blogspot.com Derek Ashton

            Not surprised at all. This seems to be a key (maybe THE key) sticking point between Arminians and Calvinists. Something about meticulous Providence — no matter how it is framed — appears utterly untenable to Arminians, but totally magnificent to Calvinists. For us, certain Scriptures can only mean this; for Arminians, they can’t possibly mean this. Without any doubt it is a hard doctrine.

  • Craig Wright

    And then there are the independent, mega-churches.

    • rogereolson

      I don’t normally recommend them. Some may be good, but I prefer denominations because there’s some accountability.

  • http://goodreportministries.com/ Ivan A. Rogers

    Dr. Olson:

    You wrote: “What are my criteria for inclusion? First, the denomination has to be trinitarian. Second, it has to be broadly evangelical (and Protestant), not sectarian or rigidly fundamentalist, or primarily liberal (pluralistic, inclusive). Third, it has to be at least open to Arminians. That is, I will not recommend it if it is, as a denomination, confessionally Calvinist, such that an Arminian cannot teach or serve or hold office.”

    Good try, Dr. Olson, but permit me a couple of personal observations. In my opinion, denominationalism is fast going the way of the Dodo Bird. The average person on the street doesn’t even know what a denomination is and could care less. I’m sure you’ve noticed that many churches today are opting for non-denominational names in order to reach a broader non-sectarian segment of the populace.

    I am reminded of the Lord’s disciples who encountered a stranger ministering in Jesus’ name and forbade him because, they said, “he [is] not one of us” (Mk 9:38-40). Note that Jesus didn’t ask if the man was trinitarian, evangelical, universalist, protestant, fundamentalist, Arminian or Calvinist. He simply said, “Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” So this raises a real question: What will be left to recommend when (not if) denominationalism, as such, disappears from the church world? I have offered these “personal” observations sincerely and not to be confrontational. Just saying…

  • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

    Hm. So because the SBC is muddled in nuance and not easy to generalize soteriologically, they aren’t “recommended”? The SBC, by and large, is open to Calvinists and Arminians via the Baptist Faith & Message and easily fit your other two points of criteria. Explain?

  • david carlson

    I have good knowledge of four of those denominations and would say that of those four would also be open to Calvinists. And I think that is a good thing.

    I also think your groupings are largely correct, which shows a remarkable breadth of knowledge

    • rogereolson

      I should credit the Handbook of Denominations (Abingdon) and its editor for the groupings. But, then, I also take some credit for the groupings in my role as informal and unpaid consultant. Some years ago I became so dismayed by the structure of the Handbook (and some placings of denominations) that I wrote a long letter to the publisher. I met with the senior editor over reference books and gave him a list of suggestions for revising it. When the next edition appeared I saw my suggestions had been followed. But when I contacted the editor he said he came up with them himself. Interesting. Some of them were very specific–like moving a denomination from one category to another, etc. So, I don’t know. But I’ve always thought somehow or other (in a way the editor may have forgotten) my list made a difference. In any case, it is a much improved reference work. I reviewed it for Christian Century a few years ago and continue to recommend it to people who have any interest in the diversity of American religious life. Especially every pastor should have a copy and get a new one when its revised and updated (approximately every four years).

  • http://christianitytomorrowblog.wordpress.com/ Lyric

    Calvary Chapel is the alpha dog of evangelical denominations down here in South Florida (although, FYI, they don’t like to be called a denomination). They’ve got a huge megachurch in Ft. Lauderdale, and then lots of smaller churches and satellites all throughout the region. I’ve spent more Sundays with Calvary Chapel than any other since I moved here, and I even volunteered with the music ministry for a while; but I’ve got to admit, there’s something about the culture down here that just makes it difficult to feel like a particular church is ever really YOUR church. South Florida is a place people run to to get lost and never be found.

    • DA Armstrong

      I’d add that Calvary Chapel’s are almost explicitly Arminian. They have as a whole rejected Calvinisim, and claim to be more concerned with being biblical. In reality, it looks, acts and feels like Arminianism. I spent a long time as an assistant in one of the churches and got tired of the word games, about what they thought Arminianism was.

      Calvary’s claim to be non-denominational and the only accountability is based upon whether the group of pastors will accept another. There have been lots of issues with accountability in various churches aco

      • rogereolson

        Didn’t the Calvary Chapel movement emerge out of the ministry of Chuck Smith? As I recall he was a minister of the Foursquare Gospel church which is Arminian.

  • T.S.Gay

    Would someone please look-up or comment on The Church of the Brethren.

    • rogereolson

      Only neutral or positive, please. :)

  • http://www.verifiedwriter.net/ The Believer

    Hi Dr.Olson – Consider including Word International Ministries, I believe they have a number of churches scattered there in the United States. It’s originally under the Church of God but became independent sometime in the 80′s, and Filipino pastors were then on their own advancing the work planting churches in the Philippines, in Asia, and in other continents, including the United States. It is evangelical-Pentecostal in nature. I think one of its largest congregation is in Los Angeles, California, but as I’ve said it planted churches already in several states in U.S.

    • rogereolson

      I looked at its web site. Looks Pentecostal. Is this an example of something happening more and more–”Global South” Christian groups sending missionaries and establishing churches in the U.S.? So far it hasn’t made it into the Handbook of Denominations. If it should, write to the publisher.

      • http://whataboutseo.com The Believer

        Dr.Olson,

        Thanks for the immediate response, but to whom should the church communicate this request in particular? Can you kindly specify the name and contact information?

        God has placed in the heart of the Philippine churches the burden for missions, of initiating and planting ministries and churches in all corners of the world, and yes, that includes the United States. With the migration of many Filipino overseas workers in other countries (including America), we’ve strategically been training them to initiate a ministry that eventually becomes a church while they practice their professions in whichever field they’re employed.

        I’ll get in touch with the International Overseer of Word International Ministries to advice them to request for inclusion of the denomination in your Handbook, but kindly provide us the contact person and information.

        A zillion thanks and more of God’s uncommon favor and blessings! :-)

        • rogereolson

          It’s the Handbook of Denominations published by Abingdon Press.

  • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

    Your list is interesting, bearing in mind that your using an Arminian screen to evaluate the denominations. But I am a little baffled as to why you would put the American Baptists on the list but keep the Southern Baptists off. Over all I am under the impression that the Southern Baptists are far more evangelical than their American counterparts.

  • Patrick Hare

    I attend a flagship evangelical church in the PCUSA and they are fairly soft on the later creeds such as the Westminster Confession. All that is required for leadership or even ordination is an affirmation that the confessions in the Book of Confessions are “reliable guides” – there is a great deal of latitude given to those who disagree with various affirmations. We certainly have Arminians who serve.

    • rogereolson

      I’m sure there are many evangelical PCUSA churches, but being evangelical is not what the denomination is known for. And I wonder how a person could consider the Westminster Confession of Faith a “reliable guide” and be an Arminian? I have spoken in PCUSA churches, however, and found many of the people absolutely shocked when I explained what the Westminster Confession really says about God’s sovereignty.

      • Quartermaster

        Do you deal with what the Westminster Confession actually says in one of your books?

        • rogereolson

          It says a lot. What particular statement?

  • Trevor

    Hi Dr. Olson—thanks for this really great, informative list. Do you think you could clarify what you mean by “liberal/inclusive” (as in the Episcopal Church or Prebyterian Church USA)? I know lots of conservatives/fundamentalists use “liberal” as a scare word, and I’m not sure if by “inclusive” you mean “there are many ways to heaven” or inclusivism re: the destiny of the unbelievers/unevangelized. Thanks!!!

    • rogereolson

      By “liberal/inclusive” I mean doctrinally and ethically pluralistic.

  • http://theoparadox.blogspot.com Derek Ashton

    Dr. Olson,

    How about the Evangelical Free Church in America (EFCA)? On the whole, it probably leans to the Reformed side. However, it was founded with a deliberate intent to include both Calvinists and Arminians. As far as I know, it contains many of both today.

    My own church is EFCA, with a solidly Calvinist pastor. But there are numerous Arminians, Calminians and “undecided” people mixed into our congregation. Leadership is not limited to the Calvinists, but to genuine disciples who meet the criteria of Scripture (i.e., the eldership passages in Titus and II Timothy).

    EFCA’s most well known preacher (Chuck Swindoll) is not any kind of Calvinist as far as I can tell.

    Does this comport with your own observations of this denomination?

    Blessings,
    Derek

    • rogereolson

      My grandparents were EFCA, as were some of my uncles and aunts. I grew up with the EFCA as sort of my immediate family’s “fall back” church if we found ourselves in a city without a good Pentecostal church. (My parents wouldn’t skip church on a Sunday even if we were far from home.) Many of my friends in YFC were EFCA. There was a time when five point Calvinism was almost non-existent in the EFCA. To be sure, many EFCA people leaned toward what they called a “moderate Calvinism.” (None of my relatives did, however.) I have witnessed a sea change in the EFCA over the past twenty to thirty years. Some of my Arminian EFCA friends and acquaintances tell me they feel marginalized by their Calvinist pastors and elders because they’re not five point Calvinists. A few years ago I talked about this with a denominational executive. He as much as admitted that this is a problem in the EFCA–aggressive Calvinists pressuring non-Calvinists to conform. All this is anecdotal, of course. I don’t know of any studies done of the matter. Still, I would gladly recommend the EFCA to anyone asking me to recommend a good evangelical denomination. But I would also say (as I do with many denominations I recommend) “Watch out for Calvinism.” (Calvinists never ask me for recommendations, so the person I say that to would be an Arminian or closer to Arminianism than to Calvinism.)

      • Frank

        Hi Dr. Olson, I’ve read that EFCA has moved toward acceptance of homosexual pastors and same-sex marriage; do you know if this is true?

        • Roger Olson

          I can’t believe that.

  • Rebecca W

    Question: Do you recommend all branches of Church of Christ? There is one called Disciples of The International Church of Christ.

    • rogereolson

      I did not list it.

    • Drew Gasaway

      I would say having been around the restoration churches that each group has become a different movement. The legalistic branches of the Christian Church has died off and has grown because of it. They are more of a mega church movement. The Church of Christ and International Church of Christ has kept their legalistic movement and is not doing as well. The disciples are not a apart of either of those movements because they have their own denomination. The rest of the restoration movement does not have a denominational body and there is a lot of theological variation. Each church is free to choose what they believe.

  • Rafael Rodriguez

    Hey this list is very helpful! Ironically I’m looking for a church to join as I’m leaving the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Just to be clear, the Seventh-Day Adventist church believes that Ellen G. White is a last-day prophet and her writings are just as inspired as the Bible. She is a “continuing and authoritative source of truth”. So if you believe in Sola Scriptura, you may find it hard to be part of that denomination. I would know as I’m a 4th year Theology Major at one of their universities. Blessings!

    • rogereolson

      My experience is that not all SDAs believe White’s writings are just as inspired as the Bible. And many conservative evangelicals treat books like Grudem’s systematic theology (or the footnotes of their favorite study Bible) are just as inspired as the Bible. Does the SDA’s statement of faith say that about White’s writings or does it say she had the “spirit of prophecy” and her writings are necessary for understanding the Bible? I would disagree with that, of course, but I’m just not sure all SDAs believe her writings were inspired in the same way the Bible was inspired or as authoritative as the Bible.

      • Quartermaster

        I investigated the SDA for a couple of years. I attended their services and studied the Bible with them. I was given a set of Ellen Whites books as a sincere love gift by the elders of the church I attended and they made the point that they did not consider her writings as scripture, or even necessary for understanding scripture. I studied Romans with them, and they used a book by Waggoner as a reference and never referred to anything by AGW during their Bible studies.

        I won’t say that SDA colleges do not have Profs that make the claim that EGW’s writings are as authoritative as scripture, but I have as yet to meet one. One of their Evangelists took the SDA membership to task about their over emphasis of EGW and her position in the SDA. At the same time, one of her biggest theological enemies, D.M. Canright, went to her funeral and with tears in his eyes said “there goes a noble Christian woman.”

        I don’t agree with some of what they teach, but I accept sincere SDA members as Christians. Like any other fellowship, there are some that I must reject as such. The few that hold EGW as some sort of modern prophetess, whose writings are as authoritative as scripture, I would place in the latter category.

  • Rafael Rodriguez

    Yes, you’re correct, there is a spectrum of Adventists ranging from fairly liberal to extremely fundamentalist all in the same denomination. However as to the official teaching of the church, here is an excerpt from the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference regarding the Church’s stance on Ellen White: “We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture.” You can find the rest here… http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/scripsda.html. In practice, it’s very difficult to hold an idea publicly (in the local church) that Ellen White disagreed with. From my experience, The Bible had to be read in light of what Ellen White taught, or at least very close to it so that ‘lay people’ couldn’t notice the subtle nuances. Anyway, thats just my experience, blessings! :)

  • Pingback: A guide to safe sects?: Roger Olson’s list of “approved denominations.”

  • Michael Peffer

    Very interesting piece, I found out about it from Frank Beckwith’s article. Just one thing, Calvary Chapel’s position (although admittedly nuances through some of the churches) is not Arminian. In Chuck Smith’s book called Calvary Chapel Distinctives, he points out that the official position is neither Calvinist, nor Arminian; but that there are points in both which are Biblical and some which are not.

    • rogereolson

      Chuck Smith was a minister of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel which is Arminian. But, as I have pointed out many times here, even many Arminians do not understand Arminianismand some deny being it for that reason. So with what points of Arminianism does Smith say Calvary Chapels disagree?

      • Quartermaster

        My evaluation of Calvary Chapels would place them solidly in the Arminian Camp. Smith’s book on Calvinism, which used to be on their website, had little good to say about Calvinism. Phillip Johnson called it a “terrible little book.” I have the book somewhere in my digital library and read it. I can understand why one of John MacArthur’s minions would despise the book.

  • David

    Dr. Olsen,
    I’m curious as to what “denomination” you would have recommended when the Church was about 900 years old, or 1200, or 600. Take your pick.

    • rogereolson

      Um, what’s your point?

  • Dr. Olson

    I appreciate your broad Evangelical Arminian label. It accomplishes two very important things. First, it counters Calvinist claims that any theology that does not embrace determinism is not evangelical. Second, it highlights the Arminius / Calvin divide. The label Evangelical Arminian is quite broad. You rightly include Baptists, Lutherans, Restoration Churches, Pentecostals and Wesleyan Churches under this label.

    Yet there is quite a difference between Churches that hold to forensic justification by faith leading to eternal life without works and Churches that hold to double justification (initial justification by faith followed by obedience to achieve final justification). The first is sound biblical doctrine; the latter is a road to humanism and self-righteous works.

    In other posts you claim to be able to worship with Calvinists because they preach faith in Jesus. Yet the “P” logically leads Calvinism to justification by humanistic self-righteous works of the sort they rightly condemn in many denominations. I, on the other hand, am uneasy in Churches that can not embrace and teach the total sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His obedience for me.

    The Calvinistic – Arminian divide is a great first step in theological taxonomy. However, justification is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls and it should be a key discrimator in theological taxonomy. I’m not sure how to organize the questions.
    Let’s assume justification were the first discriminator: either by faith alone or by faith followed by works. This lumps Calvinists with most Arminians with the demand for Perseverance. If the second discriminator were Calvin vrs Arminian, now a usable definition of “evangelical” is hard to achieve.
    It seems that most of the churches in the faith alone category make the better definition of “evangelical.” But if this scheme were followed many “evangelicals” would start shouting invectives. No Calvinist denomination can rightly claim a true single justification by faith alone – unless they close their eyes to Perseverance. So then – what would you do with the group that teaches the unbilical double justification? One now needs three major categories. The first group is the justification by faith without works group. The double justification group needs a division that addresses Calvin vs Arminian. But what would you call these three groups?
    I do not think it is possible to reconcile the current definition of “evangelical” with Luther’s great discriminator of justification. “Evangelical” and “fundamental” both fail to honor the justification divide. The quest to make theological labels meaningful and descriptive is sometimes very difficult.
    Perhaps you have some worthy discriminating thoughts.

    • Roger Olson

      Mike Horton and I have debated the meaning of “evangelical” for the past twenty plus years (off and on). I think we’ve come to a stand off. For him it necessarily requires monergism because only monergism protects justification by grace through faith alone. I think one can believe in justification by grace through faith alone and not be a monergist. Besides, I think it’s just silly to limit the word “evangelical” to the few heirs of Luther and Calvin who hold to monergism. Where does that leave the Pietists and Wesleyans and a whole host of evangelicals? He regards my use of “evangelical” as sociological and his as theological. I don’t think we can separate the two that clearly.