Non-denominational Christianity

Non-denominational Christianity

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In Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, nondenominational institutions or churches are those not formally aligned with an established denomination
Religious denomination
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

, or that remain otherwise officially autonomous. This, however, does not preclude an identifiable standard among such congregations. Non-denominational congregations may establish a functional denomination by means of mutual recognition of or accountability to other congregations and leaders with commonly held doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

, policy
Policy
A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol...

 and worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

 without formalizing external direction or oversight in such matters. Some non-denominational churches explicitly reject the idea of a formalized denominational structure as a matter of principle, holding that each congregation is better off being autonomous.

Non-denominational is generally used to refer to one of two forms of independence: political or theological. That is, the independence may come about because of a religious disagreement or political disagreement. This causes some confusion in understanding. Some churches say they are non-denominational because they have no central headquarters (though they may have affiliations with other congregations). Other churches say they are non-denominational because their belief structures are one of a kind.

Members of non-denominational churches often consider themselves simply "Christians". Non-denominationalism should not be confused with interdenominationalism, or ecumenism
Ecumenism
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

.

History


Wherever the Protestant Reformation took place, the founders claimed that the result was not a new denomination but a reformation of a supposedly pre-existing "national" church.

Denominationalism was accelerated in the aftermath of the Westminster Assembly
Westminster Assembly
The Westminster Assembly of Divines was appointed by the Long Parliament to restructure the Church of England. It also included representatives of religious leaders from Scotland...

 convened by the English Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 to formulate a form of religion for the national churches of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

. In the debate between the two main parties present at the Assembly, the Presbyterians and the Independents
Independent (religion)
In English church history, Independents advocated local congregational control of religious and church matters, without any wider geographical hierarchy, either ecclesiastical or political...

, the Presbyterians were in favor of a form of church government that maintained the visible organizational unity of the Catholic Church while Independents, weary of the ecclesiastical tyranny they experienced under the Episcopal
Episcopal polity
Episcopal polity is a form of church governance that is hierarchical in structure with the chief authority over a local Christian church resting in a bishop...

 system, wished to organize the churches in a congregational way envisioning no legitimate authority of the church above the local congregation meeting at one time in a single place. Obviously these two parties were not reconciled and following the Assembly the Independents formed their own independent church. Thus instead of a united expression of the Catholic Church in England there were now two churches.

Protestant denominations spread and multiplied, especially in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, as Denominational confessional statements began to be used more to exclude than to include Christians with different doctrinal convictions. Each denomination maintains to differing degrees some form of organizational and visible unity with its member churches, albeit radically decentralized compared with the Catholic Church.

Today, non-denominational churches, like the Independents at the Westminster Assembly, refuse to recognize any ecclesiastical authority above the local congregation and deny the visible unity of the Church (though not the unity of the invisible Church) despite the fact that the original denominations were formed by substantially the same ideology.

Criticism


Boston University
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

 religion scholar Stephen Prothero
Stephen Prothero
Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books on religion in America.He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs and on television on CNN, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, MSNBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,...

 argues that non-denominationalism hides the fundamental theological and spiritual issues that drove the division of Christianity into denominations in the first place behind a veneer of "Christian unity." He argues that non-denominationalism encourages a descent of Christianity—and indeed, all religions—into comfortable "general moralism" rather than being a focus for facing the complexities of churchgoers' culture and spirituality. Prothero further argues that it also encourages ignorance of the scriptures, which in turn reduces overall religious literacy, increasing the potential for inter-religious misunderstandings and conflict.

Examples



The following organizations and institutions label themselves as non-denominational:
  • Bread of Life Ministries International
    Bread of Life Ministries International
    Bread of Life Ministries International is an Evangelical megachurch founded by Rev. Caesar "Butch" L. Conde. Its headquarter is located at Crossroad77, Mother Ignacia Avenue cor. Scout Reyes Street, Quezon City, Philippines...

     - non-denominational megachurch in Manila, Philippines, the church's mission and vision that love for God and sharing the Gospel are strongly linked to one's love of country, to be not only contented on spiritual needs and Heaven's promise, but also to be competitive, excellent and to be nationalistic as a nation.
  • Brunstad Christian Church – The church claims to differ from other non-denominational groups through its belief that Jesus was tempted to sin just like every human being.
  • Calvary Chapel
    Calvary Chapel
    Calvary Chapel is an evangelical association of Christian churches with over one thousand congregations worldwide. Calvary Chapel also maintains a number of radio stations around the world and operates many local Calvary Chapel Bible College programs. It presents itself as a "fellowship of...

     — mildly charismatic
    Charismatic movement
    The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

    , originating in California
    California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

  • Christ's Commission Fellowship
    Christ's Commission Fellowship
    Christ's Commission Fellowship is an Evangelical megachurch founded by Rev. Peter Tan-chi, based in the Philippines. Its current worship center and headquarters is located in St. Francis Square, in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. As of 2009, its membership approaching up to 25,000 people...

     - non-denominational megachurch in the Philippines
    Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

    , they focus to be Christ Committed Followers.
  • Christian Congregation in the United States
    Christian Congregation in the United States
    The Christian Congregation in the United States is a non-sectarian, non-denominational fellowship of assemblies with roots in the Italian Pentecostal revival in Chicago, which began in 1907....

     - self-declared non-denominational, non-sectarian.
  • Churches of Christ in Christian Union
    Churches of Christ in Christian Union
    The Churches of Christ in Christian Union is a Christian denomination with origins in the Wesleyan/Arminian doctrine . The hot political climate at the beginning of the War Between the States brought Methodists into conflict. In Ohio the church in general supported the war but there was a small...

     — focuses on free-form worship and evangelism
  • Churches of Christ — associated with the Restoration Movement
    Restoration Movement
    The Restoration Movement is a Christian movement that began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century...

    ; known for sola scriptura
    Sola scriptura
    Sola scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid...

    , a cappella
    A cappella
    A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

    worship, and baptism
    Baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

     for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Crossroads Christian Church
    Crossroads Christian Church
    Crossroads Christian Church is an Evangelical Christian megachurch, located in Corona, California, United States.-History:Crossroads Christian Church was founded in 1892 by nine members in Corona, California...

  • Cornerstone Fellowship
    Cornerstone Fellowship
    Cornerstone Fellowship is a non-denominational Christian megachurch in with headquarters in Livermore, California. The Lead Pastor is Steve Madsen. Cornerstone Fellowship was founded in 1992 and it currently has two campuses, one in Livermore, California and one in Brentwood, California...

     — A non-denominational church in Livermore, California
    Livermore, California
    Livermore is a city in Alameda County. The population as of 2010 was 80,968. Livermore is located on the eastern edge of California's San Francisco Bay Area....

    .
  • Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples)
  • Family Stations, Inc. Identifies as a non-denominational, Christian radio
    Christian radio
    Christian radio is a category of radio formats that focus on transmitting programming with a Christian message. In the United States, where it is more established, many such broadcasters play popular music of Christian influence, though many programs have talk or news programming covering...

     ministry. Reformed, conservative, Calvinistic
    Calvinism
    Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

  • Gordon College (Massachusetts)
    Gordon College (Massachusetts)
    Gordon College is a liberal arts college located on the former Princemere estate in Wenham, Massachusetts, northeast of Beverly. Founded by Baptist minister A. J...

     — started by a Baptist
    Baptist
    Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

     church and once part of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
    Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
    Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary is an evangelical theological seminary whose main campus is based in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, with three other campuses in Boston, Charlotte, North Carolina and Jacksonville. The current president of Gordon-Conwell is Dennis Hollinger...

  • Christian churches and churches of Christ - also associated with the Restoration Movement like the Churches of Christ above. It is similar in all respects except for the use of instruments in worship as opposed to a cappella
    A cappella
    A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

    .
  • Independent Fundamental Churches of America
    Independent Fundamental Churches of America
    The Independent Fundamental Churches of America was founded in Cicero, Illinois in 1930. The name was officially changed to IFCA International in 1996. It is an association of nearly 1000 independent Protestant churches located largely in the United States and up to three times that number of...

     — association of conservative, independent churches
  • Local churches — The local churches are a Chinese Christian
    Christianity in China
    Christianity in China is a growing minority religion that comprises Protestants , Catholics , and a small number of Orthodox Christians. Although its lineage in China is not as ancient as the institutional religions of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism, and the social system and ideology of...

     movement influenced by the teachings of Watchman Nee
    Watchman Nee
    Watchman Nee was a Chinese Christian author and church leader during the early 20th century. He spent the last 20 years of his life in prison and was severely persecuted by the Communists in China. Together with Wangzai, Zhou-An Lee, Shang-Jie Song, and others, Nee founded The Church Assembly...

     and Witness Lee
    Witness Lee
    Witness Lee was a Chinese Christian preacher associated with the Local Churches movement, and the founder of the Living Stream Ministry. He was born in the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China, in 1905, to a Southern Baptist family. He became a born again Christian in 1925 after hearing the...

     and associated with the Living Stream Ministry
    Living Stream Ministry
    Living Stream Ministry , founded in 1968 by Witness Lee, is a non-profit corporation based in Anaheim, California, within the Local churches...

     publishing house. Its members see themselves as separate from other Christian groups, denominations, and movements, part of what they sometimes call "the Lord's recovery"
  • Newfrontiers
    Newfrontiers
    Newfrontiers is a neocharismatic apostolic ministry network of evangelical, charismatic churches founded by Terry Virgo. It forms part of the British New Church Movement, which began in the late 50s and 60s combining features of Pentecostalism with British evangelicalism...

     — charismatic, of United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     origin
  • Open Bible Standard Churches
    Open Bible Standard Churches
    right|thumb | OBSC Pacific Office in [[Eugene, Oregon]]The Open Bible Standard Churches or Open Bible Churches is an association of Pentecostal churches with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, United States. Open Bible Churches is affiliated with , an accredited Bible college in Eugene, Oregon...

     — Pentecostal
  • Open Brethren
    Open Brethren
    The Open Brethren, sometimes called Christian Brethren or "Plymouth Brethren", are a group of Protestant Evangelical Christian churches that arose in the late 1820s as part of the Assembly Movement...

     — non-charismatic, of UK origin
  • Plymouth Brethren
    Plymouth Brethren
    The Plymouth Brethren is a conservative, Evangelical Christian movement, whose history can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s. Although the group is notable for not taking any official "church name" to itself, and not having an official clergy or liturgy, the title "The Brethren," is...

  • Sovereign Grace Ministries
    Sovereign Grace Ministries
    Sovereign Grace Ministries is a group of Reformed, neocharismatic, Evangelical, restorationist, Christian churches primarily located in North America. It has been described as an apostolic network...

     — identifies itself as "Reformed Charismatic"
  • Victory Christian Fellowship
    Victory Christian Fellowship
    Victory Metro Manila is a non-denominational Evangelical church based in the Philippines and a founding member of the Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a worldwide movement of churches...

     - megachurch in the Philippines
    Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

     under Every Nation Ministries
    Every Nation
    Every Nation Churches is an organization of non-denominational Christian churches. Its name embodies its goal of reaching "every nation in our generation" with the gospel....

    .
  • Vineyard Movement — evangelical/charismatic
  • World Changers Church International - originating in College Park, Georgia
    College Park, Georgia
    College Park is a city located partly in Fulton County, Georgia and partially in Clayton County, Georgia, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 13,942...



While in general these groups will not have formal legal ties between individual congregations and consider themselves non-denominational, outsiders often describe them as denominations in and of themselves due to their close associations, equivalent doctrine, similar worship practices, and the ease of using one name to cover a larger group of churches.

External links