You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATION I took the Denomination Selector Quiz, too, and like the good Father I also came out as Orthodox Presbyterian. It's an interesting exercise (although one of my Catholic friends was a bit askance at the suggestion that you choose your doctrinal beliefs first and then choose your denomination as a result!), but it has a few glitches that should be tidied up.

First, PLEASE fix the spelling of "Wesleyan"! (Yes, I'm a terrible pedant.)

Secondly, the list of denominations is heavily weighted towards the USA; in other English-speaking countries, the "rogues' gallery" on offer is quite different. For example, here in Australia the two main Presbyterian churches (one Continuing and one Westminster) are both very conservative. The Continuings represent that sizeable minority of Prezzies who opted in 1977 not to join the new Uniting Church along with almost all of the Methodists and Congregationalists. Because the new UCA skimmed off the most liberal Prezzies, the rump left as the PCA was a bastion of the purest Calvinism. Then, in the 1980s, American evangelists started planting Westminster Presbyterian churches in Australia because, for them, the local versions weren't Calvinist enough. Both the Continuings and the Westminsters dismiss their American and New Zealand sister churches as "apostates".

Likewise, in Australia the largest and most active Anglican archdiocese, Sydney, is very low-church ("Cromwellian", in the words of one miffed liberal or High Anglican priest who writes on religious affairs for The Australian newspaper). To lump Archbishop Peter Jensen in the same "Anglican/ Episcopalian" basket as Frank "Eminence Grizz" Griswold or John Shelby Spong is more misleading than illuminative. Denominational labels alone can be confusing.

Finally, the questions aren't always worded that well, or clearly enough to draw out the really salient denominational differences. For example, a better way to sort sheep from goats (so to speak) in views of the Eucharist would be a two-parter along the lines of "1. When we receive Communion, we are eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus Christ. 2. When we receive Communion, what we are eating and drinking is no longer bread and wine." So Catholics and Orthodox would answer Yes/ Yes, Baptists and other Zwinglian Protestants would answer No/ No, and Lutherans, Anglicans and Presbyterian/ Reformed would answer Yes/ No. And Hugo-Adam Crowl could answer No/ Yes. [For those who have met Hugo-Adam Crowl, no explanation is necessary; for those who have not met Hugo-Adam Crowl, no explanation is possible.]

Likewise, "the Bible is free from error" is open to different nuances. Millard Ericksen (in his big tome Christian Doctrine) identifies three or four different "inerrantist" positions.

I'll blog some more on this later, hopefully with a revised set of questions.

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