Barry Ensign-George has written a thoughtful article entitled, "What Does it Mean to be a Denomination?" As I was reading it I looked at the word, 'denomination,' to think about it's usage in everyday language. Many people I know (often even within the church) use the word 'religion' to (incorrectly) describe the differences between Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc... - as in "I'm Methodist, but she is the Baptist religion." All that is to say, 'denomination' does not have widespread usage, much less is it understood. So Barry's post is a welcome explanation and invitation to consider this terminology.
The only mainstream usage of the word that I could think of is do describe different denominations of money. 20-dollar bills are said to be a different denomination than 5-dollar bills. As I was about to move on to breakfast, I had the thought that many in the church and world probably think in those terms more than in the carefully thought-out terms in the article above.
For example, some faulty but overheard commentary, translated into the currency analogy:
- "It's all money, but we're more of a $20 denomination than a $5 denomination (or that very pedestrian $1 denomination over there)"
- "Twenty $1's is worth as much as one $20. Maybe that explains why there are more ______'s than ______'s"
- "Oh that bunch over there? ...that's not real money (i.e. counterfeit)"
May we recapture the best of what it means to embody "distinctive ways of living out the Christian life" (Ensign-George) and let go of the mammon-mindset that is demonstrated in the kinds of comments named above!