A Dummies guide to the Differences between Denominations

I remember asking my dad, while heading home from a family holiday, what the difference between Anglicans (my father is an ordained priest) and Methodists were. His answer to his seven year old son was simple enough, “worship style”; and then, slightly tongue in cheek/slightly pained, he added that he’d still love me if one day I became a Methodist.

I’ve never really stopped asking that question often turning it over in my mind. It’s been thirty years and now my kids are at that age where they’re starting to ask the same questions. Below is my answer, well three answers, simple enough I hope, and yes, I’d still love them if one day they became Anglicans:

The Differences like two Petrol Stations

Take two petrol stations, an Engen and a Shell. Petrol is highly regulated in South Africa so there’s little difference in the petrol itself. Their logo may be different but they’re really both the same.

At their best denominations ought to be like petrol stations: Different logos outside, same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Shops

Take two shops, a Makro and a Woolworths. They both sell food and clothing but in entirely different ways. Different products on their shelves, different shoppers at their tills.

Denominational differences like worship, liturgy and paint on the wall outside doesn’t separate us when it’s the same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Books

Take two books, the Bible and 17 Steps to Healthy Living. The Bible contains the words of eternal life, 17 Steps for Healthy Living is here today and will blow away tomorrow.

Some churches preach God’s Word, a Word which can save a sinner to salvation; other’s preach man’s mind, a mind which will drive a sinner to damnation. This isn’t just a denominational consideration – it’s not like Baptists and Presbyterians are safe and Anglicans and Methodists are problematic – this is a church by church, preacher by preacher test.

“What I’m trying to say my child is don’t be a Baptist and go to hell, an Anglican condemned to the abyss; be a God fearing Bible believing Christian who goes to church bent on glorifying God by proclaiming His Word and bringing honour to His name by serving Him and His people.”


High, low, everywhere we go

Me, in kinda of a dress with † Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban's Cathedral in Pretoria.

At one stage the pungent smell of the incense made me want to vomit. 6 year olds have little appreciation for tradition. Me, in kinda of a dress (I know, I know), with Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Click image to enlarge.

I started out life as an Anglican. Here’s the proof, the kid in the front of the procession, the Boat Boy or junior Acolyte, is me. This is a fond memory of a wedding service held at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Nostalgia.

The nice thing about being Anglican is you have a sense of belonging. It’s a massive communion and there’re people all over the place. You can go to any city, town or village, even Pofadder, and there will be one or two Anglican churches to pick from.

There’re two vibrant and growing Christian blogging communities in South Africa and I’ve realised that this time I’m the outsider looking in. I feel like I’m back at school wishing I was “down” with the cool kids. Basically the Methodists (Jenny, Dion, Pete et al.) and the Emergents (Steve (is this a fair categorisation? I know you’re Orthodox but you seem to be so many things to so many people), Graeme, Roger et al.) own the space… and I think I know why.

They’re often times so much more missionally focused than folk like me. And because the internet is really just a big idea megaphone it’s the perfect vehicle for missionally geared minds to have something to say. They dominate the conversation because of early adoption and saturated use. The emergents appeal to the Post-Post-Modern world and the Methodist are, well, they are… Armenians [sic] :).

Why is this an issue for me? Well in some ways it’s not. I’ve enjoyed the dialogue with Christians that are not exactly cut out of the same mould as me. Although, on the other hand I’m feeling a bit isolated. For now, Psalm 119 nicely summerises a good place to kick Christian friendships and interaction off, online or not,

63 I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.

Want to hear the verse in context? Psalm 107 – 121
What is this about?

Three things bashed together tonight to get me to this place. Firstly I commented in my About section about a person I didn’t want to associate with online. Secondly I was reminded of my roots by a passerby. Lastly I’ve been constantly turning over a conversation I had with Jenny and Thomas regarding a distinctive I hold to (it wasn’t vestry shelves).

Am I being overly sensitive? Is the depth of the various Christian communities on the web actually a whole lot more superficial than that? Would like to know your opinion. Oh, btw, I have a new job which is taking up a whole lot of my time which is why I’ve been less active of late. Can’t see myself writting more than once a week for the foreseeable future.