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.”

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