Depending on what source is used, there are between 30,000 and 45,000 Christian denomination worldwide.[1], [2], [3] With that many denominations, a logical question comes to mind, “Why are there so many denominations?”

First, nowhere in Scripture is there a mandate for denominationalism; to the contrary, the mandate is for union and connectivity. Thus, the second problem is that history tells us that denominationalism is the result of, or caused by, conflict and confrontation, which leads to division and separation.[4]

Conflict and confrontation stand as the hallmarks of religious splits throughout history that include schisms over doctrine, practice and personalities. More than likely, former church members probably know of splits within the church they attended because of personal squabbles, hierarchical concerns, division of money and even who sits closest to the front.

Although doctrine and dogma seem to be at the base of the many schisms, splits and divisions of Christianity, in realty the genesis of thousands of denominations stems from subjects far less esoteric. As much as some would like to tie break-ups and splits in the church to Scriptural interpretation, the real culprits are tied to leadership issues, relationships, direction of the church and how the church is being run.

One of the greatest separators of the Christian Church is all things sexual. Included in the list of sexual concerns is a compulsion to set rules for others’ sexuality; be it marriage, premarital sex, gender roles in marriage, divorce, remarriage, abortion, contraception and adultery. Continuing the sexual connection, the Church also involves itself in issuing edicts concerning homosexuality, same-sex marriage, women in church leadership.

However, following news reports regarding Christianity in the United States, only, abortion, contraception, homosexuality and gay marriage characterize Christianity. Even though Christianity also has concerns regarding euthanasia, removal of life support, suicide, the death penalty, war and military service, they are low priorities when it comes to sexuality.

Comparison of Teachings by Seven Faith Groups on Aspects of Human Sexuality [5]

Factor

Baptist

Methodist

Mormon

Roman Catholic

Buddhist

Islam

Judaism

Teen Sex

1

2

1

1

2

2

2

Premarital Sex

1

2

1

1

4

1

4

Extramarital Sex

1

2

1

1

2

1

1

Divorce

2

4

2

1

4

3

4

Masturbation

3

3

2

2

5

4

3

Abortion

1

3

2

1

3

3

2

Birth Control

3

5

2

1

5

5

4

Married Clergy

5

5

5

1

3

5

5

Female Clergy

2

5

2

1

3

2

5

Homosexual Orientation

2

4

2

3

5

1

4

Homosexual Sex Acts

1

1

1

1

4

1

1

Homosexual Marriage *

1

2

1

1

5

1

2

Homosexual Ordination

2

2

1

3

5

1

2

Christianity is divided into five major groups consisting of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant, but for this writing focus will be on Catholicism and Protestantism. Within those divisions, there is further separation that includes Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist and Independent.

The division doesn’t end there as Christian groups argue and debate just what constitutes a “Christian.” Many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestants define "Christian" narrowly to include only those persons who have been "born again" regardless of their denomination. More division and dissension is sewn by independent church groups that put together their own lists of Christian doctrines and regard anyone who denies even one of their doctrines to be a non-Christian. With wide variety of belief concerning which historical Christian beliefs should be included in the list.

Making things even worse, some denominations regard their own members to be the only true Christians in the world. Different definitions on such a fundamental topic makes dialog and debate among Christian groups contentious without even considering the topics listed above.

Nevertheless, just a casual glance at the table above demonstrates the wide gaps between Christian denominations, other Abrahamic religions and Buddhist. Although, the table is hardly conclusive, it is just one item showing the division on sexual subjects. Combine that with Scriptural, Doctrinal and interpersonal disagreement, it isn’t hard to see why the number of Christian denominations reaches into the thousands.



[1] Barrett, David A., World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford University Press, 1982

[2] Barrett, Kurian, Johnson, World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2001)

[3] The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, December 19, 201, http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-movements-an...

[4] Houdmann, S. Michael, Why are there so many Christian denominations?, http://www.gotquestions.org/denominations-Christian.html#ixzz2sMhuKFe6

[5] Robinson, B.A. and Poskanzer, Jef, Human sexuality, Comparison of teachings by seven faith groups on aspects of human sexuality, http://www.religioustolerance.org/sex_chur.htm

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Tags: Christianity, break, denominations, schisms, sex, splits, ups

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 5, 2014 at 10:47am

Sentient--you didn't miss it. I had to cut out some of it because it would display properly. I also may ave inadvertently left it out. This was a piece from a longer article that I chopped to put out here. I will probably redo it with the longer version.

Comment by Michael Penn on February 5, 2014 at 10:41am

Said it before and will say it again. When I was 17 and in church I remember a man who left our congregation because they refused to agree with him that he had died in our service and god brought him back to life after everyone prayed for him!

Guess he went to another denomination, but he could have started one also.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 4, 2014 at 10:35pm
I remember that commercial, but it fits the program as most cherry pick what they want to believe. I think my point, which I was very clear about, so much so that I forgot to mention it, is that the continuity and unity of Christianity is far overstated. There a bunch of independent churches and single application churches. By that, I mean they are pastor driven and when the pastor dies, the church dies unless he or she has an heir. The number of denominations could be no less. Anybody can declare Christianity.
Comment by Sentient Biped on February 4, 2014 at 10:33pm

Yes, christianity, judaism, and islam are amazingly obsessed with sex.

Did I miss the description for the table?

1 = "condemned"
2 = "morally unacceptable in most cases"
3 = "neutral" or "no clear position"
4 = "morally acceptable in most cases"
5 = "blessed" or "totally acceptable"

I doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy that I'm universally reviled by baptists, methodists, mormons, catholics, muslims and jews. But it's certainly not news to me either. And they hypocrites, not living the religion they preach, not practicing the laws or morals they demand of others, picking and choosing, scapegoating and playing mind games. To hell with them. Even if there is no hell.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 4, 2014 at 6:31pm

Seems to me there was a commercial on American TV a few years back that explains it all:

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce.
Special orders don't upset us.
All we ask is that you let us
Serve it your way!

-- Old Burger King Commercial

People want their church to line up with THEIR sensibilities ... so should we be surprised that there are so many?

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