[Tagging] Denominations vs religions organisations

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Mon Jan 18 19:12:40 UTC 2021

On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 12:33 PM Minh Nguyen <minh at nguyen.cincinnati.oh.us>

> operator=* is not a good key for the rite, because it's more commonly
> used to record a more immediate organizational relationship, such as a
> church being run by a particular religious order or a school being run
> by a certain diocese. As a Roman Catholic myself, if I'm traveling
> through town, I wouldn't care whether a church in the search results is
> run by a diocesan priest or by the Franciscans, but I would be quite
> lost in a Ukrainian Greek Catholic service.

And you might not want to attend a Polish National Catholic one, or a SSPX
ultratraditionalist one, and so on, depending on how inclusive your beliefs
are. (I recognize that many American Catholics have considerably more
inclusive beliefs than the official positions of the hierarchy would
admit.) Similarly,  many Anglicans in the USA would not attend a church
that looks to the Primate of Nigeria (or other right-wing community) rather
than to the Episcopal Church in the United States. And just *try* to sort
out the Franciscans: it's said of them that they have so many communities
and confederations that only the Holy Spirit can keep them all sorted out
and sometimes even She isn't sure.

Then there are the denominations that have had large organizations behind
them but are currently very much in a state of flux, such as the
Untied (misspelling intentional!) Methodists. I'm still not sure what to
put beyond 'protestant' for one church that has painted 'UNITED PROTESTANT
CHURCH OF ...' over its former 'UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF ...' and is
united with, apparently, nobody. (Correction - I just looked it up, and it
has absorbed a small Congregationalist congregation that in turn had
separated from United Churches of Christ, so it's 'united' in that sense.)

I don't think that the variety of denominations admits of a single
taxonomy. In addition to the one I just mentioned, there's one community
near me that was formed by the merger of a Dutch Reformed congregation with
a Baptist one. Simply trying to trace its lineage in a cladistic manner
would fail, and the larger conventions of both the supposed parent churches
have apparently disowned the merged congregation.

By contrast, historically, many of the villages in this part of the world
have had single churches where all the local Protestants worshipped - there
weren't large enough congregattions to support splits! The nearest church
to my brother's place was simply named 'Tusten Settlement Church' after the
name of the settlement. Its services appear vaguely Baptist, but it
professes to be 'nondenominational'. In the era before the automobile, it
would have been the only church within a reasonable travel distance of his
farm. On long hikes, I tend to revert to that sort of thinking; if I'm in
town of a Sunday, I'll sometimes ask a postmaster, innkeeper or shop owner
where they worship, is it in the village so that I can walk there, and do
they welcome strangers? The results have included a beautiful Mass in
French in an equally beautiful chapel; a Quaker meeting passed entirely in
silent meditation; and a New England Calvinist preacher, delivering a
homily worthy of Jonathan Edwards that made me fancy I could feel the heat
of the coals of perdition under the soles of my boots. (If I were more
venal, I'd observe that the reaction of small-town Americans who are asked
the question is that they usually fall all over themselves to help you -
you tend to get offers to share meals with parishioners, use someone's
laundry facilities, or get a bed for the night. That said, they usually
have a keen eye for deception, and know when they're being taken advantage
of, and you don't want to get on their bad side!)

So in general, I'd side with the 'let sleeping gods lie' contingent. If I
absolutely had to tag a denomination, I think I'd ask the pastor, or just
put what it says on the sign. I did the latter for the local Syro-Malabar
church (which I was retagging because they'd bought their worship space
from a Methodist congregation), and put `denomination=indian_orthodox`
because the sign says, 'St. .... Indian Orthodox Church'

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin
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