Denominational Affiliation

 

Marina Christian Fellowship is part of the Free Methodist denomination.  For more information about the Free Methodist Church, check out the following:

 

Free Methodists for Jesus Sake by Howard Snyder (A great new article about what it means to be Free Methodist)

 

Free Methodist Church in North America (Denominational Web-site) 

 

Some people mistrust, or truly dislike, denominations.  Others simply don’t understand them.  However we think of our denomination like a branch on a very large tree called Christianity.  Even churches that are independent and not a part of a denomination, if they are truly Christian, are attached as a branch of this tree in some way by what they believe and practice.  Those that are not connected would be considered a cult.  Later we will help clarify how to identify a cult.  For now, let’s trace how we are connected to the "Christian tree."  

 

1. We are catholic (with a small “c”)

When most people hear the word catholic and they think of the largest denomination of Christianity known as the Roman Catholic Church.  However, the word catholic simply means “universal.”  Think of the catholic church as the whole tree.  The church is made up of all true followers of Christ everywhere.  

 

2. We are orthodox

Think of this as the roots and the trunk of the tree to which all of the branches are somehow connected.  A church that is orthodox affirms the basic doctrines of Christianity that are found in scripture and spelled out by the creeds of the early church. 

 

3. We are Protestant

Here we see our first major branch in the tree.  The Protestant branch began in the 16th century as a reform movement of the Roman Catholic Church.  At the time many were concerned about what were considered to be false doctrines and certain corrupt practices of the Roman Church.  Protestants (those who protested), put an emphasis on the Bible, rather than on the church traditions as the primary source of authority of belief.  They also emphasized that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone rather than in works, or in keeping faithful to all of the do’s and don’ts of the denomination.  Within the Protestant branch there are differing branches.  Ours would trace to the Anglican branch.  It is unique in that it branched from the Roman Catholic Church for primarily political rather than doctrinal reasons.  However, it also eventually found a middle ground between many of the Reformed Protestant ideas and Roman Catholic doctrines and practices.  

 

4. We are Wesleyan

Within the Anglican Church, there was a priest named John Wesley.  He and his brother, Charles, along with some others led a revival and reform movement in the Anglican Church that stressed preaching the good news of the Gospel to the poor and marginalized (those outside of organized religion).  They organized the thousands who responded into groups known as societies.  Within these societies were smaller groups known as classes.  These were small groups where people would help each other along in the quest to become more like Christ.  Since followers of Wesley were known for their devoted spiritual practices, they were put down as being, “Methodists.”  The name stuck as the movement spread and eventually became a separate branch on the tree after Wesley’s death.  Wesleyans are known for their emphasis on free will when it comes to an individual’s ability to choose or reject God’s grace which is available to all people.  

 

5. We are a part of the Holiness tradition

By the 1800’s many Christian denominations in America had fallen into ritualism and cold spirituality.  A revival movement broke out which called people back to a more fervent spiritual practice.  This movement called people to surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit to maintain a purity of heart.  B.T. Roberts, a Methodist minister in New York, promoted a return to the early holiness found in the Methodism of John Wesley.  He and his followers believed in a social holiness and spoke out against Slavery and the tendency of the Methodist Church at the time to cater to the upper classes by the selling of pews and similar practices.  He also opposed “stifling formalism” and favored freedom of the Spirit in worship.  For these reasons, he and his followers were excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal Church and adopted the name “Free Methodists.”  Today, Free Methodists along with others in the holiness branch stress that love of God and neighbor, rather than legalism (following religious rules and regulations) is the mark of true holiness because love fulfills the entire law of God.  This love is the fruit of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.    

 

How to Identify a Cult

Often people are confused by all of the many denominations and independent churches that are around.  It is hard to know which ones are truly Christian and which ones are not.  Sometimes the fear of getting involved with a weird cult will keep people from going to church.  Although there are many branches on the Christian tree, there is a pretty simple way to identify those groups that are detached (a cult).  

 

1.  Are they catholic (with a small “c”)?  We are NOT talking about the Roman Catholic Church here, but rather, do they accept other branches of the tree as being part of the tree?  Although every denomination and independent church has unique beliefs and practices based on their history, they should recognize that those who are not a part of their particular branch as still part of the same tree.  A red flag should come up when a group begins to teach that they ARE the only tree and that other churches and denominations are not.  

 

2.  Are they orthodox?  In other words are they in some way firmly attached to the roots and trunk of the tree?  Remember that the roots and trunk are the basic essential beliefs of scripture that are affirmed by the creeds of the early church.  Another red flag should go us when a group gets away from these essential teachings.  This usually involves non-orthodox views about the Trinity.    

 

3.  Are they heavy handed?  Some groups, regardless of their beliefs, should be avoided because of the unhealthy and authoritarian ways in which they exercise power over their members.  Often this takes the form of requiring almost blind allegiance to the pastor or leader of the group.  Members are taught not to question the leader’s authority (or their personal spiritual coach or mentor).  Also there is often extreme pressure to conform to the norms of the group.  Those who either question the leader’s authority or somehow don’t measure up to group norms are often shunned or treated as outsiders.  They have a strong us vs. them mentality and often see those outside of their group as second class Christians, or not Christians at all.  This type of social manipulation is harmful and many have been hurt by these abusive groups and churches.  They are cultish and dangerous.   Lastly, it is important to realize that Jesus came to bring freedom.  Cults and organized religion have often been guilty of using Jesus Christ and His teachings to become a tool of oppression.  True followers of Christ don’t buy into that.  Following Christ is always a choice.  Those who follow the way of Christ find that such a path leads to a true righteousness that is not imposed by religious authority, but rather is an inner transformation of the heart that leads to freedom, joy, and a more abundant life of love.  True followers of Christ become more loving and less legalistic.  Their spiritual life is less about religious rules, and more about healthy, loving relationships.  A good fellowship of believers (a local church) should help people to become more loving and less legalistic, more relational and less religious.