William H. Swatos Jr.
The term denomination was innovated in the late seventeenth century by those groups of Christians in England who dissented from the established Church of England, but considered themselves loyal to the British state and recognized the monarch as having rights with respect to the Church of England. In 1702, specifically, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Congregationalist clergy formed “the body of the Dissenting Ministers of the Three Denominations in and about the City of London.” The term was introduced to counter the pejorative term sect, which in popular usage carried a sense not only of deviant or undesirable practices, but also, as sectaries, implied political radicalism. Denomination is now used in pluralist societies for those forms of organized religious expression that generally support the established social order and are mutually tolerant of each other's practices. The term denominationalism was significantly introduced into the literature of the sociology of religion by H. Richard Niebuhr in his book The Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929). The central thesis of this work is that new religious organizations (“sects”) begin among the socially “disinherited” within a population, but in the US, as these groups attain to higher social status, their religious expressions become more “respectable” or socially accepted; thus, there is a movement across generations from ... log in or subscribe to read full text
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