Sunday, November 12, 2017

The word "tribe" as a substitute for the word "denomination?"

The word "denomination" is falling out of use. Most denominations do not consider themselves denominations. Even the churches of Christ, while conforming to the strict definition of a denomination, reject, in general, the "denomination" label.

There is a definite effort among churchpeople to try to not refer to various heritage-linked clusters of Christian congregations as "denominations."

One of those substitute terms is the word "tribe." For example, a member of a church of Christ may be talking with a group of other "kinds" of Christians and she may reference herself as being "in the acappella, Lord's-supper-every-Sunday tribe." She is generally more comfortable referencing her "tribe" than her "denomination."

Getting rid of the word "denomination" has the feel of lowering the walls of denominationalism that have prevented various Christian groups from being able to work together at doing any kind of work of the Lord.

Warning! To Native American Christians, the term "tribe" does not conjure images of lowering denominational walls!

It is not that the term is terribly offensive to Native Americans, although it does bring a chill to the Native American Christians I consulted. The problem is that the term "tribe" amongst Native Americans has the feel of increasing division. It denotes building even taller walls than does the term "denomination."

Native Americans are very jealous of their respective tribal heritages. Navajos are not Apaches. Apaches are not Navajos. Members of each tribe strongly identify with their respective tribes. There is a kind of cultural divide between each Native American tribe that is taller than the divide between Christian denominations (as I am told by experts on the subject).

As we continue looking for a friendly label that refers to "how we do church," we should dismiss the term "tribe." It just does not work.

Below, I will compile a list of possible alternative candidates for the emotion-laden "denomination."
Faith expression
Christian tradition