By Parnell McCarter


One objection commonly lodged against the (FPCS) regards the way she avoids fraternal relations with different denominations.  To many, this is un-loving.  But, in reality, it is loving.  It would be un-loving to imply by one’s actions that another denomination is justified in her existence, when she in fact is not justified in her existence.  The very reason for separate denominational status is due to sin, generally owing to some heresy.  It is not good for a church to send mixed messages to schismatics and heretics.


Recently, on the r-f-w list, there was the following discussion on the topic of denominational relations:



Rev. Winzer:


they [the FPCS – PM] have a policy which fails to properly recognise biblical ministries outside of their denominational boundary, which is the sure way to missionary failure.  In Gal. 2, the Jewish presbytery recognised the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles.  There was no pre-requirement to make him "one of us," a requirement which would have inflicted the death-wound on the Gentile mission…




I do not accept your argument because I deny that the Apostles Peter and Paul were in 2 separate denominations. I think, for example, Acts 15 evidences that they were in the same denomination and answering to the same highest level synodical church court.


Rev. Winzer:


…You would perhaps be the only person I have heard of, who holds that the council of Jerusalem was a standing court.  Yes, they were in the same church, but it is not correct to say they were in the same denomination.  The simple fact of the matter is that there weren't any denominations.  Shame on the apostle Peter when he created an artificial barrier between the people of God!  And we are to be blamed if we do likewise…




Several comments:

1. I do not believe I ever stated that the council of Jerusalem was a standing court, nor does the term highest level synodical church court necessarily imply it.   As the Westminster Form of
Presbyterial Church-Government notes, “Synodical assemblies may lawfully be of several sorts, as provincial, national, and oecumenical.”

2.  Yes, shame on the Apostle Peter, but it has nothing to do with how different denominations should relate, for the Apostles Peter and Paul were in the same denomination. 

3.  There were different Christian denominations/sects in the Apostolic era, but the Apostles Peter and Paul were in the same denomination – the Apostolic church.  There were Christian heretics and schismatics in the Apostolic era, no doubt some of which had to be excommunicated from the Apostolic church, or withdrew from the Apostolic church of their own accord, as evidenced by I Corinthians 11:19.  Any who refused to heed the synodical decision of Acts 15 and withdrew from the Apostolic church, albeit professing Christianity, would have been a different denomination.  I John 2:19 (“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”)  implies there were those of a different Christian sect/denomination.  And the Nicolaitans were a separate sect/denomination, some of which sought to infiltrate the Apostolic church, but the Apostles directed the Apostolic churches to excommunicate them (Revelation 2). 



Mr. Greg Griffith:


I have sometimes wondered whether Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50 are examples of Jesus Christ Himself allowing and authorizing the existence of separate church organizational bodies (denominations):


"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us." (Luke 9:49-50).






If by ‘denomination’ we mean “a body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith”, then ideally there should not be different denominations , according to God's preceptive will.  There should not be one church that is credo-baptist instead of paedo-baptist.  There should not be one church that rejects the Establishment Principle instead of accepting it.  There should not be one church that says it is all right for close relations to marry instead of forbidding it.  After all, there is to be “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”.  And the word of God is univocal on these issues, not multivocal.  And the body is to be one as well.


Matthew Vogan, in another context, supplied this helpful information:


Although in our day some people have little time for the unity of the Church and don't worry about questions of schism, they are vitally important. The New Testament does not speak of lots of competing denominations. As Thomas McCrie put it: “The unity of the Church is implied in the most general view that can be taken of its nature, as a society instituted for religious purposes. True religion is essentially one, even as God, its object, is one.” “The unity of the Church, in profession, worship, and holy walking, was strikingly exemplified in the primitive age of Christianity”. "The original word in the New Testament translated schism or division, signifies any rent or breach, by which that which was formerly one is divided; and when applied to the Church, it is always used in a bad sense. Christians are reprehended for giving way to schism, and exhorted to avoid those who cause it. It is a relative term, and cannot be understood without just views of that unity and communion of which it is a violation." "a principle of difformity which, however congenial to the system of polytheism, is utterly eversive of a religion founded on the unity of the divine nature and will, and on a revelation which teaches us what we are to believe concerning God and what duty he requires of us."

http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/unity_00.htm McCrie reflects the historic Scottish biblical position also found in James Durham and James Walker in his book Scottish Theology and Theologians.”