By John Rullo
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” There are thousands of sects of Christianity that strive to preach the message of Christ and spread his Gospel around the world to the best of their ability. Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ (UCC) are just a few to name. As Catholics, it would be detrimental and counterproductive to adapt the archaic belief of social and spiritual superiority over Protestants and other Christians; instead let us look at God’s word as brothers and sisters in His message. Despite this complementary nature of the vast forms of Christianity, it is still important to recognize the differences that come along with each denomination. In order to better understand the different types of Christianity and how they work, I’ll briefly describe a few; the aforementioned list: Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and UCC.
When comparing Christian traditions, it is important to remember the most obvious difference from which all others–in essence–stem: the Pope. The Catholic Church is run by The Pope, the bishop of Rome. The Anglican Church, similarly, is run by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other denominations do not have a formal figurehead. Catholics and Anglicans have a similar hierarchy of clergy: ranging from deacons to cardinals. Lutherans also a similar structure, but with a conference of bishops instead of a single leader. The UCC on the other hand is a hybrid that has an elected president who attends and leads conferences.
The questions that probably come to mind to most when thinking about the different denominations are those of social, cultural, and political issues, especially in the United States. For example, The Catholic Church is the only one that does not allow female priests or deacons. Without getting too political, but in continuity with The Reformation: many protestant denominations seek a progressive and socially liberal agenda. While politics are neither the defining factor nor the most relevant to any religious body, they are a consideration, especially in the politically charged environment of the United States.
Catholic, coming from the Greek katholou, literally means “universal.” This, to me, as a young, enthusiastic, modern Catholic is the most important part. Regardless of politics, drama and all other colliding factors that may superficially separate the secular world from the spiritual, and even divide the spiritual world amongst itself, the idea that we are all universally called to be neighbors is something truly inspiring.