Non-Denominational Religions Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2495 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Non-Denominational Religions

The new facility housing the Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center (FFMWOC) in Sayreville, New Jersey is a welcoming complex with a modern feel. Founded in 1998, the FFM is a "Christian ecumenical, interdenominational, interracial, interdependent, and international association of churches, pastors, and ministers" that commits itself to the "growing body of Christ," ("History"). Although interdenominational, the theological beliefs espoused by the FFM nevertheless differ significantly from those espoused by other Christian organizations, most notably the Roman Catholic Church. The overt differences between Catholicism and Protestant Christianity historically center on issues like salvation and the rapture, and are manifest in the different religious rituals practiced by each faith. In recently interviewed a member of the FFM in Sayreville to discover the answers to key questions that might characterize FFM beliefs. In particular, I inquired about their beliefs about the meaning and method of salvation, and the definitions of the rapture, the second coming of Christ, speaking in tongues, and of the devil. The answers to these questions illuminate the core tenets of the FFM faith, and can also shed light on the key differences between the FFMWOC and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Faith Fellowship Ministries was founded by Bishop Joseph Ellis Taylor, who still serves as presiding Prelate as well as pastor. Bishop Taylor was ordained into the ministry in 1962, by the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to founding the FFM Bishop Taylor also founded the Faith United Church of Christ since 1979. In addition to Bishop Joseph Taylor, original members of the FFM Board of Directors included First Lady Margaret Taylor, who passed away in February of 1999, Mother Harriet Brockington, Minister Leroy Owens, Minister Adrianne Owens, Minister Kisha Blackwell, Minister Tyrone Blackwell, and Mr. Rayford Kelly. The death of Margaret Taylor slowed down the early development of the ministry. In late 1999 and May 2000, the Reverend Leroy Owens became active in the recruitment of churches and pastors for the FFM. Half a dozen reverends joined during this time and were ordained into the FFM by Bishop Taylor. In May of 2000, the first FFM churches were established in May of 2000 as well, following the First Holy Convocation of the Faith Fellowship Ministries. Now formally established, the FFM oversaw several churches throughout the United States, including those in Ohio, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Sacramento. The FFM started a school in 2001, called the Faith Fellowship School of Christian Living. A Second Holy Convocation in 2001 resulted in more pastors joining the FFM. Late in 2001, the FFM established satellite operations in Africa. African connections currently include those in Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, with plans to expand to Nigeria and Kenya ("History").

The FFM follows the model of other non-denominational and inter-denominational Christian faiths. Although they transcend labels like "Baptist" and "Methodist" and welcome pastors and congregation members from various backgrounds, interdenominational organizations nevertheless hold dear central tenets and belief systems. The religious beliefs like those espoused by the FFM are not as broad and open minded as would seem by the terms "nondenominational" and "interdenominational." Rather, such faiths often help to solidify Protestant belief under one cohesive rubric, ignoring and respecting many of the fragments of Christianity. As a result, religious bodies like the FFM attract and welcome people from all over the world, from all backgrounds. Anyone who seeks to incorporate the Christian faith into their lives can seek baptism into the Holy Spirit, according to the tenets of the FFM.

The Bible itself serves as the theological cement holding together the various people that come together under the roof of interdenominational faiths. The new FFMWOC building in Sayreville, New Jersey is one such roof, under which gather people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The ethnic and racial diversity evident upon entering the Sayreville building reflects the diversity among the organization's leaders, many of whom are African-American.

In accordance with the evangelical spirit that guides many of the interdenominational churches in the United States, the FFM building imparts a curious mix of peace and power. The head Pastor of the FFM and actual founder of the FFMWOC, the Reverend David T. Demola, delivers impassioned services that are broadcasted regularly online and on cable and satellite television networks. Demola has also published several books. Demola's dynamic sermons draw hundreds of congregation members. The nature of an FFM, or any other non-denominational service, differs significantly from a Catholic one in tone, delivery, and content. These differences reflect the different histories, cultures, theologies, ideologies, and politics surrounding the two faiths. For instance, Catholicism is centuries-old, forged from the chaos of medieval times in Europe. The Church's strict hierarchical structure, its inherent gender-bias, and its involvement in world affairs reflects its geo-political and social origins. Religious organizations like the FFM, on the other hand, blossomed on New World soil, out of the First and Second Great Awakenings in the United States. American Protestantism divided itself sharply from the Roman Catholic Church, which it has often viewed with overt hostility and vice-versa. Protestant denominations in the United States reflect the society at large. For example, the Protestant emphasis on an individual path toward God mirrors the American belief in individualism. The Catholic deference to priestly authority, on the other hand, reflects the collectivism and hierarchy of the societies in which the church flourished. Other immediately noticeable differences between the American Protestant and Roman Catholic views include the origin of sin. The Catholic belief in original sin is not shared by organizations like the FFM, which purports that mankind "fell into sin through willful disobedience, resulting in spiritual separation from God," ("Our Beliefs"). The Catholic hold that sin is truly original, that is, it is inherent in the origin of humanity and therefore innate and immutable. Salvation is a product of faith but also of performing the religious sacraments and of performing good deeds. This view is countered by the FFM, which like many Protestant faiths, denominational or not, claim that salvation is to be achieved by faith and faith alone. According to the "Our Beliefs" web page of the FFMWOC, "Salvation is achieved by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness, not by performing good deeds. However, human works are an outward evidence of one's salvation."

In an interview, I probed an FFM pastor for some of their core beliefs. I asked what it means to be saved, or the meaning of salvation. Salvation, according to the pastor, entails a belief in the death and resurrection of Christ, and in the inward acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior:

"To be saved means you have acknowledged that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price for your sins and that God raised him for the dead and he is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. You accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Christ is the Lord and you are saved from hell and will have eternal life with the Lord."

The pastor further clarified that salvation is a prerequisite for becoming a Christian: one is not born into the religion and anyone anywhere can become a Christian by professing his or her beliefs. According to what the pastor said, the individual must "confess with your mouth" the belief in Christ, suggesting that the petitioner must aver in front of a witness that he or she claims Christ as the Savior. Only through such an admission can one be truly considered a Christian; anyone who expresses doubt about the efficacy of the Bible or of the Christ would not be considered a true Christian.

Furthermore, salvation is a constant state of being, a condition that cannot be revoked even through the gravest of sins. A Catholic would wholeheartedly disagree with this stance, because central to the Catholic faith is the perpetual confession and repentance of sin. According to the pastor I interviewed, once the believer claims Christ as Lord and Savior, he or she will dwell with God especially after the Second Coming. Those who have not been saved will not dwell with God. As with many other evangelical Christian denominations, the FFM equates salvation with being "born again." Being born again involves the ritual action of baptism. A baptism means something different for the Catholic, who does not generally view salvation as such an absolute and immutable state of existence. A baptism either way represents an initiation rite.

The Second Coming is a core belief of the FFM, as it is for all Christian churches. According to the pastor, "the Second Coming is when Christ will return visibly to earth and the believers in Christ who are dead will rise from their graves. Believers who are alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ." The Second Coming is a literal phenomenon, not a symbolic one. The pastor also referred to the Rapture, which he described as "when Jesus comes to earth for the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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