Christian Church is an ecclesiological term generally used by Protestants to refer to the Church invisible, and/or whole group of people belonging to Christianity throughout the history of Christianity. In this understanding, "Christian Church" does not refer to a particular Christian denomination but to the "body" of all "believers", both defined in various ways. Other Christian traditions, however, believe that the term "Christian Church" or "Church" applies only to a specific concrete historic Christian institution, e.g. the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, or the Assyrian Church of the East).
The Four Marks of the Church first expressed in the Nicene Creed are that the Church is One (a unified Body of Particular Churches in full communion of doctrines and faith with each other), Holy (a sanctified and deified Body), Catholic (Universal and containing the fullness of Truth in itself), and Apostolic (its hierarchy, doctrines, and faith can be traced back to the Apostles).
Thus, the majority of Christians globally (particularly of the apostolic churches listed above, as well as some Anglo-Catholics) consider the Christian Church as a visible and institutional "societas perfecta" enlivened with supernatural grace, while Protestants generally understand the Church to be an invisible reality not identifiable with any specific earthly institution, denomination, or network of affiliated churches. Others equate the Church with particular groups that share certain essential elements of doctrine and practice, though divided on other points of doctrine and government (such as the branch theory as taught by some Anglicans).
Most English translations of the New Testament generally use the word "church" as a translation of the Ancient Greek: ἐκκλησία, romanized: ecclesia, found in the original Greek texts, which generally meant an "assembly". This term appears in two verses of the Gospel of Matthew, 24 verses of the Acts of the Apostles, 58 verses of the Pauline epistles (including the earliest instances of its use in relation to a Christian body), two verses of the Letter to the Hebrews, one verse of the Epistle of James, three verses of the Third Epistle of John, and 19 verses of the Book of Revelation. In total, ἐκκλησία appears in the New Testament text 114 times, although not every instance is a technical reference to the church.
In the New Testament, the term ἐκκλησία is used for local communities as well as in a universal sense to mean all believers. Traditionally, only orthodox believers are considered part of the true church, but convictions of what is orthodox have long varied, as many churches (not only the ones officially using the term "Orthodox" in their names) consider themselves to be orthodox and other Christians to be heterodox.
The Greek word ekklēsia, literally "called out" or "called forth" and commonly used to indicate a group of individuals called to gather for some function, in particular an assembly of the citizens of a city, as in Acts 19:32-41, is the New Testament term referring to the Christian Church (either a particular local group or the whole body of the faithful). In the Septuagint, the Greek word "ἐκκλησία" is used to translate the Hebrew "קהל" (qahal). Most Romance and Celtic languages use derivations of this word, either inherited or borrowed from the Latin form ecclesia.
The English language word "church" is from the Old English word cirice, derived from West Germanic *kirika, which in turn comes from the Greek κυριακή kuriakē, meaning "of the Lord" (possessive form of κύριος kurios "ruler" or "lord"). Kuriakē in the sense of "church" is most likely a shortening of κυριακὴ οἰκία kuriakē oikia ("house of the Lord") or ἐκκλησία κυριακή ekklēsia kuriakē ("congregation of the Lord"). Christian churches were sometimes called κυριακόν kuriakon (adjective meaning "of the Lord") in Greek starting in the 4th century, but ekklēsia and βασιλική basilikē were more common.
The word is one of many direct Greek-to-Germanic loans of Christian terminology, via the Goths. The Slavic terms for "church" (Old Church Slavonic црькꙑ [crĭky], Russian церковь [cerkov’], Slovenian cerkev) are via the Old High German cognate chirihha.
The Christian Church originated in Roman Judea in the first century AD, founded on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who first gathered disciples. Those disciples later became known as "Christians"; according to Scripture, Jesus commanded them to spread his teachings to all the world. For most Christians, the holiday of Pentecost (an event that occurred after Jesus' ascension to Heaven) represents the birthday of the Church, signified by the descent of the Holy Spirit on gathered disciples.[Acts 2] The leadership of the Christian Church began with the apostles.
Springing out of Second Temple Judaism, from Christianity's earliest days, Christians accepted non-Jews (Gentiles) without requiring full adoption of Jewish customs (such as circumcision).[Acts 10-15] The parallels in the Jewish faith are the Proselytes, Godfearers, and Noahide Law; see also Biblical law in Christianity. Some think that conflict with Jewish religious authorities quickly led to the expulsion of Christians from the synagogues in Jerusalem (see also Council of Jamnia and List of events in early Christianity).
The Church gradually spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, gaining major establishments in cities such as Jerusalem, Antioch, and Edessa. It also became a widely persecuted religion. It was condemned by the Jewish authorities as a heresy (see also Rejection of Jesus). The Roman authorities persecuted it because, like Judaism, its monotheistic teachings were fundamentally foreign to the polytheistic traditions of the ancient world and a challenge to the imperial cult. The Church grew rapidly until finally legalized and then promoted by Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius I in the 4th century as the state church of the Roman Empire.
Already in the 2nd century, Christians denounced teachings that they saw as heresies, especially Gnosticism but also Montanism. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of that century and Irenaeus at the end saw union with the bishops as the test of correct Christian faith. After legalization of the Church in the 4th century, the debate between Arianism and Trinitarianism, with the emperors favouring now one side now the other, was a major controversy.
In using the word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia), early Christians were employing a term that, while it designated the assembly of a Greek city-state, in which only citizens could participate, was traditionally used by Greek-speaking Jews to speak of Israel, the people of God, and that appeared in the Septuagint in the sense of an assembly gathered for religious reasons, often for a liturgy; in that translation ἐκκλησία stood for the Hebrew word קהל (qahal), which however it also rendered as συναγωγή (synagōgē, "synagogue"), the two Greek words being largely synonymous until Christians distinguished them more clearly.
The term ἐκκλησία appears in only two verses of the Gospels, in both cases in the Gospel of Matthew. When Jesus says to Simon Peter, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church", the church is the community instituted by Christ, but in the other passage the church is the local community to which one belongs: "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church."
The term is used much more frequently in other parts of the New Testament, designating, as in the Gospel of Matthew, either an individual local community or all of them collectively. Even passages that do not use the term ἐκκλησία may refer to the church with other expressions, as in the first 14 chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, in which ἐκκλησία is totally absent but which repeatedly uses the cognate word κλήτοι (klētoi, "called"). The church may be referred to also through images traditionally employed in the Bible to speak of the people of God, such as the image of the vineyard used particularly in the Gospel of John.
The New Testament never uses the adjectives "catholic" or "universal" with reference to the church, but does indicate that the local communities are one church, that Christians must always seek to be in concord, that the Gospel must extend to the ends of the earth and to all nations, that the church is open to all peoples and must not be divided, etc.
The first recorded application of "catholic" or "universal" to the church is by Ignatius of Antioch in about 107 in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chapter VIII. "Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." 
On February 27, 380, the Roman Empire officially adopted the Trinitarian version of Christianity as its state religion. Prior to this date, Constantius II (337-361) and Valens (364-378) had personally favored Arian or Semi-Arian forms of Christianity, but Valens' successor Theodosius I supported the Trinitarian doctrine as expounded in the Nicene Creed from the 1st Council of Nicea.
On this date, Theodosius I decreed that only the followers of Trinitarian Christianity were entitled to be referred to as Catholic Christians, while all others were to be considered to be heretics, which was considered illegal. In 385, this new legal situation resulted, in the first case of many to come, in the capital punishment of a heretic, namely Priscillian, condemned to death, with several of his followers, by a civil tribunal for the crime of magic. In the centuries of state-sponsored Christianity that followed, pagans and heretical Christians were routinely persecuted by the Empire and the many kingdoms and countries that later occupied its place, but some Germanic tribes remained Arian well into the Middle Ages (see also Christendom).
The Church within the Roman Empire was organized under metropolitan sees, with five rising to particular prominence and forming the basis for the Pentarchy proposed by Justinian I. Of these five, one was in the West (Rome) and the rest in the East (Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria).
Even after the split of the Roman Empire the Church remained a relatively united institution (apart from Oriental Orthodoxy and some other groups which separated from the rest of the Church earlier). The Church came to be a central and defining institution of the Empire, especially in the East or Byzantine Empire, where Constantinople came to be seen as the center of the Christian world, owing in great part to its economic and political power.
Once the Western Empire fell to Germanic incursions in the 5th century, the (Roman) Church became for centuries the primary link to Roman civilization for medieval Western Europe and an important channel of influence in the West for the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, emperors. While, in the West, the so-called orthodox Church competed against the Arian Christian and pagan faiths of the Germanic rulers and spread outside what had been the Empire to Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, and the western Slavs, in the East Christianity spread to the Slavs in what is now Russia, south-central and eastern Europe. The reign of Charlemagne in Western Europe is particularly noted for bringing the last major Western Arian tribes into communion with Rome, in part through conquest and forced conversion.
Starting in the 7th century, the Islamic Caliphates rose and gradually began to conquer larger and larger areas of the Christian world. Excepting North Africa and most of Spain, northern and western Europe escaped largely unscathed by Islamic expansion, in great part because richer Constantinople and its empire acted as a magnet for the onslaught. The challenge presented by the Muslims would help to solidify the religious identity of eastern Christians even as it gradually weakened the Eastern Empire. Even in the Muslim World, the Church survived (e.g., the modern Copts, Maronites, and others) albeit at times with great difficulty.
Although there had long been frictions between the Bishop of Rome (e.g. the patriarch of the Catholic Church proper) and the eastern patriarchs within the Byzantine Empire, Rome's changing allegiance from Constantinople to the Frankish king Charlemagne set the Church on a course towards separation. The political and theological divisions would grow until Rome and the East excommunicated each other in the 11th century, ultimately leading to the division of the Church into the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Eastern Orthodox) Churches. In 1448, not long before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, the Russian Church gained independence from the Patriarch of Constantinople.
As a result of the redevelopment of Western Europe, and the gradual fall of the Eastern Roman Empire to the Arabs and Turks (helped by warfare against Eastern Christians), the final Fall of Constantinople in 1453 resulted in Eastern scholars fleeing the Muslim hordes bringing ancient manuscripts to the West, which was a factor in the beginning of the period of the Western Renaissance there. Rome was seen by the Western Church as Christianity's heartland. Some Eastern churches even broke with Eastern Orthodoxy and entered into communion with Rome (the "Uniate" Eastern Catholic Churches).
The changes brought on by the Renaissance eventually led to the Protestant Reformation during which the Protestant Lutheran and the Reformed followers of Calvin, Hus, Zwingli, Melancthon, Knox, and others split from the Catholic Church. At this time, a series of non-theological disputes also led to the English Reformation which led to the independence of the Church of England. Then, during the Age of Exploration and the Age of Imperialism, Western Europe spread the Catholic Church and the Protestant and Reformed churches around the world, especially in the Americas. These developments in turn have led to Christianity being the largest religion in the world today.
The Catholic Church teaches in its doctrine that it is the original church founded by Christ on the Apostles in the 1st century AD. The papal encyclical Mystici corporis (Pope Pius XII, 1943), expresses the dogmatic ecclesiology of the Catholic Church thus: "If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ—which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church–we shall find no expression more noble, more sublime, or more divine, than the phrase which calls it 'the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ'." The Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution, Lumen gentium (1964), further declares that "the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, ... constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him". Likewise, the encyclical of Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem, states in a similar vein, "There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded on Peter by the word of the Lord... Outside of the Church, no one can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control." It is also a common theme in Catholic devotional and catechetical literature: "The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is the only flock of which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only Shepherd." (Catholic Book of Prayers, Pg. 236, "One Flock, One Shepherd")
A 2007 declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified that, in this passage, "'subsistence' means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth", and acknowledged that grace can be operative within religious communities separated from the Catholic Church due to some "elements of sanctification and truth" within them, but also added "Nevertheless, the word 'subsists' can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the 'one' Church); and this 'one' Church subsists in the Catholic Church."
The Catholic Church teaches that only corporate bodies of Christians led by bishops with valid holy orders can be recognized as "churches" in the proper sense. In Catholic documents, communities without such bishops are formally called ecclesial communities.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church each claim to be the original Christian Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church bases its claim primarily on its assertion that it holds to traditions and beliefs of the original Christian Church. It also states that four out of the five sees of the Pentarchy (excluding Rome) are still a part of it. The Oriental Orthodox churches' claims are similar to those of the Eastern Orthodox Church. They never adopted the theory of the Nature of God, which was formulated later than the break that followed the Council of Chalcedon.
This concept of "orthodoxy" began to take on particular significance during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, the first to actively promote Christianity. Constantine convened the first Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea, which attempted to provide the first universal creed of the Christian faith.
The major issue of this and other councils during the 4th century was the christological debate between Arianism and Trinitarianism. Trinitarianism is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church and is strongly associated with the term "orthodoxy", although some modern non-trinitarian churches dispute this usage.
The Lutheran Churches traditionally hold that their tradition represents the true visible Church. The Augsburg Confession found within the Book of Concord, a compendium of belief of the Lutheran Churches, teaches that "the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church". When the Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1530, they believe to have "showed that each article of faith and practice was true first of all to Holy Scripture, and then also to the teaching of the church fathers and the councils".
Nevertheless, the Lutheran Churches teach that "there are indeed true Christians in other Churches" as "other denominations also preach the Word of God, though mixed with error"; since the proclamation of the Word of God bears fruit, Lutheran theology accepts the appellation "Church" for other Christian denominations.
Anglicans generally understand their tradition as a branch of the historical "Catholic Church" and as a via media ("middle way") between traditions, often Lutheranism and Reformed Christianity, or Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity.
Reformed theology defines the Church as being invisible and visible--the former includes the entire communion of saints and the latter is the "institution that God provides as an agency for God's saving, justifying, and sustaining activity", which John Calvin referred to as "our mother". The Reformed confessions of faith emphasize "the pure teaching of the gospel (pura doctrina evangelii) and the right administration of the sacraments (recta administratio sacramentorum)" as "the two most necessary signs of the true visible church".
Methodists affirm belief in "the one true Church, Apostolic and Universal", viewing their Churches as constituting a "privileged branch of this true church". With regard to the position of Methodism within Christendom, the founder of the movement "John Wesley once noted that what God had achieved in the development of Methodism was no mere human endeavor but the work of God. As such it would be preserved by God so long as history remained." Calling it "the grand depositum" of the Methodist faith, Wesley specifically taught that the propagation of the doctrine of entire sanctification was the reason that God raised up the Methodists in the world.
The term "orthodoxy" or "orthodox faith", with a lower-case O and thus distinguished from the term Orthodox Church, have been used to distinguish the "true church" from supposedly heretical groups. The term became especially prominent in referring to the doctrine of the Nicene Creed and, in historical contexts, is often still used to distinguish this first "official" doctrine from others.
The "Body of Christ" (cf. 1Cor 12:27) and "Bride of Christ" (cf. Rev 21:9; Eph 5:22-33). These terms are used to refer to the whole community of Christians seen as interdependent in a single entity headed by Jesus Christ.
The terms "Churches Militant, Penitent, and Triumphant" (Latin: Ecclesia Militans and Ecclesia Triumphans), taken together, are used to express the concept of a united Church that extends beyond the earthly realm into Heaven. The term Church Militant comprises all living Christians while Church Triumphant comprises those in Heaven. Related is the "Church Suffering" or "Church Expectant", a Catholic concept encompassing those Christians in Purgatory, no longer part of the Church Militant and not yet part of the Church Triumphant.
The communion of saints (Latin: communio sanctorum) is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead. It is a union in faith and prayer that binds all Christians regardless of geographical distance or separation by death. In Catholic theology, this union encompasses the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering.
"Apostolic succession" is a doctrine of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Moravian Church, the Scandinavian Lutheran Churches, Anglican Communion, and others. The doctrine asserts that the bishops of the "true Church" enjoy the favor or grace of God as a result of legitimate and unbroken sacramental succession from Jesus' apostles. According to this doctrine, modern bishops, therefore, must be viewed as part of an unbroken line of leadership in succession from the original apostles: though they do not have the authority and powers granted uniquely to the apostles, they are the apostles' successors in governing the Church.
Other protestants see the authority given to the apostles as unique, proper to the apostles alone, to the extent that they generally reject the idea of a succession of bishops to the apostles in governing the Church. Their view of ecclesiastical authority is accordingly different.
The phrase "One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" appears in the Nicene Creed (μίαν, ἁγίαν, καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν) and, in part, in the Apostles' Creed ("the holy catholic church", sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, which in Greek would be: ἁγίαν καθολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν). The phrase is intended to set forth the four marks, or identifying signs, of the Christian Church—unity, holiness, universality, and apostolicity—and is based on the premise that all true Christians form a single united group founded by the apostles.
The word "catholic" is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός pronounced katholikos, which means "general" or "universal". Applied to the Church, it implies a calling to spread the faith throughout the whole world and to all ages. It is also thought of as implying that the Church is endowed with all the means of salvation for its members. In this sense the Church is taken by Christian theology to refer to the single, universal community of faithful. Baptism and communion signifies membership of the Church.
Excommunication is expulsion from the visible community of the Church, and is a remedial denial of the sacraments to a baptized Christian that does not invalidate that Christian's baptism. This can be traced back to the New Testament and to Jesus himself: Matthew 18:15-18, Matthew 16:18-19, Acts 8:18-24, Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, Titus 3:10, 3 John 9-11, Jude 8-23, John 15:6, 1 Corinthians 5:5.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the earliest known writer to use the phrase "the catholic church", excluded from the Church heterodox groups whose teaching and practice conflicted with those of the bishops of the Church, and considered that they were not really Christians. In keeping with this idea, many churches and communions consider that those whom they judge to be in a state of heresy or schism from their church or communion are not part of the catholic Church. This is the view of the Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox churches.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Catholic Church each regard themselves as the one true and unique church of Christ, and claim to be not just a Christian church but the original church founded by Christ, preserving unbroken the original teaching and sacraments. The Catholic Church teaches that "the one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter."
Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes it is "the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles. It is organically and historically the same Church that came fully into being at Pentecost." They see the members of other churches as linked in only an imperfect way with the one true Church, recognising Protestants not as churches but as ecclesial or specific faith believing communities. Historically, Catholics would label members of certain Christian churches (also certain non-Christian religions) by the names of their founders, either actual or purported. Such supposed founders were referred to as heresiarchs. This was done even when the party thus labeled viewed itself as belonging to the one true church. This allowed the Catholic party to claim that the other church was founded by the founder, while the Catholic church was founded by Christ. This was done intentionally in order to "produce the appearance of the fragmentation within Christianity"–a problem which the Catholic side would then attempt to remedy on its own terms.
There are long standing controversies over whether Protestant religious denominations should be called "Church" or not and whether the Roman Catholic Church's sense of the word "Catholic" is the only correct one. Catholic epistemology has been criticized by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Protestants. For example, in 2001, several leaders from the Church of Denmark released a public statement, saying in part,
However, it has a destructive effect on ecumenical relations if one church deprives another church of the right to be called a church. It is just as destructive as if one Christian denies another Christian the right to be called a Christian.
Historically, Catholics would label members of certain Christian churches (also certain non-Christian religions) by the names of their founders, either actual or purported. Such supposed founders were referred to as heresiarchs. This was done even when the party thus labeled viewed itself as belonging to the one true church. This allowed the Catholic party to claim that the other church was founded by the founder, while the Catholic church was founded by Christ. This was done intentionally in order to "produce the appearance of the fragmentation within Christianity"–a problem which the Catholic side would then attempt to remedy on its own terms.
The Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran Churches teach that "their churches represent the true catholic or universal church". It holds, however, that "there are indeed true Christians in other Churches" as "other denominations also preach the Word of God, though mixed with error".
Many other Christian groups take the view that all denominations are part of a symbolic and global Christian church which is a body bound by a common faith if not a common administration or tradition. Like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and some others have always referred to themselves as the Catholic church. Oriental Orthodoxy shares this view, seeing the Churches of the Oriental Orthodox communion as constituting the one true Church. In the West the term Catholic has come to be most commonly associated with the Catholic Church because of its size and influence in the West, and because that is historically its name (although in formal contexts most other churches still reject this naming, because the title "Catholic Church" is so linked with the notion of being the one true church).
Many Protestants believe that the Christian Church, as described in the Bible, has a twofold character that can be described as the visible and invisible church.
In this view, the church invisible consists of all those from every time and place who are vitally united to Christ through regeneration and salvation and who will be eternally united to Jesus Christ in eternal life. The universal, invisible church refers to the "invisible" body of the elect who are known only to God, and contrasts with the "visible church"—that is, the institutional body on earth which preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments. Every member of the invisible church is considered saved, while the visible church contains some individuals who are saved and others who are unsaved.[comp. Mt. 7:21-24] This concept has been attributed to St Augustine of Hippo as part of his refutation of the Donatist sect, but others question whether Augustine really held to some form of an "invisible true Church" concept. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox see this dual ecclesiology as semi-Donatism and a deviation from historic teaching.
The church visible, in this same view, consists of all those who visibly join themselves to a profession of faith and gathering together to know and serve the head of the church, Jesus Christ. It exists globally in all who identify themselves as Christians and locally in particular places where believers gather for the worship of God. The visible church may also refer to an association of particular churches from multiple locations who unite themselves under a common charter and set of governmental principles. The church in the visible sense is often governed by office-bearers carrying titles such as minister, pastor, teacher, elder, and deacon.
For the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, making a real distinction between "the heavenly and invisible Church, alone true and absolute" and "the earthly Church (or rather "the churches"), imperfect and relative" is a "Nestorian ecclesiology" and is thus deemed by both as heretical.
Catholic theology reacted against the Protestant concept of a "purely" invisible church by stressing the visible aspect of the church founded by Christ; but in the 20th century the Catholic Church has placed more stress on the interior life of the church as a supernatural organism. In an encyclical, Pope Pius XII stated that the Catholic Church is the "Mystical Body of Christ". This encyclical rejected two extreme views of the church:
Although the juridical principles, on which the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ and contribute to the attaining of its supernatural end, nevertheless that which lifts the Society of Christians far above the whole natural order is the Spirit of our Redeemer who penetrates and fills every part of the Church.
Major forms of church government include episcopal governance (Anglican, Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy), presbyterian governance, and congregational governance (Baptist, some Pentecostal, Congregationalist, charismatic, and other Protestant denominations). Before the Protestant Reformation, church leaders (the bishops) were universally understood to gain their authority through apostolic succession via the Sacrament of Ordination.
Christian scriptures use a wide range of metaphors to describe the Church. These include:
Today there is a wide diversity of Christian groups, with a variety of different doctrines and traditions. These controversies between the various branches of Christianity naturally include significant differences in their respective ecclesiologies.
A denomination in Christianity is a generic term for a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership, or doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as "church" or "fellowship". Divisions between one group and another are defined by doctrine and church authority; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy often separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties are known as branches of Christianity.
Individual Christian groups vary widely in the degree to which they recognize one another. Several groups claim to be the direct and sole authentic successor the church founded by Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD. Others, however, believe in denominationalism, where some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. Because of this concept, some Christian bodies reject the term "denomination" to describe themselves, to avoid implying equivalency with other churches or denominations.
The Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church believe that the term one in the Nicene Creed describes and prescribes a visible institutional and doctrinal unity, not only geographically throughout the world, but also historically throughout history. They see unity as one of the four marks that the Creed attributes to the genuine Church, and the essence of a mark is to be visible. A church whose identity and belief varied from country to country and from age to age would not be "one" in their estimation. As such they see themselves not as a denomination, but as pre-denominational; not as one of many faith communities, but the original and sole true Church.
Many Baptist and Congregationalist theologians accept the local sense as the only valid application of the term church. They strongly reject the notion of a universal (catholic) church. These denominations argue that all uses of the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament are speaking of either a particular local group or of the notion of "church" in the abstract, and never of a single, worldwide church.
Many Anglicans, Lutherans, Old Catholics, and Independent Catholics view unity as a mark of catholicity, but see the institutional unity of the Catholic Church as manifested in the shared apostolic succession of their episcopacies, rather than a shared episcopal hierarchy or rites.
Reformed Christians hold that every person justified by faith in the Gospel committed to the Apostles is a member of "One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church". From this perspective, the real unity and holiness of the whole church established through the Apostles is yet to be revealed; and meanwhile, the extent and peace of the church on earth is imperfectly realized in a visible way.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod declares that only believers in the doctrine of justification are members of the Christian Church, excluding all others, even if those others are in external communion with the Church and even if they hold a teaching office in it.
A number of historians have noted a twentieth-century "global shift" in Christianity, from a religion largely found in Europe and the Americas to one which is found in the global south. Described as "World Christianity" or "Global Christianity," this term attempts to convey the global nature of the Christian religion. However, the term often focuses on “non-Western Christianity” which “comprises (usually the exotic) instances of Christian faith in ‘the global South’, in Asia, Africa and Latin America.” It also includes indigenous or diasporic forms in Western Europe and North America.
Other debates include the following:
O.E. cirice "church," from W.Gmc. *kirika, from Gk. kyriake (oikia) "Lord's (house)," from kyrios "ruler, lord."
Gk. kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike.
When the Lutherans presented the Augsburg Confession before Emperor Charles V in 1530, they carefully showed that each article of faith and practice was true first of all to Holy Scripture, and then also to the teaching of the church fathers and the councils and even the canon law of the Church of Rome. They boldly claim, “This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers” (AC XXI Conclusion 1). The underlying thesis of the Augsburg Confession is that the faith as confessed by Luther and his followers is nothing new, but the true catholic faith, and that their churches represent the true catholic or universal church. In fact, it is actually the Church of Rome that has departed from the ancient faith and practice of the catholic church (see AC XXIII 13, XXVIII 72 and other places).Missing or empty
Others had made similar observations, Patrick McGrath commenting that the Church of England was not a middle way between Roman Catholic and Protestant, but "between different forms of Protestantism," and William Monter describing the Church of England as "a unique style of Protestantism, a via media between the Reformed and Lutheran traditions." MacCulloch has described Cranmer as seeking a middle way between Zurich and Wittenberg but elsewhere remarks that the Church of England was "nearer Zurich and Geneva than Wittenberg.
A number of large episcopal churches (e.g. United Methodist Church, USA) have maintained a succession over 200 years but are not concerned to claim that the succession goes back in unbroken line to the time of the first Apostles. Very many other major episcopal churches, however-Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Scandinavian Lutheran-do make this claim and contend that a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession.
Adventism is a branch of Protestant Christianity which was started in the United States during the Second Great Awakening when Baptist preacher William Miller first publicly shared his belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur at some point between 1843 and 1844.
The name refers to belief in the imminent Second Coming (or "Second Advent") of Jesus Christ. William Miller started the Adventist movement in the 1830s. His followers became known as Millerites. After the Great Disappointment, the Millerite movement split up and was continued by a number of groups that held different views from one another. These groups, stemming from a common Millerite ancestor, became known collectively as the Adventist movement.
Although the Adventist churches hold much in common, their theologies differ on whether the intermediate state of the dead is unconscious sleep or consciousness, whether the ultimate punishment of the wicked is annihilation or eternal torment, the nature of immortality, whether the wicked are resurrected after the millennium, and whether the sanctuary of Daniel 8 refers to the one in heaven or one on earth. The movement has encouraged the examination of the whole Bible, leading Seventh-day Adventists and some smaller Adventist groups to observe the Sabbath. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has compiled that church's core beliefs in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs (1980 and 2005), which use Biblical references as justification.
In 2010, Adventism claimed some 22 million believers scattered in various independent churches. The largest church within the movement—the Seventh-day Adventist Church—had more than 19 million baptized members in 2015.Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a Mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. The denomination started with the Restoration Movement during the Second Great Awakening, first existing as a loose association of churches working towards Christian unity during the 19th century, then slowly forming quasi-denominational structures through missionary societies, regional associations, and an international convention. In 1968, the Disciples of Christ officially adopted a denominational structure at which time a group of churches left to remain nondenominational.
It is often referred to as The Christian Church, The Disciples of Christ, as The Disciples, or as the D.O.C.. The Christian Church was a charter participant in the formation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and of the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), and it continues to be engaged in ecumenical conversations.
The Disciples' local churches are congregationally governed. In 2008 there were 679,563 members in 3,714 congregations in North America. By 2015, this number had declined to a baptized membership of 497,423 in 3,267 congregations, of whom about 306,905 were active members, while roughly 177,141 people attended Sunday services each week. In 2017, the denomination reported 411,140 members with 139,936 people in average worship attendance.Christian churches and churches of Christ
The group of Christians known as the Christian Churches or Churches of Christ are congregations within the Restoration Movement, aka the Stone-Campbell Movement and the Reformation of the 19th Century, that have no formal denominational affiliation with other congregations, but still share many characteristics of belief and worship. Churches in this tradition are strongly congregationalist and have no formal denominational ties, and thus there is no proper name that is agreed to apply to the movement as a whole. Most (but not all) congregations in this tradition include the words "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ" in their congregational name. Due to the lack of formal organization between congregations, there is a lack of official statistical data, but the 2016 Directory of the Ministry documents some 5000 congregations in the USA and Canada; some estimate the number to be over 6,000 since this directory is unofficial.These congregations share historical roots with other, similarly named congregations within the Restoration Movement, including congregations organized within formal fellowships, such as the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)" or the "Churches of Christ". The congregations discussed in this article, however, have chosen to remain fully autonomous. Further distinguishing these congregations is their use of instrumental music within their worship, unlike the "Churches of Christ" who do not use instrumental music. The instrumental congregations discussed here and the a cappella "Churches of Christ" are otherwise very similar but have little contact with each other in most communities, although there is some cooperation among some larger churches and also in some educational institutions.Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.
Individual denominations vary widely in the degree to which they recognize one another. Several groups claim to be the direct and sole authentic successor of the church founded by Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD. Others, however, believe in denominationalism, where some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. Because of this concept, some Christian bodies reject the term "denomination" to describe themselves, to avoid implying equivalency with other churches or denominations.
The Catholic Church which claims 1.2 billion members – slightly over half of all Christians worldwide – does not view itself as a denomination, but as the original pre-denominational church, a view rejected by other Christians. Protestant denominations account for approximately 37 percent of Christians worldwide. Together, Catholicism and Protestantism (including Anglicanism, and other denominations sharing historical ties) comprise Western Christianity. Western Christian denominations prevail in Western, Northern, Central and Southern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and Oceania.The Eastern Orthodox Church, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents, is the second-largest Christian organization in the world and also considers itself the original pre-denominational church. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church is itself a communion of fully independent autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that mutually recognize each other to the exclusion of others. The Eastern Orthodox Church, together with Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East, constitutes Eastern Christianity. (There are also some smaller groups of Eastern Catholics which are in communion with the Bishop of Rome but have cultural and historical ties with other Eastern Christians and Byzantine Lutherans were newer group of Eastern Christianity and Protestant Lutheranism in Ukraine and Slovenia that accepts Byzantine Rite as the denomination's liturgy while retaining their Lutheran traditions.) Eastern Christian denominations are represented mostly in Eastern Europe, North Asia, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and mostly South India.
Christians have various doctrines about the Church (the body of the faithful that they believe Jesus Christ established) and about how the divine church corresponds to Christian denominations. Both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox hold that their own organizations faithfully represent the One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church to the exclusion of the other. Sixteenth-century Protestants separated from the Catholic Church because of theologies and practices that they considered to be in violation of their own interpretation. Generally, members of the various denominations acknowledge each other as Christians, at least to the extent that they have mutually recognized baptisms and acknowledge historically orthodox views including the Divinity of Jesus and doctrines of sin and salvation, even though doctrinal and ecclesiological obstacles hinder full communion between churches.
Since the reforms surrounding the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, the Catholic Church has referred to Protestant communities as "denominations", while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern Orthodox (see subsistit in and branch theory). But some non-denominational Christians
do not follow any particular branch, though sometimes regarded as Protestants.Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700 (John of Damascus died in 749 AD, Byzantine Iconoclasm began in 726 AD).In the past, the Church Fathers were regarded as authoritative and more restrictive definitions were used which sought to limit the list to authors treated as such. However, the definition has widened as scholars of patristics, the study of the Church Fathers, have expanded their scope.Churches of Christ
Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through distinct beliefs and practices. Represented chiefly in the United States and one of several branches to develop out of the American Restoration Movement, they claim biblical precedent for their doctrine and practice and trace their heritage back to the early Christian church as described in the New Testament.
More broadly, the Restoration Movement was an evangelistic and Bible-based effort launched in various places as several people sought a return to the original teachings and practices of the New Testament. Christian leaders including Robert Sandeman, James O'Kelly, Abner Jones, Elias Smith, Rice Haggard, Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, and Barton W. Stone were trailblazers of similar movements that impacted the eventual phenomenon known as the American Restoration Movement.
The Restoration ideal was also similar and somewhat connected to earlier restoration efforts in Europe (such as those of John Glas, Robert Haldane, and James Haldane), as well as Puritan movements in colonial America. Though differing somewhat in details, each group consisted of like-minded Christians who, although often independent of one another, had declared independence from their various denominations and the traditional creeds, seeking a fresh start to return to the doctrines and practices of the New Testament church. They did not see themselves as establishing a new church but rather sought "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the original church of the New Testament." The names "Church of Christ," "Christian Church," and "Disciples of Christ" were adopted by the movement because they believed these terms to be biblical, rather than denominational.
Prior to the U.S. Religious Census of 1906, all congregations associated with the Restoration Movement had been reported together by the Census Bureau. But as the movement developed, tensions grew between those who emphasized unity and those who emphasized restoration, highlighting differences in the groups' underlying approaches to biblical interpretation. For the Churches of Christ, practices not present in accounts of New Testament worship were not permissible in the church. In contrast, the Christian Church may consider any practice not expressly forbidden.For example, the Christian Church uses musical instruments in worship (known as the Christian Church), whereas the Churches of Christ believe a cappella singing to be proper, although some Church of Christ congregations do use instruments. In addition, there was also disagreement over the appropriateness of organizational structures above the congregational level, such as those of missionary societies and funding orphanages.Though not officially recognized as distinct movements until 1906, the separation of the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches had been taking place gradually for decades.
The Restoration Movement was not a purely North American phenomenon, and active mission efforts began in the 18th century. There are now Churches of Christ in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Central America, and Europe.Community Christian Church (Kansas City, Missouri)
Community Christian Church was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and sits across from the Country Club Plaza's main shopping district on Main Street at East 46th Street in Kansas City, Missouri.In April 1940, members of the church congregation contracted Wright and asked him to design a new building to replace their previous church which had been destroyed in a fire. Wright based his design on a parallelogram including some features previously conceived for his last building for Johnson Wax Company, along with one additional unique feature: a spire of light. Due to high building costs, the scale of the church was reduced during construction. The auditorium was cut back from a planned 1,200 seats to 900 seats, many details were eliminated, and the building was sheathed in gunite, a form of lightweight concrete, over Wright's objections. The spire of light also could not be built and illuminated due to technical limitations of the times. However, the church was dedicated on January 4, 1942 and served the congregation well.
In 1994, the Steeple of Light was finally completed as planned. The components are housed on the church roof inside of a perforated dome on the building's northwestern corner. The spire is created by four (4) 16" xenon bulbs ignited by 40,000 volts of electricity, that, in combination with a parabolic reflector, produces 300 million candlepower of illumination (per light, 1.2 billion cp total) in a near perfect column. The spire can be seen for miles around Kansas City, and reportedly can be spotted 10 miles (16 km) north of the Plaza, depending on conditions. It has been calculated to stop at least 3 miles (4.8 km) up above the earth, about half the maximum height at which jet airplanes fly. The Steeple of Light is lit regularly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; has extended hours on holidays; and remains dark on the two days before Easter. Its lighting is one of the features of the annual Plaza lighting ceremony.
Walk-in tours of Community Christian Church are open to the public and free of charge, and guided tours may be scheduled by calling or emailing the church at least two weeks prior to your visit.Early Christianity
Early Christianity covers the period from its origins (c. 30–36) until the First Council of Nicaea (325). This period is typically divided into the Apostolic Age (c. 30-100) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100-325).
The first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology). Important practices were baptism, which made one a member of the Christian community, and the communal meals, from which the Eucharist developed, the participation in Christ's death and resurrection. Eventually, the inclusion of Gentile God-fearers lead to a departure from Jewish customs, and the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion.
A variety of Christianities developed throughout the 2nd and 3rd century, alongside a developing proto-orthodoxy, which eventually defined orthodoxy and heresy. Proto-orthodoxy developed in tandem with the growing number of Christians, which necessitated the development of ecclesiastical structure.
Early Christians generally used and revered the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) as religious text, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations, but also developed their own Canon of the New Testament, which includes the canonical gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation, all written before 120.First seven ecumenical councils
In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.
These seven events represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peace and develop a unified Christendom. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Oriental Orthodox Christians, the Church of the East, Anglican, Old Catholic, and Roman Catholics, all trace the legitimacy of their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and beyond, to the earlier period referred to as Early Christianity.
This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea, which enunciated the Nicene Creed that in its original form and as modified by the First Council of Constantinople of 381 was seen by all later councils as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church accept all seven of these councils as legitimate ecumenical councils. The Oriental Orthodox Churches accept only the first three, while the Church of the East accepts only the first two. There is also one additional council (the Quinisext Council), which was held between the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils (in AD 692), and which issued organizational, liturgical and canonical rules but did not discuss theology. It is accepted as ecumenical by the Eastern Orthodox Church alone, however the Eastern Orthodox do not give it a number, but rather count it as a continuation of the sixth council. The Catholic Church does not accept the Quinisext Council, but both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church consider that there have been more ecumenical councils after the first seven (see: Eighth ecumenical council, Ninth ecumenical council, and Catholic ecumenical councils).Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church also known as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, or the Syriac Orthodox Church of India, is an autonomous Oriental Orthodox Church based in the Indian state of Kerala, and is an integral branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Of Antioch and all the East, currently Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II seated in the Cathedral of Saint George, Bab Tuma, Damascus, Syria, as its Supreme Head. It functions as a largely autonomous unit within the church, under the authority of the Catholicos of India, currently Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I. Currently, this is the only church in Malankara which has a direct relationship with the Syriac Christians of Antioch, which has continued from after the schism and they continue to use West Syriac Rite.Pastor
A pastor is an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. A pastor also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation.
It is derived from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, the term may be abbreviated to "Pr" or "Ptr" (singular) or "Ps" (plural).Patristics
Patristics or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers. The names derive from the combined forms of Latin pater and Greek patḗr (father). The period is generally considered to run from the end of New Testament times or end of the Apostolic Age (c. AD 100) to either AD 451 (the date of the Council of Chalcedon) or to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.Prebendary
A prebendary is a member of the Anglican or Roman Catholic clergy, a form of canon with a role in the administration of a cathedral or collegiate church. When attending services, prebendaries sit in particular seats, usually at the back of the choir stalls, known as prebendal stalls.
A prebend is the form of benefice held by a prebendary: historically, the stipend attached to it was usually drawn from specific sources in the income of a cathedral's estates. In the 21st century, many remaining prebendaries hold an honorary position which does not carry an income with it.Restoration Movement
The Restoration Movement (also known as the American Restoration Movement or the Stone-Campbell Movement, and pejoratively as Campbellism) is a Christian movement that began on the United States frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840) of the early 19th century. The pioneers of this movement were seeking to reform the church from within and sought "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament." Especially since the mid-20th century, members of these churches do not identify as Protestant but simply as Christian.The Restoration Movement developed from several independent strands of religious revival that idealized early Christianity. Two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important. The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and identified as "Christians". The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell, both educated in Scotland; they eventually used the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups sought to restore the whole Christian church on the pattern set forth in the New Testament, and both believed that creeds kept Christianity divided. In 1832 they joined in fellowship with a handshake.
Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus. Both groups promoted a return to the purposes of the 1st-century churches as described in the New Testament. One historian of the movement has argued that it was primarily a unity movement, with the restoration motif playing a subordinate role.The Restoration Movement has since divided into multiple separate groups. The three main groups are: the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the independent Christian Church/Church of Christ congregations. Additionally, there are the International Churches of Christ, the International Christian Church, the Churches of Christ in Australia, the Churches of Christ in Europe, and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada. and the Churches of Christ in Australia. Some characterize the divisions in the movement as the result of the tension between the goals of restoration and ecumenism: the Churches of Christ and unaffiliated Christian Church/Church of Christ congregations resolved the tension by stressing restoration, while the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) resolved the tension by stressing ecumenism.Syriac Christianity
Syriac Christianity (Syriac: ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ / Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā) is the form of Eastern Christianity whose formative theological writings and traditional liturgy are expressed in the Syriac language.The Syriac language is a variety of Middle Aramaic that in an early form emerged in Edessa, Upper Mesopotamia in the first century AD. It is closely related to the Jewish Palestinian Aramaic spoken by Jesus. This relationship added to its prestige for Christians. The form of the language in use in Edessa predominated Christian writings and was accepted as the standard form, "a convenient vehicle for the spread of Christianity wherever there was a substrate of spoken Aramaic". The area where Syriac or Aramaic was spoken, an area of contact and conflict between the Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire, extended from around Antioch in the west to Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital (in Iraq), in the east and comprised the whole or parts of present-day Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.Vicar
A vicar (; Latin: vicarius) is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior (compare "vicarious" in the sense of "at second hand"). Linguistically, vicar is cognate with the English prefix "vice", similarly meaning "deputy". The title appears in a number of Christian ecclesiastical contexts, but also as an administrative title, or title modifier, in the Roman Empire. In addition, in the Holy Roman Empire a local representative of the emperor, perhaps an archduke, might be styled "vicar".Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians (about 2 billion – 1.2 billion Latin Catholic and 800 million Protestant). The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome (the Patriarch of the West) in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.
The establishment of the distinct Latin Church, a particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church (in contrast to the Eastern Catholic Churches, also in full communion with the Pope in Rome) coincided with the consolidation of the Holy See in Rome, where the bishop claimed a particular role since Antiquity. The terms "Western" and "Eastern" in this regard originated with geographical divisions mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. During the Middle Ages adherents of the Latin Church, irrespective of ethnicity, commonly referred to themselves as "Latins" to distinguish themselves from Eastern Christians.With the expansion of European colonialism from the Early Modern era, the Latin Church, in time along with its Protestant secessions, spread throughout the Americas, much of the Philippines, Southern Africa, pockets of West Africa, and throughout Australia, and New Zealand. Thus, when used for historical periods after the 16th century, the term "Western Christianity" does not refer to a particular geographical area, but is rather used as a collective term for the Latin Church, the Protestant denominations, and Independent Catholicism that trace their lineage to the original Latin Church in Western Europe.
Today, the geographical distinction between Western and Eastern Christianity is not nearly as absolute as in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, due to the spread of Christian missionaries, migrations, and globalisation. The adjectives "Western Christianity" and "Eastern Christianity" are typically used to refer to historical origins and differences in theology and liturgy, rather than present geographical locations.
While the Latin Church maintains the use of the Latin liturgical rites, Protestant denominations and Independent Catholicism use a wide variety of liturgical practices.Zion Christian Church
The Zion Christian Church (or ZCC) is the largest African initiated church operating across Southern Africa. The church's headquarters are at Zion City Moria in Limpopo Province, South Africa (Northern Transvaal).
According to the 1996 South African Census, the church numbered 3.87 million members. By the 2001 South African Census, its membership had increased to 4.97 million members. The final number of ZCC members is most likely between 8 and 10 million, in total, according to figures provided by Neal Collins from The New Age and Alex Matlala from The Citizen, two South African newspapers.