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Is there a preferred terminology to use when referring to all "brands" of Christianity? We've been running into this a lot (both on Meta and C.SE). Many (myself included) have said "denomination/sect" when trying to be all-inclusive. I'm hopeful there is a single term I can use, that will not be offensive or overly exclusive, and won't require us to use long lists.

Some possibilities:

  • Denominations: Not ideal, since it typically refers to protestant denominations.
  • Sects: This term sometimes has negative connotations, and sometimes is even more specific than a denomination, but maybe it's still a good choice?
  • Traditions: Perhaps not ideal, because it has other connotations in other contexts?
  • Faiths or Christian Faiths: "Faiths" itself is obviously broader than Christianity, but perhaps "Christian Faiths" is sufficient?
  • Brands: I use this term in this question, although I'm not sure if it's a good generalized term, as its rarely associated with religion
  • Flavors: Seems to have the same problem as "Brands"
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    Funny, I was considering posting something like this on the main site. – Iszi Aug 25 '11 at 20:51
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Unfortunately I don't think there is one perfect ideal word we can use. I would first ruling out a few of those possibilities:

  • Both brands and flavors actually work in this context, but suffer from a very informal tone. They might serve a purpose in a given context, but are not candidates to standardize on.

  • The word faith to me carries a much broader meaning than designations inside Christianity. I don't consider Catholic and Protestant discussions here to be inter-faith dialogue in the way that my talking to my Muslim neighbors is. Trying to add add an arbitrary boundary to this by saying Christian faiths almost makes it worse, as if an affront to the notion of the Church catholic. Even though we have our differences the creeds most of us profess emphasize that there is ONE faith, not faiths. The Christian Faith is fine by me, but I would object to that moniker being made plural. This is a site about Christianity, not about religions.

  • As you noted, the word sects can have negative connotations and is often used to designate much more specific smaller splinter groups that are often exclusive in a way denominations are not. While we could try to reclaim this word to good purpose, I don't think it's worth the effort to standardize on.

That leaves us with denomination and tradition. Of these I tend to prefer the later for the very reason you noted: denomination is often thought of as just a Protestant thing and it marginalizes the Catholic and Orthodox traditions as well as others.

There are a few other word possibilities: communion, persuasion, school, designation, appellation, badge and a plethora of other words could all be bent to this purpose, but other than some interesting overtones in the first word I don't see much point.

Unless somebody else comes up with a better suggestion, I suggest tradition as the best way to generally refer to all the different ... traditions ... in the Christian Faith.

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    +1 I agree that traditions Is a good term to use. – Ecommerce Consultant Aug 26 '11 at 20:55
  • I have opted for branch. Tradition always reminded be of Catholics. The word already has a few meanings within Christianity. – 3961 Jan 16 '14 at 20:48
  • Not all groups can really be called a 'tradition', though. Any group started within the last X time (dependant on your viewpoint) might not count, and calling a group that started 5 minutes ago or so a 'tradition' would probably seem wrong even to the members. – Please stop being evil Mar 13 '15 at 17:09
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    @thedarkwanderer If your viewpoint originated 5 minutes ago in your head there is no place for it on this site. On the other hand our minimum requirements are not hard to meet: at least one person besides you has to expressed the idea and published (either in a sermon, in print or their personal blog or whatever) some form of material expressing the view and at the same time claiming to be Christian. In this answer I'm suggesting "tradition" to cover the main bases and individuals with odd views actually usually fall inside some larger umbrella tradition. – Caleb Mar 13 '15 at 18:10
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Branches

This term is used widely and reflects the fact that most of the groups have come about due to historical splits from an older branch.

  • I think I like this be best. Neutral and is easily understood for everyone. – 3961 Jan 16 '14 at 20:47
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Try Churches. It's not perfect either, but I think it makes more sense than Denomination when talking about Catholic, Orthodox Anglicans and Mormons). And it's more like What St. Paul would say.

Then inside each make a specification if necessary:

If you take a peek inside Catholicism, we have quite a few Rites, 26 or so (the Latin Rite is what I think people refer to as Roman Catholic) although all are in line with the pope in Rome.

Anglicans have High and a Low church

Orthodox Church is Greek and Russian etc...

Mormons would be the Church of Latter Day Saints or LDS.

Denomination probably suffices for other Christians. Except Gnostics, I'd use sect and they probably would too.

So, if I wanted to make a blanket statement about something concerning the most number of Christians possible, I'd say, "All Christian Churches and Denominations believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary".

The only alternative might be cult, which is a nice word that has got a bad rap.

  • I do think that's a great word, but I think it's already over-worked. We refer to buildings as churches, each local body as a church and we refer to the church catholic as the church. I think those meanings cause enough consternation without adding upholding the boundaries between denominations/traditions/sects to it's workload. It is fine in the context of the proper names you give that use the term as part of their name, however when lumping multiple groups with proper names together I think it becomes meaningless because of the ambiguity with even lesser and greater meanings. – Caleb Aug 25 '11 at 23:08
  • @caleb How about universal-church? – Peter Turner Aug 26 '11 at 13:00
  • "Universal Church" is a great moniker, but I can't think how it could be used except to refer to the Universal Church itself. I think the OP here is trying to find a standard way to address one or various unknown segments inside the Universal Church. – Caleb Aug 26 '11 at 14:58
  • Church is okay, but as caleb said, it is "overworked". I have opted for branch. – 3961 Jan 16 '14 at 20:49
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I suggest "all forms of Christianity".

  • Too long. I think we want a word not a phrase. – 3961 Jan 16 '14 at 20:46

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