In ecclesiology, the Christian Church is what different Christian denominations conceive of as being the true body of Christians or the original institution established by Jesus. "Christian Church" has also been used in academia as a synonym for Christianity, despite the fact that it is composed of multiple churches or denominations, many of which hold a doctrinal claim of being the "one true church", to the exclusion of the others.
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" or "congregation". 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. As such it is used for local communities as well as in a universal sense to mean all believers. The earliest recorded use of the term Christianity (Greek: Χριστιανισμός) was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD.
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"). Some grammarians and scholars say that the word has uncertain roots and may derive from the Anglo-Saxon "kirke" from Latin "circus" and the Greek "kuklos" for "circle", which shape is the form in which many religious groups met and gathered. 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 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 Christian Church, but does indicate that the local communities are one church, collectively, that Christians must always seek to be in concord, as the Congregation of God, 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."
Although there had long been frictions between the Bishop of Rome (i.e., 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 (Orthodox) churches. In 1448, not long before the Byzantine Empire collapsed, the Russian Orthodox 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 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 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 Oriental Orthodox Churches claims to be the original Christian Church. The Oriental Orthodox churches' bases their claim primarily on its assertion that it holds to traditions and beliefs of the original Christian Church. They never adopted the theory of the Nature of God, which was formulated later than the break that followed the Council of Chalcedon.
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.
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 local Evangelical Church is the organization that represents the universal Church and is seen by evangelicals as the body of Jesus Christ. It is responsible for teaching and ordinances, mainly the believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper. Many churches are members of Evangelical Christian denominations and adhere to a common confession of faith and regulations, despite the autonomy of the church. Some denominations are members of a national alliance of churches of the World Evangelical Alliance. Some evangelical denominations operate according to episcopal polity or presbyterian polity. However, the most common form of church government within Evangelicalism is congregational polity. This is especially common among non-denominational evangelical churches. Common ministries within evangelical congregations are pastor, elder, deacon, evangelist and worship leader. The ministry of bishop with a function of supervision over churches on a regional or national scale is present in all the Evangelical Christian denominations, even if the titles president of the council or general overseer are mainly used for this function.
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. 041b061a72