Denominational Shift

Written by Joel on June 11th, 2008

I wonder what reasons are given for people who decide to switch denominations. A Lutheran becoming Methodist for example.

Just off the top of my head I would imagine that theological reasons rank fairly low on the list, excluding certain fundamentalist denomination of course.

Here is just a quick brainstorm:

  1. I moved and my previous denomination does not have a church where I now live.
  2. I married and we choose to go to my spouse’s church for simplicity.
  3. I liked the liturgy/pastor/preaching/music/amenities/etc. of this particular church in my town, so I started going there.
  4. Many of my friends go to this new denomination.
  5. So-and-so offended me at my previous church, so I left.
  6. I wanted to get involved in a particular ministry of this new church.
  7. I just wanted to try something new.
  8. I believe my new denomination is more theologically correct/Biblical than my previous one.

Can you think of any other reasons why someone would change Christian denominations (non-Catholic)? If you have “made a switch” could you tell me why?

I wonder if this has ever been studied, or if its feasible to gather this information.


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. cathmom5 says:

    I grew up in a Baptist Church (GARBC). I went to a Baptist College which allowed students from many different Protestant denominations. It was really hard to tell why one student was Baptist, one Methodist, one “independent” christian.

    When I joined the Air Force in my early 20s, I had a spiritual struggle that lasted over 10 years. The military chapel services are just too generic. There was no meaning to it. There were “general” protestant, “Gospel”, Catholic, and Lutheran services offered where I was stationed. The “general” was way too general–no meat, so to speak. The “gospel” was way too loud–lots of AMENS! and loud Southern “gospel” music.

    I actually began to be attracted to the Catholic Church on my travels to the Holy Land. An icon of Our Lady in Church of the Holy Selpulchre (sp?) was especially moving in its life likeness. The agony in her face and the reality of the tears moved me in a way I hadn’t been before. I never really thought about the struggles and the agony of His mother before.

    Later, I met and married a Catholic. All the while telling him I would NEVER become a Catholic. There is no way I could sing songs about Mary or pray a Rosary–no way. But the more I was exposed to the Body of Christ that is His Church, the more I was attracted to the Church. The Faith is never ending; the Tradition never changing. Where ever you go to a Catholic Church you will hear the same four scriptures read at Mass. Where ever you go you will share in the same Eucharistic meal.

    For me the intellectual study before and during RCIA, was the clincher. The Holy Spirit kept answering my questions, one by one. I would say to God, “Well, what about this…” and I would recieve an answer in RCIA class or even directly from a Scripture passage at Mass. Neither my Baptist tradition nor my temporary homes in other Baptist and independent churches could or would answer my questions.

    Once I joined the Church, Easter 10 years ago, I was at peace with my decision. Yes, I was afraid to talk to my Baptist mother about it. She knows now and is fine with it. She understands that we ARE indeed Christians. Ours are the only grandchildren being raised in a Christian home. So, she is happy about that. Yes, I thought my friends would desert me. I do have one friend who no longer speaks to me; a friend from that Baptist college. My sister and I had a falling out partly over religion (she a Muslim at the time, me a Catholic).

    But none of that matters. The intimate relationship I now have with Jesus Christ my Saviour is well worth whatever problems I have in my relationships with other people. Jesus is the most important thing in my life and I know I am a part of that Body.

    Have you read any conversion books? Like: “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David Currie, the “Surprised By Truth” series edited by Patrick Madrid, “By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” by Mark Shea, or “Rome Sweet Home…” by Scott and Kimberly Hahn are some good ones.

    Catholic Bridge online might be a good place for you to get some questions answered discreetly also.

    I read your intro on the Catholic Protestant forum. I hope this has helped and I hope I and others can be instruments of the Holy Spirit on your personal spiritual journey.

  2. Joel Walkley says:

    Thanks for your comment cathmom!

    We seem to have some very similar paths. I am grew up Protestant, married a Catholic, and currently serve in the military. (I’m preparing for the chaplaincy) Small world.

    I agree with your critique about the “general” Protestant services in the military. Some chaplains seem to not take much of a stand. I have met quite a few chaplains these days that are fighting that idea. Most chapel services I have attended in recent history are unmistakably Christian.

    I think I became attracted to the Catholic Church because of its wealth of practice and traditions. I thought there were just alot more “tools” for believers to enhance ones faith.

    Still, I want to be cautious about your statement that the Catholic Church is the same everywhere and that tradition never changes.

    In the Eastern Catholic churches, for example the rosary isn’t as big, The sign of the cross goes “up, down, RIGHT, LEFT;” The entire liturgy is chanted (no hymns) and much more. As far as tradition I could point to Vatican 2 when the Church made a number of “changes.” The first in my mind is the use of the vernacular in the liturgy. I think that the beauty of tradition is that it evolves and becomes more full over time.

    Also I might be alittle cautious to say that all answers can be found in any Church. There is always the ever present mystery that must just be. And there are quite a few (rather large) theological issues I can’t resolve with the Catholic Church.

    I’m glad things are okay with your Baptist parents, thats a pretty big deal. Especially that they still recognize that you are Christian. I suppose that is the point of my blog: to help Protestants recognize the Body of Christ in Catholics; and Catholics recognize the Body of Christ in Protestants. We are Christians.

    Thanks for your comments!

  3. Anonymous says:

    On your musing about changing churches…I have found (I’m a Methodist looking deeply into the Catholic faith) that for most protestants, the rationale that is the LEAST likely is one of theology. Most likely it’s because 1) they were hurt by someone or 2) the attractiveness of a person (pastor or laypeople) at a particlar church. So I contend its much more about personal relationships than belief systems. I own a Christian bookstore (going out of business!) but I have talked with many concerning this topic. Not that there are those who talk about the lack of being fed spiritually, but if you question deeper, it amost always comes to the persons personal relationships with other people in the church (either left or going to) that cause the switch.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Why is it, do you think, that one seems to turn Catholic (or Protestant, I would assume) for theological reasons, but switches between one Protestant faith and the next for reasons of mere personal taste? There ARE differences between and Baptist and a Lutheran, or between a Pentecostal and a Congregationalist, so why don’t these seem to play a role?

  5. Joel says:

    Thanks anonymous for you question.

    I think that the protestant churches make the process easier and are generally (in my experience) more welcoming of “outsiders.” A great deal of personal liberty is also afforded to protestant Christians. One can disagree with total depravity and still be a presbyterian for example. I think its more difficult to disagree within the Catholic Church.

    I could be mistaken on this point. Do you have any insight?

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