Amid declining memberships and loyalty, do denominations matter?
By: John D. Roth

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John D. Roth is professor of history and director of the Mennonite Historical Library.

Watch video of John D. Roth's speech.
I’m aware that the title of my reflections – “Do Denominations Matter?” – is likely to evoke a range of responses. For some, the topic may feel like a waste of time: Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, who cares? What does it matter? You grew up Presbyterian, I’m a Catholic; you worship your way, I worship my way. In the end, we’re all Christians; denominational differences shouldn’t get in the way. Let’s just focus on Jesus and get on with more important things.

Until, one day, you discover that denominations do matter. Perhaps your child or grandchild starts dating someone from a different religious tradition – say, a Christian Scientist who believes that sickness is a problem of the mind rather than the body, or a Seventh Day Adventist who worships on Saturday rather than Sunday or someone with very clear views about home schooling and “male headship” – and suddenly you ask yourself why do they believe these things? How is this going to affect my child? What does this mean for our family gatherings? Suddenly, you realize that denominations do matter.