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Religious organisations
Hannah-May Whiteing…read more

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Religious Organisations
Many members of society express their religious beliefs through
religious organisations and often this organisation is responsible for
shaping those beliefs.
· There have identified 4 major forms of religious organisations
1. The Church
2. The denomination
3. The Sect
4. The cult
These 4 organisational types are models or ideal types which indicate
typical features; not all examples will have all these features. Some
religious groups may even have features which overlap between
types. For example, scientology is difficult to categorise as t contains
elements if the denomination, the sect and the cult.
The typology is Christian centric. Categories rarely make reference to
the growing influence of world religions such as Islam, Hinduism and
Sikhism in the UK.…read more

Slide 3

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The church
· Examples in the UK include the Church of England & the
Roman Catholic Church.
· Weber & Troeltsch(1931)- identified 6 social
characteristics which distinguishes churches from other
religious organisations.
1. Large universal membership- in 2006, 25million
identified themselves as belonging to the Anglican
church & 5 million with the catholic church.
2. Inclusive membership- members do not have to
demonstrate their faith, instead they are most likely to
have been born into the church & recruited before
they understand its teachings.
3. Bureaucratic structures & hierarchies- churches tend to
be bureaucratic in structure & resemble large
businesses. They are hierarchies, most power, policy-
making & decision-making is concentrated at the top.…read more

Slide 4

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The church
4. Professional clergy- like most bureaucracies they have
salaried professionals such as priests, bishops & vicars who
undergo training, receive a wage & pension & compete for
5. Tied to the state- churches accept the way wider society is
organised & are often directly connected to the state & ruling
authorities. EG the queen is both the symbolic head of state,
whereas the roman catholic church was a great influence in
medieval Europe. Bishops also sit in the house of lords. This
link to the state and establishment means that churches tend
to be ideologically conservative & support the values of those
in power.
6. A monopoly of the truth- churches claim that their theologies
& belief system are superior to other religious & non-religious
belief systems. However there is evidence that this is now
changing.…read more

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Evaluation of the definition of the church
· Bruce- the definition by Weber & Troeltsch is more
relevant to pre-modern Christian societies. Since the
industrial revolution religion has become more
fragmented, modern society is characterised by religious
pluralism. Bruce questions the notion of universal
membership as although a majority of people identify,
only 870,000 are active members.
· Davie- questions the idea that churches are always
conservative or connected to the state & ruling class.
Some radical bishops are quite critical of the ruling class
& the various types of inequality that exist today. The
church of England and the catholic church no longer
claim a monopoly on religious truth and are happy to
tolerate each other and other religions.…read more

Slide 6

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· Examples of denomination in the UK include; Methodism,
Pentecostalism, Baptists, Unitarians & united reform.
· Niebuhr- suggests denominations are likely to share the
following ideal characteristics.
1. Large memberships
2. Inclusive membership- people usually born into
3. Bureaucracy- as they are national organisations they need
formal bureaucracies & hierarchies to administer the
everyday affairs of the religion. However, these tend to be
looser than those employed by churches. Rarely have
4. Professional clergy- usually ministers & pastors are
employed full-time or part-time by the denomination
although they use lay-clergy who have ordinary jobs but
preach in church.…read more

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