In Christianity, the term mother church or Mother Church may have one of the following meanings:
- The first mission church in an area, or a pioneer cathedral
- A basilica or cathedral
- The main chapel of a province of a religious order
- A plantation church — that is, the "mother" of several "daughter churches",
- A church of historical importance to a Christian community, including the following:
- Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, the "mother church" of the African Methodist Episcopal Church;
- The Mother Church: The First Church of Christ, Scientist (Boston, Massachusetts), the Church of Christ Scientist of which all others are branches;
- Greater Refuge Temple Church, the Mother Church of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith; and
- The Roman Catholic Church, viewed by some Roman Catholics as the Mother Church of Christianity, especially in the West.
- The Universal Church or Church Universal, which is the Bride of Christ.
First mission church
It is used as a title of distinction for churches established originally as the first mission of a particular region. For example, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawai'i was the site of the first French Catholic mission of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, from which the modern Hawai'i Catholic Church was established. Under these circumstances it is today considered the mother church of all Hawai'i.
Basilicas and cathedrals
Mother church may also be a title of distinction based on the church's hierarchical importance. For example, among Roman Catholics the ecumenical mother church is the Lateran Basilica. Similarly, the church of the bishop of an episcopal see is often considered the mother church of a diocese. Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois falls under this category. While it was not the first Roman Catholic cathedral of the city, it became the mother church due to the presence of the episcopal cathedra. This form of distinction based on hierarchical importance is usually used by the Roman Catholic Church, and, sometimes, the churches of the Anglican Communion, while most Protestant denominations tend to refrain from using the title in this manner. A notable exception is the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts, which is commonly called the "Mother Church".
Chapel of a province
A third form relates to the churches of the various religious orders, royal orders or civic orders. For example, Madonna Della Strada Chapel is the mother church of the Province of Chicago of the Society of Jesus. It is the principal church of the Jesuits in its particular province which includes Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. On a broader scale, the Chiesa del Gesu in Rome is the mother church of all Jesuits throughout the world as it is the church of the order's Superior General.
A fourth form is mainly used in Protestant churches. A mother church is a local church from which other local churches were planted. These churches are known as daughter churches.
Historically significant churches
The oldest churches of various religious communities are often considered the mother churches to others that follow either in that same tradition or, alternately, in a reformist tradition. A church's hierarchical importance is often derived from its historical importance in its organization. In addition, in communities where churches may change their ecclesiastical association or become independent (particularly in Pentecostal, charismatic, nondenominational, and independent churches in America), a mother church may have daughter churches in one or more organizations.
The mother church of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Mother Church in Christian Science
The Mother Church in Christian Science is The First Church of Christ, Scientist (Boston, Massachusetts), the Church of Christ Scientist of which all others are branches. Per the Manual of The Mother Church, the legal title of the Mother Church is "The First Church of Christ, Scientist," and while its branch church may call themselves, First Church of Christ, Scientist, or Second Church of Christ, Scientist, etc., they are prohibited from using "The" in front of their names. Only The Mother Church can do so.
The Mother Church of the COOLJC
Greater Refuge Temple Church in New York City is the mother church of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, an Apostolic Pentecostal denomination. As such, it is also ultimately the mother church of its various off-shoot churches and organizations, including both Bible Way organizations and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and its daughter churches. In addition, churches that were independently founded by ministers who were ordained or directly influenced by the church's founder, Robert C. Lawson, or his spiritual sucessor, William L. Bonner, may also look to Greater Refuge Temple as their mother church, including the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Evangelistic Church of Christ, and many others.
The Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church is thought by some to be the mother church of the Protestant and other churches that broke away from it over time. Prominent among these are Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican churches and other Christian faith communities formed over time from these.
The Church Universal
Additionally, among Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and many other Christian denominations, Mother Church, or Holy Mother Church, is believed to refer to the Universal Church or Church Universal, which is considered to be the Bride of Christ and the Mother of all the Christian faithful regardless of manmade divisions or denominations
- ↑ [http://www.mbeinstitute.org/CManual/ChurchManual.pdf Mary Baker Eddy Institute: The Manual of The Mother Church, by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XXIII, Titles. Section2, p. 25 online and p. 70 in book}
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