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Calvary Chapel Statistics
The Calvary Chapel organization was started by Chuck Smith in 1965. In 1968 Smith joined with John Higgins and Lonnie Frisbee to start a drug rehabilitation and commune called The House of Miracles, part of the Jesus People Movement (sometimes called "Jesus Freaks"). This was the precursor of the Calvary Chapel, which originally made up primarily of California "hippies."
The Calvary Chapel claims distinctive teachings that set it apart from other Christian denominations: "there are distinctives that make Calvary Chapel unique and which define our mission." It describes itself as "the middle ground between fundamentalism and Pentecostalism in modern Protestant theology." [Source URL: http://www.ogden-ut.com/churches/CCbelieve.html#balance.] Specifically, Calvary Chapel rejects what it calls "amillenialism", as well as 5-point Calvinism and "over-emphasis of spiritual gifts."
Because it is such a new denomination, the Calvary Chapel organization still rarely studied by scholars, but as a growth-oriented franchise it has opened churches in most states, especially on the West Coast.
Note: Many people have pointed out that the Calvary Chapel denomination is a controversial organization. Calvary Chapels have been criticized by Evangelical, moderate, and liberal Christians for a variety of reasons, including claims by critics that the Calvary Chapel has an emphasis on a subservient role for women, a "fast food" approach to Christianity, as well as charges of religious intolerance toward non-Calvary Christians, excessive authoritarianism, sponsorship of hate rallies, anti-scientific positions (dinosaurs contemporary with man, catastrophism, etc.), marital infidelity of church leaders, teaching that Christianity is not a religion, and use of extreme psychological control techniques.
As the primary focus of Adherents.com is to provide statistical and geographical information, it is not our policy to comment on issues such as these, and we are not in a position to authoritatively evaluate these accusations (nor have we any interest in doing so). Those interested in Calvary Chapels should use other resources and visit the nearest Calvary Chapel location.
But one criticism of the Calvary Chapel which is clearly valid is that they use defamatory material targeting specific rival denominations. Adherents.com has no position regarding the appropriateness of this or any other practice or belief of Calvary Chapel, but we point this particular practice out so that researchers will be aware of three items: 1) anti-Calvary material produced by non-Calvary groups may have been written in response to Calvary attacks and may be inaccurate; 2) many Calvary Chapels have warm relations with Evangelical churches, but Calvary Chapel material is not regarded as representative of mainstream Evangelical thought (though on most points Evangelical and Calvary teachings coincide); and 3) Calvary Chapel material regarding non-Calvary denominations may be inflamatory and is frequently inaccurate, having been written for marketing, not academic, purposes.
One charge which is groundless is that the Calvary Chapel is a non-Christian cult. Although it has a variety of unique beliefs and practices, nothing about the Calvary Chapel would indicate that it identifies itself as a non-Christian religious group. These charges appear to have been brought against the Calvary Chapel more because of its confrontational nature and controversial growth and marketing practices than because of any of its actual teachings or practices.
Calvary Chapel has criticized the Evangelical branch of Protestantism on a few very specific issues, but in most regards is similar to Evangelicalism. From a taxonomic/historical perspective, Calvary Chapel is best classified as a Protestant denomination (or denominatinal family), just as Baptists, Methodists, etc. are Protestant denominations. (It should be noted that Calvary Chapel rejects the label of "denomination" in its theological sense. We use the term here in a strictly taxonomic sense.)
Many people first hear about the Calvary Chapel through newspaper reports of their attacks on other religious groups. Calvary Chapel books and publications attack many other groups, including:
Here is what one official (http://www.cyberstreet.com/calvary/cavlinks.htm) Calvary Chapel web site (Port Charlotte) says about Catholic and Evangelical Christians:
...I have a special place in my heart for those deceived by the Roman Faith. This is a site which exposes the false doctrines of Rome and scrutinizes them with the word of God. You will also find different links from this site which will instruct you on how you can share Christ with... Catholics. With the trend of many "Evagelicals" following after the Eucumenical movement, as they accept the... Catholic "way of salvation", this is an important place to stop to see the difference.
The Calvary Chapel goes beyond simply disagreeing with the positions of other religious groups. It sponsors rallies ("seminars") organized specifically to attack rival denominations. For example, in 1999 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened its first temple in Bismarck, North Dakota, the Calvary Chapel sponsored a two-night rally attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are no Calvary Chapels in North Dakota, so Calvary Chapel brought people from other states to do this, despite the fact that multiple Christian churches in Bismarck wrote letters of protest requesting that the Calvary Chapel not go through with their plans. Calvary Chapels have sponsored similar rallies in association with the opening of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples elsewhere, including a rally in Spokane, Washington (July 1999; http://www.spokane.net/stories/1999/Jul/3/S602928.asp ), which prompted many angry letters to the local newspaper written by Spokane residents of many faiths who objected to such an open display of religious intolerance.
Top 10 States with most Calvary Chapels
Calvary Chapels in Each State
Source: Calvary Chapel church directory, January 2000.
Web page created 24 January 2000. Last updated 9 August 2005.