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The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church Paperback – April, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Berry, who recently started going to church after a long absence, attempts in this book to make finding a church easier for those who don't know where to begin. Whether this attempt is successful is an open question, but any failure to give truly helpful information to church-seekers is more than compensated for in her fascinating and accessible account of church history. Without getting bogged down in jargon or details, Berry (girlfriends; Daddies and Daughters) helps readers understand how Christendom began as one church and became what it is today. Her stories of the political intrigue behind the various schisms, and her candid descriptions of the lives of important Christians, actually make church history fun to read. Regrettably, though, in an era in which different branches of the faith regularly borrow practices and traditions from each other, the book offers little of substantive value for those wondering if the church down the street is their cup of tea. While her generalizations will provide some basic help for the uninitiated, Berry does not provide enough concrete information about how a given congregation will dress, behave or worship, preferring instead to emphasize the need for readers to call ahead if they have questions. Despite this problem and other minor foibles-such as distracting, overly long sidebars-this book is a must-read for anyone seeking a lucid, comprehensive primer on the history of the Christian church and faith.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Carmen Renee Berry is the best-selling author of Girlfriends, When Helping You is Hurting Me, and Daddies and Daughters. She has traveled extensively, speaking and leading seminars on relationships and mental health. She has appeared on Oprah, CNN, and countless other radio and television programs.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press; First Edition edition (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587430363
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587430367
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Do not let those that think they know everything mislead you, this book is a blessing!
troubie
If you're a "born-again" Christian looking to understand more about many denominations, this book is great.
L. M.
"Calvin tossed out the Anabaptists" - Calvin was a pastor and held no public office.
ReformedGirls

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Java Wench on August 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book has proved to be a treasure to me. I'm a journalist who writes frequently about religion and the way that Berry sorts out, defines and describes the nuances of different styles of Christian worship is terrific! Raised in the Nazarene faith, Berry has grown into the kind of seeking Christian who is able to write clearly and without bias about different aspects of Christian experience. Her descriptions of the differences between "Catholic," "Congregational" and "Wesleyan" churches, for instance, are dead on. She spices up her history with a lot of humor...her portrayal of John Knox is great "I believe he can be best understood as a Scotsman first, and then as a Protestant..." After reading this book, for the first time in my life I feel I really understand the difference between things like "African Methodist Episcopal, "AME Zion," "CME," what makes a church a "holiness" church, what it really means to be "Baptist" as opposed to other Protestant experiences. She offers great tips and perspectives on what you'll experience by attending worship at different churches. This book is ideal for anybody who is searching for a Christian church, researching different Christian denominations, may be looking to return to the Christian fold or just simply wants to understand more about their own faith. One of the few indispensable research books that's also just plain fun to read!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By L. M. on July 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ms. Berry's book does just what it sets out to do. As a graduate of a seminary with a degree in theology, I wish I'd had much of the information she included in her exploration of various denominations and church history. She takes what scores of theologians spend oodles of time writing volumes on and distills it to the essentials. If you're a "born-again" Christian looking to understand more about many denominations, this book is great. Just remember that the intent of this book is NOT to convert souls, but rather to explain how denominations came to be, and what they basically look like as a result. I would highly recommend this book to anyone either looking for a church, trying to help someone understand the nuances between churches, or simply trying to make sense of the cumbersome topic of church history. I'm proud of Ms. Berry's ability to take a topic like this and make it accessible to everyone.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having just left a difficult church situation, I found this book fascinating. Berry is well-researched and quite literate in the ups and downs of committing to any particular church or denomination. Her sense of humor lends lightheartedness to a subject that has too often been overshadowed by scandals and misunderstandings. If you're looking for information and guidance on choosing a church without having to wade through the author's individual preferences, this is the book for you!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "arnicae" on July 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having been a member all my life of a local Methodist church, deciding to find a new place to worship was both difficult and wrenching, leaving friends with whom I'd formed close relationships. But I knew- KNEW - that I was spiritually stagnating. Ergo buying Carmen Berry's "Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church". Berry helped me understand my need for growth, giving me the run-down of churches in my area with an eye towards history, tradition, and belief systems. So this is a pretty weighty tome, right? Wrong. With a mixture of relaxed commentary and amusing anecdotes, Berry's book captivates and informs from page one. I'd recommend this to pretty much everybody as a useful, interesting read that manages to be both spiritual yet without the saccharine that I'm used to in similar books.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book gives a good overview of churches in America. The research was extensive, reviewing some obscure groups...I felt like the author did a good job of being objective...there were pros and cons to every group....I agreed with her representation of the groups I have personally visited....So, 1-extensive research, 2-objective, 3-easy reference, and 4-well written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rivercat on October 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
I wish there were more books like this: an accessible, mostly nonjudgmental approach to the differences between the Christian denominations in America today. In a style similar to the For Dummies and Complete Idiots series, Berry provides the history of each denomination and various offshoots, plus principle beliefs, worship styles, and what to expect if you visit. However the book needed more careful editing and fact-checking (the last section is particularly sloppy), and it seems odd to completely leave out Quakers, Mormons, and Unitarians. I understand her point in excluding the Unitarians (and can guess why she never once mentions the Mormons), but you'd think she'd want to add a few more details for the sake of contrast and completeness. Otherwise, this is a great starting point for the curious church-seeker, or anyone like me who is fascinated by the shades of belief and interpretation among Christians.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on August 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
What should you expect from a book titled The Unauthorized Guide To Choosing A Church? The "unauthorized" notation would presume that there would be variations from the "authorized" version (Not really the case. Much has been taken from official church literature and websites). Choosing? You should expect a real blunt comparison of the churches (Berry is pretty blunt, even comparing history, traditions, and styles of dress). And Church? I expected there to be an overview of the various major religions in the U.S. This discussion is obviously truncated.

The most recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report, "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey", noted the various religious groups and their relative percentages in the U.S, [2008, and I recognize this survey was conducted after Berry's book was published]. In addition to the listing of "Christian" religions, they noted the following percentages:

Buddhist 0.7%
Hindu 0.4%
Jewish 1.7%
Muslim 0.6%

While these percentages are small, they represent large numbers of adults. At the very least, I would have expected something more than total exclusion from discussion. Perhaps one chapter?

But there's more.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)? No chapter for them (although they are recognized once as existing). Of course, they only have 6 million members in the U.S.

Unitarian Universalists? Society of Friends (Quakers)? Must be too liberal. "In my opinion, by denying the divinity of Christ, the Unitarian-Universalists moved themselves outside of Christendom. So, that's all I'll say about them..." (p. 227; ellipsis as presented by author).

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