List of Christian denominations A Christian denomination
is a distinct religious
body within Christianity
, identified by traits such as a name, organization
. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church, convention, communion, assembly, house, union, network, or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one denomination and another are primarily defined by authority and doctrine. Issues regarding the nature of Jesus
, the authority of apostolic succession
, and papal primacy
among others may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations, often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—can be known as "branches of Christianity" or "denominational families" (e.g. Eastern
or Western Christianity
and their sub-branches).
These "denominational families" are often imprecisely also called denominations.
Christian denominations since the 20th century have often involved themselves in ecumenism
. Ecumenism refers to efforts among Christian bodies to develop better understandings and closer relationships.
It also refers to efforts toward visible unity in the Christian Church
, though the terms of visible unity vary for each denomination of Christianity; the Roman Catholic Church
and Eastern Orthodox Church
each teach visible unity may only be achieved by converting to their denominational beliefs and structure, citing claims of being the one true church
The largest ecumenical organization in Christianity is the World Council of Churches
The following is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity, ecumenical
organizations, and Christian ideologies not necessarily represented by specific denominations. Only those Christian denominations, ideologies and organizations with Wikipedia
articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable. The denominations and ecumenical organizations listed are generally ordered from ancient to contemporary Christianity.
Terminology and qualification
Some bodies included on this list do not consider themselves denominations. For example, the Catholic Church considers itself the one true church
and the Holy See
The Eastern Orthodox Church also considers itself the original Christian Church and pre-denominational.
To express further the complexity involved, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches were historically one and the same
, as evidenced by the fact that they are the only two modern churches in existence to accept all of the first seven ecumenical councils
, until differences arose
, such as papal authority and dominance
, the rise of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
, the fall of the Western Roman Empire
, the continuance of emperors in the Eastern Roman Empire
, and the final and permanent split that occurred during the Crusades
with the siege of Constantinople
This also illustrates that denominations can arise not only from religious or theological issues, but political and generational divisions as well.
Other churches that are viewed by non-adherents as denominational are highly decentralized and do not have any formal denominational structure, authority, or record-keeping beyond the local congregation; several groups within the Restoration movement
and congregational churches
fall into this category.
Some Christian bodies are large (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans
), while others are just a few small churches, and in most cases the relative size is not evident in this list except for the denominational group or movement as a whole (e.g. Church of the East
, Oriental Orthodox Churches
, or Lutheranism). The largest denomination is the Catholic Church with more than 1.3 billion members.
The smallest of these groups may have only a few dozen adherents or an unspecified number of participants in independent churches as described below. As such, specific numbers and a certain size may not define a group as a denomination. However, as a general rule, the larger a group becomes, the more acceptance and legitimacy it gains.
Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian or a Christian denomination as disagreements arise primarily from doctrinal differences between each other. As an example, this list contains groups also known as "rites" which many, such as the Roman Catholic Church, would say are not denominations as they are in full papal communion
, and thus part of the Catholic Church.
For the purpose of simplicity, this list is intended to reflect the self-understanding of each denomination. Explanations of different opinions concerning their status as Christian denominations can be found at their respective articles.
There is no official recognition in most parts of the world for religious bodies, and there is no official clearinghouse which could determine the status or respectability of religious bodies. Often there is considerable disagreement between various groups about whether others should be labeled with pejorative terms such as "cult
", or about whether this or that group enjoys some measure of respectability. Such considerations often vary from place to place, or culture to culture, where one denomination may enjoy majority status in one region, but be widely regarded as a "dangerous cult" in another part of the world. Inclusion on this list does not indicate any judgment about the size, importance, or character of a group or its members.
Christian denominational families
Early Christianity is often divided into three different branches that differ in theology and traditions, which all appeared in the 1st century AD
. They include Jewish Christianity
, Pauline Christianity
and Gnostic Christianity
All modern Christian denominations are said to have descended from the Jewish and Pauline Christianities, with Gnostic Christianity dying, or being hunted out of existence after the early Christian era and being largely forgotten until discoveries made in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries.
There are also other theories on the origin of Christianity.
The following Christian groups appeared between the beginning of the Christian religion and the First Council of Nicaea
Unlike the previously mentioned groups, the following are all considered to be related to Christian Gnosticism.
Late ancient and Medieval Christian
Church of the East
Its patriarchal lines divided in a tumultuous period from the 16th-19th century, finally consolidated into the Eastern Catholic Chaldean Church
(in full communion with the Pope of Rome
), and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Other minor, modern related splinter groups include the Ancient Church of the East (split 1968 due of rejecting some changes made by Patriarch Shimun XXI Eshai
) and the Chaldean Syrian Church. In 1995 the Chaldean Syrian Church reunified with the Assyrian Church of the East as an archbishopric
. The Chaldean Syrian Church is headquartered in Thrissur
. Together, the Assyrian, Ancient, Chaldean Syrian and Chaldean Catholic Church comprised over 1.6 million in 2018.
Assyrian Christianity comprises those Eastern churches who kept the traditional Nestorian christology and ecclesiology
of the historical Church of the East after the original church reunited with the Catholic Church in Rome, forming the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1552. Assyrian Christianity forms part of the Syriac Christian tradition. The Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East together had over 0.6 million members as of 2018.
Oriental Orthodox Churches
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are the Christian churches adhering to Miaphysite
christology and theology, with a combined global membership of 62 million as of 2019.
These churches reject the Council of Chalcedon
in 451 and those after it. They departed from the state church of the Roman Empire after the Chalcedonian Council.
Other denominations, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and bodies in Old
and True Orthodoxy
, often label the Oriental Orthodox Churches as "Monophysite"; as the Oriental Orthodox do not adhere to the teachings of Eutyches
, they themselves reject this label, preferring the term "Miaphysite". Historically, the Oriental Orthodox Churches considered themselves collectively to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church
that Jesus founded
. Some Christian denominations have recently considered the body of Oriental Orthodoxy to be a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, a view which is gaining increasing acceptance in the wake of ecumenical dialogues
between groups such as Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman and Eastern Catholicism, and Protestant Christianity
. Most member churches of the Oriental Orthodox Churches are part of the World Council of Churches
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, claims continuity (based upon apostolic succession
) with the early Church as part of the state church of Rome
. Though it considers itself pre-denominational, being the original Church of Christ before 1054,
some scholars suggest the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches began after the East-West Schism
The Eastern Orthodox Church had about 230 million members as of 2019, making it the second largest single denomination behind the Catholic Church.
Some of them have a disputed administrative status (i.e. their autonomy or autocephaly is not recognized universally). Eastern Orthodox churches by and large remain in communion with one another, although this has broken at times throughout its history. Two examples of impaired communion between the Orthodox churches include the Moscow-Constantinople schisms of 1996
Latin Church (Western Church)
The Latin (or Western) Church is the largest and most widely known of the 24 sui iuris
churches that together make up the Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Roman Rite
, which is one of the Latin liturgical rites
, not a particular church).
It is headed by the Bishop of Rome—the Pope
, traditionally called the Patriarch of the West
—with headquarters in Vatican City
, enclaved within Rome
. As of 2015, the Latin Church comprised 1.255 billion members.
Eastern Catholic Churches
All of the following are particular churches of the Catholic Church. They are all in communion
with the Pope as Bishop of Rome and acknowledge his claim of universal jurisdiction and authority. They have some minor distinct theological emphases and expressions (for instance, in the case of those that are of Greek/Byzantine tradition, concerning some non-doctrinal aspects of the Latin view of Purgatory
and clerical celibacy
The Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Church (which are united in the worldwide Catholic Church) share the same doctrine and sacraments, and thus the same faith. The total membership of the churches accounted for approximately 18 million members as of 2019.
East Syriac Rite
West Syriac Rite
Protestantism is a movement within Christianity which owes its name to the 1529 Protestation at Speyer
, but originated in 1517 when Martin Luther
began his dispute with the Roman Catholic Church. This period of time, known as the Reformation
, began a series of events resulting over the next 500 years in several newly denominated churches (listed below). Some denominations were started by intentionally dividing themselves from the Roman Catholic Church, such as in the case of the English Reformation
while others, such as with Luther's followers, were excommunicated after attempting reform.
New denominations and organizations formed through further divisions within Protestant churches since the Reformation began. A denomination labeled "Protestant" subscribes to the fundamental Protestant principles—though not always—that is scripture alone, justification by faith alone, and the universal priesthood of believers.
The majority of contemporary Protestants are members of Adventism, Anglicanism, the Baptist churches, Calvinism (Reformed Protestantism), Lutheranism, Methodism and Pentecostalism.Nondenominational
, Evangelical, charismatic
, independent, Convergence
, and other churches are on the rise, and constitute a significant part of Protestant Christianity.
This list gives only an overview, and certainly does not mention all of the Protestant denominations. The exact number of Protestant denominations, including the members of the denominations, is difficult to calculate and depends on definition. A group that fits the generally accepted definition of "Protestant" might not officially use the term. Therefore, it should be taken with caution. The most accepted figure among various authors and scholars includes around 900 million to a little over 1 billion Protestant Christians.
Proto-Protestantism, or the Reformation prior to Luther refers to movements similar to the Protestant Reformation, but before 1517, when Martin Luther (1483–1546) is reputed to have nailed the Ninety-Five-Theses
to the church door. Major early Reformers were Peter Waldo
(c. 1140–c. 1205), John Wycliffe
(1320s–1384), and Jan Hus
(c. 1369–1415). It is not completely correct to call these groups Protestant due to the fact that some of them had nothing to do with the 1529 Protestation at Speyer which coined the term Protestant. In particular, the Utraquists
were eventually accommodated as a separate Catholic rite by the papacy after a military attempt to end their movement failed. On the other hand, the surviving Waldensians ended up joining Reformed Protestantism, so it is not completely inaccurate to refer to their movement as Protestant.
Pietism was an influential movement in Lutheranism that combined its emphasis on Biblical doctrine with the Reformed
emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life. Pietists who separated from established Lutheran churches to form their own denominations are known as Radical Pietists.
Although a movement in Lutheranism, influence on Anglicanism, in particular John Wesley
, led to the spawning of the Methodist movement
Continental Reformed churches
Anglicanism or Episcopalianism has referred to itself as the via media
between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
The majority of Anglicans consider themselves part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church
within the Anglican Communion. Anglicans or Episcopalians also self-identify as both Catholic
. Although the use of the term "Protestant" to refer to Anglicans was once common, it is controversial today, with some rejecting the label and others accepting it. In Protestantism, Anglicans numbered over 85 million in 2018.
United and uniting churches who hold membership in the Anglican Communion
Other Anglican churches and Continuing Anglican movement
The Anabaptists trace their origins to the Radical Reformation
. Alternative to other early Protestants, Anabaptists were seen as an early offshoot of Protestantism, although the view has been challenged by some Anabaptists.
There were approximately 2.1 million Anabaptists as of 2015.
Schwarzenau Brethren Movement
Baptists emerged as the English Puritans
were influenced by the Anabaptists, and along with Methodism, grew in size and influence after they sailed to the New World
(the remaining Puritans who traveled to the New World were Congregationalists). Some Baptists fit strongly with the Reformed tradition theologically but not denominationally. Some Baptists also adopt presbyterian
forms of governance. In 2018, there were about 75-105 million Baptists.
The Holiness movement emerged from 19th-century Methodism. As of 2015, churches of the movement had an estimated 12 million adherents.
Campbellite and Millerist
Stone-Campbell Restoration movement
Early Sabbath-Keeping movements, predating Millerism
Millerism and comparable groups
Adventist movement (Sunday observing) Adventist movement (Seventh Day Sabbath/Saturday observing)
Quakers, or Friends, are members of various movements united by their belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access the light within
, or "that of God in every person".
The Catholic Apostolic churches were born out of the 1830s revival started in London by the teachings of Edward Irving
, and out of the resultant Catholic Apostolic Church movement.
Pentecostal and Charismatic
Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity began in the 1900s. The two movements emphasize direct personal experience of God
through baptism with the Holy Spirit
. They represent some of the largest growing movements in Protestant Christianity.
As a result of the two movements, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal
was established. According to the Pew Research Center
, Pentecostals and Charismatics numbered some 280 million people in 2011.
Other Charismatic movements
Uniting and united
These united or uniting churches are the result of a merger between distinct denominational churches (e.g., Lutherans and Calvinists). As ecumenism
progresses, unions between various Protestants are becoming more and more common, resulting in a growing number of united and uniting churches. Major examples of uniting churches are the United Protestant Church of France (2013) and the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (2004).
Churches are listed here when their disparate heritage marks them as inappropriately listed in the particular categories above.
Free Evangelical Churches
The term Evangelical appears with the reformation and reblossoms in the 18th century and in the 19th century.
Evangelical Protestantism modernly understood is an inter-denominational Protestant movement which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel
consists of the doctrine of salvation
in Jesus Christ
Asian-initiated churches are those arising from Chinese and Japanese regions that were formed during repression in authoritarian eras as responses from government crackdowns of their old Christian denominations which were deemed illegal or unrecognized in their countries' state atheism
Chinese Independent Churches
Japanese Independent Churches
North American Evangelicalism
South American Evangelicalism
Eastern Protestant Christian
Other Protestant churches and movements
These are denominations, movements, and organizations deriving from mainstream Protestantism but are not classifiable under historic or current Protestant movements nor as parachurch organizations.
Independent Catholic churches arguably began in 1724. The Independent Catholic churches self-identify as either Western or Eastern Catholic although they are not affiliated with or recognized by the Catholic Church.
These churches consider themselves Eastern or Oriental Orthodox but are not in communion with the main bodies of Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. Some of these denominations consider themselves as part of True Orthodoxy or the Old Believers as examples, and have walled themselves off from other Christian denominational groups over issues of ecumenism.
Syncretic Orthodox churches blend with other denominations outside of Eastern Orthodoxy and are not in communion with the main body of Eastern nor Oriental Orthodoxies. These bodies may also be considered part of Eastern Protestant Christianity
or the Convergence Movement
The following are independent and non-mainstream movements, denominations and organizations formed during various times in the history of Christianity by splitting from mainline Catholicism, Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy, or Protestantism not classified in the previous lists.
These groups or organizations diverge from historic trinitarian theology (usually based on the Council of Nicaea
) with different interpretations of Nontrinitarianism.
Unitarian and Universalism
American Israelism and Latter Day Saint movement
"Prairie Saint" Latter Day Saints "Rocky Mountain" Latter Day Saints
Fundamentalist Rocky Mountain Latter Day Saints
Other Latter Day Saint denominations
World Wide Church of God splinter groups
Bible Students and splinter groups
Other Nontrinitarian restorationists
Esoteric Christianity (Gnosticism)
Black Hebrew Israelites
Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that work outside and across denominations to engage in social welfare and evangelism
. These organizations are not churches but work with churches or represent a coalition of churches.
The relation of New Thought to Christianity is not defined as exclusive; some of its adherents see themselves as solely practicing Christianity, while adherents of Religious Science
say "yes and no" to the question of whether they consider themselves to be Christian in belief and practice, leaving it up to the individual to define oneself spiritually.
The relation of these movements to other Christian ideas can be remote. They are listed here because they include some elements of Christian practice or beliefs, within religious contexts which may be only loosely characterized as Christian.
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