List of Christian denominations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body with its own beliefs and practices[1] within Christianity. Divisions between one group and another are defined by doctrine and church authority. Issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy often separate one denomination from another.

Some groups included on this list do not consider themselves a denomination. For example, the Catholic Church considers itself the one true church and the Apostolic See, and as pre-denominational.[2] The Orthodox Church also considers itself the original Church, and pre-denominational.

Other groups 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 Restoration Movement fall into this category.

Some groups are large (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans or Baptists), while others are just a few small churches, and in most cases the relative size is not evident in this list. Modern movements such as Fundamentalist Christianity, Pietism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and the Holiness movement sometimes cross denominational lines, or in some cases create new denominations out of two or more continuing groups (as is the case for many United and uniting churches, for example). Such subtleties and complexities are not clearly depicted here.

Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian, disagreements arising primarily from doctrinal differences between groups. 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 churches about whether other churches 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, where one religious group 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.

Note: This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there are reported to be approximately 41,000 Christian denominations (figure includes overlap between countries),[3] many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable.


Branches of first-century Christianity[edit]

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.[4] All modern Christian denominations are said to have descended from these three branches. There are also other theories on the origin of Christianity.[5]


Main article: Catholicism

Catholicism consists of the Catholic Church itself, as well as a number of independent churches and movements that self-identify as Catholic. They all claim continuity (based upon apostolic succession) with the early Church.

Catholic Church[edit]

Main article: Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is composed of 23 Churches: the Western or Latin Church and the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Latin Church[edit]

Main article: Latin Church

The Latin Church (not to be confused with the Roman Rite, which is one of the Latin liturgical rites, not a particular Church) is the largest and most widely known of the 23 sui iuris Churches that together make up the Catholic Church.

Eastern Catholic Churches[edit]

All of the following are Particular Churches of the Catholic Church. They are all in communion with the 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).[6] The Eastern Catholic churches and the Latin church (which together compose the worldwide Catholic Church) share the same doctrine and sacraments, and thus the same faith.

The Catholic Church considers itself the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded.[7] As such, the Catholic Church does not consider itself a denomination, but rather considers itself pre-denominational, the original Church of Christ.

Other churches and movements[edit]

Independent (self-identified as Catholic)[edit]

See also: Sedevacantism

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

The Eastern Orthodox Church is organized as a communion of autocephalous (self-headed) jurisdictions, some of which also contain within them several autonomous (self-ruling) units. They are in full communion with each other and claim continuity (based upon apostolic succession) with the early Church.

In addition, there exist a number of churches or jurisdictions which consider themselves Eastern Orthodox but are not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Eastern Orthodox Church[edit]

This is the main body of Eastern Orthodoxy, consisting of jurisdictions in communion with each other. Some of them have a disputed administrative status (i.e. their autonomy or autocephaly is only partially recognized), and are marked as such, but all remain in communion with each other as one Church. This list is provided in the official order of precedence. Indentation indicates autonomy rather than autocephaly.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers itself to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded. As such, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider itself a denomination, but rather considers itself pre-denominational, the original Church of Christ.

Other churches[edit]

These are churches that consider themselves Eastern Orthodox but are not in communion with the main body of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Oriental Orthodoxy[edit]

Main article: Oriental Orthodoxy

Oriental Orthodoxy comprises those Christians who did not accept the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). Other denominations often erroneously label these Churches "Monophysite"; however, as the Oriental Orthodox do not adhere to the teachings of Eutyches, they themselves reject this label, preferring the term Miaphysite.

Historically, many of the Oriental Orthodox Churches consider themselves collectively to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded. Some have considered the Oriental Orthodox communion to be a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, a view which is gaining increasing acceptance in the wake of the ecumenical dialogues.

Other Churches[edit]

The following Churches affirm a Miaphysite christological position but are not in communion with any of the ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches for various reasons:

Church of the East[edit]

Main article: Church of the East

The Church of the East is said to have been formed by St Thomas. It has also been known as the Persian or Sassanid Church. The Church did not attend the Council of Ephesus (AD 431). Historically, it has often been incorrectly referred to as the Nestorian Church. Although at some points throughout their history, Assyrian Christians have been willing to accept the label of Nestorians, they now consider this term pejorative. Recent Christological agreements with the Roman Catholic Church and some of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches have substantially resolved this semantic debate permanently, clearing the way for ecumenical relations.

In the twentieth century, it was divided into two groups which have recently been working towards reunification:

The Church of the East considers itself to be a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded.

Other early Christians[edit]

Christian groups appearing between the beginning of the Christian religion to the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

Medieval sects[edit]

Groups of Christians appearing between the First Council of Nicaea and the Protestant Reformation which are generally considered extinct as modern and distinct groups.


These are the churches "which repudiated the papal authority, and separated or were severed from the Roman communion in the Reformation of the 16th century and of any of the bodies of Christians descended from them."[8]

Diagram showing major branches and movements within Protestantism

Proto-Protestant Groups[edit]



Main article: Anglicanism

Anglican Communion[edit]

Main article: Anglican Communion

Anglicanism has referred to itself as the via media between Catholicism and Protestantism. It considers itself to be both Catholic and Reformed. 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.

The Anglican Communion also includes the following united churches:

Other Anglican Churches[edit]

As secessionist churches, these churches are not in full communion with the Anglican Communion. A select few of these churches are, however, recognized by certain individual provinces of the Anglican Communion.


Continental Reformed churches[edit]


Main article: Presbyterianism

Congregationalist Churches[edit]

Main article: Congregational Church

Anabaptists and Schwarzenau Brethren[edit]

Main article: Anabaptists

Plymouth Brethren and Free Evangelical Churches[edit]


Main article: Methodism

Pietists and Holiness Churches[edit]

Main articles: Pietism and Holiness movement


Main article: Baptists

Note: All Baptist associations are congregationalist affiliations for the purpose of cooperation, in which each local church is governmentally independent. The most prominent Baptist organizations in the United States are the American Baptist Churches USA, tending to be more liberal, the National Baptist Convention, tending to be more moderate and the Southern Baptist Convention, tending to be more conservative.

Spiritual Baptists[edit]

Note: The Spiritual Baptist Archdiocese of New York, Inc has congregationalist affiliations for the purpose of cooperation, in which each local church is governmentally independent.

Apostolic Churches – Irvingites[edit]


Main article: Pentecostalism


Main article: Charismatic movement

Neo-Charismatic Churches[edit]

African Initiated Churches[edit]

Messianic Judaism / Jewish Christians[edit]

Main article: Messianic Judaism

United and uniting churches[edit]

Churches which are the result of a merger between distinct denominational churches. Churches are listed here when their disparate heritage marks them as inappropriately listed in the particular categories above.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)[edit]

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), is considered historically to be a Protestant Christian denomination. It has gone through a small number of doctrinal schisms in its history as a Christian church. Today, the Society exists as several distinct and separate Quaker branches, and it also has an emphasis on Christian belief which ranges from evangelical to liberal.

Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement[edit]

Main article: Restoration Movement


Main article: Southcottism

Millerites and comparable groups[edit]

Main article: Millerites

Adventist (Sunday observing)[edit]

Adventist (Seventh Day Sabbath/Saturday observing)[edit]

Church of God movements (Sunday observing)[edit]

Church of God movements (Seventh Day Sabbath/Saturday observing)[edit]

Sabbath-Keeping Movements, Separated from Adventists[edit]

Sacred Name groups[edit]

Main article: Sacred Name Movement

Movements not related to the Millerites but comparable to them[edit]

Sabbath-Keeping movements, predating the Millerites[edit]


Nontrinitarian groups[edit]

Main article: Nontrinitarianism

Christians who do not believe in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity ("one God in three co-equal Persons")

Latter Day Saints[edit]

Most Latter Day Saint denominations are derived from the Church of Christ established by Joseph Smith in 1830. The largest worldwide denomination, and the one publicly recognized as Mormonism, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some sects, known as the "Prairie Saints", broke away because they did not recognize Brigham Young as the head of the church, and did not follow him West in the mid-1800s. Other sects broke away over the abandonment of practicing plural marriage after the 1890 Manifesto. Other denominations are defined by either a belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet or acceptance of the Book of Mormon as scripture.

Original denomination
"Prairie Saint" denominations
"Rocky Mountain" denominations
Other denominations

Oneness Pentecostalism[edit]

Unitarianism and Universalism[edit]

Bible Student groups[edit]


Main article: The New Church

Christian Science[edit]

Main article: Christian Science

Other non-Trinitarians[edit]

New Thought[edit]

Main article: New Thought

The relation of New Thought to Christianity is not defined as exclusive; some of its adherents see themselves as solely practising Christianity, while adherents of Religious Science says "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.

Esoteric Christianity[edit]

Racialist groups[edit]

Main article: Racialism

Syncretistic religions incorporating elements of Christianity[edit]

Main article: Syncretism

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.


Christian Movements[edit]

Internet Churches[edit]

Main article: Internet church

LGBT-affirming Christian denominations[edit]

Interdenominational (ecumenical) churches and organizations[edit]

Main article: Ecumenism


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Crossan, John Dominic and Borg, Marcus J. The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church's Conservative Icon (2009)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Dominus Iesus". Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  3. ^ Appendix B: Methodology for Estimating Christian Movements, "Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population", The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, December 19, 2011. "The figures on Christian movements in this report were commissioned by the Pew Forum from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. CSGC researchers generated their estimates based in large part on figures provided by Christian denominations and organizations around the world. CSGC has obtained denominational membership information from about 41,000 organizations worldwide."
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Anthony Dragani, From East to West
  7. ^ "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church". Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 
  8. ^ "Protestant, I.2.a" Oxford English Dictionary
  9. ^ The United Church of Christ