Religious denomination

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A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.

Major denominations and religions of the world.

The term describes various Christian denominations (for example, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicanism, and the many varieties of Protestantism). The term also describes the four branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist), and describes the two main branches of Islam (Sunni and Shia).

Formation of denominations[edit]

Denominations often form slowly over time for many reasons. Due to historical accidents of geography, culture and influence between different groups, members of a given religion slowly begin to diverge in their views. Over time members of a religion may find that they have developed significantly different views on theology, philosophy, religious pluralism, ethics and religious practices and rituals. Consequently, different denominations may eventually form. In other cases, denominations form very rapidly, either resulting from a split or schism in an existing denomination, or if people share an experience of spiritual revival or spiritual awakening, and choose to form a new denomination based on that new experience or understanding.


In Christianity[edit]

An example within Christianity is the Mennonite and the Church of the Brethren denominations. Both denominations are similar in their beliefs, yet they are unique because their traditions were influenced by different founders (Menno Simons and Alexander Mack respectively). Their division is administrative, and there is much communication and interaction between them. Since its founding, the Mennonite denomination has split into a number of smaller Mennonite denominations, due to geography, social and theological differences.

Another example is Lutheranism. When Martin Luther protested Catholic practices, he and his followers were persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church as heretics.[1] This led to the formation of alternative communities of practice that became known as "Lutheran" or "Protestant". Over time, the various communities who considered themselves Lutheran identified with one another and through various definitions of "Lutheran" practices (five solas, priesthood of all believers) the conglomerations of churches formed concrete denominations based on a common school of thought related to these practices. Even today, there are major ideological differences between different denominations of Lutherans, although there may be significant overlap between their beliefs.

In Hinduism[edit]

Further information: History of Hinduism and Hindu denominations

In Hinduism, the major deity or philosophical belief identifies a denomination, which also typically has distinct cultural and religious practices. The major denominations include Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.

In Islam[edit]

Further information: History of Islam and Muslim denominations

Historically, Islam was divided into three major religious denominations well-known as Sunni, Khawarij and Shī‘ah. Nowadays, Sunnis constitute more than 85% of the overall Muslim population while the Shi'as are slightly more than 12%.[2] Today, many of the Shia sects are extinct. The major surviving Imamah-Muslim Sects are Usulism (with nearly more than 10%), Nizari Ismailism (with nearly more than 1%), Alevism (with slightly more than 0.5%[3] but less than 1%[4]). The other existing groups include Zaydi Shi'a of Yemen whose population is nearly more than 0.5% of the world's Muslim population, Musta’li Ismaili (with nearly 0.1%[5] whose Taiyabi adherents reside in Gujarat state in India and Karachi city in Pakistan. There are also significant diaspora populations in Europe, North America, the Far East and East Africa[6]), and Ibadis from the Kharijites whose population has diminished to a level below 0.15%. On the other hand, new Muslim sects like African American Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims[7] (with nearly around 1%[8]), non-denominational Muslims, Quranist Muslims and Wahhabis (with nearly around 0.5%[9] of the world's total Muslim population) were later independently developed.


The term "multi-denominational" may describe (for example) a religious event that includes several religious denominations from sometimes unrelated religious groups. Many civic events include religious portions led by representatives from several religious denominations to be as inclusive or representational as possible of the expected population or audience. For example: the Sunday thanksgiving mass at Campamento Esperanza (English: Camp Hope) in Chile, where services were led by both a Roman Catholic priest and by an Evangelical preacher during the Chilean 2010 Copiapó mining accident.[10][11]

Chaplains - frequently ordained clergy of any religion - are often assigned[by whom?] to secular organizations to provide spiritual support to its members who may belong to any of many different religions or denominations. Many of these chaplains, particularly those serving with the military or other large secular organizations, are specifically trained to minister to members of many different faiths, even faiths with opposing religious ideology from that of the chaplain's own faith.[12]

Military organizations that do not have large numbers of members from several individual smaller but related denominations will routinely hold multi-denominational religious services, often generically called "Protestant" Sunday services, so minority Protestant denominations are not left out or unserved.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bratcher, Dennis. "The Edict of Worms (1521) Translated into English". Christian Resource Institute. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Mapping the Global Muslim Population". Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  3. ^ According to David Shankland, 15% of Turkey's population. in Structure and Function in Turkish Society. Isis Press, 2006, p. 81.
  4. ^ According to Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East edited by her, B. Kellner-Heinkele, & A. Otter-Beaujean. Leiden: Brill, 1997.
  5. ^ Reform movement gathers forces in the Bohra community
  6. ^ Paul, Eva (2006). Die Dawoodi Bohras – eine indische Gemeinschaft in Ostafrika (PDF). Beiträge zur 1. Kölner Afrikawissenschaftlichen Nachwuchstagung. 
  7. ^ Simon Ross Valentine (2008-10-06). Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jamaʻat: History, Belief, Practice. Columbia University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-231-70094-8. 
  8. ^ Larry DeVries, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer. Asian Religions in British Columbia. University of Columbia Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-1662-5. Retrieved March 29, 2014. The community currently numbers around 15 million spread around the world 
  9. ^ Destined Encounters - Page 203, Sury Pullat - 2014
  10. ^ Chile mine: Rescued men attend service of thanks, BBC News, 17 October 2010
  11. ^ Raphael, Angie (18 October 2010). "Freed miners return to Chile's Camp Hope". Herald Sun. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Christmas in Prison - A Quiet One, Independent News, New Zealand, Press Release: Department Of Corrections, 13 December 2007
  13. ^ Obamas Make Rare Trip to Church While in Hawaii, ABC News (US), MARK NIESSE 26 December 2010
  14. ^ New chapel heralds more North Fort Hood construction, First U.S. Army, Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, 19 July 2010