It has been suggested that List of Christian denominations by number of members be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2018.
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organisation, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations--often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties--are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity" or "denominational families".
This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. Only those Christian denominations or organizations with like2do.com resource articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable. The denominations or organizations listed are ordered from ancient to contemporary Christianity.
Some groups included on this list do not consider themselves denominations. For example, the Catholic Church considers itself the one true church and the Holy See, as pre-denominational. The Orthodox Church also considers itself the original Church, and pre-denominational. To express further the complexity involved, the Catholic and 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 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 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 the 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. The largest group is the Catholic Church with more than 1.29 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. 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 or a Christian denomination as disagreements arise primarily from doctrinal differences between groups. As an example, this list contains groups also known as "rites" which many, such as the 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 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, or culture to culture, 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.
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 in 325 AD.
Unlike the previously mentioned groups, the following are all considered to be related to Christian Gnosticism.
The following are groups of Christians appearing between the First Council of Nicaea and the Protestant Reformation which are generally considered extinct as modern and distinct groups.
The Church of the East split from the Parthian Church during the Sassanid Period. It is also called the Nestorian Church or the Church of Persia. Declaring itself separate from the state church of the Roman Empire in 424-427, liturgically, it adhered to the East Syriac Rite. Theologically, it adopted the dyophysite doctrine of Nestorianism, which emphasizes the separateness of the divine and human natures of Jesus. After rejecting the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the following Nestorian Schism, the church spread throughout the Middle East, south India, and the Far East, before eventually suffering a nearly extinguishing decline by the Mongol conquests of Timur in the 15th century.
Its patriarchal lines divided in a tumultuous period from the 16th-19th century, finally consolidated into Eastern Catholic Chaldean Catholic Church (in full communion with the Pope), 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 Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII), the Chaldean Syrian Church, and the Mar Thoma Church.
The Catholic Church is composed of 24 autonomous sui iuris particular churches: the Latin Church and the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Catholic Church considers itself the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that Christ founded, and which Saint Peter initiated along with the missionary work of Saint Paul and others. As such, the Catholic Church does not consider itself a denomination, but rather considers itself pre-denominational, the original Church of Christ. Continuity is claimed based upon apostolic succession with the early Church.
The Latin, or Western Catholic 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).
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). 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 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.
Like the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church considers itself to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ founded. As such, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider itself a denomination, but rather considers itself pre-denominational, being the original Church of Christ before 1054.
The Eastern Orthodox Church 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, and autonomous churches are listed under their respective autocephalous mother church.
Oriental Orthodoxy comprises those Christians who did not accept the Council of Chalcedon (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. Some of these Churches, especially the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria claim origination by Saint Mark and his 1st-century missionary journeys.
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.
Assyrian Christianity comprises churches who keep the traditional Nestorian christology and ecclesiology of historical Church of the East after the original church reunited with the Catholic Church as Chaldean Catholic Church in 1552.
This list includes a variety of Protestant denominations which separated from the Catholic Church during the Reformation, as well as their further divisions. A denomination labeled "Protestant" must subscribe to the fundamental Protestant principles, that is scripture alone, justification by faith alone and the universal priesthood of believers.
This list gives only an overview, and certainly does not mention all of the Protestant denominations. The exact number of Protestant 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 majority of Protestants are members of just a handful of denominational families: Adventism, Anglicanism, Baptist churches, Calvinism (Reformed tradition), Lutheranism, Methodism, and Pentecostalism.
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.
As secessionist churches, these churches are not in full communion with the Anglican Communion. A select few of these churches are recognized by certain individual provinces of the Anglican Communion.
The Catholic Apostolic church(es) born out of the 1830s revival started in London by teachings of Edward Irving, and out of the resultant Catholic Apostolic Church Movement.
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. Although a movement in Lutheranism, influence on Anglicanism, in particular John Wesley, led to the spawning of Methodism
Methodism emerged out the influence of the Piety Movement within Anglicanism.
The Holiness Movement involves a set of beliefs and practices which emerged from 19th-century Methodism.
Baptists emerge 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).
Restorationism, also described as Christian Primitivism, is the belief that Christianity has been or should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church. Charismatic and non-denominational churches are restorationist in ideology. The Plymouth Brethren were founded on the idea of Christian Primitivism, or "back to the beginning Christianity". Restorationist Churches claim apostolic succession by means of bypassing history to the nascent Church. It is important to note that some nontrinitarian groups could also be classified as Restorationist, claiming that they are the true restored Church, most notably the Latter Day Saint movement and Christadelphians.
Also known as the Neo-Pentecostal Movement
These churches 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.
Many Churches are non-affiliated or non-denominational. These Churches have emerged into their own pseudo-denomination, with many similarities. Most of these Churches have origins in a historic mainline protestant denomination.
These nondenominational Evangelical churches (due to the emergence of video streaming technologies) are a Multi-site church, sharing a broadcast some Sundays or all Sundays with multiple church buildings/locations.
These are Christian groups and denominations who do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity ("one God in three co-equal Persons"). In some instances, while the majority of sects within a denominational family are nontrinitarian, the family may include a limited number of trinitarian sects, such as the Community of Christ under the Latter Day Saint Movement.
Most Latter Day Saint denominations are derived from the Church of Christ established by Joseph Smith in 1830. The largest worldwide denomination of this movement, 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.
These churches consider themselves Eastern Orthodox but are not in communion with the main body of Eastern Orthodoxy. Some these denominations consider themselves as True Orthodoxy or Old Believers as examples.
A subtype of [Russian] True Orthodoxy that refused to accepted liturgical and ritual changes made by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666.
Syncretic Eastern Orthodox churches churches blend with other denominations outside of Eastern Orthodoxy and are not in communion with the main body of Eastern Orthodoxy.
The following churches have a Miaphysite Christological position but used to believe different a Christological position and may accepts part communion with ancient Oriental Orthodox churches for various reasons.
The following churches affirm a Miaphysite Christological position but are not in communion with any of the ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches for various reasons:
These are churches which blend with other denominations outside of Oriental Orthodoxy but retain a mostly Miaphysite Christological position, and are not in communion with the main body of the ancient Oriental Orthodox churches.
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 practising 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.