# 30,000 Protestant denominations? Fact or Fiction?

“There are 30,000 Protestant denominations.” I’ve read something similar to this many times in this fora, (usually the claim ranges from a low of 10,000 to a high of 30,000.)

But is this conventional wisdom based in fact, or is it fantasy?

What is the source of this number? Is there a website for THE source of this claim? Or are Catholics just exaggerating the number of Protestant sects?

[quote=FriendlySkeptic]“There are 30,000 Protestant denominations.” I’ve read something similar to this many times in this fora, (usually the claim ranges from a low of 10,000 to a high of 30,000.)

But is this conventional wisdom based in fact, or is it fantasy?

What is the source of this number? Is there a website for THE source of this claim? Or are Catholics just exaggerating the number of Protestant sects?
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Go to Google, type in “How many Protestant denominations”

And you’ll find my article from Dave1988 here

What we get from the David B. Barret (1995) encyclopedia is this:

33,820 total, including in the U.S. :

Catholic = 1
Orthodox = 60
Protestant = 6,161

So it is safe to say there are thousands of Protestant denominations, sects, cults, etc in this country, and many more worldwide. And one “Roman Catholic” denomination in the U.S. (and one for each country Barrett lists). I need to check the latest Barrett statistics, but this is what we have for 1995.

Phil P

[quote=PhilVaz]33,820 total, including in the U.S. :

Catholic = 1
Orthodox = 60
Protestant = 6,161

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I read the article, and I think most of the comments are on target. However, I have to question the findings of the original sources that there is only one Catholic denomination in the US. You or I may not consider them truly Catholic, but I think most scholars dividing denominations into three basic groups as above would throw in the Polish National Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church, SSPX, SSPV, Imani Temple (are they still around?) and several others under the “Catholic” heading.

[quote=Digitonomy]I read the article, and I think most of the comments are on target. However, I have to question the findings of the original sources that there is only one Catholic denomination in the US. You or I may not consider them truly Catholic, but I think most scholars dividing denominations into three basic groups as above would throw in the Polish National Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church, SSPX, SSPV, Imani Temple (are they still around?) and several others under the “Catholic” heading.
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## In addition to which, the argument from multiplicity - so to call it - takes for granted that Protestantism has the same understanding of the unity of the Church as the Catholics who quote that figure have. Unless the theology is spelt out, those figures are completely worthless, because they then come to signify nothing; their use in such circumstnces becomes a superstition

Digi << However, I have to question the findings of the original sources that there is only one Catholic denomination in the US. You or I may not consider them truly Catholic… >>

Yes I think you are right. I need to go back and check Barrett myself, but when he says “one Catholic denomination” in the U.S. (and one for each country he lists), he means “Roman Catholic” or those Catholics in union with the Pope. Obviously there are other denominations that call themselves Catholic. They are various Anglicans, Episcopal, “Old” Catholics, SSPX, and other schismatics, etc. According to the Catholicism defined by Vatican II and the Catechism, these are not truly Catholic. From Dave1988’s article on Barrett’s encyclopedia:

“Under U.S. Country Table 2, of the 6,222 US denominations, there’s only ONE Roman Catholic denomination listed, and there’s 60 Orthodox denominations. Barrett labels the rest of the denominations: Protestant, Anglican, Independent, and Marginal.”

Phil P

With Catholicism there is ONE set of beliefs, if anyone has opinions that differ from those of the Catholic Church they are not Catholic! However with Protestantism there is no one set of beliefs, so how are we to define denomination? You will never find two Protestants with identical beliefs, there are around 600 million Protestants in the world, and thus there are 600 million protestant denominations

levi << there are around 600 million Protestants in the world, and thus there are 600 million protestant denominations >>

That could be too if you define denomination as “an individual with Christian or semi-Christian beliefs.” But Barrett defines denomination this way:

“…an organized Christian Church or tradition or religious group or community of believers or aggregate of worship centers or congregations, usually within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same name in different areas, regarding themselves as an autonomous Christian church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions.”

Also a correction to myself: Dave1988 was going by the 2001 edition of Barrett’s encyclopedia: The World Christian Encyclopedia by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (2001 edition). But the 33,820 number does come from 1995. That’s total Protestant, Orthodox, and “Catholic” denominations, including one Roman Catholic “denomination” for each country (for a total of 242 Roman Catholic denominations in 238 countries) that Barrett lists. Confused yet?

Phil P

[quote=levi86]With Catholicism there is ONE set of beliefs, if anyone has opinions that differ from those of the Catholic Church they are not Catholic! However with Protestantism there is no one set of beliefs, so how are we to define denomination? You will never find two Protestants with identical beliefs, there are around 600 million Protestants in the world, and thus there are 600 million protestant denominations
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Not exactly. Different protestants require different beliefs. For instance, if you don’t believe in Baptism by immersion, Baptist is not going to work for you. Protestants may have different beliefs, but they can agree on some things. This is why there are thousands of denominations and not millions.

Disagreements do not necessarily entail denominations. Catholics disagree about some things too. (Just click on any thread named “geocentric theory” or “darwin” to prove that point.)

[quote=trumpet152]Not exactly. Different protestants require different beliefs. For instance, if you don’t believe in Baptism by immersion, Baptist is not going to work for you. Protestants may have different beliefs, but they can agree on some things. This is why there are thousands of denominations and not millions.

Disagreements do not necessarily entail denominations. Catholics disagree about some things too. (Just click on any thread named “geocentric theory” or “darwin” to prove that point.)
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Point taken

My post was more of an attempt at satire than anything, I was trying to draw attention to the dangers of Protestantism, that without the moral and theological authority of a governing body (for me this is the RCC) there is potentially an infinite number of beliefs and denominations.

God bless
Levi

I believe I heard a Catholic priest on Marcus Grodi’s Journey Home program say that there were currently about 60,000 Protestant denominations worldwide. (He was a convert from the Lutheran church.)

The problem lies in what one uses as a criteria or definition of a denomination. One person pointed out that it was the declaration of whatever the name of the major Baptist council is, that each individual person in the congregation needed to follow only the preachings of his specific pastor and no one else. (This includes any other Baptist preacher.)

Under these circumstances, each and every individual Baptist church becomes its own denomination.

Thal59

I guess I’m just thankful to have the Traditions and Magisterium of the Holy Mother Church to keep things like this from happening. Man’s unending need for “rugged individualism” with regards to faith and morals is going to be the end of us all.

It looks like many of the teachings of the “Great Reformers” are going through quite the reformation of their own. Which I DON’T enjoy seeing, by the way. This is what our country looks like according to Leslie Dunstan in his book “Protestantism,: Great Religions of the World” which it looks like has been cited in other sources:

Number of U.S. Denominations

Catholic 1 (Which is not a “denomination” because the Bride of Christ is universal cannot break away from Herself)
Orthodox 60
Protestant 6,161

This is as of 1985. So I’m sure it’s even worse by now. Allowing division is always diabolical no matter what “side” you’re on. I just don’t know when it’s going to end. Pretty soon each family or individual will have their own personal god, goddess, or version of God they worship in their own personal way that makes them feel good, thus making God and His truth merely relative according to the whims His own people. Here is an example that was given to me by a Lutheran who is disgusted with what some people are doing using Luther’s name. Some of you may have seen this before:

herchurch.org/id8.html

I have to believe that the number of denominations is much higher for protestants than is stated.

Most protestant believe that “they themselves are the only ones correctly lead by the Holy Spirit”. Then these people being lead by the holy spirit try to find a pastor that preaches somewhat close to there own ideals and interputions of the bible and christian faith never really believeing the the pastor is totally right on everything.

I think the number could be more like 100 million denominations. Funny enough, each believe that they teach as Christ taught.

It is impossible for each to be right. It is also impossible to believe that any one of them is imspired by the holy spirit to correct interpert the bible correctly all the time.

Respectfully,

Sean Boyle

I believe the Catholic church is also divided as well.There is the Roman Catholic church. The Eastern Orthodox church and the Anglican church. But still it is ONE Catholic church.

``````                                But the Protestant church world is incredibly divided into hundreds if not thousands of groups, and splinter groups from those main groups. Protestantism PROVES the falsity of sola sciptura or one can achieve doctrinal truths from the bible ALONE. If such were true, then Protestantism would not  be so horribly divided, but harmony of doctrinal beliefs would be more clearly seen.

This issue drove me buggy when I was an evangelical.I was a "church hopper" because of this issue. Protestants have NO SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY for how they INTERPRET scripture. Each group is their own Pope or authority, for interpreting scripture THEIR WAY. Is the body of Christ divided into 2,000 ways of understanding doctrine? Or is there one body and one faith? This and other issues clearly led me OUT of evangelicalism and into our holy mother church.``````

See, Catholics are ONE!!![font=Verdana, Sans Serif, Arial][size=2]unity.enya.com/images/smiles/smiles_grin.gif

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[quote=kyleforu]I believe the Catholic church is also divided as well.There is the Roman Catholic church. The Eastern Orthodox church and the Anglican church. But still it is ONE Catholic church.
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The Orthodox Churches, although I have much respect for them, are not in union with the Bishop of Rome. However, I believe most are in a position where they could be someday, because they follow the same core doctrines. Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are in union with the Bishop of Rome and are NOT divided from Roman Rite Catholics. The Anglican/Episcopal Church is clearly protestant and is in a position that makes it virtually impossible to ever be in union with the Bishop of Rome, because they do not follow some the core doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Yes, but all three are still CATHOLIC in religious practice. The Eastern orthodox goes back further than the Roman church actually. They started in the East.

[quote=kyleforu]I believe the Catholic church is also divided as well.There is the Roman Catholic church. The Eastern Orthodox church and the Anglican church. But still it is ONE Catholic church.

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This is actually simple. Catholic = in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

Anglicans aren’t, despite some very catholic theology (when I came into the Church I wept my way through the Catechism because the faith I learned, knew, and loved as an Anglican IS the Catholic faith! But Anglicans are not in communion with Rome. Nor are the Orthodox.

Another problem…how do you count the insane multitude of ‘Non-Denominational’ churches…? For all intents and purposes they are their own independant denominations (as they ‘plant’ another couple of churches). I’ve even seen schisms within the non-denom churches. Usually over Baptism (necessary? full-immersion? adult/infant etc.) & over the role of women within the church…

If we count the non-denoms…there’s gotta be 10’s of thousands of ‘protestant’ denominations… :eek:

[quote=Isidore_AK]Another problem…how do you count the insane multitude of ‘Non-Denominational’ churches…? For all intents and purposes they are their own independant denominations (as they ‘plant’ another couple of churches). I’ve even seen schisms within the non-denom churches. Usually over Baptism (necessary? full-immersion? adult/infant etc.) & over the role of women within the church…

If we count the non-denoms…there’s gotta be 10’s of thousands of ‘protestant’ denominations… :eek:
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You are absolutely right. Most of the so-called “Mega-Churches” are non-denominational. The Protestants have created so many denominations that many Christians outside of the RCC are sick to death with the very word “denomination” so they decide either to join a non-denominational church, or they go it alone; just they and their bible.

It reminds me of the children of Israel who complained after God gave them manna in the desert. They wanted meat. They were not content with the bread that had come down from heaven to which the Lord replied to Moses - “…But even for a month of days, till it come out at your nostrils, and become loathsome to you, because you have cast off the Lord, who is in the midst of you…”
(Num 11:20)

The people who seperated from the church did once have the Lord, the bread which had come down from heaven (the Eucharist), in the midst of them and they did cast Him off for the sake of setting themselves apart in their own denominations. It is almost as if God is saying I will multiply what you want (denominations) until it comes out of your noses and becomes loathsome to you.

Hence, “Non-Denominationalism.”

Thal59

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