Christian Denomination


Today I was wondering, what are the different denominations of christianity, how many are there and what differences does different denominations have?


Sorry, but Catholicism doesn’t have denominations. Maybe you’re thinking of Protestants?


It really depends on how you count denominations .Like Baptists, that’s something I’m very familiar with, most of them around here are missionary Baptists, or Southern Baptists. Well, are they one denomination? Or is each conference a different denomination? And since they are Baptist, each church is autonomous, are all the congregations denominations? That’s a very tough question to answer. Now I should put a caveat, that I do not consider groups that can trace themselves to the apostles, like Catholics, Eastern & Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East, to be denominations.


Big question. It’s easier to start with large groups and narrow down. The largest branches of Christianity are by size:

  1. Catholicism
  2. Protestantism
  3. Eastern Orthodoxy
  4. Oriental Orthodoxy

Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy are communions of autonomous churches, so depending on definition they may be counted as “denominations”. Eastern Orthodoxy would include churches like the Greek Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. Oriental Orthodoxy would include churches like the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church.

Protestantism is divided into many denominations. Some of the major Protestant denominational families would include:

  1. Baptist churches
  2. Lutheranism
  3. Anglicanism
  4. Methodism
  5. Reformed/Presbyterian churches (aka the Calvinists)
  6. Seventh-day Adventist Church
  7. Restoration Movement (Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ)
  8. Anabaptism
  9. Quakers
  10. Pentecostalism

I’ll let others discuss the differences between Catholics and the Orthodox. In regards to Protestants, the main difference that separates them from the Catholic Church are the following beliefs:

  1. Sola scriptura – Protestants believe all doctrine should be derived from Scripture and that church tradition is less authoritative

  2. Sola fide – Protestants believe that we are justified by faith alone, not by good works.

  3. Priesthood of all believers – Catholics believe this too, but it tends to be more radical in Protestant churches. In general, there is less of an emphasis among Protestant churches on a sacerdotal priesthood. Even in Protestant churches that have bishops, there tends to be more lay people involved in the governing councils of the church.


This is good, though I would also suggest “Mainline” is one denomination, cutting across a multitude of traditions. “Evangelicalism” is the other Protestant denomination, also cutting across traditions. This is a more accurate description of mainline, as they tend to de emphasize doctrine itself, thus fewer differences. Less so for evangelicals.

There are 10,000+ Protestant denominations around the world. You will not be able to keep track.

Ignoring for the moment the question of doctrinal differences, once you settled on a solid useful definition of “denomination” (could take quite a long time just to do that, and as sure as taxes a large number of people would violently disagree with whatever definition you came up with) and started writing them down, by the time you got to the end of the list it would have changed. And likely again by the time you finished the corrections. And so on. And remember, all you are doing so far is trying to compile the list of names.

So this is, to me, an example of one of these seemingly simple questions that is essentially impossible to answer as asked.


For purposes of understanding it, I tend to simplify it by “movement”, as they each spawned different theologies and traditions.

  1. English Reformation
  2. Lutheran Reformation
  3. Reformed tradition (Calvin/Zwingli)
  4. Radical Reformation

These each spawned different denominations, splits etc. Examples: Church of England, Methodism, Wesleyan Church stem from the same movement and changes within the movement . Presbyterians, puritans, congregational churches etc came out of the Reformed tradition. Anabaptists and mennonites etc came out of the Radical Reformation. Baptists adopted elements of both Reformed and Radical reformations, and took those in different direction. Reformed and Radical theology have also influenced some of the more “low church” Anglican/episcopal churches. And of course within these theological groups, denominations not only vary by further reforms, but also ecclesiology eg “episcopal” vs “presbyter” vs “congregational” models.

There’s a lot of cross pollination to be sure, and later movements like like the Charismatic Movement, “great awakenings”, evangelical and fundamentalist movements lead to more changes, denominations, and cross pollination. It’s simplistic, but looking at it this way helped me start to better understand it, and piece the puzzles together.

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