Other Christians


I am kinda confused about how all these different Christian religions (Methodist, Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, etc.) can be traced back to the Catholic Church.

Can someone please explain why and how certain groups broke off from the Catholic Church and formed their own?


Well, that’s obviously a Catholic point of view. Here is some of the history. Christianity existed for 300 years as often persecuted but increasingly recognized as an accepted religion. During this time, church doctrine and hierarchy was developing with bishops and councils becoming quite prominent. Christianity developed slightly different patterns and traditions based on geography, with churches in the Eastern (Greek speaking) Roman Empire being somewhat different than churches in the Western (Latin speaking) Empire.

On February 27, 380, the Roman Emperor issued the Edict of Thessalonica. This edict required all subjects of Rome to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria–i.e. profess the Nicene Creed (in which the Council of Nicaea in 325 had articulated and affirmed a robust Trinitarian theology to fend off the Arian heresy). Those who obeyed this decree were given the right to call themselves Catholic Christians, but everyone else was deemed heretics.

As the Roman Empire in the West crumbled, tensions began to develop between the East and the West–the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope. Eventually, the rift became permanent and we get the first major division in Christianity–the (Latin) Church of the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church (which was shaped by the traditions of the Greek Church but today obviously incorporates many different languages).

Then in the sixteenth century, large numbers of Western Christians revolt against the authority of the papacy. And the rest they say is history. The Lutherans, Anglicans, and Reformed (or Calvinists) grew out of this Protestant Reformation. Other groups like the Anabaptists, Puritans, Separatists, and Baptists wanted to go further and “reform” the Protestant Churches even further. They were hated by everybody.

Protestant churches continued to divide. There were many schisms and isms created throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The process continues even in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Great summary, Itwin

The previous two posters are absolutely correct. Not many denominations broke away from the Catholic church directly.

Take the United Methodists for example. The Methodists broke away from the Church of England which broke away from the Roman Catholic church.

But the Methodists split into two at the time of the civil war into the Southern and Northern Methodist churches. They reunited after the war and then merged with the United Brethren to form the United Methodist church. The Methodists gave rise to other related denominations. The Free Methodist church, the Church of the Nazarene and several of the Pentecostal denominations even the Salvation Army.

The situation is far too complex to answer it easily and quickly.
The Methodists are just one denomination, multiply it by most of the non-Catholic churches.

Actually there were splits after the Council of Ephesus (Assyrian Church of the East) and the Council of Chalcedon (Oriental Orthodox). While they are not that numerous now they were much more significant before the lands where they were fell to Islam.

How Old is Your Church?

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1608.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you are a member of the Churches of Christ your church began near the beginning of the 19th century in New England. Abner Jones, Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell were some of the most well known originators of your religion.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as “Church of the Nazarene,” “Pentecostal Gospel,” “Holiness Church,” “Pilgrim Holiness Church,” “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

If you are Roman Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and it is still the same Church.

And the Presbyterians have fractured as well. In the US into several groups. They too split over the civil war into Northern and Southern branches. The main-line Presbyterian church in the USA, the more fundamental PCA, the ones who sing metrical psalms to the exclusion of hymns. The Orthodox Presbyterian church and others.

And no the Orthodox are not exempt. We have Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox who separated many centuries ago.

Really I don’t think there are any completely innocent in this regard. Even the RCC has it’s splits. Sede Vaticanists and the FSSP.

To me a bit of modesty is required of all. Splintering seems to be a consequence of the fall.

I really don’t know anything about these two groups but I think it is safe to say that if they are not in communion with Rome they are not part of the “RCC”. And if your point is that there are those within the “RCC” that do not believe everything the church teaches and move on to other teachings, well sure, there always has been and there always will be those, but they won’t be part of the “RCC”. :dts:


The FSSP is not a splinter group. You are thinking of the (F)SSPX, which is not really so much a splinter group either although their situation is irregular. As far as I have been told, the Catholic faithful are allowed to commune at masses celeberated by SSPX clerics. And I don’t believe sedevacantists have any significant presence off of the internet. A more significant example might be the PNCC which I don’t think has been completely subsumed into Anglicanism as the Old Catholics have.

Hi CM,

All those things are true of course, but in my experience, many Protestants would agree with all of those ‘other’ Protestants groups having been founded in some place by some historical figure. As for THEIR Protestant ‘group’, well – THAT was founded by Jesus Christ in 33 AD. This in spite of the fact that nobody had ever heard of their group, and for the most part, their doctrinal beliefs, UNTIL the dates you listed above.

Where it really gets ‘revealing’ though is when you ask for the specifics about Christ founding their denomination. Did Christ come back to earth and visit (for example) 16th century Germany to found the Lutheran denomination?

When you ask how they know that Christ founded their denomination but did not found the ‘other’ Protestant denominations is when it gets interesting.

God Bless You CM, Topper

It depends on how you are looking at things. I am sure the EOs are adamant that the RC split off from them, and can make a decent case for it.

Hi Topper,
Glad to have found you on a different thread, esp. after yesterday’s lockdown by the moderator. :rolleyes: I don’t know if you saw the post I made there regarding restorationism, but I will repost it here since I think it’s somewhat relevant:

I read Fr. Ray Rylens’ (a convert from Anglicanism) conversion story in Patrick Madrid’s book “Suprised by Truth 2” where he talks about different Protestant faiths and their attempts at what he calls “restorationism.” This is defined as any Christian movement’s attempts to restore the church of the first century. Please allow me to quote some of his writing that spoke powerfully to me about the futility of trying to do that:

*At Harvard I had questioned the enterprise of restorationism. It is impossible to go back in time and re-create or re-establish an institution or even a situation of the past. (“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on…”) This fact is obvious, and yet non-Catholic Christians ignore it.

Now I realize that all non-Catholic traditions are essentially restorationist. Every one of the thousands of denominations was founded by someone who claimed simply to be restoring the “primitive Church” (of the first century).

Sola scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) is a form of restorationism. It’s the key slogan of Protestantism: every Christian belief must be clearly proved from Scripture. Ironically, the belief itself - that all must be proved from Scripture - can’t be proved from Scripture. Scripture nowhere asserts it.

Countless Catholic apologists have demonstrated the fallacy of sola scriptura, but none has shown it to be just another form of restorationism. The very notion of going back to what Protestants love to call “the pure word of God” untouched by human interpretations, is essentially restorationist. Alexander Campbell [founder of the Disciples of Christ] declared, “I will read my Bible as though it had just fallen into my hands from Heaven.” What did he find in that “Bible from Heaven”? Precisely what one would expect an early nineteenth-century frontier ex-Presbyterian to find there! Rejecting restorationism meant rejecting sola scriptura as well.

Protestants claim they restore the “primitive Church”; Anglicans, the Church of the first five centuries; Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Church of the first eight centuries. They are all restorationist, differing only with regard to how much they claim to have “restored”.

Topper, I cannot tell you how many times I told my Lutheran sister when I was still a Methodist (whose church had been infiltrated by Evangelicalism) that our church was as close as you could get to the church of the first century. We loved to read the book of Acts in that church, which was not a bad thing. But wow, what a lot I have learned in the past 10 years. :slight_smile:

Hi Itwin!

Thanks for the very thorough explanation!
I guess I was wrong in thinking that they all directly broke off from the Catholic Church. I didn’t know that Protestant churches continue to divide until today. I thought all the schisms stopped at the 19th century or so.
Thanks again!


There are new denominations springing up almost every day. Since the “Reformation”, non-Catholic Christianity in general resembles a piece of shattered glass.

“a piece of shattered glass.” Like the way you put that.

The Orthodox broke from Rome because of the papacy that is correct…but they kept the teachings passed down from the apostles. The Protestant Reformation broke for far more reasons than the papacy…the leaders wanted to change the teachings that had been passed down from the apostles…the sacraments, the mass, and the priesthood. That is what they were “protesting” and how they got the name Protestant. They were protesting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They didn’t want to reform…but to change the teachings. Some of the princes of the Germanic lands wanted to be in control and not have to listen to Rome. Martin Luther was definitely helpful to them. Their main reason was not religious but political. The Church needed reform from abuses and in other areas but did not need to change the teachings passed down from the apostles. The people (in Germany) ended up having to follow whatever faith their Prince followed.

The split from the Papacy is how the Anglican church began…King Henry VIII kept the sacraments, priesthood and the mass. However, after his death Protestant ideas influenced the Anglican Church. That is the difference between being in schism like the Orthodox churches and being heretical (outside of church teaching) like the Protestant Churches.

Protestants got that name from protesting only one thing - there newly given right to practice their “new” faith being taken away. As you stated it 1526 (Diet of Speyer’s) Lutherans were given the right to practice their faith along with their princes if they so decided. Some princes remained Catholic and some “Lutheran”. Three years later the Roman Catholic emperor rescinded the deal and the Lutheran princes departed from the Diet in “protest”. It was more of a stand for freedom for religion and conscience, something difficult to accept back then.

Hi BB,

It’s good to see you ‘over here’.

I did see your post but didn’t get a chance to respond to it. It was very thought provoking, especially as it relates to Sola Scriptura. Of course, almost all Protestants claim to hold to some sort of ‘Sola Scriptura’. The problem is that there are a lot of different definitions of what ‘Sola Scriptura’ really is. The real problem is that NONE of them really practice anything that is “sola’ or ‘solo’, because they ALL add ‘something’ to Scripture. With some it is their denominational creeds or confessions, or their doctrinal formulations.

The problem is that they all add different ‘things’ to Scripture in order to determine their particular doctrines. Obviously, since they (Protestantism) are all over the map doctrinally, it is clear that they have not ‘discovered’ a way in which to know, with ANY certainty, God’s Absolute Truth. Could it possibly be more obvious that Sola Scripture PLUS ALL of the various things that Protestantism adds to Scripture has resulted in massive doctrinal errors?

As if we need proof of the above, Protestant Scholar Dr. Alister McGrath outlines the problem in more detail:

“How is the Bible to be interpreted? This unavoidable question lies at the heart of Protestantism. In virtually every debate that takes place within the Protestant community of faith – whether concerning the origins of humanity, the ministry of women, the nature of the end times, or the legitimacy of abortion – all sides will make an appeal to the Bible. One sides will accentuate one set of texts and the other side another set, or both will appeal to the same basic texts yet interpret them differently. The outcome is a range of interpretations of the Bible. Some issues on which Protestants have offered – and continue to offer - significantly different readings of the Bible include:

  1. Should infants be baptized?
  2. Is Christ really present in the bread and wine?
  3. Does baptism effect or signify the forgiveness of sins?
  4. Should women exercise leadership roles in churches?
  5. Should Christians fight in wars?”
  6. What is the most authentically “biblical” form of worship?
  7. Are Catholics Christians?”
    Alister McGrath, “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea”, pg. 218

Of course this is only a partial list of doctrinal issues on which Protestantism is in disagreement. While they all may claim that they are the ones who have ‘successfully’ reclaimed the doctrines of early Christianity, NONE of them can offer a compelling argument in support of those claims that cannot be used with the exact same language by all of the rest.

Tell me BB, do you now see your claim of ten years ago as a Methodist, that your church was a ‘close as you could get to the church of the first century’, to be arrogant? Also, do you think that that kind of thinking was ‘seductive’ and appealing to the ego?

Also BB, how many months and days are we looking at now?

God Bless You BB, Topper

You’ve got it somewhat backwards. Even Random House’s Webster College Dictionary disagrees with you. Its second definition of the word “Protestant” reads: any of the German princes who protested against the decision of the Diet of Speyer in 1529, which had denounced the Reformation.” Actually, it was a little more complicated that this as the Original Catholic Encyclopedia shows:

“The Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, assembled at Speyer in April, 1529, resolved that, according to a decree promulgated at the Diet of Worms (1524), communities in which the new religion was so far established that it could not without great trouble be altered should be free to maintain it, but until the meeting of the council they should introduce no further innovations in religion, and should not forbid the Mass, or hinder Catholics from assisting thereat.

Against this decree, and especially against the last article, the adherents of the new Evangel — the Elector Frederick of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Margrave Albert of Brandenburg, the Dukes of Lüneburg, the Prince of Anhalt, together with the deputies of fourteen of the free and imperial cities — entered a solemn protest as unjust and impious. The meaning of the protest was that the dissentients did not intend to tolerate Catholicism within their borders. On that account they were called Protestants.”

Those who protested did not want the Catholics to be allowed to have Mass in those areas where the “new religion” had been established.

”Where is the disagreement.? Lutheranism (reformation) was “denounced”. Was it not “allowed”, under choosing princes at Speyer 1526 ? " In 1526 the condition of political affairs enabled the Protestants to secure the relatively favourable decision that each constituent state should act in reference to the matters contained in the Edict of Worms (1521) as it could answer to God and the emperor. But the action taken in 1529 was more decided: the Edict of Worms was to be executed, and the ecclesiastical innovations were to be abolished." “Edict of Worms (26 May, 1521), whereby Luther had been put under the ban of the empire”, from Catholic encyclopedia

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.