The number of Protestant denominations

I often see different numbers on here from different posters. One poster usually states around 33,000, while others from 1000 to 50000. Many use the World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001).

Here is a site that actually break down the 33,000 “denominations” for us.

If you will notice…in that 33,000, Catholicism has 242 and Orthodoxy has 781. So I hope we can assume that the 33,000 number is kind of far reaching. :slight_smile:

This underscores poor research and the ability of people to repeat wrong numbers. Even if we assume these numbers are right, the citation lists 9,000 protestant denominations, not 30,000+ If we look down the list, we can also easily see that many that are listed as Christian are not, and many that are listed as separate denominations aren’t actually separate.

Don’t be going Post Modern on me, Dustin.

From that same article:

From these western and smaller eastern rites the encyclopedia gets 242 “Roman Catholic denominations” (year 2000 numbers). The largest is by far the Latin-rite (commonly called “Roman Catholics” by non-Catholic Christians) with 976 million members of the 994 million total members (or 98% of the total, year 1995 numbers). However, since virtually all of these western and smaller eastern rites are in union with the Pope (I am not sure of some of them), there is actually one Catholic Church, not 242 churches or denominations. Based on the encyclopedia’s own definition of “denomination” the editors appear to be separating and counting by country which is how you get to 242 (or 238 countries plus 4) “denominations” of Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church in Canada is not a different “denomination” from the Catholic Church in the U.S., which is not a different Catholic Church from the one in England, etc. If you search the available “World Christian Database” online, there is indeed one Catholic Church in the U.S.A., (see also Barrett, Encyclopedia, volume 1, page 783 for the U.S.A.) and in the world there are indeed 238 “Roman Catholic” denominations (for exactly 238 countries), i.e. one Catholic Church for each country. The same “counting by country” seems to be the case with some of the denominations in the other mega-blocs.

When dividing these “denominations” by country as they do, there are definitely some problems in figuring out the true total “denominations” since many of them are being counted more than once – and in fact 241 times too much in the case of “Roman Catholic” denominations. Barrett’s Encyclopedia states this explicitly:

“As a statistical unit in this Encyclopedia, a ‘denomination’ always refers to one single country. Thus the Roman Catholic Church, although a single organization, is described here as consisting of 236 denominations in the world’s 238 countries.” (Barrett, et al, World Christian Encyclopedia, volume 1, page 27, in the “Glossary” under definition for “Denomination” [later updated to 242], emphasis added)

Just modern my friend :smiley:

We all know that Rites are not denominations. That is a given. So the 242 for Catholicism is wrong. Also the Protestant ones are wrong as well.

So if the article is a misrepresentation, what do you suggest is the appropriate terminology?

For? The article is simply pointing out that if a Catholic states 33,000 or some high number like that, that number also includes 242 “Catholic denominations” as well.

I know, but isn’t the problem the constant chant about the 33,000 protestant denominations by Catholics? To which its claimed there are many Catholic. Still comes to communion with Rome, and Catholics are still making the above statement without concern for charity. Seems there would be a better solution. Proper ID of affiliation would go a long way to reduce misunderstanding.

One could actually say there are seven denominations


Those would be the Denominational Families.

This has been discussed recently in several threads, and, in my experience, going back 9 years and more. I did it about a day ago, again.

Briefly (and again, and endlessly), the point to remember is that their numbers count every country, in which a specific denomination has a presence, as a separate denomination. It is an artifact of how they want to count things. Since it’s their publication, they get to do that.

Doesn’t mean that there aren’t multiple protestant denominations, by the usual way of counting. Doesn’t mean that all the “33K”/whatever the current number might be" are all protestants in a traditional sense. But doesn’t mean that the number will ever disappear from internet apologetics, either.

Incidentally, the Catholic count has nothing to do with Rites, or sui iuris Churches, either.


I stated the families above.

A Freewill Baptist is in the same family as a Southern Baptist. Both still have the core beliefs.

Seperating the Baptist sects into different denominations is the same as seperating Marionite for Latin…IMO.

Are the SSPX still Catholic even though they are not in communion with Rome? If not then they are a Catholic “denomination.” Make sense?

So all the different Baptists denominations are under one single Bishop?

If you wanted to contend this point, it would be a better idea to try to contend the underlying principle that is brought up when this number is mentioned, not the number itself.
9000 denominations isn’t as many as 30,000, yet if only two differing protestant denominations existed in the world who held to sola scriptura yet interpreted differently, it would still prove that scripture taken by itself is not the correct central authority.

If we look down the list, we can also easily see that many that are listed as Christian are not.

This brings up a good point. Although it is taken for granted, the truth is that not all protestant groups are Christians. They simply need to be a denomination that has resulted from the reformation and adhere to/result from protestant theology to a greater or lesser degree. The modernly accepted baseline definition of a Christian denomination is if they receive valid baptism (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), this rule of thumb isn’t perfect either since it is the lowest possible baseline, but it means that the several Nontrinitarianism churches, who are valid protestants (and most identify as Christians) actually aren’t. A person doesn’t necessarily need to be a Christian to be a protestant. By contrast, all Catholics by definition must be full Christians.

You know better than that. lol

All the Baptist come from the same tradition. Now there are MANY different sect within the Baptist tradition, BUT all are still of the same core beliefs.

I don’t get the “:)” because the division is by far not good. Such a number represents
the instability of Christianity outside of the Roman Catholic Church, this division being
the fruits of Protestantism, if you will.

First Baptist does not mean a denomination. First Baptist is usually the first baptist church in that town.

St. Mary’s Cathedral is not a denomination that is different from St. Patrick Cathedral.

Lutherans are Lutherans. Different synods do not mean different denominations. A LCMS and LCMC are both of the Lutheran tradition.

Like I stated before…is the SSPX a denomination or sect?

The “:)” is because posting the 33,000, a favorite among Catholic posters here also includes Catholic “denominations” as well.

There are 7 Protestant faith families that I already posted above.

Is Protestantism the fruit of Catholicism?

guess it depends on your source…

I know that, driving around Dallas, I see many churches that are just “there”…like “Church of Disciples of the Lamb”, or “Church of the Empty Tomb”. There seems to be an endless supply of those. If each of those is a denomination within itself, as most seem to claim to be its own church not tied to any other, then it is very possible that there are the over 40k some report.

I would have to disagree on the Lutheran thing. The other half of my family is WELS Lutheran (I believe that is Wisconsin Synod not 100%) and they have said multiple times that the other Lutheran Churches are schismatics and not of the same tradition. I just don’t think we should refer denominations to the main protestant churches (which you listed) but rather we should keep them as part of the Protestant group that revolted along with these random “Vertical” and “Six-Flags-Over-Jesus” churches that claim to be of true Church descent.

And the SSPX is neither a sect or denomination, rather a schismatic heretical group.

But WELS, LCMS, LCMC, ELCA and the other ones are still Lutheran. They are not Baptist or Methodist but Lutheran.

Those 7 I posted are the “first” you could say.

So is the SSPX still Catholic or a completely seperate thing? If you would say seperate thing that you would have to count them as a Catholic denomination if one goes by the “33,000” theory.

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