The number of Protestant denominations

That’s awesome!! This is a great way to explain known truth!


I agree with this as far as it goes. Just want to add, that most Protestants would approach this from a different perspective. They see “the Church” as a collection of individuals; they might notice that in a given country, or in a given decade, it appears that Protestant individuals know more about God on average than Catholic individuals, just as Protestants on average may be holier. And they may right at times, from their view.

But Catholics view “The Church” as something in itself. The Church is wise, the best source of all knowable knowledge, even if all Catholics are fools this month. The Church is holy, the best available human channel of God’s grace, even if all Catholics that year are scoundrels, and all Protestants are devout and prayerful.

Heaven and Hell are populated by individuals, not denominations. When I go before St. Peter, it won’t help my case to claim “I had the best opportunities for doctrine and sanctity”. So?

This humility moment was brought to you by Commenter, who lacks it.

I agree with this as far as it goes. Heaven is populated by individuals, but all of them are members of one denomination or Church.

I have heard that, worldwide, there are probably somewhere between 25,000 to 40,000 different Protestant sects, denominations, churches and ecclesial communities. Those numbers do not surprise me, because Protestantism is by nature fissiparous in its atomization of Christianity. Given the fact that every Protestant can interpret the Scriptures and the content and meaning of Christianity for himself and is frequently fickle in his or her choice of where to attend church, and given the equal tendency of Protestants, without proper ecclesiastical authorization, to set up their own free-lance congregations and parachurch missions, what is really surprising is that there are not as many sects, denominations, churches and ecclesial communities among Protestants as there are Protestants (about 650,000,000+ worldwide).

Have you, or anyone else, examined the beliefs of each of these supposedly different denominations to see if or in what way their teaching differs?

That would take a lot of doing. But all it takes to divide and separate them is one thing.

Think about it. If your Presbyterian pastor started to teach Transubstantiation. That’s it…divide from that.

If a baptist starts teaching infant baptism, they divide from that then there’s a new denomination of baptist infant baptizers.

And a new denomination of Presbyterian transubstantiationers.

And on and on with literally thousands of doctrines among the different factions of Protestantism that are significant to say, " I can’t worship here"

With respect to that 25K-40K number, have you read the first page or so of this thread?


Like you I have no intention of reading the first page or two of this thread, and I have heard that, worldwide, there are probably somewhere between 25,000 to 40,000 different Christian sects, denominations, churches and ecclesial communities. Those numbers do not surprise me, because Christianity is by nature fissiparous in its atomization of religion. Hang on. Is it possible I’m talking nonsense?

That morphing number of denoms is part of urban folklore in places like this.


I doubt the definition of “denomination” will ever be changed in such a way that an individual could declare him/herself to be one … just think what that would do to all the conversations that begin with "There are 40,000 denominations … " Heck, if just 100,000 Christians each decided to be a “denomination”, then suddenly the conversations would have to switch to "There are 140,000 denominations … "

So you are not able to say how many of these different “denominations” have differing teachings. Different bodies do not necessarily mean different teachings. For example, due differences in times and methods of settlement in Canada and the existence of several colonies, there were four Presbyterian church organizations at the time of Confederation. Once Confederation made Canada a unified country, these four churches joined to form the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

In addition, if only difference between one denomination and another was that one did not allow instrumental music in church and the other did, would that be a significant difference in teaching?

This is quite unlikely to happen as if a minister was teaching unorthodox doctrines the Kirk Session would intervene and the presbytery that the congregation is in would investigate and could dismiss the minister. At worst, if presbytery did not act, members would likely move to a different church within the same denomination.

I can not really speak for the Baptists, but I expect that they also would have a method for dismissing a minister who would then likely look for a position in another already existing denomination that practices infant baptism.

Again you are making this statement without knowing the teachings of the different denominations and how they might actually differ from each other. For example when I lived in an area where there was no Presbyterian Church I had no problem attending a United Church of Canada even though I may disagree with some of their more liberal policies.

In Canada there is an Ecumenical Shared Ministries Task Force formed by the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (which are in full communion with each other), the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the United Church of Canada. This has resulted in sharing facilities, joint worship and sharing the same minister.

What would you give as a fair estimate?

You are missing the point though. Even if the unorthodox presbyterian pastor in this case was dismissed, there would be nothing stopping him from creating “Joe’s Shmoes Christian Church” that taught exactly what he taught. This is called nondenominationalism, but once this church becomes popular enough and branches out and has more than one location, it for all intensive purposes, is another denomination.

Look at Mars Hill Church.

What denomination are they??

They are stand alone, unaffiliated, submissive only to their pastor Marc Driscoll. Yet they have dozens of churches around the United States, and thousands of people that watch online.

Thats a denomination

if Jesus Christ The Son Of God Wants to create one Church, And even if is only 3… Something is happen here… I was thinking how sad it is that all of us that stated that we are Christians… Were are separated, Just Imaging for a moment all the Christians of the World reunited in one Church…:extrahappy:

I have absolutely no idea. The answer would depend (as it does in the figures cited most often) on the definitions and presumptions used.

Whatever the number of “true” protestant denominations, it is certainly plural.


Well, let’s look at this, for example.

Are the PCA, PCUSA, OPC, RPCNA, and EPC part of the same teaching? Are they all Presbyterians? Would all of them be considered a single denomination, even if they disagree on their teachings?

I mean, we have different rites as Catholics but they are all under the Bishop of Rome.

Can you say that all Presbyterians profess in a common Faith like the Orthodox, for example? (To give an example of a less developed Church government that confess a common Faith :), had to take a little jab at our brothers here ;)).

Or if there are matter of the Faith that divides, would it not be fair to say that they are, in fact, different denominations?

Perhaps one way of regrouping the denominations is by lines of authority. If your church does not report to any higher authority (beside God), your are by definition your own denomination. It doesn’t matter if you are 1 church strong or hundreds or thousands. It also doesn’t matter how similar your beliefs are as long as you are not compelled to obey.

It is clearly stated that:

“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”

So if you process the numbers to eliminate this country effect, the Catholic church is effectively 1 denomination. I do not know how to process the Protestant numbers since I do not know whether how Protestant churches are structured in terms of reporting structure. If a church in country A roll up to another church in country B, you could essentially reduce that denomination count by 1.

However, perhaps the definition of “denomination” need to change. The existing definition seems pretty loose i.e. “organized aggregate of worship centers or congregations of similar ecclesiastical tradition”. The problem in my view is “similar ecclesiastical tradition”. What tradition? If the tradition follows the pastor, then you don’t really have a tradition as it dies out when the pastor passes away or moves to another church.

However, I’d love to see statistics grouped by doctrinal beliefs such as Abortion, homosexuality, Mary, Eucharist, etc. Then we will really know how Christian we really are.

That would work if denominations were built on a single issue of ‘authority,’ but they are not. So it simply will not do.

Take Lutherans, for example. The LCMS shares full pulpit and altar fellowship with 35 church bodies worldwide- some even within the same country. These bodies are totally autonomous from each other, but share the core beliefs of Lutheranism and exchange clergy. They do not report to any governing body, but instead rely upon each synod to uphold right belief and rebuke her sister synods should they err. Are we to count this singular communion as 36 denominations?

See, this isn’t an unusual situation for Protestantism, in general. And it’s precisely situations like these that lead to a gross inflation of the number that actually exists.

I haven’t been on here in nearly a year… and this dead horse is still getting beaten.

Give it a rest already. *Kyrie Eleison. *

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