The number of Protestant denominations

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. *

I just don’t understand why Protestants get so defensive. I think it blows Catholics away as they drive down their Main Street and see dozens if not hundreds of protestant denominations.

When I was evangelical I had no problem admitting their were more denominations than could be counted!


You must live in a mighty large town with a very long Main Street.

Los Angeles

And they may not be all on Main Street, but certainly around !

I am going to give this denominations topic a rest. We all know it is one too many. In another x years or so, the number will move to another bigger number and we all know that is not what Jesus wanted.

And the same goes for the Eastern Orthodox Church…it is one. The only separates we have from us (not distantly separate, but not in communion) are the Oriental Orthodox (which technically are not in communion, but may take communion with us in cases of economia and they are not far from reunion with us) and the Russian Old Believers (who are not in communion with anyone including amoungst themselves from group to group, from my understanding).

Having been Protestant and lived in various areas, there are so many “independent” churches falling under other broader categories, it’s really not even possible to count how many separate Protestant churches there are (by Protestant I mean non-Catholic and non-Orthodox, but Christian in some respect).

Yep. But it is possible, maybe, to understand how the oft cited figures are, in fact derived.


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