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List of Christian denominations (or Denominations self-identified as Christian) ordered by historical and doctrinal relationships. (See also: Christianity; Christian denominations; List of Christian denominations by number of members).

Some groups are large (e.g. Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans or Baptists), while others are just a few small churches, and in most cases the relative size is not evident in this list. Also, modern movements such as Fundamentalist Christianity, Pietism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and the Holiness movement sometimes cross denominational lines, or in some cases create new denominations out of two or more continuing groups, (as is the case for many United and uniting churches, for example). Such subtleties and complexities are not clearly depicted here. Additionally, some groups viewed by non-adherents as denominational actively resist being called a "denomination" and do not have any formal denominational structure, authority, or record-keeping beyond the local congregation; several groups within Restoration Movement fall into this category.

Note: This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there are reported to be approximately 38,000 Christian denominations,[1] many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are notable and verifiable.
Note: Between denominations, theologians, and comparative religionists there are considerable disagreements about which groups can be properly called Christian, disagreements arising primarily from doctrinal differences between groups. For the purpose of simplicity, this list is intended to reflect the self-understanding of each denomination. Explanations of different opinions concerning their status as Christian denominations can be found at their respective articles.
Note: There is no official recognition in most parts of the world for religious bodies, and there is no official clearinghouse which could determine the status or respectability of religious bodies. Often there is considerable disagreement between various churches about whether other churches should be labeled with pejorative terms such as "cult", or about whether this or that group enjoys some measure of respectability. Such considerations often vary from place to place, where one religious group may enjoy majority status in one region, but be widely regarded as a "dangerous cult" in another part of the world. Inclusion on this list does not indicate any judgment about the size, importance, or character of a group or its members.
Major divisions within Christianity. The different width of the lines (thickest for "Protestantism" and thinnest for "Oriental Orthodox" and "Nestorians") is without objective significance.

Contents


Catholicism

These are the churches which claim continuity (based upon Apostolic Succession) with the church before separation into Greek or Eastern and Latin or Western. (Lutheran churches have also identified themselves as catholic on the basis of continuity in doctrine with the Early Church.)

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Roman Catholic Church

Latin Rite

The Latin Rite or Church[2] is the largest and most widely known of the 22 Rites of the Catholic Church. In the past, Catholics in France and Germany have claimed a measure of ecclesiastical independence from Rome (see Febronianism, Gallicanism), but not to the extent of forming Churches distinct from the Roman Catholic Church as a whole (as happened with the Church of England) or even from the Latin Church.

Eastern Catholic Churches

All of the following are particular churches of the Catholic Church. They are all in communion with the Bishop of Rome and acknowledge his claim of universal jurisdiction and authority. They have some minor distinct theological emphases and expressions (for instance, in the case of those that are of Greek/Byzantine tradition, concerning some aspects of the Latin depiction of purgatory).[3]

The Roman Catholic Church considers itself part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded.[4]

Eastern Orthodox Church

List provided in order of precedence. Indentation indicates autonomy rather than autocephaly.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers itself to be the One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded.

Oriental Orthodox Church

Oriental Orthodoxy comprises those Christians who did not accept the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). Other denominations often erroneously label these churches "Monophysite", however, as the Oriental Orthodox do not adhere to the teachings of Eutyches, they themselves reject this label, preferring the term Miaphysite.

The Oriental Orthodox Church considers itself to be the One Holy Catholic Orthodox and Apostolic Church that Christ founded.

Assyrian Church of the East

The Assyrian Church of the East is said to have been formed by St Thomas. The Church did not attend the Council of Ephesus (AD 431). It is incorrectly referred to as Nestorianism; Assyrian Christians do not consider themselves Nestorians, and recent Christological agreements with the Catholic and some of the Orthodox churches have resolved this debate permanently, clearing the way for union.

Anglican Churches

See below

Other churches self-identified as Catholic

Independent

Orthodox

Byzantine
Oriental
Western-Rite

Assyrian

Anglicanism

Anglicanism has referred to itself as the via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. It considers itself to be both Catholic and Reformed. Although the use of the term "Protestant" to refer to Anglicans was once common, it is controversial today, with some rejecting the label and others accepting it.

Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion also includes the following united churches:

The Anglican Communion considers itself to be part of the One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ founded, which also includes the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Old Catholic Church (Union of Utrecht).

Continuing and Independent Anglican

Protestantism

These are the churches "which repudiated the papal authority, and separated or were severed from the Roman communion in the Reformation of the 16th cent., and of any of the bodies of Christians descended from them."[5]

Diagram showing major branches and movements within Protestantism


Pre-Lutheran Protestants

Lutheranism

Anglican Churches

See above

Reformed Churches

Presbyterianism

Congregationalist Churches

Anabaptists

Brethren

Methodists

Pietists and Holiness Churches

Baptists

Note: All Baptist associations are congregationalist affiliations for the purpose of cooperation, in which each local church is governmentally independent.

Spiritual Baptists

Note: The Spiritual Baptist Archdiocese of New York, Inc has congregationalist affiliations for the purpose of cooperation, in which each local church is governmentally independent.

Apostolic Churches - Irvingites

Pentecostalism

Charismatics

Neo-Charismatic Churches

African Initiated Churches

United and uniting churches

Churches which are the result of a merger between distinct denominational churches. Churches are listed here when their disparate heritage marks them as inappropriately listed in the particular categories above.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Note: The Religious Society of Friends is historically considered a Protestant denomination. While Evangelical Friends and most members of the Friends United Meeting would consider themselves Protestant Christians, many Quakers today consider their faith to be a distinct, non-Protestant form of Christianity, with no compulsory beliefs or creeds. Some Friends General Conference Quakers are "post-Christian" and some non-theists.

Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement

Southcottites

Millerites and comparable groups

Sabbath Keeping Churches, Adventist

Sabbath-Keeping Churches, Non-Adventist

Sunday Adventists

Sacred Name Groups

British-Israelism

Miscellaneous/Other

Latter Day Saints

Most Latter Day Saint denominations are derived from the Church of Christ established by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. The majority of "Prairie Saint" denominations were established after the death of Smith by the remnants of the saints who did not go west with Brigham Young. The Rocky Mountain denominations are various sects who broke from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after its abandonment of polygamy in 1890. Other denominations are defined by either a belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet, or acceptance of the Book of Mormon as scripture. Mormonism is generally considered restorationist, believing that Smith restored the original Church of Christ to the Earth. Some Latter Day Saint denominations are regarded by other Christians as being nontrinitarian, but generally do not accept that label themselves, in contrast to the groups labelled "nontrinitarian" below.

"Prairie Saint" denominations

Rocky Mountains denominations

Other denominations

Nontrinitarian groups

Various denominations whose self-understanding denies trinitarian theology held by other Christians.

Oneness Pentecostalism

Unitarianism and Universalism

Bible Student groups

Swedenborgianism

Other non-Trinitarians

Messianic Judaism

New Thought

The relation of New Thought to Christianity is sometimes murky; some of its adherents see themselves as practicing a true or correct form of Christianity, or as doing what Jesus did, while others are more distant from Christian self-expression. In particular, Religious Science says "yes and no" to the question of whether it considers itself Christian.[6] The two groups listed below include a clearer statement in which they identify themselves as Christian.

Syncretistic religions incorporating elements of Christianity

The relation of these movements to other Christian ideas can be remote. They are listed here because they include some elements of Christian practice or beliefs, within religious contexts which may be only loosely characterized as Christian.

Esoteric Christianity

See also

References

  1. ^ Christianity Today - General Statistics and Facts of Christianity Today
  2. ^ Not to be confused with the Roman Rite, which is one of the Latin liturgical rites, not a particular Church.
  3. ^ Anthony Dragani, From East to West
  4. ^ "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church". Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html. 
  5. ^ "Protestant, I.2.a" Oxford English Dictionary
  6. ^ http://www.unitedcentersforspiritualliving.org/Philosophy/phil_faqs.php
  7. ^ See http://divinesciencechurch.org/dsfed//ads.php for a description of basic beliefs, including its position as Christian.
  8. ^ See the Unity Church FAQ at http://unity.org/aboutunity/whoWeAre/faq.html, in which Unity describes itself as "positive, practical Christianity", and thus is clearly self-identified as Christian.

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Christianity is not a monolithic religion, nor has it been for several centuries. The earliest Christian communities had various tensions toward retaining Jewish practices and creating a distinct identity as believers. Amongst some Christians, Gnosticism was accepted, among others, it was anathematized. As these differences were sorted out during the ecumenical councils over a period of centuries, Christians still continued to split into various bodies with distinct national heritages and ecclesiastical authority.

Broadly speaking, the largest split amongst Christians has been between Eastern and Western Christianity. Easterners emphasized personal experience of God, tradition, monasticism, and the primacy of the Greek language and the Greek translation of the Bible. The Western church was marked by rational explanations of faith, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and a Latin-based liturgy.

In addition to historical schisms between Christian bodies, there are hundreds of millions of independent Christians today, including many in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. The latter have been particularly influenced by the rise of Pentecostalism in the 20th century. A booming house church movement has also taken hold in mainland China. A much smaller movement of Christians seeking the Jewish origins of Christianity has emerged in the past 150 years as well.

Contents

Overview of denominational families

Eastern Christianity

Eastern Orthodox

The Eastern Orthodox Church is made up of approximately 17 independent ("autocephalous") churches - the numbering can differ depending on one's perspective on the Orthodox Church in America. These churches have jurisdiction over national boundaries and share a common communion while retaining their individual liturgies and customs. All recognize the special place of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as primus inter pares or "first among equals" as a kind of guiding figure amongst the other Patriarchs. Several smaller churches are autonomous and under the authority of autocephalous bodies.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism represented a majority of Christendom and remained communion with one another until the East-West or Great Schism of 1054, in which the Ecumenical Patriarch and Pope excommunicated one another. It has only been since the efforts of Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's to renew fellowship that the first steps toward reconciliation have been made.

Oriental Orthodox

The Oriental Orthodox Church is more loosely affiliated culturally than the Eastern Orthodox (different churches have even maintained different Biblical canons than one another), but the role of the Coptic Pope is stronger ecclesiastically than the Ecumenical Patriarch. For instance, when Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Pope Shenouda III made two distinct churches for the two communities. The schism with the Oriental churches came about as a product of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and the resulting Chalcedonian Creed which established a particular formula for understanding how Jesus can be both divine and human in full measure. The Christology of the Orientals has been labeled monophysite, but the Church defines itself as miaphysite - the differences go back to the original Christological controversy of the fifth century, with the former denying that Jesus had any substantial human nature. Today, Orientals recognize that these differences were largely political and there is no insurmountable theological differences between them and Eastern Orthodox or Catholics. Similar to the Easterners, Orientals use icons in worship, have a strong monastic tradition, and have focused on the lives of saints for spiritual guidance.

Assyrian

The Assyrian Church of the East became a separate body after the Council of Ephesus in 431, a gathering of Christians to combat the heretical group lead by Nestorius, leading to charges that the Assyrians were themselves Nestorians. Like the Oriental Church, the Assyrians deny this and have made several important declarations in the 20th century to affirm their common ground with other Christian bodies. In the mid-sixteenth century, several Assyrian churches broke communion with the Patriarch of Babylon, spiritual head of the Church of the East and joined into communion with the Catholic Church becoming the Eastern Catholic Chaldean Rite. Due to political instability in Iraq and Assyrian immigration, the church is headquartered in Chicago, the United States.

Eastern Catholicism

While the Latin Rite makes up over 98% of the believers in the Catholic Church, there are 15 Eastern Rites which are allowed to conduct their own liturgy and maintain many of their own distinct doctrines and practices while acknowledging the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, as an authoritative head to their church as well.

Western Christianity

Catholicism

Catholicism is the largest denominational family amongst Christians, and the Roman Catholic Church is the largest institution of any kind on the face of the Earth, largely due to missiological efforts in Latin America and Africa. In addition to believers who are the product of Portuguese and Spanish colonialism, Catholicism has a strong history in Western Europe, where it remained virtually the sole church in the West from the time of the Schism through the Anglican, Magisterial, and Radical Reformations of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Catholic Church is united by several distinct traditions, possibly the most important of which is the Pope - Bishop of Rome and the monarch of Vatican City. The Pope's ecclesiastical see is known as the Holy See and is given a priority in terms of both honor and authority amongst all other Catholic bishops. Catholics have rich traditions of doctrine, canon law, sainthood, and sacred architecture.

Protestantism

Protestantism is not a single church body or set of formally-related organizations, but a grouping of various church families whose history extends to the Reformations in 16th century Europe. The main families are the Lutheran, the Reformed and Presbyterians, and the Anabaptists. Protestantism has spread as widely across the globe as has Catholicism, and has developed into a wide variety of national expressions as well as being foundational in international ecumenical movements such as the World Council of Churches.

Certain pre-Reformation groups are frequently included in discussions about Protestantism, such as Waldensians and Moravians, who are legacies of reformation movements lead by Peter Waldo in 12th-century Italy and Jan Hus in 15th-century Bohemia. Some classification systems also include Anglicans as well, as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church ceased to be in communion roughly concurrent with the Reformation. Since the Reformation, large Protestant groups include Baptists, Methodists, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, and Adventist churches that come from the Restorationist movement of mid-18th century America. Some of most particular Christian groups come from the latter movement, including Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Depending on the definition of what constitutes Christianity, those movements may not even be considered Christian due to their unique understandings of virtually every Christian doctrine.

Anglicanism

Anglicanism is a form of Christianity with commonalities with both Protestantism and Catholicism. The Anglican Church was formed by Henry VIII at roughly the same time as the self-definition of Protestantism, and there are some commonalities between Protestantism and Anglicanism. The Church of England ceased to be in communion with Rome as a result of Henry's actions and his insistence that the King of England be head of the British church. At the same time, the emphasis on ritual and liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church is also found, to some extent, in the Anglican Church. Anglicans also stress the common lineage their clergy have with Catholics - a doctrine known as apostolic succession, which ties present-day religious workers with the original twelve apostles of Jesus.

Independent churches

Some churches that do not identify with any denomination. Charismatic Christianity and Pentecostalism are two similar movements founded in the twentieth century which prioritize an individual's experience of God through the Holy Spirit, including the reception of spiritual gifts such as glossolalia, spiritual healing, and prophecy. Charismatics have generally stayed within their original church bodies, whereas Pentecostals have created their own denominations and separate churches.

Evangelicalism is another movement that exist both with established church groups and entirely independent churches, some of which have evolved out of small house churches and private Bible study groups into larger networks of churches, particularly in America. Evangelicals are similar to fundamentalists in some of their emphasis on the priority of the Bible, but are not as hostile to modernity nor mainstream politics. They have also been associated with a social Gospel in their insistence on providing services to underprivileged populations, particularly through missions work.

Both of these movements are Western although they have typically do not have formal ties to other historically Western churches.

Ecumenism

Another important cross-denominational movement in the 20th century has been ecumenism: a cooperation of Christian bodies that can be as simple as coordinating common efforts in social services, writing common theological statements, the restoration of communion between bodies, and even the creation of entirely new denominations themselves, such as the Uniting Churches. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is an international body whose membership includes a majority of the Christian world if one includes Catholicism (the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, but works with it closely on several initiatives.) The National Council of Churches is an American equivalent that has similar goals as the WCC.

Sources

  • Oxford Encyclopedia of Christianity - This is an excellent and broad overview of Christianity; Oxford has published similar volumes on Christian history and the Bible as well.

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