Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Christianity » Church Divisions » Protestant » Denominations

The origins of the Protestant churches is in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, and most Protestant denominations can trace their heritage to one of the major movements that sprung up at that time.

Protestant denominations differ in the degree in which they reject Catholic beliefs and practices, with some resembling Catholicism in their formal liturgy.

Christians were not always as divided as they are now. Until AD 42, they didn't even have one common name to refer to themselves. According to Acts 11:26, they were first called Christians at Antioch. Prior to that time, about ten years after the death and resurrection of Christ, the followers of Jesus referred to themselves as brothers, disciples, believers, or saints.

At Antioch, Christians were recognized as a separate group, distinct from Judaism and the other religions in the world. As the Christians at Antioch were made up of ethnic Jews and Gentiles, this meant that their unity was in Christ, not in their ethnicity, culture, language, or place of birth.

Until the Protestant Reformation, the Christian Church was one body and, while Catholics will argue that this body was Catholic, the term wasn't necessary because the Church was Christian and there were no others, with the exception of minor breakaway sects that would arise from time to time. The first major separation of the Christian Church came about as a result of the Protestant Reformation.

Even in New Testament times, there were individual churches, some of which were unique in various ways. For example, there was the Church at Ephesus, the Church in Corinth, and so on. But these churches were separated by geography rather than doctrine. The Protestant Reformation began the separation of the Church by doctrine, practice, and leadership.

Today, there are more than three hundred denominations in the United States alone, and this number is continually changing as new denominations form, while other denominations unite, and others disappear from the Protestant landscape.

In its simplest form, a denomination is a name that is used to refer to a fellowship of congregations within a religion that share the same beliefs or creed, engage in similar religious practices, and cooperate with one another.

One of the reasons why the United States and other Western countries have so many denominations is that the governmental authorities in these countries do not require religious conformity. Even in Western nations, religious freedom is a relatively new development.

New denominations emerge because of splits and mergers. Human beings, even Christians, are prone to differences of opinion about what to believe and how their faith should be practiced. The four major divisions of Christianity are the Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Anabaptist churches, although some theologians choose to lump the Anabaptists in with the Protestants.

Originally, the formal assembly of the Catholic Church had granted tolerance to the Lutherans, permitting them to determine their own religious position while remaining in communion with the larger body of the Catholic Church. A later assembly rescinded this decision, Consequently, Lutherans were separated from the Catholic Church, and they became known as Protestants, a term that was later used to refer to all of the churches that were no longer affiliated with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

The same spirit that led Protestants to separate from Catholicism soon led to denominational splits that have continued throughout Protestant history. Today, Protestantism includes several denominations, each with distinctive beliefs and histories. The Lutheran churches emerged from the reforms of Martin Luther, while churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions were the product of the Calvinistic side of the Reformation, and the Methodist churches grew out of the holiness teachings of John Wesley. Throughout history, influential Protestant leaders have given rise to new denominations. Some of these are similar to one another, while others are widely divergent.

Some of the main denominations within the Protestant Church include the Adventist, Anglican, Baptist, Christian Science, Congregational, Friends, Fundamental, Holiness, Jehovah's Witness, Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Reformed, although there are divisions within these branches of Protestantism, as well as other smaller denominations that don't fit into these categories. Additionally, there other denominations are specific to various parts of the world, such as the Unification Church which is based in South Korea, and several large Protestant denominations that have emerged in Africa. Some Christians would not include the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, or the Rastafarians with the Protestant Churches, but we have opted for inclusion.



Anglican & Episcopalian


Christian Science


Evangelical & Pietist





New Paradigm



Quakers - Friends




Unitarianism & Universalism



Recommended Resources

Search for Denominations on Google or Bing