Christian denomination

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind, identifiable by traits such as a name, particular history, organization, leadership, theological doctrine, worship style and sometimes a founder. It is a secular and neutral term, generally used to denote any established Christian church. Unlike a cult or sect, a denomination is usually seen as part of the Christian religious mainstream. Most Christian denominations self-describe as Churches, whereas some newer ones tend to use the terms churches, assemblies, fellowships, etc., interchangeably. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, biblical hermeneutics, theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Individual denominations vary widely in the degree to which they recognize one another. Several groups say they are the direct and sole authentic successor of the church founded by Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD. Others, however, believe in denominationalism, where some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. Because of this concept, some Christian bodies reject the term "denomination" to describe themselves, to avoid implying equivalence with other churches or denominations.

The Catholic Church, which has over 1.3 billion members or 50.1% of all Christians worldwide,[8][9] does not view itself as a denomination, but as the original pre-denominational Church,[10] a view rejected by other Christians. Protestant denominations altogether have an estimated 800 million to 1 billion adherents, which account for approximately 37 to 40 percent of all Christians worldwide.[8][11] Together, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (with major traditions including Adventism, Anabaptism, Anglicanism, Baptists, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Methodism, Moravianism, and Pentecostalism) compose Western Christianity.[12][13] Western Christian denominations prevail in Western, Northern, Central and Southern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.[14]

The Eastern Orthodox Church, with an estimated 230 million adherents,[15][11][16] is the second-largest Christian body in the world and also considers itself the original pre-denominational Church. Orthodox Christians, 80% of whom are Eastern Orthodox and 20% Oriental Orthodox, make up about 11.9% of the global Christian population.[15] The Eastern Orthodox Church is itself a communion of fully independent autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that recognize each other, for the most part. Similarly, the Catholic Church is a communion of sui iuris churches, including 23 Eastern ones. The Eastern Orthodox Church, together with the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, the Oriental Orthodox communion, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East constitute Eastern Christianity. There are Protestant Eastern Christians that have adopted Protestant theology but have cultural and historical ties with other Eastern Christians. Eastern Christian denominations are represented mostly in Eastern Europe, North Asia, the Middle East, Northeast Africa, and India (especially South India).

Christians have various doctrines about the Church (the body of the faithful that they believe Jesus Christ established) and about how the divine church corresponds to Christian denominations. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East denominations, each hold that only their own specific organization faithfully represents the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, to the exclusion of all others. Sixteenth-century Protestants separated from the Catholic Church as a result of the Reformation; a movement against Roman Catholic doctrines and practices which the Reformers perceived to be in violation of the Bible.[17][18][19] Generally, members of the various denominations acknowledge each other as Christians, at least to the extent that they have mutually recognized baptisms and acknowledge historically orthodox views including the divinity of Jesus and doctrines of sin and salvation, even though doctrinal and ecclesiological obstacles hinder full communion between churches.

Restorationism emerged after the Second Great Awakening and collectively affirms belief in a Great Apostasy, thus promoting a belief in restoring what they see as primitive Christianity.[20] It includes Mormonism, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, among others, although beliefs between these religions differ greatly.[21]

Since the reforms surrounding the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, the Roman Catholic Church has referred to Protestant Churches as ecclesial communities, while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as the Ancient and Assyrian Churches of the East (see subsistit in and branch theory). But some non-denominational Christians do not follow any particular branch,[22] though they sometimes are regarded as Protestants.[23][24][25][26]


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