How Many Protestant Denominations Are There?

The 20,000 30,000 numbers and David Barrett's statistics


by Dave1988 and others from the Catholic Answers boards

posted April 12, 2005 05:52 PM  itsjustdave1988

see also Part II: The Facts and Stats on "33,000 Denominations"

First, information from Catholic apologist and Evangelical convert Dave Armstrong --

There are indeed sources for these numbers and they are neither Catholic nor unscholarly. To summarize briefly:

According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America [Protestant] (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990): "As of 1980 David B. Barrett identified 20,800 Christian denominations worldwide . . ." ("Denominationalism," page 351). I have this book, so I have seen this with my own eyes. Barrett "classified them into seven major blocs and 156 ecclesiastical traditions." This is from the Oxford World Christian Encyclopedia (1982) of which he is the editor. Also, according to the United Nations statistics there were over 23,000 competing and often contradictory denominations worldwide (World Census of Religious Activities [U.N. Information Center, NY, 1989]). This was cited in Frank Schaeffer's book Dancing Alone(Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press, 1994), page 4. Schaeffer is Orthodox. The 1999Encyclopedia of Christianity has this to say: "In 1985 David Barrett could count 22,150 distinct denominations worldwide." (edited by E. Fahlbusch, et al., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999, vol. 1, p. 800, s.v. "Denomination"). Barrett is the statistical editor. Again citing the OxfordWorld Christian Encyclopedia (1982): ". . . a projected 22,190 by 1985 . . . The present net increase is 270 denominations each year (five new ones a week)." (pages 15-18)

The definition Barrett worked with was that a denomination was "an organized Christian Church or tradition or religious group or community of believers or aggregate of worship centers or congregations, usually within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same name in different areas, regarding themselves as an autonomous Christian church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions."

Now, this is where the figures ultimately come from. No doubt some Catholic apologists (even more well-known ones) use them as a kind of "folk truth" -- having heard them bandied about, and we will examine some serious problems with them below. But that doesn't mean the numbers were entirely made-up and arbitrary. As we see, this is untrue: they come from these sources.

Dave Armstrong        from Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press, 19 May 2001

Since adding a religion doctorate from Columbia University to his technical background, he has spent 40 years systematizing information on world religions, a calling he discovered while assigned as an Anglican missionary in Africa. Now 73, Barrett recently culminated his oddly remarkable career with publication of the second edition of his global accounting of faiths and the faithful -- trends, details and his best estimated count of believers of all religions in each of 238 nations and territories.

Never has there been such a thorough reference as the two large volumes, running 1,699 pages, of the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press. Barrett has doggedly visited most of the lands in person, collecting raw material, including national census figures and United Nations data, and recruiting the 444 specialists who feed him material. Among them: Vatican missions librarian Willi Henkel and editor J. Gordon Melton of the Encyclopedia of American Religions. Barrett's encyclopedia sought to count each human being in each religion and religious subcategory in each country as of 1900, 1970, 1990, 1995 and 2000, with projections to 2025.

The 2001 edition, successor to his 1982 first edition, which took a decade to compile, identifies 10,000 distinct religions, of which 150 have 1 million or more followers. Within Christianity, he counts 33,820 denominations.

Barrett also calculates religious populations for the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, standard estimates that are used in turn by the World Almanac and innumerable journalists. Such numbers are always debatable, but they're the best available. "We don't really have any rivals," Barrett says. "That's the problem."

Title: World Christian Encyclopedia : a comparative survey of churches and religions in the modern world
Authors: David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, Todd M. Johnson.
Edition: 2nd ed.
Published: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Description: 2 v. : ill., col. maps ; 32 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Contents:
v. 1. The world by countries : religionists, churches, ministries
v. 2. The world by segments : religions, peoples, languages, cities, topics. 


From Dave1988 (a different Dave) on the Catholic Answers boards --

33,000+ denominations of Protestantism and counting

I was at the library one day researching something, and I saw the much talked about Protestant reference, the World Christian Encyclopedia by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (2001 edition). I thought I'd see for myself what it says. This is what I found....

David Barrett, et al, does indeed refer to "over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries..." (Table 1-5, vol 1, page 16). This refers to his unique definition of a "Christian denomination" but does not include small ones (congregations of a couple hundred or less), which would dramatically increase this number beyond all imagination. Barrett also states there are 242 total Roman Catholic denominations (year 2000 numbers). So I looked into what he believed these denominations were.

Barrett breaks down his encyclopedic reference by country. So I looked up how many Roman Catholic denominations are within the U.S. according to Barrett. Much to my surprise, Barrett showsONLY ONE Roman Catholic denomination for the United States.

So I wondered where the heck are these 242 denominations? I looked in Barrett's reference for Britain, and again he listed ONLY ONE Roman Catholic denomination. I thought surely that of the 238 countries within his encyclopedic reference there must be a country that had more than ONE Roman Catholic denomination. There wasn't. I could not find one country listed by Barrett that hadmore than ONE Roman Catholic denomination.

So, what does Barrett mean when he states there are 242 Roman Catholic denominations? It seems Barrett is counting each country as it's own denomination. So, for Barrett, the Roman Catholic Church of the USA is a different denomination than the Roman Catholic Church of Canada. I don't know how he got 242 denominations from 238 countries listed, however. Some numbers from Barrett's...

Denominations / Paradenominations:

1970: 26,350
1995: 33,820

Under U.S. Country Table 2, of the 6,222 US denominations, there's only ONE Roman Catholic denomination listed, and there's 60 Orthodox denominations. Barrett labels the rest of the denominations: Protestant, Anglican, Independent, and Marginal. The more commonly accepted classification of Christianity used even by Protestant scholars, such as Leslie Dunstan in his bookProtestantism, Christianity consists of: (1) Catholic, (2) Orthodox, and (3) Protestant. So, using this more commonly understood classification....

Number of U.S. Denominations

Catholic           1
Orthodox       60
Protestant  6,161

Remember, the above numbers are derived using Protestant sources only. Barrett differs from other Protestants such as Dunstan as to what constitutes a Protestant denomination. What Dunstan would call Protestant, Barrett describes as:

Barrett's classification:

Protestant         660
Anglican               1
Independent  5,100
Marginal           400

That's just for the U.S. Yet, there's but ONE Catholic denomination in the U.S., either by Dunstan or Barrett's standard.

Another way of looking at it is not to use Barrett's fuzzy understanding of denominations at all. What does Webster call a denomination? Let's see... Webster calls a 'denomination' a "a religious organization uniting local congregations in a single legal and administrative body." The category called "Protestantism," since it does not actually "unite" any local congregation into a "single legal and administrative body," is more accurately a grouping of denominations rather than a denomination, according to Webster's definition. How does one know if their "denomination" is of the Protestant kind?

You might be a Protestant if....

(1) You believe the Bible consists of only 66 books
(2) You believe authority rests with Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)
(3) You believe justification is by Faith Alone (Sola Fide)

How many of the "denominations" listed by Barrett fall into this category? I'm betting over 33,000. Let's look at it this way, of the 33,000 that Barrett classifies, which ones refute the pillars of Protestantism shown above? (a) Catholic Church, (b) Oriental Orthodox (5th century schism), (c) Eastern Orthodox (11th century schism). Any others? Perhaps I've missed a few. Even if you break apart the Orthodox Churches into separate Patriarchates (Bishops), that doesn't reduce the BIG number of 33,820 by very much, does it? Some would say, "well that number is completely inflated" based upon Barrett's fuzzy definition of "denomination." On the contrary, I would say that it is a MUCH LARGER NUMBER of denominations using Webster's definition of "denomination."

Even within the Catholic Church, the most diverse forms of Catholicism, the Latin and Eastern Rite, share the same government, the same "religious organization uniting local congregations in a single legal and administrative body." In other words, Canon Law for the Eastern Rite and Canon Law for the Latin Rite come from the same single government, chaired by the same Vicar.

In the U.S. the next largest so-called "denomination" after the Catholic Church is referred to as "Baptist" according to http://www.adherents.com/

Is this a single denomination by Webster's use of the word? Can the Baptist denomination rightly be called a "religious organization uniting local congregations in a single legal and administrative body?" I don't believe so.

I suspect the label 'Baptist' is yet another grouping of denominations like the word "Protestant," since according to one Baptist scholar, every

"local Baptist parish church is a law unto itself. Its relations with other Baptists churches, its compliance with recommendations from national church headquarters, its acceptance of any resolutions formulated at regional , national, or international conventions -- all these are entirely voluntary on the part of the parish church." (Religions of America, Leo Rosten, ed.)

If it is true that every Baptist parish-church is a law unto itself, then isn't every individual Baptist parish-church, according to Webster, its own legal and administrative body, its own denomination? I wonder how many Baptist parish-churches are in the world? I know there are too many to easily count here in Colorado Springs.

Are there any major denominations within Protestantism, for example Lutheranism, which can be correctly called a denomination by Webster's usage? If so, I'm not familiar with them. Missouri-Synod Lutherans want nothing to do with the World-Lutheran-Federation Lutherans, for example.

Therefore, I believe 33,000 is a tragically conservative number of Protestant denominations IN THIS COUNTRY (U.S.) let alone in the world.

Anti-Catholic Evangelical apologist Eric Svendsen is quoting from an earlier edition of the same encyclopedic source. Unfortunately, if you've read Dave Armstrong's article on the subject, you know that Eric Svendsen's polemics fall flat upon its face (as usual). The beauty is, Svendsen still has not faced up to the fact that there is ONE Catholic Church listed for every country Barrett lists. Nor has he addressed the fact that all those "denominations" that use a 66-book Protestant Bible, and uphold the pillars of Protestantism (sola scriptura and sola fide) are PROTESTANT even if they claim otherwise. Calling themselves "non-denominational" may be a clever marketing technique, but the world (including Protestant authors) knows them as Protestants.

God bless,

Dave

"Lord, in my zeal for the love of truth, let me not forget the truth about love" -- St. Thomas Aquinas

by Dave1988 and others from the Catholic Answers boards

 

The Facts and Stats on "33,000 Denominations"
by PhilVaz

Now for a few facts and stats from the actual source: World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001).

The source does refer to 33000+ total "Christian" denominations, but it defines the word "denomination" as an organized Christian group within a specific country:

Denominations. A denomination is defined in this Encyclopedia as an organized aggregate of worship centers or congregations of similar ecclesiastical tradition within a specific country; i.e. as an organized Christian church or tradition or religious group or community of believers, within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name in different areas, regarding themselves as one autonomous Christian church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions. As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions,composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominations themselves being composed of over 3,400,000 worship centers, churches or congregations.(Barrett et al, volume 1, page 16, Table 1-5, emphasis added)

So we have, according to Barrett's Encyclopedia:

  • a denomination is defined as existing within a specific country
  • there are 33,000+ total of these "Christian denominations" in 238 total countries

These 33,000 are subdivided into "6 major ecclesiastico-cultural mega-blocs", and ordering them by denomination size we have (I am rounding up or down slightly for convenience, using year 2000 figures) :

So the 33,000 number is from the total of these 6 mega-blocs:

22000 + 9000 + 1600 + 781 + 242 + 168 = 33,000+

That's where the 33,000 figure comes from. If you count the "mega-bloc" of "Protestants" only it is 9000 / 33000 or 27% of the total. However, if you combine Protestants with Independentsand Anglicans ( [22000 + 9000 + 168] / 33000) it is 94% of the total or 31,000+ . We will see below that most (about 97%) of the "Independent" churches are indeed Protestants. Now that we have that settled, I will examine what the source says about each of these "mega-blocs." All of the information below is found on pages 16-18 (volume 1) of the World Christian Encyclopedia (2001, 2nd edition).            from Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press, 19 May 2001

Since adding a religion doctorate from Columbia University to his technical background, he has spent 40 years systematizing information on world religions, a calling he discovered while assigned as an Anglican missionary in Africa. Now 73, Barrett recently culminated his oddly remarkable career with publication of the second edition of his global accounting of faiths and the faithful -- trends, details and his best estimated count of believers of all religions in each of 238 nations and territories.

Never has there been such a thorough reference as the two large volumes, running 1,699 pages, of the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press. Barrett has doggedly visited most of the lands in person, collecting raw material, including national census figures and United Nations data, and recruiting the 444 specialists who feed him material. Among them: Vatican missions librarian Willi Henkel and editor J. Gordon Melton of the Encyclopedia of American Religions. Barrett's encyclopedia sought to count each human being in each religion and religious subcategory in each country as of 1900, 1970, 1990, 1995 and 2000, with projections to 2025.

The 2001 edition, successor to his 1982 first edition, which took a decade to compile, identifies 10,000 distinct religions, of which 150 have 1 million or more followers. Within Christianity, he counts 33,820 denominations.

Barrett also calculates religious populations for the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, standard estimates that are used in turn by the World Almanac and innumerable journalists. Such numbers are always debatable, but they're the best available. "We don't really have any rivals," Barrett says. "That's the problem."

Title: World Christian Encyclopedia : a comparative survey of churches and religions in the modern world
Authors: David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, Todd M. Johnson.
Edition: 2nd ed.
Published: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Description: 2 v. : ill., col. maps ; 32 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Contents:
v. 1. The world by countries : religionists, churches, ministries
v. 2. The world by segments : religions, peoples, languages, cities, topics.
 


Independents (about 22,000 denominations)

Let's deal with these first, since this is the largest mega-bloc (22000+ "denominations" of the total 33000+). These are broken down into various large groups, and their lists and numbers span from the bottom of page 16, through page 17, and most of page 18. I'm not going to type all of these since the list is quite long -- much longer than any of the groupings in the other mega-blocs which are listed below in full. I will quote a major sampling of these "Independent" Christian groups, and still try to cover the whole list:

  • African Independent Apostolic
  • Black American Apostolic
  • Filipino Apostolic
  • Indian Apostolic
  • another 8 groups have "Apostolic"
  • African Independent Charismatic
  • Black American Charismatic
  • Chinese Charismatic
  • another 14 groups have "Charismatic" or "Neocharismatic"
  • African Independent Full Gospel
  • Black American Full Gospel
  • Chinese Full Gospel
  • another 10 groups have "Full Gospel"
  • three have something-"grassroots"
  • another 20 groups have "house-church network" or "cell-based network"
  • five have "Messianic"-something
  • another 14 are something-"neocharismatic"
  • another 12 are something-"Oneness pentecostal"
  • another 18 are something-"pentecostal"
  • another 12 are something-"radio/TV believers [or "network"]" (i.e. the "pastor" for these independent Christians is some personality on radio or TV)
  • final 2 on page 17 are something-"Spiritual"
  • then we have a couple deliverence/pentecostal groups
  • Word of Faith / Prosperity groups
  • a couple of "mixed traditions"
  • some "Zionist" groups
  • Independent Anglicans or Anglo-Catholic groups in both Catholic and Protestant directions
  • Independent Adventists
  • apocalyptic or eschatological ("end times") groups
  • Independent Baptists
  • British-Israelites
  • Hidden Buddhist believers in Christ
  • some Independent Orthodox groups
  • independent Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren)
  • schismatic Conservative Catholics
  • Independent Congregational, Congregationalists
  • Independent Disciple, Restorationist, Christian
  • Independent Dunkers (Tunker, Dipper)
  • Independent Exclusive Brethren (Closed, Strict)
  • episcopi vagantes ("wandering" bishops-at-large, very small under 100 members)
  • Independent Estonian Orthodox
  • Independent Anglican Evangelical
  • Independent Fundamentalist
  • Gay/Lesbian homosexual tradition (i.e. so-called "gay churches" such as Metropolitan Community Churches)
  • Independent Greek Orthodox
  • Hidden Hindu believers in Christ
  • Holiness or Conservative Methodist (non-Pentecostal)
  • Independent Hungarian Orthodox
  • Independent Jehovah's Witnesses
  • Messianic, Jewish-Christian congregations
  • Independent "Latin-rite" Catholics
  • Independent "Liberal" Catholics (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic)
  • another seven Independent Protestant or Orthodox churches
  • Hidden Muslim believers in Christ
  • Independent Assyrian or Nestorian
  • No-Church Movement
  • Non-denominational (no church or anti-church groups)
  • Old Believer, Old Ritualist
  • Old Catholics (i.e. split from Rome after Vatican Council I)
  • Old Calendarist (Authentic Orthodox)
  • various schisms from Orthodoxy, in Protestant directions
  • Orthodox sect/sectarian
  • Independent Friends (Quakers)
  • three indy "Reformed" groups (Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox)
  • more Independent Reformed or Orthodox
  • Independent Spiritualist, spiritists, occultists
  • Traditionalist Anglicans
  • True Orthodox (Conservative Russian Orthodox)
  • Independent Ukrainian Orthodox
  • United church (various united bodies)
  • community church or union congregation
  • ethnic or monoethnic denominations
  • independent evangelicals (dispensationalist)
  • marginal independent Christian (Black / Third-World)
  • isolated radio churches (unorganized)
  • single autonomous congregations

Whew!

While the World Christian Encyclopedia does refer to "only" 9000 or so denominations as "Protestant" the source also includes 22,000 or so denominations as "Independent" and if you look at the names of these "Independent" groups above, you'll see most of them are clearly Protestant (the "Apostolic", the "Charismatic", the "Full Gospel", the house or home churches, the pentecostals, probably all the TV/radio Christians, and all the independents of other Protestant denominations listed, etc). None of these are Catholic or Orthodox, but there appear to be some renegade Orthodox, Anglicans, and schismatic Catholics among the "Independents." The largest of these Independent Christians are "White-led charismatic" (17,478,000 members [year 1995], in 2856separate denominations [year 2000]), "African independent pentecostal" (18,943,000 members [year 1995], in 5385 separate denominations [year 2000]), and "African neocharismatic of mixed traditions" (1,500,000 members [year 1995], in 3333 separate denominations [year 2000]). These three are all Protestant (neither Catholic, nor Orthodox) and account for more than half (53%) of the 22,000 "Independent" denominations.

Another section of these "Independents" with a decent number of denominations include (ordered by smallest to largest denominations, year 2000):

  • 65 Filipino Charismatic
  • 70 Chinese neocharismatic
  • 71 Chinese Charismatic
  • 78 Black American pentecostal
  • 82 Holiness (Conservative Methodist, non-pentecostal)
  • 86 Afro-Caribbean Oneness pentecostal
  •  92 Latin American Charismatic
  • 92 Anglican/Independent Evangelical
  • 92 Independent Methodist
  • 95 Indian pentecostal
  • 96 African Oneness pentecostal
  • 96 marginal independent (Black/Third World)
  • 99 White-led Oneness pentecostal
  • 102 Arab Charismatic
  • 133 Black American Oneness pentecostal
  • 133 Independent Disciple, Restorationist, Christian
  • 136 Independent Reformed, Presbyterian
  • 158 Zionist African Independent
  • 167 Korean pentecostal (mixed traditions)
  • 177 Indonesian pentecostal
  • 208 New/Old Apostolic, Catholic Apostolic (Irvingite, an Anglican / Presbyterian / Adventist sect)
  • 221 Brazilian/Portuguese pentecostal
  • 225 ethnic or monoethnic denomination
  • 226 White-led Full Gospel
  • 236 Nondenominational (no church or anti-church)
  • 271 Independent Baptist
  • 281 Latin American grassroots
  • 281 Filipino neocharismatic
  • 300 Brazilian grassroots
  • 343 Afro-Caribbean pentecostal
  • 439 African Independent Spiritual
  • 475 Indian Charismatic
  • 609 African Independent Charismatic
  • 644 Latin American pentecostal
  • 805 single autonomous congregations
  • 813 White-led pentecostal

Adding up these Independent denominations we get 8,497 which is another 39% of the total of 22,000 "Independents." All of these are clearly "Protestant" in theology as well -- charismatics, pentecostals, evangelicals, methodists, reformed/presbyterians, full gospel, "nondenominational", baptists, and Oneness pentecostals (note that Barrett includes "mainline" Oneness groups in theProtestant mega-bloc, not in the "Marginal" mega-bloc). So that gives us 92% ( = 53% + 39% ) of these Independent groups accounted for as Protestant. The rest (the remaining 8% of the 22000 denominations) are smaller than the above, and the majority of these are Protestant as well.

The only other large "Catholic" independent group is 435 "denominations" labeled "Conservative Catholic (schism ex Rome)" or those "radical Traditionalist" Catholics in schism with Rome which I'll admit appears to be a large number (considering there are only 242 total "Roman Catholic denominations" -- see below). However, looking at the total numbers of Roman Catholics in the world (over 1 billion) this dwarfs the relatively small numbers (i.e. 4,518,000 members [year 1995], in 435 "denominations" [year 2000]) in these schismatical groups. And at least Catholics know who is in "schism" whereas a Protestant evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic or pentecostal (i.e. all the above groups which claim to follow the Bible) can't be in "schism" to the Bible, since the Bible by itself doesn't tell us who is in schism.

Another way to determine the percentage of Protestants/Anglicans in these Independents is to count and exclude the "Catholic" and "Orthodox" ones -- i.e. groups which appear to have come out of or split off from the Catholic Church or Orthodox Churches, and apparently still claim to be in some sense "Catholic" or "Orthodox" and are non-Protestant / non-Anglican. These are, ordered from largest to smallest denominations, year 2000 numbers:

  • 435 Conservative Catholic (schism ex-Rome), the biggest group of these already mentioned
  • 32 Independent Russian Orthodox, second largest
  • 30 Orthodox sect/sectarian
  • 27 Liberal Catholic (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic), questionable what this means, but I'll include them
  • 26 Old Catholic (i.e. split with Rome after Vatican Council I)
  • 25 Old Believer, Old Ritualist (the "Old Believers" are a Russian Orthodox sect)
  • 24 Independent Ukrainian Orthodox
  • 23 Reformed Orthodox (uncanonical)
  • 16 Reformed Catholic (retaining Roman Catholic claims)
  • 8 Old Calendarist (Authentic Orthodox)
  • 6 True Orthodox (conservative Russian Orthodox)
  • 5 Independent Serbian Orthodox
  • 5 Latin-rite Catholic
  • 5 Independent Assyrian or Nestorian
  • 3 Independent Romanian Orthodox
  • 2 Independent Estonian Orthodox
  • 2 Independent Greek Orthodox
  • 1 Independent Bulgarian Orthodox
  • 1 Independent Byzantine rite
  • 1 Independent Hungarian Orthodox
  • 1 Independent Macedonian Orthodox
  • 1 Independent Moldavian Orthodox

These are all found on page 18. Adding these up we get a whopping 679 which is 3% of the 22,000 "Independent" denominations. That leaves us approximately 97% of the Independents asProtestant/Anglican, with a tiny number of "Marginal Christians" (i.e. 8 Jehovah's Witnesses breakaway groups, and a couple "mind science" cults). The "Irvingites" on page 17, although called "New Apostolic, Catholic Apostolic, Old Apostolic," are actually an Anglican / Presbyterian / Adventist, i.e. Protestant sect, neither Catholic nor Orthodox.

So we take the 9000 Protestant denominations plus 21,340 (97% of 22,000) plus 168 (Anglicans) =
30,000+ total Protestant/Anglican denominations.

For a list of individual denominations, here are a couple thousand of these Independents with specific names from "World Christian Database" online.


Protestants (about 9000 denominations)

The second largest group of "denominations" are Protestants. The encyclopedia breaks these down into major groupings like this:

  • Adventist
  • Baptist
  • Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren, Open only)
  • Congregational, Congregationalist
  • Disciple, Restorationist, Restorationist Baptist, Christian
  • Dunker (Tunker), Dipper, German Baptist, Brethren
  • Exclusive Brethren (Plymouth Brethren, Closed, Strict)
  • Anglican Evangelical, Independent Evangelical
  • Fundamentalist
  • Holiness (Conservative Methodist, Wesleyan, Free Methodist)
  • Lutheran / Reformed united church or joint mission
  • Lutheran
  • Mennonite, Anabaptist (Left Wing or Radical Reformation)
  • Methodist (mainline Methodist, United Methodist)
  • Moravian (Continental Pietist)
  • Nondenominational (no church or anti-church groups)
  • Oneness-Pentecostal or Unitarian-Pentecostal: Jesus Only
  • Baptistic-Pentecostal or Keswick-Pentecostal
  • Holiness-Pentecostal: 3-crisis-experience
  • Apostolic, or Pentecostal Apostolic (living apostles)
  • Pentecostal (Protestant; Classical Pentecostal)
  • Friends (Quaker)
  • Reformed, Presbyterian
  • Salvationist (Salvation Army)
  • United church (union of bodies of different traditions)
  • Waldensian
  • community church or union congregation

The largest of these out of 318 million total Protestants (year 1995 numbers for members, year 2000 numbers for denominations) are the Lutherans (61 million members, 253 denominations), next are Baptistic-Pentecostal/Keswick (49 million members, 396 denominations), followed by Baptists (48 million members, 322 denominations), Reformed/Presbyterian (44 million members, 300denominations), Methodists (23 million members, 123 denominations), United church (22 million members, 54 denominations), Lutheran/Reformed united (15 million members, 24 denominations), and various Adventist groups (11 million members, 218 denominations). From these are formed nearly 9000 Protestant Christian denominations. Someone might complain about the "Oneness" groups being included since they reject the Holy Trinity (one God in three distinct Persons) and the historic Creeds, but that's how Barrett's Encyclopedia categorizes them, for whatever reason.


Marginals (about 1600 denominations)

The "Marginal Christian" groups include Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, various "Arian" or pseudo-Christian cults, some Christian science or "mind science" cults, some Unitarian/Universalist groups, and tiny numbers of so-called Christian or Catholic "Gnostics." These break down this way:

  • Christadelphian
  • apocalyptic, eschatological (i.e. "end times" Christians)
  • Divine Science
  • Gnostic, esoteric, anthroposophical
  • Holy Spirit Association for Unification of World Christianity
  • Jehovah's Witnesses (or "Russellites")
  • Latter-day Saints (Mormons), including Mormon schismatics
  • Liberal Catholic (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic)
  • schism from Orthodox, in marginal direction
  • Paulician, Bogomil
  • metaphysical science or "Divine/Religious Science"
  • Spiritualist, Spiritist, psychic, occult
  • Swedenborgian (Church of the New Jerusalem; spiritualistic)
  • Theosophist, Theosophical, synthesist
  • Unitarian, Universalist, Free Christian, Liberal Christian

From these are formed nearly 1600 "denominations." The largest of these (year 1995 members, year 2000 denominations) are the JWs (11 million members, 226 denominations), next are the Mormons (8 million members, 122 denominations), and far behind are the "metaphysical" science cults (1.1 million members, 59 denominations), etc. I'll agree most of these are very borderline"Christian." They might refer to "Jesus Christ" and use the Bible in their "worship services" but for the most part they reject the historic Creeds and Councils of Christendom (Nicene, Athanasian, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc). However, the numbers here are small compared with the numbers of Independent and Protestant denominations.


Orthodox (781 denominations)

This is an even smaller group of "denominations" and these are broken down as follows:

  • Albanian/Greek-speaking Orthodox
  • Arabic or Arabic/Greek-speaking Orthodox
  • Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian)
  • Bulgarian Orthodox
  • Byelorussian / Belorussian (White Russian / White Ruthenian)
  • Coptic Orthodox
  • Czech / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
  • Estonian Orthodox
  • Ethiopic, Ethiopian Orthodox, GeOez-speaking
  • Finnish / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
  • Georgian Orthodox
  • Greek Orthodox
  • Hungarian / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
  • Latvian Orthodox
  • Macedonian Orthodox
  • Moldavian Orthodox
  • Assyrian or Nestorian (East Syrian, Messihaye Christians)
  • Polish / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox
  • Romanian Orthodox
  • Russian Orthodox
  • Serbian Orthodox
  • Slovak Orthodox
  • Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Syrian), Syriac/Malayalam-speaking
  • Syrian, Syriac-speaking Orthodox or Syro-Antiochian
  • Ukrainian Orthodox

The largest of these are the Russian Orthodox at 80 million members of the 210 million total members (year 1995 numbers). So it is within these groups, mainly separated by country or nationality, you get 781 Orthodox "denominations" (year 2000 numbers).


Roman Catholics (242 denominations)

Now for the "Roman Catholic" denominations. These appear to be broken down by various rites:

  • Armenian (Eastern-rite Catholic)
  • Bulgarian (Byzantine rite)
  • Byzantine-rite (jurisdiction for more than one ethnic group)
  • Chaldean (Eastern Syrian rite)
  • Coptic (Alexandrian rite)
  • Ethiopic (Alexandrian rite)
  • Greek (Byzantine rite)
  • Hungarian (Byzantine rite)
  • Italo-Albanian (Byzantine rite)
  • Jurisdiction for both Latin-rite and Eastern-rite Catholics
  • Latin-rite Catholic
  • Malankara (Syro-Antiochian, Eastern Syrian), Syro-Malankarese
  • Maronite (Syro-Antiochian, Western Syrian)
  • Melkite (Byzantine, Greek Catholic; Arabic-speaking)
  • plural Oriental (jurisdiction for several Eastern rites)
  • Romanian Byzantine rite
  • Russian (Byzantine rite)
  • Ruthenian (Byzantine rite)
  • Slovak (Byzantine rite)
  • Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Syrian)
  • Syrian, Syriac-speaking (Syro-Antiochian, West Syrian)
  • Ukrainian Byzantine rite

From these western and smaller eastern rites the encyclopedia gets 242 "Roman Catholic denominations" (year 2000 numbers). The largest is by far the Latin-rite (commonly called "Roman Catholics" by non-Catholic Christians) with 976 million members of the 994 million total members (or 98% of the total, year 1995 numbers). However, since virtually all of these western and smaller eastern rites are in union with the Pope (I am not sure of some of them), there is actually one Catholic Church, not 242 churches or denominations. Based on the encyclopedia's own definition of "denomination" the editors appear to be separating and counting by country which is how you get to 242 (or 238 countries plus 4) "denominations" of Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church in Canada is not a different "denomination" from the Catholic Church in the U.S., which is not a different Catholic Church from the one in England, etc. If you search the available "World Christian Database" online, there is indeed one Catholic Church in the U.S.A., (see also Barrett, Encyclopedia, volume 1, page 783 for the U.S.A.) and in the world there are indeed 238 "Roman Catholic" denominations (for exactly 238 countries), i.e. one Catholic Church for each country. The same "counting by country" seems to be the case with some of the denominations in the other mega-blocs.

When dividing these "denominations" by country as they do, there are definitely some problems in figuring out the true total "denominations" since many of them are being counted more than once -- and in fact 241 times too much in the case of "Roman Catholic" denominations. Barrett's Encyclopedia states this explicitly:

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" [later updated to 242], emphasis added)


Anglicans (168 denominations)

The smallest "mega-bloc" are the Anglicans. These are broken down in Barrett's Encyclopedia as follows:

  • Anglo-Catholic
  • Central or Broad Church Anglican
  • Ecumenical (Anglican/Protestant/Orthodox joint parishes)
  • Anglican Evangelical, Evangelical Anglican
  • High Church Anglican (Prayer Book Catholic)
  • Low Church Anglican (Conservative Evangelical)
  • Anglican, of plural or mixed traditions

Out of these groupings the encyclopedia gets 168 specific Anglican "denominations" (year 2000 numbers).

World Totals (33000+ Denominations)

The grand "World Totals" at the bottom of page 18 of World Christian Encyclopedia, reads as follows:

  • Total Number of Affiliated Christians for 1970 = 1,130,106,000
  • Total Number of Affiliated Christians for 1995 = 1,769,920,000

For the numbers of "Christian Denominations" for all mega-blocs in 238 countries we have:

  • Total Number of Denominations for 1970 = 16,075
  • Total Number of Denominations for 1995 = 33,090
  • Total Number of Denominations for 2000 = 33,909

Here is the current total number of "Christian denominations" as of 2007 according to the "Global Christianity" pages at Gordon-Conwell, and projected for 2025 if present trends continue:

SOURCE: Global Christianity -- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary database

MEMBERSHIP BY 6 ECCLESIASTICAL MEGABLOCS

 

1970

mid-2000

mid-2007

2025 projected

Roman Catholics

665,484,000

1,055,498,000

1,142,968,000

1,353,674,000

Independents

96,926,000

377,830,000

437,673,000

602,190,000

Protestants

211,054,000

346,889,000

385,815,000

497,703,000

Orthodox

139,646,000

214,091,000

220,488,000

236,364,000

Anglicans

47,409,000

75,335,000

82,632,000

109,690,000

Marginal Christians

11,100,000

29,500,000

35,133,000

49,775,000


 
   

Denominations

18,800

33,800

39,000

55,000

Congregations

1,450,000

3,448,000

3,826,000

5,000,000

The vast majority of this projected "growth" in denominations are due to Protestants (another 500+ denominations added from 2000 to 2025) and Independents (another 20,000+ denominations added from 2000 to 2025). See Barrett's Encyclopedia, Table 1-5, pages 16-18.


PhilVaz

see also Part I: How Many Protestant Denominations Are There?

COMPLETED 8/28/2007 -- Feast of St. Augustine -- "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity..."


Appendix

Email from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary "Global Christianity" to Ms. Shenandoah Brown, SFO (Secular Franciscan Order)
author of Lamp Unto My Feet to be published by PublishAmerica
Received 9/28/2007 11:17 a.m. MST

Hello Ms. Brown,

Thank you for your inquiry. I can assure you that the figure of 39,000 is in no way inflated. This number represents our most current, up-to-date data. As we are constantly updating this figure, it is not published in print form. The figure of 33,800 from the year 2000 was printed in our book World Christian Trends, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2001). Part 12 of World Christian Trends (WCT), Table 12-1 gives figures of denominational totals for all 238 countries of the world. These figures are also represented graphically in WCT on page 917, Global Map 14. The definition for denominations used in WCT, and also in our publication World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford, 2001) is as follows:

"Any agency consisting of a number of congregations or churches voluntarily aligning themselves with it. As a statistical unit in this survey, 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."

More precise listings of denominations can be found in the World Christian Encyclopedia, under the article for each country. These lists are not exhaustive, as there are too many small denominations to list separately, but they should help give a clearer picture. Furthermore, the Southern Baptist Convention has over 40,000 congregations in the US alone; not to mention the Baptist General Conference, Baptist Bible Fellowship International, etc. So we are definitely not counting each congregation as its own denomination. We are also not lumping all Baptists into a single denomination, but counting each organization separately. I hope this information helps.

Justin J. Evans
Research Assistant
Center
for the Study of Global Christianity

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
130 Essex Street #228
South Hamilton, MA 01982 USA
 
E-mail:

www.WorldChristianDatabase.org
www.GlobalChristianity.org
www.GCTS.edu
World Christian Encyclopedia