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A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic Church and Oriental Orthodoxy, meaning the large majority, all self-describe as churches, whereas many Protestant denominations self-describe as congregations or fellowships. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, 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.
Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures of Judaism, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
Individual denominations vary widely in the degree to which they recognize one another. Several groups claim to be 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 equivalency with other churches or denominations.
A number of Christian denominations assert that they alone represent the one true church – the church to which Jesus gave his authority in the Great Commission. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox communion and the Assyrian Church of the East each understands itself as the one and only original church. The claim to the title of the "one true church" relates to the first of the Four Marks of the Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church". The concept of schism somewhat moderates the competing claims between some churches – one can potentially repair schism. For example, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches each regard the other as schismatic rather than heretical.
Christianity in the 1st century covers the formative years of the Early Christian community, from Jesus' ministry and death until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles. The latter period subsequent to Jesus death, resurrection and Great Commission according to Christian tradition, is sometimes distinguished as the Apostolic Age, when the apostles spread the message of the Gospel to all nations and founded apostolic sees around Early centers of Christianity.
The Catholic Church which claims 1.3 billion members – slightly over half of all Christians worldwide – does not view itself as a denomination, but as the original pre-denominational church, a view rejected by other Christians. Protestant denominations account for approximately 37 percent of Christians worldwide. Together, Catholicism and Protestantism (including Anglicanism, and other denominations sharing historical ties) comprise Western Christianity. Western Christian denominations prevail in Western, Northern, Central and Southern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and Oceania.[ citation needed ]
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition which has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation.
Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents,is the second-largest Christian organization in the world and also considers itself the original pre-denominational church. The Eastern Orthodox Church is itself a communion of fully independent autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that mutually recognize each other. The Eastern Orthodox Church, together with Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East, constitutes Eastern Christianity. (There are smaller groups of Eastern Catholics which are in communion with the Bishop of Rome but have cultural and historical ties with other Eastern Christians and Byzantine Lutherans were newer group of Eastern Christianity and Protestant Lutheranism in Ukraine and Slovenia that accepts Byzantine Rite as the denomination's liturgy while retaining their Lutheran traditions.) Eastern Christian denominations are represented mostly in Eastern Europe, North Asia, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and mostly South India.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Christian churches that adheres to Miaphysite Christology and theology, with 60 to 70 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarized in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, is an Eastern Christian Church that follows the traditional christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. It belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and uses the Divine Liturgy of Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari belonging to the East Syrian Rite liturgy. Its main spoken language is Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians.
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. Both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox hold that their own organizations faithfully represent the One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church to the exclusion of the other. Sixteenth-century Protestants separated from the Catholic Church because of theologies and practices that they considered to be in violation of their own interpretation. 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.
The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church, is a term describing four distinctive adjectives—"one, holy, catholic and apostolic"—of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." This ecumenical creed is today recited in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Moravian Church, the Lutheran Churches, the Methodist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, the Anglican Communion and by members of many Reformed Churches.
Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also especially with epistemology, and asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.
A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized but not defined by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism, and performance.
Since the reforms surrounding the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, the Catholic Church has referred to Protestant communities as "denominations", while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern Orthodox (see subsistit in and branch theory). But some non-denominational Christians [ not verified in body ]do not follow any particular branch, though sometimes regarded as Protestants.
The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1965.
An apostolic see is an episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of their close associates. In Catholicism the phrase, with "the" and usually capitalized, refers to the See of Rome.
Subsistit in is a Latin phrase, which appears in the eighth paragraph of Lumen gentium, a landmark document of the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church:
This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
Haec Ecclesia, in hoc mundo ut societas constituta et ordinata, subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata, licet extra eius compaginem elementa plura sanctificationis et veritatis inveniantur, quae ut dona Ecclesiae Christi propria, ad unitatem catholicam impellunt.
Each group uses different terminology to discuss their beliefs. This section will discuss the definitions of several terms used throughout the article, before discussing the beliefs themselves in detail in following sections.
A denomination within Christianity can be defined as a "recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church"; major synonyms include "religious group, sect, Church," etc."Church" as a synonym, refers to a "particular Christian organization with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines"; "church" can also more broadly be defined as the entire body of Christians, the "Christian Church".
Some traditional and evangelical Protestants draw a distinction between membership in the universal church and fellowship within the local church. Becoming a believer in Christ makes one a member of the universal church; one then may join a fellowship of other local believers.Some evangelical groups describe themselves as interdenominational fellowships, partnering with local churches to strengthen evangelical efforts, usually targeting a particular group with specialized needs, such as students or ethnic groups. A related concept is denominationalism, the belief that some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. (Conversely, "denominationalism" can also refer to "emphasizing of denominational differences to the point of being narrowly exclusive", similar to sectarianism).
Protestant leaders differ greatly from the views of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the two largest Christian denominations. Each church makes mutually exclusive claims for itself to be the direct continuation of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, from whom other denominations later broke away.These churches, and a few others, reject denominationalism.
Historically, Catholics would label members of certain Christian churches (also certain non-Christian religions) by the names of their founders, either actual or purported. Such supposed founders were referred to as heresiarchs. This was done even when the party thus labeled viewed itself as belonging to the one true church. This allowed the Catholic party to claim that the other church was founded by the founder, while the Catholic church was founded by Christ. This was done intentionally in order to "produce the appearance of the fragmentation within Christianity"–a problem which the Catholic side would then attempt to remedy on its own terms.
Although Catholics reject branch theory, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II used the "two lungs" concept to relate Catholicism with Eastern Orthodoxy.
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Christianity can be taxonomically divided into five main groups: the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Protestantism includes many groups which do not share any ecclesiastical governance and have widely diverging beliefs and practices.
Christianity has denominational families (or movements) and also has individual denominations (or communions). The difference between a denomination and a denominational family is sometimes unclear to outsiders. Some denominational families can be considered major branches. Groups that are members of a branch, while sharing historical ties and similar doctrines, are not necessarily in communion with one another.
There were some movements considered heresies by the early church which do not exist today and are not generally referred to as denominations. Examples include the Gnostics (who had believed in an esoteric dualism called gnosis), the Ebionites (who denied the divinity of Jesus), and the Arians (who subordinated the Son to the Father by denying the pre-existence of Christ, thus placing Jesus as a created being), Bogumilism and Bosnian Church. The greatest divisions in Christianity today, however, are between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholicism, and the various denominations formed during and after the Protestant Reformation. There also exists a number of non-Trinitarian groups. There also exist some non-traditional groups that the majority of other Christians view as apostate or heretical, and not as legitimate versions of Christianity.
Comparisons between denominational churches must be approached with caution. For example, in some churches, congregations are part of a larger church organization, while in other groups, each congregation is an independent autonomous organization. This issue is further complicated by the existence of groups of congregations with a common heritage that are officially nondenominational and have no centralized authority or records, but which are identified as denominations by non-adherents. Study of such churches in denominational terms is therefore a more complex proposition.
Some groups count membership based on adult believers and baptized children of believers, while others only count adult baptized believers. Others may count membership based on those adult believers who have formally affiliated themselves with the congregation. In addition, there may be political motives of advocates or opponents of a particular group to inflate or deflate membership numbers through propaganda or outright deception.
Denominationalism is the belief that some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices.The idea was first articulated by Independents within the Puritan movement. They argued that differences among Christians were inevitable, but that separation based on these differences was not necessarily schism. Christians are obligated to practice their beliefs rather than remain within a church with which they disagree, but they must also recognize their imperfect knowledge and not condemn other Christians as apostate over unimportant matters.
Some Christians view denominationalism as a regrettable fact. As of 2011, divisions are becoming less sharp, and there is increasing cooperation between denominations.[ citation needed ] Theological denominationalism ultimately denies reality to any apparent doctrinal differences among the "denominations", reducing all differences to mere matters de nomina ("of names").[ citation needed ]
A denomination in this sense is created when part of a church no longer feel they can accept the leadership of that church as a spiritual leadership due to a different view of doctrine or what they see as immoral behaviour, but the schism does not in any way reflect either group leaving the Church as a theoretical whole.[ citation needed ]
This particular doctrine is rejected by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Oriental Orthodoxy. In these churches, it is not possible to have a separation over doctrinal or leadership issues, and any such attempts automatically are a type of schism. Some Protestant groups reject denominationalism as well.[ citation needed ]
Christianity has not been a monolithic faith since the first century or Apostolic Age, if ever, and today there exist a large variety of groups that share a common history and tradition within and without mainstream Christianity. Christianity is the largest religion in the world (making up approximately one-third of the population) and the various divisions have commonalities and differences in tradition, theology, church government, doctrine, and language.
The largest schism or division in many classification schemes is between the families of Eastern and Western Christianity. After these two larger families come distinct branches of Christianity. Most classification schemes list six (in order of size: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East, which was originally referred to as Nestorianism but in modern times is embodied by the Assyrian Church of the East).
Unlike Roman Catholicism, Protestantism is a general movement that has no universal governing authority. As such, diverse groups such as Adventists, Anabaptists, Baptists, Binitarians, Charismatics, Congregationalists, Evangelicals, Holiness churches, Methodists, Moravians, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Reformed, and Unitarians (depending on one's classification scheme) are all a part of the same family but have distinct doctrinal variations within each group – Lutherans see themselves not to be a part of the rest of what they call "Reformed Protestantism" due to radical differences in sacramental theology and historical approach to the Reformation itself (both Reformed and Lutherans see their reformation in the sixteenth century to be a 'reforming' of the Catholic Church, not a rejection of it entirely). From these come denominations, which in the West, have independence from the others in their doctrine.
The Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, due to their hierarchical structures, are not said to be made up of denominations, rather, they include kinds of regional councils and individual congregations and church bodies, which do not officially differ from one another in doctrine.
The initial differences between the East and West traditions stem from socio-cultural and ethno-linguistic divisions in and between the Western Roman and Byzantine Empires. Since the West (that is, Western Europe) spoke Latin as its lingua franca and the East (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and northern Africa) largely used Aramaic and Koine Greek to transmit writings, theological developments were difficult to translate from one branch to the other. In the course of ecumenical councils (large gatherings of Christian leaders), some church bodies split from the larger family of Christianity. Many earlier heretical groups either died off for lack of followers or suppression by the church at large (such as Apollinarians, Montanists, and Ebionites).
The first significant, lasting split in historic Christianity came from the Church of the East, who left following the Christological controversy over Nestorianism in 431 (the Assyrians in 1994 released a common Christological statement with the Roman Catholic Church). Today, the Assyrian and Roman Catholic Church view this schism as largely linguistic, due to problems of translating very delicate and precise terminology from Latin to Aramaic and vice versa (see Council of Ephesus).
Following the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the next large split came with the Syriac and Coptic churches dividing themselves, with the dissenting churches becoming today's Oriental Orthodoxy. Armenian Apostolic Church whose representatives were not able to attend the council did not accept new dogmas and now is also seen as an Oriental Orthodox Church. In modern times, there have also been moves towards healing this split, with common Christological statements being made between Pope John Paul II and Syriac patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, as well as between representatives of both Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy.
There has been a claim that the Chalcedonian Creed restored Nestorianism, however this is refuted by maintaining the following distinctions associated with the person of Christ: two hypostases, two natures (Nestorian); one hypostasis, one nature (Monophysite); one hypostasis, two natures (Orthodox/Catholic).
In Western Christianity, there were a handful of geographically isolated movements that preceded the spirit of the Protestant Reformation. The Cathars were a very strong movement in medieval southwestern France, but did not survive into modern times. In northern Italy and southeastern France, Peter Waldo founded the Waldensians in the 12th century. This movement has largely been absorbed by modern-day Protestant groups. In Bohemia, a movement in the early 15th century by Jan Hus called the Hussites defied Roman Catholic dogma and still exists to this day (alternately known as the Moravian Church).
Although the church as a whole did not experience any major divisions for centuries afterward, the Eastern and Western groups drifted until the point where patriarchs from both families excommunicated one another in about 1054 in what is known as the Great Schism. The political and theological reasons for the schism are complex, but one major controversy was the inclusion and acceptance in the West of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed, which the East viewed as erroneous. Another was the definition of papal primacy.
Both West and East agreed that the patriarch of Rome was owed a "primacy of honour" by the other patriarchs (those of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Jerusalem), but the West also contended that this primacy extended to jurisdiction, a position rejected by the Eastern patriarchs. Various attempts at dialogue between the two groups would occur, but it was only in the 1960s, under Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, that significant steps began to be made to mend the relationship between the two.
The Protestant Reformation began with the posting of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses in Saxony on October 31, 1517, written as a set of grievances to reform the pre-Reformation Western Church. Luther's writings, combined with the work of Swiss theologian Huldrych Zwingli and French theologian and politician John Calvin sought to reform existing problems in doctrine and practice. Due to the reactions of ecclesiastical office holders at the time of the reformers, these reformers separated from the Roman Catholic Church, instigating a rift in Western Christianity.
In England, Henry VIII of England declared himself to be supreme head of the Church of England with the Act of Supremacy in 1531, founding the Church of England, repressing both Lutheran reformers and those loyal to the pope. Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury introduced the Reformation, in a form compromising between the Calvinists and Lutherans.
The Old Catholic Church split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s because of the promulgation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility as promoted by the First Vatican Council of 1869–1870. The term 'Old Catholic' was first used in 1853 to describe the members of the See of Utrecht that were not under Papal authority. The Old Catholic movement grew in America but has not maintained ties with Utrecht, although talks are under way between independent Old Catholic bishops and Utrecht.
The Liberal Catholic Church started in 1916 via an Old Catholic bishop in London, bishop Matthew, who consecrated bishop James Wedgwood to the Episcopacy. This stream has in its relatively short existence known many splits, which operate worldwide under several names.
In the Eastern world, the largest body of believers in modern times is the Eastern Orthodox Church, sometimes imprecisely called "Greek Orthodox" because from the time of Christ through the Byzantine empire, Greek was its common language. However, the term "Greek Orthodox" actually refers to only one portion of the entire Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes itself to be the continuation of the original Christian Church established by Jesus Christ, and the Apostles. The Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics have been separated since the 11th century, following the East–West Schism, with each of them claiming to represent the original pre-schism Church.
The Eastern Orthodox consider themselves to be spiritually one body, which is administratively grouped into several autocephalous jurisdictions (also commonly referred to as "Churches", despite being parts of one Church). They do not recognize any single bishop as universal church leader, but rather each bishop governs only his own diocese. The Patriarch of Constantinople is known as the Ecumenical Patriarch, and holds the title "first among equals", meaning only that if a great council is called, the Patriarch sits as president of the council. He has no more power than any other bishop. Currently, the largest synod with the most members is the Russian Orthodox Church. Others include the ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, the Georgian, Romanian, Serbian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches, and several smaller ones.
The second largest Eastern Christian communion is Oriental Orthodoxy, which is organized in a similar manner, with six national autocephalous groups and two autonomous bodies, although there are greater internal differences than among the Eastern Orthodox (especially in the diversity of rites being used). The six autocephalous Oriental Orthodox Churches are the Coptic (Egyptian), Syriac, Armenian, Malankara (Indian), Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches. In the Aramaic-speaking areas of the Middle East, the Syriac Orthodox Church has long been dominant. Although the region of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea has had a strong body of believers since the infancy of Christianity, these regions only gained autocephaly in 1963 and 1994 respectively. The Oriental Orthodox are distinguished from the Eastern Orthodox by doctrinal differences concerning the union of human and divine natures in the person of Jesus Christ, and the two communions separated as a consequence of the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451, although there have been recent moves towards reconciliation. Since these groups are relatively obscure in the West, literature on them has sometimes included the Church of the East, which, like the Oriental Orthodox, originated in the 1st century A.D., but has not been in communion with them since before the Council of Ephesus of 431.
Largely aniconic, the Church of the East represents a third Eastern Christian tradition in its own right. In recent centuries, it has split into three Churches. The largest (since the early 20th century) is the Baghdad-based Chaldean Catholic Church formed from groups that entered communion with Rome at different times, beginning in 1552. The second-largest is what since 1976is officially called the Assyrian Church of the East and which from 1933 to 2015 was headquartered first in Cyprus and then in the United States, but whose present Catholicos-Patriarch, Gewargis III, elected in 2015, lives in Erbil, Iraq. The third is the Ancient Church of the East, distinct since 1964 and headed by Addai II Giwargis, resident in Baghdad.
There are also the Eastern Catholic Churches, most of which are counterparts of those listed above, sharing with them the same theological and liturgical traditions, but differing from them in that they recognize the Bishop of Rome as the universal head of the Church. They are fully part of the Catholic communion, on the same level juridically as the Latin Church. Most of their members do not describe themselves as "Roman Catholics", a term they associate with membership of the Latin Church, and speak of themselves in relation to whichever Church they belong to: Maronites, Melkites, Ukrainian Catholics, Coptic Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, etc.
And finally the smallest Eastern Christian group founded in early 20th century is Byzantine Rite Lutheranism where accept Byzantine Rite as Church's liturgy while retaining their Lutheran traditions like Ukrainian Lutheran Church. It is considered part of Reformed Eastern Christianity.
| Christian denominations |
in English-speaking world
The Latin portion of the Catholic Church, along with Anglicanism and Protestantism, comprise the three major divisions of Christianity in the Western world. Roman Catholics do not describe themselves as a denomination but rather as the original Holy and Universal Church; which all other branches broke off from in schism. The Baptist, Methodist, and Lutheran churches are generally considered to be Protestant denominations, although strictly speaking, of these three, only the Lutherans took part in the official Protestation at Speyer after the decree of the Second Diet of Speyer mandated the burning of Luther's works and the end of the Protestant Reformation.
Anglicanism was generally classified as Protestant, but since the "Tractarian" or Oxford Movement of the 19th century, led by John Henry Newman, Anglican writers emphasize a more catholic understanding of the church and characterize it as more properly understood as its own tradition—a via media ("middle way"), both Protestant and Catholic. The American province of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church USA, describes itself as a modern via media church in this tradition. A case is sometimes also made to regard Lutheranism in a similar way, considering the catholic character of its foundational documents (the Augsburg Confession and other documents contained in the Book of Concord) and its existence prior to the Anglican, Anabaptist, and Reformed churches, from which nearly all other Protestant denominations derive.
One central tenet of Catholicism (which is a common point between Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and some other Churches), is its practice of apostolic succession. "Apostle" means "one who is sent out". Jesus commissioned the first twelve apostles (see Biblical Figures for the list of the Twelve), and they, in turn laid hands on subsequent church leaders to ordain (commission) them for ministry. In this manner, Roman Catholics and Anglicans trace their ordained ministers all the way back to the original Twelve.
Roman Catholics believe that the Pope has authority which can be traced directly to the apostle Peter whom they hold to be the original head of and first Pope of the Church. There are smaller churches, such as the Old Catholic Church which rejected the definition of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council, and Anglo-Catholics, Anglicans who believe that Anglicanism is a continuation of historical Catholicism and who incorporate many Catholic beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church refers to itself simply by the terms Catholic and Catholicism (which mean universal).
Sometimes, Catholics, based on a strict interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("Outside the Church, there is no salvation"), rejected any notion those outside its communion could be regarded as part of any true Catholic Christian faith, an attitude rejected by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Catholicism has a hierarchical structure in which supreme authority for matters of faith and practice are the exclusive domain of the Pope, who sits on the Throne of Peter, and the bishops when acting in union with him. Most Catholics are unaware of the existence of Old Catholicism which represents a relatively recent split from the Catholic Church and is particularly vocal in rejecting their use of the term Catholic.
Each Protestant movement has developed freely, and many have split over theological issues. For instance, a number of movements grew out of spiritual revivals, such as Pentecostalism. Doctrinal issues and matters of conscience have also divided Protestants. The Anabaptist tradition, made up of the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites, rejected the Roman Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of infant baptism; this tradition is also noted for its belief in pacifism. Still others formed out of administrative issues; Methodism branched off as its own group of denominations when the American Revolutionary War complicated the movement's ability to ordain ministers (it had begun as a movement within the Church of England). In Methodism's case, it has undergone a number of administrative schisms and mergers with other denominations (especially those associated with the holiness movement in the 20th century).
Many churches with roots in Restorationism reject being identified as Protestant or even as a denomination at all, as they use only the Bible and not creeds, and model the church after what they feel is the first-century church found in scripture; the Churches of Christ are one example; African Initiated Churches, like Kimbanguism, mostly fall within Protestantism, with varying degrees of syncretism. The measure of mutual acceptance between the denominations and movements varies, but is growing largely due to the ecumenical movement in the 20th century and overarching Christian bodies such as the World Council of Churches.
Messianic Jews maintain a Jewish identity while accepting Jesus as the Messiah and the New Testament as authoritative. After the founding of the church, the disciples of Jesus generally retained their ethnic origins while accepting the Gospel message. The first church council was called in Jerusalem to address just this issue, and the deciding opinion was written by James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem and a pivotal figure in the Christian movement. The history of Messianic Judaism includes many movements and groups and defies any simple classification scheme.
The 19th century saw at least 250,000 Jews convert to Christianity according to existing records of various societies.Data from the Pew Research Center has it that, as of 2013, about 1.6 million adult American Jews identify themselves as Christians, most as Protestants. According to the same data, most of the Jews who identify themselves as some sort of Christian (1.6 million) were raised as Jews or are Jews by ancestry.
Some denominations which arose alongside the Western Christian tradition consider themselves Christian, but neither Roman Catholic nor wholly Protestant, such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Quakerism began as an evangelical Christian movement in 17th century England, eschewing priests and all formal Anglican or Roman Catholic sacraments in their worship, including many of those practices that remained among the stridently Protestant Puritans such as baptism with water. They were known in America for helping with the Underground Railroad, and like the Mennonites, Quakers traditionally refrain from participation in war.
Most Latter Day Saint denominations are derived from the Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints) established by Joseph Smith in 1830. The largest worldwide denomination, and the one publicly recognized as Mormonism, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although there are various considerably smaller sects that broke from it after its relocation to the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1800s. Several of these broke away over the abandonment of practicing plural marriage after the 1890 Manifesto. Most of the "Prairie Saint" denominations (see below) were established after Smith's death by the remnants of the Latter Day Saints who did not go west with Brigham Young. Many of these opposed some of the 1840s theological developments in favor of 1830s theological understandings and practices. Other denominations are defined by either a belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet or acceptance of the Book of Mormon as scripture. Mormons generally consider themselves to be restorationist, believing that Smith, as prophet, seer, and revelator, restored the original and true Church of Christ to the earth. Some Latter Day Saint denominations are regarded by other Christians as being nontrinitarian or even non-Christian, but the Latter Day Saints are predominantly in disagreement with these claims. Mormons see themselves as believing in a Godhead comprising the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as separate personages united in purpose. Mormons regard traditional definitions of the Trinity as aberrations of true doctrine and emblematic of the Great Apostasybut they do not accept certain trinitarian definitions in the post-apostolic creeds, such as the Athanasian Creed.
The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1870) of the early 19th century. The movement sought to restore the church and "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament." 54 Members do not identify as Protestant but simply as Christian. :213:
The Restoration Movement developed from several independent efforts to return to apostolic Christianity, but two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important. 27–32 The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and called themselves simply as "Christians". The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell; they used the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups sought to restore the whole Christian church on the pattern set forth in the New Testament, and both believed that creeds kept Christianity divided. In 1832 they joined in fellowship with a handshake.:
Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus. 27 Both groups promoted a return to the purposes of the 1st-century churches as described in the New Testament. One historian of the movement has argued that it was primarily a unity movement, with the restoration motif playing a subordinate role. :8:
The Restoration Movement has since divided into multiple separate groups. There are three main branches in the US: the Churches of Christ, the Christian churches and churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Other U.S.-based groups affiliated with the movement are the International Churches of Christ and the International Christian Churches. Non-U.S. groups include the Churches of Christ in Australia, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, the Churches of Christ in Europe. The Plymouth Brethren are a similar though historically unrelated group which originated in the United Kingdom. Some churches, such as Churches of Christ or the Plymouth Brethren reject formal ties with other churches within the movement.
Other groups originating during the Second Great Awakening include the Adventist movement, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Science (which had roots in Congregationalism, but regarded itself as restorative). Each of these groups, founded within fifty years of one another, originally claimed to be an unprecedented, late restoration of the primitive Christian church. Some Baptist churches with Landmarkist views have similar beliefs concerning their connection with primitive Christianity.
The Russian Orthodox Church has a long history of opposing heresies, beginning with Bogomilism and the Old Believers, a sect opposing the reforms introduced in the Russian Empire under Patriarch Nikon in 1666.
In 18th to 19th century Imperial Russia, there arose a new type of denominational schism grouped as Spiritual Christianity (духовное христианство). Many heresies, nicknamed by the church or government, called themselves "spiritual Christians", such as: Dukhobors, Ikonobortsy ("Iconoclasts"), Khlysts, Molokans, Pryguny , Skoptsy, Shtundists, Subbotniki , etc. These sects often have radically divergent notions of spirituality. Their common denominator is that they sought God in "Spirit and Truth", (Gospel of John 4:24) rather than in the Church of official Orthodoxy or ancient rites of Old Believers. Rejecting the official church, they considered their religious organization as a homogeneous community, without division into laymen and clergy.
In the 1830s, Ivan Grigorev Kanygin founded religious communities with communal practices in the Novouzensk region. They called themselves Communists or Methodists, but from the 1870s became known as "Mormons", by comparison with the contemporaneous American movement. An unrelated community known as "Samara Mormons" developed near the Volga city of Samara. They avoided alcohol, tobacco, and swearing, cooperated in commercial enterprises, and governed themselves by "apostles" and "prophets".
A more recent charismatic movement in Russia is the "Church of the Last Testament", which established a substantial settlement in the Siberian Taiga in the 1990s.
Due to a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the doctrines of the Philippines originating Iglesia ni Cristo as restorationist in outlook and theme.INC, however, does not consider itself to be part of the Restoration Movement. On the other hand, some Catholic leaders viewed Iglesia ni Cristo as an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church, since the then first leader or Executive Minister (Felix Ysagun Manalo) was a former Catholic member. However, INC is working and functioning spiritually and financially on its own, thus, completely independent from any religious body and communion.
The church hierarchical administration (Filipino: Pamamahala),centralized church governance, theological orientation, places of worship architectural design, adaptation to modern technology, very strong and strict discipline, and country of origin or establishment, are some of the INC features, polity and organizational structure that identify itself different from Restoration Movement, Protestantism, Catholicism and mainstream Christianity. Iglesia ni Cristo members are noted for bloc voting in political elections which is unique to the church due to their doctrine on unity and a practice that cannot be found outside INC.
Another group of churches is known under the banner of "New Thought". These churches share a spiritual, metaphysical and mystical predisposition and understanding of the Bible and were strongly influenced by the Transcendentalist movement—particularly the work of Emerson. Another antecedent of this movement was Swedenborgianism, founded in 1787 on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, who claimed to have received a new revelation from Jesus Christ through continuous heavenly visions which he experienced over a period of at least twenty-five years.
The New Thought concept was named by Emma Curtis Hopkins ("teacher of teachers") after Hopkins broke off from Mary Baker Eddy's Church of Christ, Scientist—the movement had been previously known as the Mental Sciences. The New Thought movement includes Religious Science founded by Ernest Holmes; Divine Science, founded by Malinda Cramer and the Brook sisters; and Unity founded by Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore. The founders of these denominations all studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins. Each of one these New Thought Churches has been influenced by a wide variety of ancient spiritual ideas.Each of these churches identify to different degrees with Christianity, Unity and Divine Science being the most explicit in the use of the Bible.
The Christian Community is a movement for religious renewal. It was founded in 1922 in Switzerland by the Lutheran theologian and minister Friedrich Rittlemeyer, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and founder of anthroposophy. Christian Community congregations exist as financially independent groups with regional and international administrative bodies overseeing their work. There are approximately 350 worldwide. The international headquarters are in Berlin, Germany.
The Christian Community does not require its members to conform to any specific teaching or behaviour.Seven sacraments are celebrated within the Community: the Eucharist, generally called the Act of Consecration of Man, and six other sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, The Last Anointing, Sacramental Consultation (replacing Confession), and Ordination.
Protestant denominations have shown a strong tendency towards diversification and fragmentation, giving rise to numerous churches and movements, especially in Anglo-American religious history, where the process is cast in terms of a series of "Great Awakenings". The most recent wave of diversification, known as the Fourth Great Awakening took place during the 1960s to 1980s and resulted in phenomena such as the Charismatic Movement, the Jesus movement, and a great number of Parachurch organizations based in Evangelicalism.
Many independent churches and movements considered themselves to be non-denominational, but may vary greatly in doctrine. Many of these, like the local churches movement, reflect the core teachings of traditional Christianity. Others however, such as The Way International, have been denounced as cults by the Christian anti-cult movement.
Two movements, which are entirely unrelated in their founding, but share a common element of an additional Messiah (or incarnation of Christ) are the Unification Church and the Rastafari movement. These movements fall outside of traditional taxonomies of Christian groups, though both cite the Christian Bible as a basis for their beliefs.
Syncretism of Christian beliefs with local and tribal religions is a phenomenon that occurs throughout the world. An example of this is the Native American Church. The ceremonies of this group are strongly tied to the use of peyote. (Parallels may be drawn here with the Rastafari spiritual use of cannabis.) While traditions vary from tribe to tribe, they often include a belief in Jesus as a Native American cultural hero, an intercessor for man, or a spiritual guardian; belief in the Bible; and an association of Jesus with peyote.
There are also some Christians that reject organized religion altogether. Some Christian anarchists believe that the original teachings of Jesus were corrupted by Roman statism (compare Early Christianity and State church of the Roman Empire), and that earthly authority such as government, or indeed the established Church, do not and should not have power over them. Following "The Golden Rule", many oppose the use of physical force in any circumstance, and advocate nonviolence. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You ,and was a Christian anarchist.
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning "on the whole", "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words κατά meaning "about" and ὅλος meaning "whole". The term Catholic was first used in the early 2nd century to indicate Christendom as a whole. In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has a rich history and several usages.
Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. It also includes Reformed Eastern churches such as the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church which follows a reformed West Syriac Rite and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church that uses the Byzantine Rite. Historically called the Eastern Church in contrast with the (Latin) Western Church, since the Protestant Reformation Eastern Christianity is used in contrast with Western Christianity, comprising both the said Latin Church as well as Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.
The term "ecumenism" refers to efforts by Christians of different Church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings. The term is also often used to refer to efforts towards the visible and organic unity of different Christian denominations in some form.
Heterodoxy in a religious sense means "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position". Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unorthodoxy, while the adjective "heterodox" could be applied to a dissident.
Orthodoxy is adherence to correct or accepted creeds, especially in religion. In the Christian sense the term means "conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early Church." The first seven ecumenical councils were held between the years of 325 and 787 with the aim of formalizing accepted doctrines.
The Christian Church, also called the holy catholic church, is a Protestant ecclesiological concept of a church invisible comprising all Christians. In this understanding, "Christian Church" or "catholic church" does not refer to a particular Christian denomination but to the "body" of all "believers", both defined in various ways. Other Christian traditions believe that these terms apply only to a specific concrete Christian institution, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, or the Assyrian Church of the East; or to a group of institutions, as in the branch theory taught by some Anglicans.
Nicene Christianity is a set of Christian doctrinal traditions which reflect the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
Catholicity is a concept pertaining to beliefs and practices widely accepted across numerous Christian denominations, most notably those that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed of the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."
Conversion to Christianity is a process of religious conversion in which a previously non-Christian person converts to Christianity. Converts to Christianity typically make a vow of repentance from past sins, accept Jesus as their Savior and vow to follow his teachings as found in the New Testament.
Branch theory is a ecclesiological proposition within Anglicanism and Protestantism that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church includes various Christian denominations whether in formal communion or not. Some Anglican proponents of the theory usually only include the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Communion churches, while others may also include the Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Old Catholic and Lutheran churches. The theory is often incorporated in the Protestant notion of an invisible Christian Church structure binding them together.
A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the East–West Schism or the Great Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:
The history of modern Christianity concerns the Christian religion from the end of the Early Modern era to the present day. The Early Modern history of Christianity is usually taken to begin with the Protestant Reformation c. 1517–1525 and ending in the late 18th century with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the events leading up to the French Revolution of 1789. This article only covers 1720 to the current date. For the early modern period, see the articles on the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Church and the Age of Discovery.