Sorting Christian groups by denomination,
& theological belief system
What is a Christian?
To avoid confusion, we repeat here our site's simple definition of
"We accept as Christian any individual or group who devoutly,
thoughtfully, seriously, and prayerfully regards themselves to be Christian.
That is, they honestly believe that they follow Yeshua of Nazareth's (a.k.a. Jesus Christ's)
teachings as they understand them to be.
Other individuals and groups have much narrower definitions of the term.
They often believe that their faith group is the "true" Christian religion, and
that all others are in error. That is certainly their right, but it does cause a
great deal of confusion, frustration, anger, and conflict.
Sorting Christian faith groups:
Except perhaps for a few years between the execution of Yeshua of Nazareth
(circa 30 CE) and the start of Paul's ministry (circa 36
CE), the Christian religion has never been unified.
Sorting them into categories is a difficult task. Six ways of classifying them are into:
- By individual denomination:
|There are on the order of 1,200 Christian
organizations in North America, and over 30,000 in the world.|
|Their names range from the Amish to The Way. |
||We have essays describing a few dozen of them.|
- By meta-group:
Christian denominations and sects in the world can be sorted into
about eight segments or branches:
|Eastern Orthodoxy, |
|Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches,|
Unfortunately, there is no consensus about which faith groups
should be embraced by the term "Protestantism." For example:
||Some theologians split out the Anglican Communion from
|Others consider Pentecostalism to be separate from Protestantism.|
|Others separate the European Free-Church Family out as a separate
|Some include the Restorationist denominations, which includes
the Mormon church (a.k.a. LDS) within Protestantism. Some consider them to be a
separate Christian group. Still others consider them to be non-Christian. |
The organization Christian Churches Together
(CCT), a broadly based, inclusive, Christian ecumenical movement,
suggests still another classification of U.S. faith groups. They group
Christian denominations into five families" Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Historic
Racial/Ethnic, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.
- By "Wing":
Like in the area of politics, Christians and Christian groups can be divided
into conservative and liberal wings, according to their belief systems. Their
teachings on abortion access,
origins of the species of life, the earth and the rest of the universe, equal rights for
gays and lesbians, equal rights for transgender individuals and transsexuals, and
same-sex marriage, are four indicators of their location on the liberal-
|Fundamentalists, other Evangelical
Protestants, Roman Catholics, and
Eastern Orthodoxy, and such varied groups as the
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons,
Unification Church, etc. generally form the conservative wing;|
|The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
Evolutionary Christianity, United Church of
Christ, United Church of Canada and others form the liberal
|Often, a third, mainline wing is added, composed of such
denominations as: American Baptist Churches in the USA, Presbyterian
Church (USA), United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, etc.|
- By religious families:
|Denominations can be sorted into 15 families, according to their
historical roots. 1|
|Examples are the Adventist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and
- By theological beliefs:
|There are many systems of theological beliefs within Christianity. |
|They often cut across denominational boundaries. |
|Members of an single congregation may hold conflicting belief systems.
|Examples are Arminianism, British Israelism, Calvinism, Christian
Identity, Universalism, etc.|
||Perhaps the most striking range of beliefs concerns the nature of God. A survey by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion has identified four very different concepts of God which they call: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical, and Distant. Believers in each version can provide multiple biblical texts supporting their beliefs.|
|The Barna Research Group, arguably the most important polling
group working in the religious and spiritual area, sorts individuals
into five faith segments according to their theological beliefs.|
- Five religious groupings:
Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) recognizes six
families of Christian faith groups:
|Eastern Orthodox, and|
|Roman Catholic 3|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
J. Gordon Melton, Ed, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions,"
6th edition, Gale Group, (2009). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store We were amazed to see the range of prices for this book as listed by Amazon.co, On 2012-SEP-07. a new hardcover edition costs $415.00. A used copy costs $0.01 plus postage!
David B. Barrett, et al., "World Christian Encyclopedia : A
Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World," Oxford
University Press, 2 volume set, (2001). Read
reviews or order this book The prices are equally insane on this two volume set: New copies are $326; used at $1,861.
"Christian Churches Together in the USA," at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
First posted: 1998-JUL
Last updated 2012-SEP-07
Author: Bruce A Robinson