What are the different denominations within Christianity?
There are thousands of Christian denominations and tens of thousands of non-denominational churches which cannot be listed here, however, the primary families are identified for a better understanding of the variety within the organized Christian faith. There are various means of classifying Christian denominations, such as meta-groups, which generally include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglicans, and Protestants. Of these, most denominations fall under the Protestant movement and are identified by their branch, or wing -- conservative, mainline, or liberal. Conservative denominations, such as Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, and Seventh-Day Adventists, believe in the inerrency of the Bible as the Word of God, literal translation of Scripture, the virgin birth and sinless life of Jesus, Satan and hell as realities, salvation through the born-again experience, evangelization of the gospel, creationism, and the rapture, and are generally opposed to abortion and homosexual behavior but supportive of capital punishment. They are often viewed by liberals as rigid, close-minded, intolerant, and fanatical. Liberal denominations, such as the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian Universalist Association, do not accept the entire Bible as inerrent or even relevant and generally believe in moral relativism, various grades of evolution, in hell as symbolic but not real, in Jesus as a historically wise teacher but mistakenly infused with pagan mythology, that there is no Second Coming, and generally support abortion and gay rights but are opposed to capital and even corporal punishment. They are often viewed by conservatives as biblically ignorant, compromising with worldly values, and overly influenced by secular humanism. Mainline denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, and Evangelical Lutherans, consist of followers who either fall somewhere inbetween (moderates), or consist of churches with a mix of both conservatives and liberals, with policies being left to individual churches. According to the Princeton Religion Research Center (www.prrc.com), the majority of confessed Christians in the U.S. are mainline, and it is mainline churches which often experience schisms.
Following is a general timeline of major Christian denominational movements:
Primitive Christian Church (first century A.D./C.E.)The immediate disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ established small Jewish Christian churches throughout the regions in and around Israel following Christ's ascension, beginning with Pentecost sometime around 33-35 A.D. The second generation of disciples and apostles, including Paul and Barnabas, spread the gospel and established churches throughout the Roman Empire. The first Christian church council was in Jerusalem cerca A.D. 50, as recorded in Acts chapter 15.
Patristic Period (second, third and fourth centuries)The early Christian churches were independently overseen by deacons and bishops, many of whom developed Christian theology and apologetics through their letters, and many of whom were martyred. Some of the more prominent apostolic fathers include Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Papias of Hierapolis, Hermas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory I, and John Damascene. These are commonly known today as the Apostolic Church Fathers.
One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (fourth century)The first general council of bishops was the first Council of Nicea, held in Constantinople in A.D. 325, wherein the united church body was deemed "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." By the end of the fourth century, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The Great Schism (eleventh century)During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church experienced a schism between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Byzantine Empire, the primary cause of which was the challenged authority of the pope. The outcome was two distinct church bodies out of one -- the Catholic Church under the authority of Rome and the united churches of the Eastern Orthodox Church, each under independent authority of local bishops.
Protestant Reformation (sixteenth century)In 1517, a German priest named Martin Luther challenged the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. Up until this time, most dissidents were excommunicated or put to death as heretics, however, due to German magisterial support, Luther found refuge and began the Protestant Reformation. Initially intended to bring reform to the Catholic Church, it instead successfully formed its own faction outside the Catholic Church. About the same time as the Lutheran movement of the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century, a similar reformation movement was taking place in Switzerland under the guidance of such individuals as Huldreich Zwingli and John Calvin. Although the two Reformation movements coincided and often consolidated, the theology of John Calvin helped to establish the Reformed Churches, to include the Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Hussites, Moravians, and Anti-Trinitarians.
Anglicans and Separatists (sixteenth and seventeenth century)In 1559, due to certain disagreements between King Henry VIII and Pope Clement VII, the Catholic Church in England officially broke from the Roman Catholic Church and became the Church of England, although it retained most of the doctrines, traditions, and practices of the Catholic Church. The Church of England was not considered a Protestant church, but rather a Reformed church. After the American Revolutionary War, the Church of England in America became the Episcopal Church. Many denominations resulted from opposition to the Church of England, dissidents of which were known as Separatists, Independents, Congregationalists, and Nonconformists. Among these were the Methodists, Baptists, Puritans, and Quakers. As a result of Anglican persecution, many flourished in the American colonies.
New World Revival (eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries)The first Great Awakening was a revival in the American colonies during the eighteenth century marked by religious enthusiasm and emotional preaching, during which time the control of established churches was challenged, denominational barriers were broken down, new frontiers were evangelized, and many universities and colleges were founded. The second Great Awakening took place between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries throughout the American continent, resulting in large-scale conversion through emotionally charged revivals, particularly within Methodist and Baptist congregations, and often by itinerant lay preachers. Evangelical Protestantism became the dominant religion during this time. After the U.S. Civil War, certain evangelical movements led to the rise of Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century, with emphasis on manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Late in the twentieth century came a similar movement emphasizing the gifts of the Spirit, that of the Charismatics, which bridged Protestant churches with Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox denominations.
Ecumenism (twentieth and twenty-first century)Progressive Christianity is the adaptation of traditional Christianity to modern times, conforming to accepted social norms and peacefully co-existing with all religions. In contrast to this is fundamentalism, a return of strict adherence to biblical teachings, primitive Christianity, and acceptance of Christ as the only way to salvation. Inbetween lies the mass of the moderate, established, denominational Christian body. The ecumenical movement is an attempt to unify all Christian believers -- not necessarily in doctrine, creed, or religious practice, but in promoting cooperation and better understanding throughout the universal and mystical body of Christ.
"Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come." The Jews said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, 'You will look for me, but you will not find me,' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?" On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" Thus the people were divided because of Jesus."
The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church both claim their roots as the succession of apostolic church fathers following the disciples of Christ during the first few centuries of early Church growth, while many Protestant churches claim adherence to the original teachings of Christ and his immediate followers, before the Church became institutionalized. Many conservative and mainline Christians consider some denominations as cults, to include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Christ Scientist, and various New Age movements. A Christian cult in the broadest sense of the term is a religious sect based on the New Testament and maintaining basic Christian beliefs, yet denying the core tenets of the traditional Christian faith, such as the diety of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of the world, and the Triune God. While many denominations are attempting to bridge the gap and unite in faith as part of the worldwide Ecumenical movement, the gap continues to widen between the irreconcilable differences of fundamentalist/evangelical churches and catholic/orthodox churches. All denominations are listed alphabetically, while some churches are included as families of larger churches. Some, such as Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Charismatics, are not necessarily denominations, but movements across denominational barriers which help to define and differentiate between the three main wings of Protestantism.
Distinction: Interfaith movement among various Protestant denominations begun in the nineteenth century focusing on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Adventist denominations, of which there are about a half dozen primary churches with an estimated 11 million members worldwide, all derive from the teachings of William Miller (1782-1849), a Baptist convert who concentrated his biblical studies on prophecies about Christ's first and second coming -- thus the term Adventists, a Protestant interfaith movement which began as the Great Second Advent Awakening. By Miller's calculations based on the Book of Daniel (particularly Daniel 8:14), Christ's return was to be in 1843. When it did not seem to come, Millerite followers recalculated it for the following year. Again, when it did not seem to come, followers united in belief that the prophecies meant that Jesus had begun in heaven a special ministry for them. Of the different churches to branch from Miller's teachings, the two major denominations were the Seventh-Day Adventists, lead by Ellen G. White, and The Church of God, an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church which did not share with White's own prophecies. The various Adventist churches, most of which were formed in the U.S. in the mid to late nineteenth century, differ in belief mainly about the mellenial reign of Christ on earth, the state of dead believers, judgment of the wicked, and importance of the spiritual gift of prophecy. They include the Evangelical Adventists (1845), Seventh-Day Adventists (1845), Life and Advent Union (1848), The Advent Christian Church (1861), The Church of God (1864-65), Advent Christians (1881), Age-to-Come Adventists (1885), the Primitive Advent Christian Church, and various sects and branches of each. Some contemporary Christians consider the Seventh-Day Adventists to be a cult, while most consider it a fundamentalist sect of Christianity.
Founded by a Swiss Mennonite bishop named Jacob Amman (1644-?), the Amish were a faction of the Swiss Brethren in the late seventeenth century who felt strongly about banning those in their church who did not conform. Due to persecution, they migrated to North America in the eighteenth century and settled primarily in Pennsylvania, the midwestern U.S., and Ontario, Canada. The Old Order Amish, also known as the Plain People, comply with guidelines set forth in eighteenth century Dutch Pennsylvania, which still include black conservative dress, horse-drawn buggies and farm equiment, seventeenth century Swiss-German customs, agrarian lifestyles, compliance with the Ordnung (daily rules for living), private education in one-room schoolhouses through the eighth grade, speaking the Dutch Pennsylvania dialect of German, rejection of military service, a literal interpretation of the Bible, social avoidance of sinners (Meidung), and separation from the world. They are known for living simple lives -- without electricity, music, pictures, mirrors, or automobiles -- whose activities, such as barn raisings, quilting parties, threshing bees, and country auctions, have become tourist attractions. Church congregations consist of about 250 members and are headed by a bishop, preacher, and deacon. Services are held in homes, conducted in High German, and generally include chanted hymnals and foot washings. Married women wear a white prayer covering on their head and married men grow a beard. A smaller, more modern sect, known as the Beachy Amish or Church Amish, permit the use of cars and farm equiment and meet in church buildings. Today, the Amish number roughly 200,000 and are generally affiliated with the Mennonites.
Distinction: Non-denominational movement of primitive communal Christian churches during the Protestant Reformation opposed to infant baptism and integration of church and state.
The Anabaptists (Greek anabaptismos, second baptism, or anabaptizein, to baptize again) were a more radical sect of the early sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation concentrated primarily in Switzerland, whose beliefs centered around the conscience baptism of the individual (in opposition to infant baptism). Anabaptists separated not only from the Catholic Church, but from the state in general. They considered themselves as free churches, consisting of simple associations of adult Christians meeting in homes rather than institutionalized churches. The movement began in Z�rich in 1525 by Conrad Grebel as a break from the leadership of Huldreich Zwingli, whose practices included nonresistance (Matthew 5:39), government by elders (Acts 14:23), communal living (Acts 4:32), and the banning of unrepentant brothers (Matthew 18:15-17). Their aim was at restoring the lives of Christian believers to the elementary principles of the early Church as outlined in the Book of Acts. Most groups of this sect were harshly persecuted by both Church and State (including persecution by Protestants as well as Catholics). Sects of the Anabaptists include the Brethren, Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish.
Distinction: Official break of England from the Roman Catholic Church, although retaining much of the tradition and structure of the Catholic Church.
The Anglican Church began as the Church of England in 1559 (Ecclesia Anglicana, or English Church), under the rule of Queen Elizabeth, but originally developed after years of quarrel, beginning in 1529, between King Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic Church (primarily because Pope Clement VII would not recognize King Henry's divorce and remarriage). The state-sanctioned Anglican Church was an official break from the Roman Catholic Church, although retaining much of the Catholic history, practices, doctrines, and government. It was not necessarily considered a Protestant church, rather, a Reformed church with church services in the native language of its members, the Bible made available to the common people, the national churches ordering their own affairs, and rejection of the pope's jurisdiction in England. To the Anglican Church, nothing is sanctioned by God which has not been defined by God in the Bible, which means that there is room for individual interpretation on many subjects (as well as lending to some vagueness in doctrine). Anglican churches outside of England are autonomous, with an estimated 70 million members worldwide making up the Anglican Communion, and are generally located in countries which are, or once were, controlled by Great Britain. Conferences are held every ten years at Lambeth Palace in London by invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, although there is no centralized authority within the Anglican Community and reports and resolutions from each conference are not enforced. The Anglican Church as a whole continues to uphold the Catholic and Apostolic faith and maintains close ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
Distinction: Pentecostal in tradition, fundamentalist in Bible interpretation, and devoted to maintaining lives in conjunction with standards set forth by Christ's apostles in the New Testament.
The original Apostolics were various heretical sects of the Roman Catholic Church with similar practices to the Novatianists and Manichaeans, along with traditional ties to the Anabaptists, beginning with the Encratites of Syria and Asia Minor in the second century A.D. By the third century, they had split into various factions, including the Apostolici, Apotactici, and Hydroparastates (also known as Aquarians). The basic beliefs of the Apostolics which separated them from the early Church included living lives which more closely resembled those of the original apostles of Christ, such as not owning property, remaining unmarried, being supported by alms, and maintaining strict asceticism and staunch morality. In France during the twelfth century, the Apostolics began to promote abstinance from meat and a common priesthood of all believers, while rejecting the Catholic doctrines of infant baptism, veneration of the saints, prayers for the dead, and purgatory, as well as disdaining the taking of oaths since none of these were scriptural teachings found in the New Testament. It was during this time that the Apostolic followers were sought out and burned as heretics. In the thirteenth century, another sect of the Apostolics, known as the False Apostles, was begun in Italy by Gerard Segarelli, who also strove to reproduce the lives of the Apostles. After being put to death, his successor in the fourteenth century, Dulcin, who taught that the Catholic Church had declined through ambition and love of riches, led his followers into seclusion in the mountains, but was hunted down and burned at the stake. Modern Apostolics are fundamentalist in biblical interpretation, Pentecostal in tradition, and -- although not dirctly descended from the historical Apostolics -- continue to maintain living their lives according to the devout standards set forth by Christ's apostles as recorded in the New Testament (particularly 1 Corinthians). Of contemporary Christian organizations that may be deemed Apostolic, one of the largest is the United Pentecostal Church, also known as the "Oneness" movement, which was an offshoot of the Assemblies of God in 1917.
Distinction: One of the first heretical sects of the Roman Catholic Church, which promoted non-trinitarian teachings that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were of different and unequal natures.
Arian churches are an early sect of the Roman Catholic Church, following the teachings of Arius (256-336), presbyter of Alexandria under bishop Athanasius in the fourth century. Arius held that Christ was not eternal, of an inferior nature to God, and thus not divine, a belief which won many followers and caused enough controversy to be addressed at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, the outcome of which was the Nicene Creed. The Church declared that Christ was of the same spiritual nature as God and the Holy Spirit, the three being equal in divinity. Arius was excommunicated and his anti-trinitarian teachings were condemned, however, it continued to win several major adherents (including Hippolytus, Novatian, and Tertullian), along with a few sympathizers (such as Eusebius of Nicodemia and Eusebius of Caesarea). Arius won considerable favor with the emperor Constantine, after whose death the Arian doctrine challenged with substantial success the trinitarian decree of the Council of Nicaea and nearly permeated the entire Western Church. The two main factions of Arianism were the Anomoeans, or Strict Arians, who claimed that the Son was unlike (anomoios) the Father, and the Homoousians, or Semi-Arians, who claimed that the Son was similar (homoios, cosubstantial) in nature to the Father, but not identical. Another faction was the Macedonians, who taught that the Holy Spirit was also not of a divine nature and who became known as the Pneumatomachi, or enemies of the Spirit. Had it not been for the persistent opposition of Athanasius amidst severe persecution, Arianism would have supplanted the doctrine of the Trinity. By the eighth century, Arianism had been suppressed by the Catholic Church. Today there are very few churches directly descended from the Arian tradition, although the Socinians and Unitarians hold similar beliefs.
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia - Arianism
Distinction: An Eastern Orthodox Church and the first Christian state. Prior to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, the Armenian Church became the first nationally instituted Christian church.
According to tradition, Christianity was introduced to the kingdom of Armenia in the first century by Thaddeus and Bartholomew, two of Christ's original twelve apostles. Gregory the Illuminator, bishop of Armenia, founded the Armenian Church in A.D. 301 after being tortured and imprisoned in a pit for over thirteen years at the command of the Persian King Drtad (also known as Trtad or Tiridates III) for refusing to worship the pagan goddess Anahid (as well as for being the son of Anak, who murdered King Khosrov I, Drtad's father). Upon his release, Gregory healed King Drtad of an incurable affliction and converted him, afterwhich Christianity was made the official religion of Armenia, making it the first official Christian state. Until the fifth century, worship was conducted in Greek or Syriac due to the lack of an Armenian alphabet. In A.D. 404, St. Mesrob completed a 36-letter Armenian alphabet in order to translate the Bible into Armenian. Church headquarters is at the Monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin in the city of Etchmiadzin, with the Catholicos ("universal bishop") as its leader. Armenians have founded more than 70 monasteries and presently the Armenian Quarter covers 1/5 of the old city of Jerusalem. As a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church proclaims the Nicene Creed and generally honors the Councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325 and 787), Constantinople (A.D. 381), and Ephesus (A.D. 431).
The Armenian Church
Assemblies of God
Distinction: Council of Pentecostal churches begun in the U.S. in the twentieth century with emphasis on missionary evangelism.
The Assemblies of God is a Pentecostal movement with emphasis on missionary evangelism. It was begun in 1901 at a prayer meeting at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, with a revival in the physical signs of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, primarily by the evidence of speaking in tongues. The movement spread throughout the U.S. and sprang up spontaneously worldwide, although it was not initially embraced by established churches. In 1914, a general council headed by Eudorus N. Bell was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to discuss the growing need for an organized body, with the primary reasons being doctrinal unity, conservation of the work, ordination of ministers, foreign missions interest, chartering churches under a common name for legal purposes, and the need for a Bible training school. The result was not necessarily a new denomination, but a cooperative fellowship known as The General Council of the Assemblies of God. Two years later it adopted a Statement of Fundamental Truths as a formal constitution of its doctrines. With headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, the Assemblies of God has over 12,000 independently governed churches in the U.S., nearly a quarter of a million churches globally, almost 2,000 Bible schools, and over 40 million members worldwide.
Distinction: British Separatist movement with emphasis on the baptism of believers, religious liberty, and separation of church and state.
The Baptist movement began in the early seventeenth century in England as part of the Separatist and Congregationalist movements, with emphasis on the baptism of believers, religious liberty, and separation of church and state, as well as holding to beliefs from both Calvinistic and Arminian schools of thought. Some have traced the Baptist movement to that of the Anabaptists of Switzerland in the sixteenth century who rejected all baptisms not intelligently or consciously sought by the individual (such as infant baptism) and who were radically individualistic, but most Baptists claim no individual founder or previous sect of origin. It was brought to the American colonies in 1632 by Roger Williams, who founded the first American Baptist church in 1639, the second to be founded by Dr. John Clarke in 1641. Due to persecution, it did not grow quickly until after the American Revolution and the creation of the Bill of Rights, granting separation of church and state, to which many consider the Baptist movement contributed greatly. European Baptist churches started appearing in 1834, primarily due to the missionary activity of the Baptist Missionary Society founded in 1792 by William Carey. There is no one, official Baptist church. Although individualistic and autonomous in nature, Baptist churches are united through various fellowship counsels, associations, and conventions. One of the most popularly known Baptist organizations is the Southern Baptist Convention, comprising a minority segment of the Baptist population known to be highly fundamentalist.
Distinction: Examine the Scriptures daily to test what Christians say compared against biblical truth.
The Berean Church, a dissention from the Scotch Presbyterian Church, was founded in 1773 by Reverend John Barclay. Its name and character are based on Acts 17:11, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Presuming the Bible to be the innerent and infallible word of God -- not the reader -- Bereans strive to search the Scriptures daily and test every man-made statement by the Word of truth. Although the original Berean Church is extinct, there are still independent churches and individual followers who hold to the same ideals of Scriptural examination. Basic Berean beliefs are similar to those of dispensationalism.
Distinctions: Anabaptist faction with Pietist beliefs; similar to the Mennonites in tradition; promotion of Christian unity through communal living. As a primitive Christian fellowship of believers, the Brethren have historically avoided military service, political involvement, religious iconography, fashionable dress, musical instruments, and contact with the world outside their own rural communities.
Founded in 1708 by a miller named Alexander Mack (1679-1735) in Schwarzenau, Germany, the Brethren (originally known as the German Baptists) were an outcome of radical Anabaptist and Pietist beliefs based on a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ than the Catholic, Protestant, and Reformed churches promoted. The Brethren's practice of rebaptizing adults who had been infant baptized into established churches was considered illegal. Persecuted in Germany, they migrated to Switzerland and the Netherlands, then to Pennsylvania in 1719 under the leadership of Peter Beck. In 1729, many of the remaining Brethren in Europe under the leadership of Alexander Mack also emigrated to Pennsylvania. Although closely related in tradition and beliefs to the Mennonites, the Brethren rejected the shared confessions of organized Mennonite conferences in favor of the New Testament as their only creed. As a primitive Christian fellowship of believers, the Brethren avoided military service, political involvement, religious iconography, fashionable dress, musical instruments, and contact with the world outside their own rural communities. They promoted Christian unity (often addressing one another as "Brother" or "Sister"), self-discipline, social punishment (including shunning), obedience, and worldly non-conformity. As the Brethren grew and spread from the northeastern U.S. to the midwest throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they began to modernize, industrialize, and evangelize. They also began to accept and instigate higher education. Today, the Brethren as a whole comprise over 300,000 members within five main factions: Old German Baptist Brethren, Brethren Church, Dunkard Brethren, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and its largest group, Church of the Brethren.
Distinction: Reformed hippies and counterculture rebels commonly known as Jesus Freaks.
During the counterculture revolution of the sixties and early seventies, new hippie churches sprang up in what has been called the Jesus Movement. These churches targeted younger people, many of whom grew up as members of traditional churches, but who were rebelling against establishments which included organized religion. Three of the primary churches were Calvary Chapel, Hope Chapel, and Vineyard Chapel. Evangelical and non-denominational in nature, they were loosely organized charismatic churches and coffee houses with God's love and acceptance for all as their creeds. Radical, contemporary Christian music was a hallmark of the movement and many churches began their own recording studios. Calvary Chapel was founded in 1965 by a former Foursquare Gospel minister, Chuck Smith, in Costa Mesa, CA. Today, there are hundreds of Calvary Chapel churches nationwide, with nearly 250 in California alone, and thousands of affiliated churches worldwide. Church services are marked by casual attire, contemporary music, emotional experiences, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and fundamental, Bible-based teaching.
Distinctions: Protestant doctrine, separation of church and state, strict ecclesiastical discipline, and church domination of civil life. Rather than asceticism, the way to a closer relationship with God is through hard work, moderate consumption, dedication to one's neighbor, and unceasing service to the community. Of its most controversial teachings is the doctrine of predestination, by which those who are saved were chosen before the creation of the world.
There aren't many Christian churches which consider themselves to be strictly Calvinist, however, the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564) were influential for the Protestant Reformation and led to several denominations, including the English Puritan, Scottish Presbyterian, and European Reformed churches. Many consider Calvin to be the successor to Martin Luther in the European Christian reformation outside of Germany and the northern countries. Himself a French Evangelical, Calvin introduced several changes to the Catholic Church in Geneva, Switzerland, during the sixteenth century which shaped the order of many Protestant churches. Based on the structure of early Christian churches, he created four offices -- pastors, doctors (teachers), presbyters (elders), and deacons (helpers). Sunday church services became a structured order of service, liturgy, and confession, with the addition of the singing of psalms. He strived toward the separation of church and state, while maintaining that the church be active in all affairs of civil life. He insisted on strict doctrinal and ecclesiastical discipline for the sake of church unity. He taught that all believers, regardless of status, should use their God-given gifts to make the world a better place, to the glory of God. He maintained that the one true authority over man was God and only by the Holy Spirit could man understand the Holy Scriptures. He believed that, rather than asceticism, the way to a closer relationship with God was through hard work, moderate consumption, dedication to one's neighbor, and unceasing service to the community. He promoted the democratic freedom of the individual, the right of resistance, economic development, and social commitment. The five main points of Calvinism are represented in the acronym TULIP: Total hereditary depravity (inherited sin); Unconditional election (predestination); Limited atonement (Christ's death was not for all men); Irresistible grace (salvation confirmed by feelings); Perseverance of the saints (once saved, forever saved).
Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics
Distinctions: Considers itself the first and only Universal Christian Church of the civilized world inherited from Christ's original apostles, through which all other Christian churches are sanctified either directly or indirectly. Arguably the earliest, largest, and most powerful organized church of the Christian faith. Church tradition is equal in authority to biblical scripture.
The Roman Catholic Church (a 19th century British coinage used to distinguish the Church of Rome from other Catholic churches) claims its true origins with Matthew 16:18, when Jesus said of Simon son of Jonah that his name would be Peter, "and on this rock I will build my church." The pope has become the successor of Peter (the vicar of Christ on earth), with the bishops as successors of Christ's apostles under the supreme authority of the pope. The term "catholic" (Greek katholicos) was first used by Ignatius of Antioch in A.D. 110, both as a description of the primitive Christian churches being the "universal" Church of the inhabited world and as a distinction between the true Church and those that were becoming heretical. By the second century, Christianity had become an organized, hierarchical institution with authority based in Rome. Christianity was tolerated by the Roman Empire in the early fourth century under Constantine the Great and became its official religion by the end of the fourth century. The Patristic period (roughly A.D. 50-600), was the foundational period of the Church by the early Church Fathers -- those apostles, saints, apologetics, and theologians who helped construct its primary doctrines, creeds, and canons. Originally considered "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" (Nicene Creed of 325), around the beginning of the 11th century the Church split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church continued to be the dominant religious force throughout Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, throughout the Middle Ages (600-1300), and during the Renaissance, from the sixth century through the sixteenth century. The Catholic Reformation began in the late fifteenth century with revivals in monastic orders. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, which forced the Catholic Church into further reformation of its own. The Catholic Reformation then grew into the Counter Reformation, which sought to purify the Roman Catholic Church and define its doctrines against those of Protestantism.
Distinction: Modern, interdenominational movement emphasizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly speaking in tongues.
The Pentecostal movement of the early Assemblies of God churches may be considered the first charismatic movement, however, the Charismatic movement that is distinguished from that of the earlier Pentecostal one actually began in the U.S. in the early 1960s within the Episcopalian Church with a revival of speaking in tongues. Much like the Pentecostals, charismatic churches emphasize the gifts of the Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, a sign of a baptized, born-again believer and an early Christian practice which seemed to disappear from history after the first century. Unlike the Pentecostal movement, which was primarily Protestant, the Charismatic movement (or its second wave) spread among various denominations, including the Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches. In 1977, the Kansas City Charismatic Conference was held with all three wings of the Pentecostal movement present -- Old or Classical Pentecostals, Protestant Charismatics, and Catholic Charismatics. Charismatics believe in spiritual healing, miracles, casting out of demons, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and that signs and wonders should accompany the preaching of the gospel. In the 1980s, a third wave of the charismatic movement arose, known as Power Evangelism, developed primarily by John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Peter Wagner, a professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary Institute of Church Growth. This third revival in the gifts of the Spirit focused on healing and prophecy. The term charismatic generally refers to all three groups and anyone who believes in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, as well as a personal relationship with Jesus.
Distinction: Non-denominational movement of independent churches emphasizing personal Bible study and sole reliance on Scriptural guidance. (Due to rejection of traditional Christian beliefs, many consider this a cult.)
The Christadelphian movement was begun in the 1830s by an English physician named Dr. John Thomas (1805-1871) as a result of a personal search for truth and independent study of the Scriptures, whereby he came to the conclusion that most Christian denominations were biblically inaccurate in their teachings and sought to create a community of believers patterned after the early Christian church of the first century. Dr. Thomas was initially a follower of Alexander Campbell (of the Campbellite movement, from which came the Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ) and later a follower of William Miller (of the Millerite movement, from which came the Adventists), who himself influenced the founders of the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith. In 1848, Dr. Thomas introduced his Christadelphian movement in Great Britain, where it now has its largest following. In 1864, "The Christadelphians" (Greek Christos + adelphoi, "brethren in Christ") became the official name in order for members to be exempted from military service as conscientious objectors to the U.S. Civil War. There is no formal church, heirarchy, or clergy. Congregations are referred to as ecclesia, the New Testament word for church, and services -- which consist primarily of Bible studies and communion -- are held by laypersons in homes, rented rooms, and Christadelphian halls. Personal, independent study of the Bible is the primary emphasis, with reliance soley on Scriptures for guidance in life. Christadelphians reject such traditional doctrines as the Trinity, the sacrificial death of Christ for the atonement of sins, an immortal soul, a fiery torment of hell, the inheritance of heaven for believers, and the devil as a real creature. They also believe the present day anitchrist to be the traditional body of Christian believers.
Distinction: A New Age movement with emphasis on faith healing.
The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy, who considered herself to be the woman described in Revelation 12. Christian Science promotes physical and psychological healing not as miracles but through faith, prayer, positive thinking, and realization of god's infinite goodness, while shunning medical treatment and drugs. Illness and pain, according to the discovery of the science of scriptures, can be healed through the Divine Mind of God when one realizes that they are only an illusion. The primary aim of "The Mother Church" is to restore Christianity to its primitive beliefs and practices, primarily that of healing. Although a spiritual belief system based on the Bible, it denies original sin, Christ's death and bodily resurrection, the Trinity, Jesus as God, the existence of hell, and salvation through the blood of Jesus. It views God as the divine Father-Mother and considers all else to be imaginary, including angels, heaven, evil, matter, and sin. Church membership ranges from 150,000 to 400,000 in some 2300 branches worldwide, although no specific statistic is known. Besides the Bible, the primary sources of Christian Science inspiration are Mary Baker Eddy's books, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and Manual of The Mother Church. Christian Science literature is available to the public at Christian Science Reading Rooms throughout the U.S and Canada. Among the Christian Science periodicals are Science and Health, The Christian Science Quarterly, The Christian Science Journal, The Christian Science Sentinel, and the highly acclaimed international newspaper The Christian Science Monitor.
Church of Christ, Scientist
Churches of Christ
Distinctions: Independent, autonomous, non-denominational churches patterned after those of the New Testament. One of the three wings of the American Restoration Movement.
Churches of Christ consider themselves independent, autonomous, non-denominational churches patterned after those of the New Testament. The New Testament word for church is ecclesia (Greek ekklesia, assembly), which means those who are summoned or drawn out to follow Christ collectively. These members make up local assemblies of believers who consider the Bible as their final authority and creed. Its beginnings are of the U.S. Restoration Movement of the nineteenth century. In 1793, a former Methodist from Virginia, James O'Kelly, led a movement to make the Bible the only church creed. In 1802, two former Baptists from New England, Abner Jones and Elias Smith, led another movement to absolve denominational names and creeds and follow only the Bible. In 1804, a Presbyterian preacher from Kentucky, Barton W. Stone, led a movement to make the Bible the only sure guide to heaven. In 1809, Thomas and Alexander Campbell from West Virginia contended that nothing should be bound upon Christians as a matter of doctrine which is not as old as the New Testament. These are examples of separate movements in the United States to bring Christians back to the original church established at Pentecost, the outcome of which were the Disciples of Christ, The Independent Christian Churches, and the more conservative wing of the Churches of Christ (1906), which followed Alexander Campbell's teachings. Today there are over 15,000 Churches of Christ with over two million members, 40 colleges, and 75 orphanages and homes for the elderly. Each church is overseen by a group of local elders selected by its congregation, under which are deacons, ministers, and teachers. The Bible is the central and final authority for all Churches of Christ and where the Scriptures are silent, so are they. More conservative Churches of Christ do not use musical instruments in worship and do not allow women in ministry. Although one of the fastest growing indigenous American churches, with primary growth in the 1920's and 30's, membership plateaued in the 1970's. The states with the greatest membership include Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, California, and Arkansas.
Church of the Nazarene
Distinctions: Result of Holiness Movement in post-Civil War America with Wesleyan doctrines. Belief in Christian perfection, a doctrine of holiness, sanctification, and perfect love known as the "second blessing" -- a second work of grace in the conversion and regeneration process of the new believer.
The Church of the Nazarene was founded in 1908 at Pilot Point, Texas, by a former Methodist pastor, Phineas Bresee (1838-1915), as a result of the Holiness Movement in America after the U.S. Civil War. This movement was in response to the decline of the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection within the Methodist Church and many of its early members were former Methodists. Although there were Pentecostal denominations which resulted from the Holiness Movement, the Nazarenes were more moderate in their charismatic zeal and repudiated speaking in tongues (the church was originally named the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, but dropped the term "Pentecostal" in 1919). Bresee's initial aim was to answer various questions about God and find a more personal relationship with him. In the process, he began to reach out to those with whom the Methodist Church did not traditionally condone integration -- the poor and other denominations. Doctrine for the Nazarenes consists of a mixture of Wesleyan Methodism, Arminianism, and Perfectionism. The sixteen articles of their faith include belief in the Triune God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, original and personal sin, atonement, prevenient grace (free agency), repentance, justification/regeneration/adoption, entire sanctification, the Church, baptism, the Lord's Supper, divine healing, resurrection/judgment/destiny, and the Second Coming of Christ, with an emphasis on the process of personal salvation in which the believer experiences spiritual regeneration and justification, known as the "second blessing." To date, there are about 12,000 Nazarene churches with nearly 1,300,000 members. The name, Nazarene, refers to Jesus of Nazareth -- "Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.' " (Matthew 2:22-23).
Community Churches are a fellowship of progressive churches which focus their ministry on the homsexual community, to include gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and persons of transgender, commonly referred to by the acronym GLBT.
Distinctions: Puritan sect of the Protestant Reformation in England which maintained self-governing local churches. Congregationalists believe that each church congregation, as distinct, visible representations of Christ's spiritual, universal church, should remain independent and without centralized authority. Most of the first English settlers in America in the early seventeenth century were Congregationalists.
The Puritan movement of the Reformation in Great Britain developed into two separate sects, the Presbyterians of Scotland and the Congregationalists of England. Both were Nonconformist (non-Anglican) and Separatist (independent) in nature. The latter were influenced by the Anabaptists and themselves influential upon the Baptists. Congregationalists strive to maintain the primitive form of church government found in the New Testament by which all are united under Christ, yet local congregations remain self-governing. Charters, covenants, or constitutions are generally drawn up in which all members, from ministry to laity, understand and agree upon their roles and responsibilities within their congregational community. Each church is overseen by ministers and boards of elders, all elected by church members, under a system of checks and balances to prevent autocratic rule. One of the earliest proponents of the independent church movement -- Elizabethan Congrgationalism or Brownism, which considered the congregation as the true locus of authority -- was Robert Browne (1550-1633), who fled to Holland to escape religious persecution in England, and who was influential upon John Robinson, leader of the Leyden Church of the Pilgrim fathers. The Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620 were Congregationalist Puritans who signed the Mayflower Compact as a means of governing the settlers, particularly those who declared they would adhere to no laws since they landed outside the jurisdiction of any established government. This form of government, or polity, was both religious and political, governing both church and civil affairs. This was the first written plan of government in America and in the following years of colonial expansion they were united by such leaders as John Cotton of Boston, John Davenport of New Haven, and Thomas Hooker of Hartford. Throughout the twentieth century, the Congregationalist Church merged with various other U.S. Protestant organizations to further the unity of Christian denominations, including the formation of the Congregational Christian denomination in 1931 and the United Church of Christ in America in 1957. In 1977, the Australian Congregationalists merged with the local Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church to form the Uniting Church in Australia.
National Association of Congregational Churches
Disciples of Christ
Distinctions: The more liberal of the three wings of the American Restoration Movement, officially known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and one of the largest religious bodies of American origin. The primary goal was to unite all Christians as one communion on a purely scriptural basis.
As a wing of the American Restoration Movement, the modern day Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded in part by followers of Barton W. Stone (1772-1844) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), two former Presbyterian ministers during the Second Great Awakening. In 1801 at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, during one of the largest Christian camp revivals of the era held by Stone, denominational barriers were broken down and overcome by the Holy Spirit. After this, Stone's desire was to unite Christians of different social standing and denominations into one body. Beginning in 1832, and for nearly two decades, he teamed with Campbell to form the Stone-Campbell Movement, a non-denominational group of Pentacostal Christians organized into one body patterned after the primitive church of the New Testament. Its primary goal was to unite believers of all denominations by abandoning the technical and artificial language of scholastic theology, ecclesiastical polity, synodical covenants, and contemporary articles of belief and return to the original, simplistic faith taught by the Apostles in the New Testament. The term Disciples of Christ differentiates the Christian Church from another of its Restoration factions, that of the Christian Church (Churches of Christ). In 1927, the Disciples of Christ joined with the third Restoration Movement group, the Independent Christian Churches, which split from one another in 1968. The Disciples of Christ is considered a more liberal wing of the Christian Churches, allowing freedom of expression in worship and biblical interpretation. It also considers itself to be a unique Christian denomination, whereas the Churches of Christ choose to remain autonomous.
Distinctions: Central belief that periods throughout human history are dealt with or administered differently by God, who employs a progressive system of managing mankind based on spiritual advancement. The Apostle Paul founded the true Christian Church, that of the Gentiles, which has been the active dispensation -- that of grace -- for the past two thousand years. The final dispensation will be Christ's millenial kingdom on earth.
Dispensation is basically the ordering of events under divine authority. Although the topic of dispensation may be found in the teachings of Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Augustine, the father of modern dispensationalism was John Nelson Darby, former member of the Church of England and a prominent leader of the exclusive assemblies faction of the Plymouth Brethren in the nineteenth century. Dispensationalists, often individualistic, fundamentalist and non-apologetic, are generally members of independent Christian churches which claim to be non-Pentecostal and are free of orthodox tradition. According to these, the true Church of Christ began when the Apostole Paul began to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 28:25-30, Ephesians 3:2-9, Colossians 1:25-27), which temporarily set aside the kingdom of Israel and ushered in a new dispensation (stewardship or administration) of grace to all, the mysteries of which are primarily found in the teachings of Paul in his prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Timothy, and Titus). Dispensations are basically progressive, theological systems of administration by which God dealt with man throughout various periods of history. Other prominent influences to dispensational beliefs inlcude Ethelbert W. Bullinger and C.I. Scofield, who advanced the teachings that the Gospels and Acts were dedicated to the Hebrew Church of the Jewish Christians, while the Mystery Church of the Gentiles and of the Christian Church came about through the enlightened teachings of the Apostle Paul. While the true Christian Church, descended from Paul, reigns on earth today, the Jewish Church etsablished by the original twelve apostles will be reestablished during the millenial reign after Jesus' second coming.
Distinctions: Originally the American colonial branch of the Church of England, now a member of the Anglican Community. The term "episcopal" means governed by bishops. Although a reformed church, the Episcopal Church retains much of the creeds, sacramental rites, traditions, and government of the Catholic Church. Some diocese are more liberal than others, allowing ordination of women and even homosexuals.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion and is basically the American branch of the Anglican Church, or Church of England, originally known in the 17th century as the Church of England in the Colonies and in the 18th century as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It was brought to America in 1607 by Robert Hunt (1568-1608), chaplain of the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, and broke from the Church of England during the Revolutionary War. Late in the 18th century, British Parliament enacted legislation allowing for the ordination of bishops in foreign lands, to be members of the Apostolic Succession while exempt from allegiance to the British Crown. The term "episcopal" means governed by bishops. Although it is a reformed church with emphasis on salvation by grace, the Episcopal Church still retains continuity with the Catholic Church through its episcopal order. There are various levels of the Episcopal Church based on interpretation of church tenets. The High Episcopal church has retained much of the beliefs, practices, rituals, traditions, and appearance of the Catholic Church. High church services are similar to those of the Catholic Mass, with the exception that English is spoken throughout. The Low Episcopal church is more Evangelical in practice, with a simplified order of worship and emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel. Somewhere inbetween are diocese which maintain a more liberal interpretation of Episcopal tenets, continually examining doctrine and redefining beliefs based on the changing times. The official church manual of beliefs and practices is The Book of Common Prayer, a 1789 revision of the English prayer book of 1662, which professes the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. Similar to the sacramental rites of the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Sacraments include the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion), Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders (Ordination), Absolution, and Anointing of the Sick (Unction). Episcopal polity consists of deacons, priests, and bishops, as well as male and female monastic orders. Women may be ordained in the clergy and the more liberal of the Episcopal orders have ordained homosexual members. The basic organizational unit of the church is the congregation, or parish, governed by a body known as the vestry, which is composed of a priest, or rector, and elected laymen, called vestrymen or wardens. Regional districts are called diocese and are overseen by a bishop. The highest authority in the church is the General Convention, a combination of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (comprising priests and laymen from each diocese).
Distinctions: Protestant churches which hold to the inerrancy of the Bible and certain core, fundamental Christian beliefs (i.e., Trinity, Virgin birth, sacrificial death of Christ, salvation by grace, resurrection from the dead, etc.), with emphasis on spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
Evangelicals are primarily Protestant churches which hold to the inerrancy of the Bible, emphasize salvation by faith rather than good works, and promote evangelizing (Greek euangelikos) the Gospel (euangelion, "good news") of the New Testament to the ends of the world. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther referred to his own movement as the evangelische kirke, or "evangelical church," a synonym for Protestant still used in Germany today. Although the term has become somewhat ambiguous, it was originally used to describe an ecumenical unity of interdenominational Christian churches all confessing the same basic beliefs: that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word of God; God exists in three persons -- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the diety of Christ Jesus includes his virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, sacrificial death upon the cross, bodily resurrection from the dead, ascension to the right hand of the heavenly Father, and his eventual return to power and glory; the indwelling and regeneration of the Holy Spirit as necessary to the process of reconciliation with God; resurrection of the lost to eternal damnation and resurrection of the saved to eternal life; spiritual unity of all believers in the body of Christ; salvation is possible soley through God's grace and not by works; the duty of all believers is to spread the Gospel to unbelievers (adapted from the National Evangelical Association statement of faith). Its origins are from the five "solas" of the Protestant Reformation: sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and soli Deo gloria (to God alone be glory). According to Barna Research Ltd., which estimates 5% of the U.S. population to be evangelical Christians, evangelical beliefs may also include: a born-again experience and personal relationship with Jesus; a reliance upon faith in Jesus; personal desire and responsibility to share Jesus with others; Satan as a literary entity; God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and created everything. Modern Evangelicals, generally regarded as conservative, often comprise Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Fundamentalists.
Distinction: Pentacostal church founded by controversial evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
The Foursquare Gospel Church was founded in 1923 by Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), a revival evangelist and flamboyant media sensation known to her followers as "Sister Aimee." Although born to devout Methodists and raised by workers of the Salvation Army, she became an atheist at an early age, but converted to Christianity after meeting her first husband, Robert James Semple, a Pentecostal missionary from Ireland. Following the birth of her second child, Sister Aimee experienced a near-death experience, afterward to embark as an itinerant Pentecostal preacher in her "Gospel Car" throughout Canada and the U.S. She settled in Los Angeles, CA, where she founded the Foursquare Gospel Church and built Angeles Temple in 1923. Her sermons were marked by faith healings, speaking in tongues, contemporary music, and elaborate morality plays. She utilized printed media and radio broadcasts to propagate her message and was the first woman in history to preach a radio sermon and be granted a license by the FCC. In 1926, she reportedly drowned while swimming at Venice Beach, 32 days later to turn up alive in Mexico and claiming to have escaped from being kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and held for ransom. She continued to preach after this episode, although struggling with bad publicity, a nervous breakdown, and a failed third marriage. During the Great Depression, McPherson was active in creating soup kitchens, free clinics, and other charitable activities. During World War II, she became involved in war bond rallies. She died in 1944 from an overdose of barbiturates and her son, Rolf, took over leadership of the Foursquare Gospel Church for the next 44 years. Today, Foursquare Gospel continues with 2,000 churches in the U.S. and Canada and over two million members worldwide (over four million, according to their website), the majority of whom are outside the United States. The term "Foursquare" stands for the four-fold ministry of Jesus Christ as the Savior (Romans 10:9), Baptizer with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16), Healer (1 Peter 2:24), and coming King (Acts 1:11). McPherson revealed this idea at a revival in Oakland, California in 1922, and claimed it came to her in a vision from God based on Ezekiel's vision as recorded in Ezekiel chapter one. The four faces (a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle) represent Jesus Christ -- the man (man of sorrows, Savior), the lion (baptizer with the Holy Ghost and fire), the ox (the Great Burden-bearer, Healer) and the eagle (the Coming King).
Distinctions: An early twentieth century movement among U.S. Protestants to return to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The "Five Fundamentals" of this movement include: inerrancy of the Bible; virgin birth and diety of Jesus Christ; doctrine of substitutionary atonement; the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ; the Second Coming of Christ.
The term "fundamentalism" was first coined in 1920 by a Baptist periodical, the Watchman-Examiner, and has its origins in a series of twelve booklets entitled "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to Truth," underwritten by oil magnates Milton and Lyman Stewart and authored by a variety of 64 Evangelical preachers and scholars. Three million copies were circulated free of charge to U.S. clergymen between 1910-1915, the preface of which reads: "In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday school superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world." The basic movement was in response to the onset of liberal theology and intended as a revival in the fundamentals of scriptual truth. Adherents to "The Fundamentals" became known as Fundamentalists -- those who interpret biblical scripture literally and strive to live without compromise to its doctrines. Fundamentalists are often identified as idealists, purists, or separatists and fundamentalism as of late has been associated with extreme right wing legalistically religious fanaticism, which is not necessarily a positive designation. Following the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial in Tennessee, fundamentalists became more intolerant to societal conformity and more isolated from society. Popular fundamentalist Christian denominations include the Assemblies of God and many Southern Baptist churches.
Distinctions: Pre-dates Christianity and one of the earliest heresies to contend with the faith. Gnostic literature regarding the history of God and mankind expands in various tangents of fantasy, interspersed with references to scriptural sources of the Old and New Testaments.
Gnosticism (based on the Greek gnosis, "knowledge") is a philosophy that was in practice before Christ, but became a religion of sorts at the outset of Christianity in the second century, which combined elements of Greek philosophy, Oriental mysticism, and Judeo-Christianity. The primary texts of the Gnostic beliefs are found in the library of Coptic Gnostic writings (Egyptian Christian) discovered in 1945 near Nag-hamm�di in Egypt, known primarily as the Nag-hamm�di texts. Gnostics believe that redemption from the evil, material world comes through divinely revealed knowledge from within about the true nature of man. It is only through an acquaintance of the intellect with the first principle, who is the primary deity and original source of all creation, that men may be saved. The overall history of all creation, according to gnostic theology, is that everything started with a divine power that was perfect and complete. For indescribable reasons, it eminated from itself a second, less perfect being or principle called Barbelo, which in turn began a long series of successive eminations on down to mankind. Somewhere during the succession of eminations, or "aeons," between the spiritual and material realms, was the creation of a being known as Ialdabaoth (or Yaldabaoth), who created the physical universe and everything in it patterned after the spiritual universe of the supreme deity. In order to do this, Ialdabaoth had to steel powers from the divine being. The only way for humans to return to the original, divine being is to discover an intimate knowledge of it through contemplation and asceticism, obtained by the transfer of power from Ialdabaoth through mortal deception. Much of this lost and hidden knowledge is dispersed throughout the historical lineage of Seth, Adam and Eve's third son, who has spiritual ties with Barbelo and whose ancestral line became the gnostics. Jesus was simply the embodiment of an aeon from the spiritual realm sent down to impart gnosis to the world. Although early Christian church fathers wrote against the gnostic teachings, it was able to flourish until the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. Once the Christian Church became orthodox and united, it began to deem gnostic teaching as heretical and destroyed much of the writings that existed. With government backing by decress from the emperor, the Church was able to forbid the meeting of Christian sects not in alliance with itself. From various edicts and canons passed by the Church, it may be seen that gnosticism continued through the seventh century.
Distinction: French Protestants professing the teachings of John Calvin.
Huguenots were French Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (mostly Lutherans who had fled France to Switzerland and returned as Calvinists). Most were members of the Reformed Church established by John Calvin in France beginning in 1555. The basis of their creed was Scripture as the rule of faith through guidance by the Holy Spirit. They also believed in predestination, salvation by faith apart from works, and the Church as consisting of all confessed believers. They denied the Catholic doctrines of intercession by the saints, purgatory, oral confession, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences, as well as being highly iconoclastic. They accepted only two of the sacraments -- Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion (1562-98), thousands of Huguenots were slain by French Catholics organized as the "Holy League." Ultimately, the Huguenots won the war through a territorial compromise and with the accession of one of their leaders, Henry of Navarre, to the king of France (Henry IV) in 1594, although he converted to Catholicism for political reasons. The term "Huguenot" is of questionable origin and was initially a derisive name which was banned in the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which allowed public freedom of worship to the Huguenots in specified cities, as well as freedom of press and full civil and political rights. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked by King Louis XIV and the Huguenots were forced to emigrate in large numbers to neighboring countries, as well as to American colonies. In 1787, the Edict of Toleration restored civil liberties to the Huguenots. Although French Protestants preferred to be called R�form�s (reformed), the name Huguenots later became an honorary one and today they still make up a small faction of French Protestantism (over a half million members).
Distinctions: Similar to the Amish in tradition and beliefs, but employ modern technology. Emphasis is on separation of church and state, non-violence, adult baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Many speak both English and German and wear old, black European attire.
Founded by Jacob Hutter (1500-1536), an Anabaptist leader and hat maker from Southern Tyrol, Italy, during the sixteenth century who was burned at the stake as a heretic, the Hutterites (Bruderhof, "Society of Brothers" or Hutterian Brethren) were persecuted for their separatist faith and driven from Austria and Northern Italy to Moravia. In 1622, all Hutterites were expelled from Moravia and many emigrated to Russia. In 1874, a group of Hutterites emigrated to South Dakota in the U.S. Now primarily located in the northern U.S., from Washington to Minnesota, and Canada, from Alberta to Manitoba, the Hutterites number about 40,000 and have retained much of their initial beliefs, along with their original European dress -- black pants, coats, and hats for the men and ankle length dresses, aprons, and long coats for the women. Hutterites are traditionally Christian, with emphasis on separation of church and state, non-violence, adult baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Staunchly pacifist, the Hutterites live communally and share ownership in all property and material goods (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32-35). Each colony consists of between 60 to 160 people and is lead by a minister and an advisory board. Hutterites, whose modern mode of livelihood includes agriculture, livestock, and manufacturing, have a reputation as hard workers and all are assigned jobs within the colony. They speak both English and a Tyrolean dialect of German, the original language of their sermons and religious literature. Unlike the Amish, they have adapted to the use of modern technology. The three primary groups of Hutterites in North America include the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut, and Lehrerleut.
Distinctions: Believe themselves to be the only link to the true Christian faith of the first century and are ushering in God's kingdom on Earth by proselytizing to each and every house and circulating millions of tracts daily. Considerd by Christians of traditional belief to be a cult due to their denial of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and the Second Coming as an earthly appearance, among other rejected doctrines.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, corporately known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, were begun in Pennsylvania around 1872 by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), a controversial "pastor" who claimed that his supplemental books to the Bible were crucial to understanding Scripture. Under Russell, the Watchtower Society became one of the world's largest publishing franchises, primarily printing the sermons, magazines, and books of C. T. Russell, including their popular magazine The Watchtower - Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom. Following the death of Russell in 1916, the Watchtower Society split into different factions, the two largest of which were The Dawn Bible Students Association, who followed strict Russellite doctrine, and the Jehovah's Witnesses under the leadership of the Watchtower Society's second president, Joseph F. Rutherford. Under their third president, Nathan H. Knorr, the Watchtower Society published their own Bible translation, called the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). Basic beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses include the following doctrines: God's true name is Jehovah; Jesus, the archangel Michael, was Jehovah's first created being; the Trinity is a Satanic doctrine of traditional Christianity; Jesus died on a stake as a ransom for the sins of mankind due to his perfect human life; there is no such place as hell; after death, people are either utterly destroyed along with their souls or they are resurrected with a new body and soul in a future paradise on Earth; according to the Book of Revelation, 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses currently reign from heaven with Christ; Jesus' second coming, which was spiritually invisible, has already taken place. Jehovah's Witnesses claim that only they can correctly interpret biblical scripture and that the whole of historic Christendom is apostate.
Distinctions: Believes itself to be the true, restored church of Jesus Christ after 2,000 years of apostacy. Mormans believe that after death everyone will have to answer to the prophet Joseph Smith. Those who are accepted by Smith will become gods in their own heavenly kingdoms.
Mormonism was founded in New York around 1830, by Joseph Smith, Jr., who was reported to have been visited by God (the Father and the Son) in 1820, and told to restore true Christianity since all churches had become an abomination. In 1823, he was supposedly visited by the angel Moroni (the gold angelic figure blowing a horn atop many Mormon temples), who gave him a series of golden plates inscribed with hieroglyphics, which he translated into the Book of Mormon. In 1829, Smith, reverred as a prophet, seer, and revelator by friends and family, was reported to have been initiated into the priesthood of Aaron by John the Baptist and, in 1830, when the Book of Mormon was published, the Church of Christ was founded by Smith and his colleagues, later to be renamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and proclaimed by Smith to be the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. The church moved throughout the midwest in the early to mid-1880s, and was often persecuted for its beliefs and practices. Smith was killed in an Illinois jail by an angry mob in 1844, and succeeded by Brigham Young, who led a majority of Mormon believers to Utah in 1847. Of the remainder of Mormons there were several small factions. Those who stayed in Illinois under the leadership of Joseph Smith's sons were known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ). Originally, the LDS Church did not consider itself a Christian denomination. In modern times, however, it has appeared to be more in line with traditional Christian beliefs in order to win Christian converts.
Distinction: Oldest Protestant denomination. While retaining many of the Catholic beliefs and practices, their main separation was over the doctrine of justification, with emphasis on salvation by faith alone and not of works. Other points of reform include recognition of the universal priesthood of all believers, freedom of worship, and acceptance of the Bible as the sole authority of God's laws.
Lutherans were the first Protestant denomination, following the sixteenth century teachings and doctrines outlined by Martin Luther (1483-1546), and to date remain one of the largest Protestant factions. Luther originally tried to persuade his adherents to refer to themselves as Evangelicals (from the Latin evangelium, "gospel"), however, by the seventeenth century the name Evangelical Lutheran Church had prevailed, with "Lutheran" becoming a popular abbreviation. European countries which had established the Lutheran form of Protestantism as their state religion included Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Lutherans maintain that the aim of the Protestant Reformation was not the establishment of a new church, but the restoration of the old church. Luther argued that the conscience of the individual was soley responsible to God and not the church. Foremost in his doctrines was that salvation was by faith alone and not of good works, whereby the sinner could obtain reconciliation with God only by God's grace, not through sacramental rites or by any human effort. Contrary to Catholic doctrine, justification is not a reward for achievements or diligent observance of the law, but is a gift freely offered through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross and accepted by faith. What Lutherans did retain from the Catholic Church may be found in the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, which includes belief in the Trinity, the Resurrection, the Last Judgment, life after death, the two natures of Christ (physically human and spiritually divine), infant baptism, and the Lord's Supper (consubstantiation, as opposed to transubstantiation). Another departure from the Catholic Church is the rejection by Lutherans of the supreme authority of apostolic tradition -- the Bible is the only standard of faith and final authority for the church. As a scriptural supplement, Lutherans generally accept the 1850 Book of Concord, which combines Luther's two catechisms of 1529, the Augsburg Confession of 1530, Melanchthon's 1531 Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Schmalcald Articles of 1537, the 1577 Formula of Concord, and the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian creeds.
Founded by Menno Simons (1492-1559), a former Roman Catholic priest, the Mennonites (originally known as Mennists) were a Dutch sect of Anabaptists in Holland and Northern Germany begun in the sixteenth century. The largest of the Anabaptist movements, Mennonite beliefs are characterized by separation of church and state, freedom of conscience, voluntary church membership, rejection of all war and violence, love and non-resistance, brotherhood of the church, practical holiness, and literally following the teachings of Christ.
Distinction: Modern, Jewish disciples of Christ who accept Jesus' sacrifice for their own personal salvation, but have retained many of their Jewish customs and traditions.
Messianic Jews are, simply, Jews who accept Jesus (Hebrew Yeshua, "Salvation") as their savior, while still retaining their Jewish identity. As a Jew himself, Jesus originally came to save the nation of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24) and said that salvation was from the Jews (John 4:22). The Apostle Paul wrote that the gospel of Christ was first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16) -- though once baptized, we are all one in him (Galations 3:28). Most of Jesus' immediate converts were of Jewish descent and were still practicing Jewish customs and traditions which they decided early on not to force on the Gentile converts (Acts 15:5-29). Once Christianity became a religion of the Gentiles, however, anti-semitic attitudes began to grow. With Evangelistic revivals in Christianity during the nineteenth century came a revival in Hebrew Christianity as well, now known as Messianic Judaism, of which nearly 100,000 members reside in the U.S.
Distinctions: Renewal movement within the Church of England, the doctrines of which were introduced by Anglican priest John Wesley, with an emphasis on evangelization to all classes and races.
The Methodist Church originated as an eighteenth-century renewal movement within the Church of England by John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican priest, and his brother Charles (1707-1778), both professors at Oxford University. Himself influenced by German Pietists (Moravians), John Wesley evangelized to the poor and coordinated his thousands of followers into groups called societies, intended as supplemental fellowship classes for members of the Church of England. It was a small organization of their students at Oxford who formed the Holy Club in 1729 which earned the derisive nickname "Methodists," whose intent was to stress personal habits of piety, service, charity, prayer, and Bible study, observed within a strict, methodical daily schedule. John Wesley consecrated his own ministers from the layity and sent them throughout Great Britain and to the American colonies as evangelists. Due to a shortage of Anglican priests in America after the Revolutionary War, Wesley sent his own ordained priests, along with an overseer who was designated as the superintendent of the American societies. This organization led to the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, which employed the same itinerate circuit system used by those in England, whereby Methodist priests were sent to evangelize new American frontiers. Methodists comprise one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world. They believe in the Trinity, in the Bible as the highest earthly authority, in forgiveness of sins, salvation for all men, Christian perfection through the lifelong process of sanctification, Holy Communion (in remembrance), and Baptism (primarily infant and sprinkling). The ministry is made up of a lower order of deacons and a higher order of elders. The laity participate in church administration, services, and preaching. Although most Methodist churches are co-governed by a Bishop and elected members of church boards, they are typically overseen by a national church council, known as the legislative general conference. Women are eligable for offices and positions. Church membership is available to all races and nationalities who are at the age of decision, who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Distinction: Started in the fifteenth century as one of the first Protestant movements, known as the Unitas Fratrum. Although it almost died out during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, it resurfaced in Germany as a Pietist movement in the eighteenth century. It is now known as the Moravian Church, based on its Czechoslovakian origin and heritage.
The Moravian Church was initially a branch of the United Brethren Church founded by Jan Hus (1369-1415) in fifteenth century Czechoslovakia, commonly known as the Bohemian Brethren. Although originally intended as a reformation movement within the Catholic Church, it became one of the earliest Protestant reformation movements -- about sixty years before Martin Luther's reformation. These early Brethren later organized in Bohemia and Moravia as the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren) and began to ordain their own ministers. They then spread to Poland, Prussia, and Hungary, but were forced underground during the Counter Reformation period of the sixteenth century. By the eighteenth century, a remnant had escaped from Moravia to Germany where, in 1722, they formed a community called Herrnhut on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a pietist nobleman in Saxony. Five years later, they formed an organization based on Pietist beliefs called the Renewed Unitas Fratrum, later to become the modern day Moravian Church. Beginning in 1735, Moravians settled in the American state of Georgia for the purposes of escaping potential European persecution and to convert the North American Indians. Due to the British and Spanish War, they were forced to relocate to Pennsylvania in 1741, where they settled Bethlehem, then to North Carolina in 1776, where they settled Winston-Salem. The basic pietist principles of the Moravian Church include reading the Bible (the only rule of faith and practice), Scriptural discipline, good works, sharing the faith on a personal level, turning from worldly activities, industrial independence, small fellowships of believers, daily devotions and prayer (published in a book called the Daily Texts), missionary evangelization aimed at small groups of people, and world missions. Moravians are generally more concerned with the Christian experience than with any Christian doctrines. The Moravian Church primarily covers five provinces, known as the Continental European, Czechoslovak, British, American Province North, and American Province South. These are independently governed and united by conferences, or synods.
Distinction: A result of the first successful break from the Roman Catholic Church. Essentially of the same origin as the Catholic Church, but rejects the authority of the pope.
In the eleventh century, the Catholic Church, formerly known as One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, experienced a split between the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) and the Western Roman Empire into two separate churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. This split came to be known as the Great Schism. It was not only due to theological and ecclesial differences, but political ones as well, since the Western Church allied itself with the Frankish kings and the Eastern Church remained loyal to the emperor at Constantinople. The term "Orthodox" reflects the claim of the Eastern Church to have retained the original, patristic church dogmas, while the term "Catholic" reflects the claim of the Church of Rome to have an all-encompassing authority on Christian matters. The Eastern Orthodox Church, governed independently by individual church bishops (patriarchs), rejected papal infallability, total authority of the pope, the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, and Purgatory, as well as theological differences with the Trinity, among other "heretical" doctrines. The schism was official by mutual excommunications between the Western Church and the Eastern Church in A.D. 1054, after the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Caerularius, formally criticized certain western practices, denied the supreme roll of the bishop of Rome, and refused to accept legates from the pope. The two churches were finally reconciled in 1965, when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met to remove the excommunications by both sides.
There are basically three different forms of parachurch organizations: Parachurches are small home groups, care groups, and fellowships unaffiliated with any organized church establishment, much like the primitive churches of the New Testament; Parachurches are also cell churches affiliated with larger, organized churches, designed to provide members with a smaller, more intimate environment; As incorporated institutions, they are also non-denominational, evangelical Christian organizations which collaborate for cross-denominational missions, evangelization, humanitarian aid, charitable services, outreach activities, and to lead individuals to Christ and to established churches. Popular among some of the larger organizations are Campus Crusade for Christ, Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family, Habitat for Humanity, the Gideons, and the Billy Graham Crusade. Regradless of size, common among parachurch groups is their autonomous, self-governing independence. Generally, they do not conform to the traditional structures of weekly church services, but focus on the daily necessities of the Christian life (physical and spiritual) and work as a supplementary aid both inside and outside of the church at large.
Distinctions: Fundamentalist, Protestant churches which emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly speaking in tongues. Sanctification and spiritual rebirth are the results of repentance and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The National Holiness Movement arose in America after the U.S. Civil War, primarily of Methodist origin, emphasizing sanctification by grace through salvation. One of the later outcomes of this movement at the turn of the twentieth century was the Latter Rain Movement, or Pentecostal Movement. The term Pentecostal (Greek pentekoste, "fiftieth," used by Grecian Jews for the Jewish holiday Shavuot celebrated fifty days after Passover, also called the Feast of Weeks) comes from the account of Pentecost in the New Testament Book of Acts. According to Acts 2:1-4, "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." The rest of Acts chapter 2 describes the conversion of 3,000 God-fearing Jews as a result of the experience. Modern Pentecostals hold that the Holy Spirit still provides the same gifts as those recorded in the New Testament, particularly speaking in tongues, often considered an outward sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit after baptism and spiritual rebirth. Speaking in tongues includes both the speaking of foreign languages for the edification of those present who understand the language being spoken, as well as speaking in unknown spiritual languages which only the Holy Spirit can interpret. By nature, Pentecostal churches are Protestant, and most are fundamentalist in belief. Church services are informal, involving singing with instruments, enthusiastic expression, personal testimonies, faith healings, Communion (in memory of Calvary), full immersion baptism, and sermons with extensive Bible quotations. Pentecostal denominations include Assemblies of God, Church of God, Foursquare Gospel International, and Open Bible Churches, to name just a few.
Distinction: A seventeenth-century revival of practical and devout Christianity in response to the strictly theological and sacramentarian orthodoxy of the Lutheran Church.
Pietism began in the seventeenth century as a small revival within the German Lutheran Church with Bible study groups at the home of minister Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), who taught that spiritual development came through strenuous devotion. The term Pietists (fellowship of piety) came as both a result of his Collegia pietatis (pious assemblies) -- private assemblies for pious reading and mutual edification which grew in response to a lack of biblical study within the church and the home -- and as a dirisive name from opponents of the movement against its zealous nature and tendancy toward fanaticism. Proponents of the pietist movement sought revival of practical and devout Christianity in response to the strictly theological and sacramentarian orthodoxy of the Lutheran Church. Among its most influential forerunners was the Lutheran theologian Johann Arndt, whose principle writings, Wahres Christentum ("True Christianity," 1606-1609), were instrumental in the development of the idea of the mystical union between the believer and Christ. The primary goal of the pietists, as found in Spener's work Pia Desideria ("Pious Wishes"), was to restore the spiritual life of the church through the following means: earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings; promotion of the universal priesthood of all believers both in ministry and church government; putting Christian knowledge to practice in everyday living; sympathetic treatment of unbelievers and restraint in religious controversies; devotional life in addition to academic training; simple preaching regarding the formation of the new man in Christ through faith and works, as opposed to complex theological discourses. The main charge of the pietists against the Lutheran Church was the Lutheran's focus on correctness of doctrine rather than a change of heart and a resulting holiness of life. With the aid of August Hermann Francke and Christian Thomasius, Spener founded the University of Halle, an outcome of which was the Moravian Church in 1727. As a Protestant movement, pietism died out in the mid-eighteenth century and inadvertently helped to give rise to the Enlightenment. Pietistic influences include that of the Moravians, Wesleyan Methodists, Brethren, Mennonites, and the Dutch Reformed Church in America.
Distinction: Branch of the Reformed Church originating primarily in Great Britain which emphasized church government by elected elders.
Presbyterians are an outcome of the Reformed Church, which branched from Calvist teachings while retaining many of the Lutheran, and had its beginnings in Great Britain in the sixteenth century. Introduced in Scotland by John Knox in 1559, it was adopted as Scotland's national religion in 1707 and spread to northern Ireland. Presbyterians were influential in reforming the Church of England by dominating the Westminster Assembly from 1643-1649, an outcome of which was the Westminster Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechism, standard documents for Anglo-Saxon Presbyterians worldwide. Presbyterianism is an adminsitrative church system governed by presbyters (Greek presbyteros, "elder") from each church within a local district and at a higher level by elected assemblies known as presbyteries, which meet anually at the General Synod. Each church is overseen by ordained ministers (who conduct church services and sacraments), elected deacons (responsible for the poor and the sick), and elected elders (responsible for local and community administration). This system is based on the New Testament church organization wherein most of the ruling power remains within each individual church, while still overseen by representatives of the whole body. Presbyterians respect the universal priesthood of all believers and women may be ordaned as ministers. While European church services remain rather structured and elaborate, British and American Presbyterians were influenced by the simplicity of Puritan worship. Although Presbyterianism was brought to America by Reformed members of different nationalities, it was primarily spread by Scottish settlers in Canada and the U.S. between the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In its earlier years, Presbyterian churches were independent, but most had united in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to form single, national bodies, including the Church of Scotland in 1929, the Presbyterian Church of England in 1876 and its General Assembly in 1921, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1840, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1875. About a dozen Presbyterian churches remain in the U.S., the largest of which are the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1958) and its Civil War faction, The Presbyterian Church in the United States (1857-1861), also known as the Southern Presbyterian Church. Presbyterians believe in the Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, original sin and eternal life, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, God's grace through baptism (including infant) and Communion (Lord's Supper, wherin Christ is present spiritually), that only the Holy Spirit can aid the believer in understanding the Bible, and that Christianity transcends denominational and national boundaries. Although Calvinistic in doctrine, they generally do not affirm Calvin's views on election and predestination.
Distinctions: Belief that God loves everyone, regardless of their religious convictions, gender, or sexual preferences. The Christian church must make certain changes, such as respecting other religions and embracing homosexuality, in order to adapt and survive in the new mellennium.
Progressive Christianity basically means the adaptation of the Christian faith to modern social and religious progression, valuing individuality, and respecting the beliefs and practices of others. One of the primary progressive tenets is the "Ethic of Reciprocity" -- that how we treat other people is more important than the specifics of what we believe about God, humanity, and the rest of the universe. Progressive churches are generally associated with interfaith groups, a primary example being the Unitarian Universalist Church, although there are growing progressive movements within traditional Christian denominations, particularly the Episcopalian Church, the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, and the Presbyterian Church. Many progressives are members of established churches whose goal is to reform their own church body for the sake of universal harmony. Although they have personally discovered a way to God through Jesus Christ, they do not accept this path as the only way to salvation for all people. It is also a liberal movement intent on challenging traditional, conservative Christian organizations to accept and accomodate believers and nonbelievers of diverse cultures, races, classes, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations, including gays, lesbians, and transsexuals -- without forcing them to change -- as well as to ordain them into the ministry. From the progressive viewpoint, it's an open-hearted and tolerant approach by followers of Christ towards all whom God loves. From a moderate viewpoint, it's seen as liberation from the limitations of outdated orthodox dogma. From the conservative viewpoint, it's considered biblical apostasy and conformity with worldly immorality.
Distinction: Second major faction to successfully break from the Roman Catholic Church (since the schism of the Orthodox Church), which still considers all professed non-Catholic and non-Orthodox believers to be Protestant. Originally sought to reform the Catholic Church in opposition to such corruptions as indulgences, salvation by works, and authority of tradition.
The term "Protestants" came from the early Reformation of the sixteenth century, when German Reformers protested against the Diet of Speyer in 1529, of which the Roman Catholic Church forbade further expansion of the reformation movement. The Protestant movement was seen as an apostasy by the Catholic Church and Protestants were considered heretics by separating from the true faith. Protestants, on the other hand, saw the Catholic Church as deviating from the original faith and separating itself from the mystical body of Christ. Their aim was to restore the church to its original, uncorrupt form. The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther (1483-1546), an Augustinian monk and professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, posted ninety-five theses against the corruptions of the Catholic Church. The primary abuse of the Church which led to Luther's outward opposition was the practice of indulgences, by which members could contribute to the papal treasury in return for remission of sins and essentially buy their loved ones out of purgatory. Luther was excommunicated by the Diet of Worms in 1521 and, in an effort to reform the Catholic Church in Germany, began publishing pamphlets denouncing the other abuses he saw in the Church, including specific abuses of papal authority. Although Luther originally considered a separation of church and state, he later changed his view in light of violent revolts and concluded that only by governmental control of the church would men be brought to peaceful submission. The primary differences of Luther's ideology against the abuse of doctrines by the Catholic Church, as listed in his Confession of Augsburg in 1530, included: justification by faith alone and not by works; participation of the laity in communion; removal of the law of celibacy for the clergy; no obligation to priestly confession; abolition of the divine authority of tradition and adherence to Scripture as the final authority. In Switzerland, the Protestant Reformation was begun by Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) and later headed by a French lawyer named John Calvin (1509-1564). In England, the Protestant Reformation was begun by such people as John Wycliffe and Sir Thomas More.
Distinction: Anglican faction which strove to purify the Church of England of many of its Catholic influences, particularly those of ornate worship. Independent factions were democratically influential during the Civil Wars of Great Britain and as Pilgrim Fathers in the American settlements of New England.
Puritans were sixteenth to seventeenth-century English Protestants from the Presbyterian wing of the Swiss Reformation (Zwingli and Calvin) who desired a purified religion, purging themselves from all influences of Catholic worship. In the process of simplifying church services, they removed all ornamentation, musical instruments, decorated vestments, and the choir. Along with simplicity of worship, Puritans emphasized an ascetic and moralistic lifestyle, strict observance of the Sunday Sabbath, literacy and public education, and democratic rule free from authoritarian control -- be it pope or king. Although many early Puritan followers were members of the Church of England, the Puritan movement had little support from the monarchy due to its intent to rule itself. This led some to join the Separatist movement, while most remained devoted Anglicans out of a strong desire for church unity and, in turn, held little tolerance for dissenters. Independent, minority Puritan groups were forced to flee to Holland in the early seventeenth century. In 1620, one group sailed to America on the Mayflower and settled as an Independent church at the Plymouth Colony in New England. In a 1793 sermon by Reverend Chandler Robbins in celebration of "Forefathers Day," they became known as Pilgrims due to their earthly pilgrimage to the new world as persecuted saints of the old world. A decade later, most Puritans settled at the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston and for the next two centuries remained as the dominant religious influence. Puritanical extremism, however, led to some instances of hysterical zealousness, such as the Salem witch trials. During the First Civil War in England between 1642-1646, Scottish Puritans assisted in establishing the Westminster Confession, which remains today as the English and American Presbyterian creed. During the Second Civil War of 1648, Oliver Cromwell, himself a member and supporter of the Independent movement, rose to the rank of general within the New Model Parliamentary Army and helped to establish a strict, puritanical authority in England which abolished many forms of entertainment, amusement, and theater. After Cromwell's death, however, the Church of England was restored and many Puritans were forced to become Nonconformists -- the next generation movement of the Separatists and Independents.
The Hall of Church History - The Puritans
Distinction: Nonconformist, Puritanical, primitive Christian group without creeds, sacraments, or paid clergy, which is opposed to racism, sexism, war, and religious intolerance. Formally the Religious Society of Friends, they are known as Quakers both for quaking with religious fervor when filled with the Holy Spirit and for dire warnings to quake in fear at the punishment of the Lord.
In the seventeenth century amidst civil wars and radical Protestant uprisings, a group of English lay persons, both men and women dissatisfied with the Church of England, began travelling and preaching throughout Great Britain, northeastern Europe, and the American Colonies under the leadership of George Fox (1624-1691). Originally the Seekers, Camp of the Lord, and later the Religious Society of Friends of Truth, in 1650 they came to be known as the Quakers because they warned others to quake for fear at the threatened punishment of God. Abandoning formal church dogma and orthodox structure, they consisted of close, primitive congregations which held local meetings for worship, called Meetings of Friends. Guided by the Holy Spirit and the Light of Christ in each soul, members were encouraged to engage in personal experiences with God, the results of which were measured against biblical scripture. New believers, called "Children of Light," were believed to already have the Inner Light of Christ within them and needed no assistance from ordained ministers or priests to come to a personal relationship with Jesus. They were also marked as conscientious objectors to war, avoided taking oaths, disdained fashions and titles, dressed simply (often similarly), practiced equality, believed in universal brotherhood, refused to own or trade slaves, would not serve in public office, did not pay tithes, refused to attend established church services, promoted humanitarianism, and forbade personal indulgences. The Quakers were often persecuted both in England and America for denouncing the clergy of legal denominations and their suffering helped lead to the Toleration Act of 1689, an act of Parliament which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists (excluding Catholics and Unitarians). During the eighteenth century, Quaker missionary work began to give way to upright living, and the lives of its members became strictly regulated and disciplined. Due to disagreements over evangelical doctrines, religious authority, and antislavery tactics, the Quakers split into three groups from 1827-28, known as the Hicksites (liberals), Gurneyites (activists), and Wilburites (conservatives). Currently, the four primary organizations of Friends include the Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, Evangelical Friends International, and Conservative Friends.
Distinction: Early faction of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland which primarily followed the theology of Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, rather than Martin Luther. Holds to the doctrines found in the Belgic Confession of 1561, the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort of 1619.
During the Protestant Reformation of the mid-sixteenth century, two major factions developed -- that of the Lutherans and the other being the Reformed Churches. While the former developed from Martin Luther's 95-article thesis in Germany, the latter developed from Ulrich Zwingli's 67-article thesis in Switzerland about six years later in 1523, and went in the direction of the theology of John Calvin. The primary distinction between the two came about in Luther's Augsburg Confession of 1530, and Zwingli's Fidei ratio, "An Account of the Faith." Promoted by such men as Martin Bucer, Jan Laski, Kaspar Olevianus, and Zacharias Ursinus and initially beginning in Switzerland, it spread to Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, England, Scotland, and, by the eighteenth century, to America. It's basic doctrines are outlined in the Heidelberg Catechism, originally adopted in 1563 under Frederick III, ruler of the Palatinate territory of Germany. Its theological distinctions include the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the principle that the Bible as the Word of God speaks directly to the individual Christian soul and is the supreme authority above all ecclesiastical hierarchy, and the Church is Christ's mystical body made up those predestined to salvation. Churches which can be classified as Reformed include the (Anglican) Church of England, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Baptists, Puritans, Congregationalists/Independents, Bohemian Hussites, Moravian Brethren, French Huguenots, Anti-Trinitarians (Socinians/Unitarians), and the Scandanavian Lutheran Churches.
Distinction: Quasi-militaristic organization which evangelizes Christianity worldwide through charitable programs.
The Salvation Army was founded in the London slums in 1865 by a Wesleyan Methodist minister, William Booth (1829-1912), with the aid of his wife, Catherine (1829-1890), and was originally known as the Christian Revival Association. It was later renamed The East London Christian Mission, serving to evangelize to the poor, the outcast, and the non-church goers in the East End of London and to be a church for those who weren't accepted in England's established churches. Based on the belief that in order to be saved the believer must try to save others and that the gospel would be better received by people if they weren't starving, homeless, oppressed, or afflicted, it then went on to provide other social and charitable services to the communities where it was organized. In 1878, it was officially established as the Salvation Army. In 1880, it was organized in the U.S. as part of the Revivalist Reform Movement of the Second Great Awakening and by 1886 was spreading throughout the world. Today it operates as a nonsectarian, evangelical organization with the following purposes: provide spiritual, physical, and moral reformation worldwide to those who need it; reclamation of the vicious, criminal, dissolute, and degraded; visitation among the poor, lowly, and sick; preaching of the Gospel and dissemination of Christian truth. It does this through providing various welfare programs in local communities and has become one of the most popular American charities (known for its thrift stores, food drives, and holiday bell ringers). The Salvation Army is organized in a militaristic structure complete with flags, ceremonials, uniforms and badges, brass bands, discipline, corps (church halls), citadels (meeting places), nine ranks of officers, and soldiers who are considered radical disciples of Jesus Christ. Influences upon the formation of its doctrines come from the teachings and theology of Martin Luther, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. Its mission statement is: "The Salvation Army, an International movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in His name without discrimination."
Separatists, also known as Brownists, were originally followers of Robert Browne (1550-1633) in a late sixteenth-century movement to separate from the state-established Church of England. They believed that true churches could not be established by the government nor controlled by central authority, but only by a willing association of people who believed alike. These smaller groups would organize, draw up a signed compact (church covenant), and elect their own pastor. Separatists were considered by the Church of England and the Catholic Church as dissenters and persecuted, many of whom found refuge in Holland (including William Brewster of the Scrooby Separatists, who published several theological works condemned by the English Church). They were also persecuted by the Puritans, who themselves sought reform within the Church of England, but looked upon separation from the church as a deadly sin. The separatist movement lead the way to congregationalism and in the seventeenth century they became known as Independents -- those who claimed freedom from ecclesiastical and civil authority for their individual churches. Among separatist denominations are the Pilgrims, Quakers, and Baptists.
Distinction: Association of progressive and free churches which value all religious beliefs and uphold the knowledge and experiences of each individual over any concept of God.
The Unitarian name comes from the original anti-trinitarian belief in one, unified God. It has also come to define the unity of all believers. The Universalist name comes from belief in the universal salvation of all and that God is the God of everyone, not just Jews or Christians. Unitarianism has its roots in the Anti-Trinitarian movement led by Faustus Socinus (1539-c.1600) in Europe during the Counter-Reformation of the second half of the sixteenth century. Due to persecution as a heretic, Socinus fled Italy and found refuge in Poland, where he wrote several books and founded several churches. His followers were known as Socinians, who believed in freedom of religion, tolerance of all creeds, applying reason to Scripture, that God did not demand the sacrifical death of his son for the atonement of sins, and that the Trinity was false because there was no biblical evidence for it. By 1660, the Socinian sect in Poland was suppressed, but found refuge in Transylvania where it still survives. In 1959, the American Unitarian Association -- founded in 1825 by Joseph Priestly (from the teachings of Michael Servetus, who was burned at the stake by John Calvin) -- merged with the Universalist Church in America -- originally founded in 1793 by John Murray (based on the teachings of James Relly). In 1961, they became the Unitarian Universalist Association. Although both churches were founded on Christianity during the eighteenth century Enlightenment, Unitarians have come to reject most of the primary biblical doctrines held by traditional Christians. Unitarians basically believe whatever they want to believe, valuing individualality and religious unity over all else. All believers must be free from judgment and allowed to seek and worship in whatever ways are considered best for themselves.
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."