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

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

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

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

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

Since the reforms surrounding the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, the Roman Catholic Church has referred to Protestant Churches as ecclesial communities, while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches (see subsistit in and branch theory). But some non-denominational Christians do not follow any particular branch,[20] though they sometimes are regarded as Protestants.[21][22][23][24]

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1870) of the early 19th century. The movement sought to restore the church and "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament."[55]:54 Members do not identify as

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1870) of the early 19th century. The movement sought to restore the church and "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament."[55]:54 Members do not identify as Protestant but simply as Christian.[56][57][58]:213

The Restoration Movement developed from several independent efforts to return to apostolic Christianity, but two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important.[59]:27–32 The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky

The Restoration Movement developed from several independent efforts to return to apostolic Christianity, but two groups, which independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith, were particularly important.[59]:27–32 The first, led by Barton W. Stone, began at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and called themselves simply as "Christians". The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell; they used the name "Disciples of Christ". Both groups sought to restore the whole Christian church on the pattern set forth in the New Testament, and both believed that creeds kept Christianity divided. In 1832 they joined in fellowship with a handshake.

Among other things, they were united in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus.[60]:27 Both groups promoted a return to the purposes of the 1st-century churches as described in the New Testament. One historian of the movement has argued that it was primarily a unity movement, with the restoration motif playing a subordinate role.[61]:8

The Restoration Movement has since divided into multiple separate groups. There are three main branches in the US: the Churches of Christ, the Christian churches and churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Other U.S.-based groups affiliated with the movement are the International Churches of Christ and the International Christian Churches. Non-U.S. groups include the Churches of Christ in Australia, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, the Churches of Christ in Europe. The Plymouth Brethren are a similar though historically unrelated group which originated in the United Kingdom. Some churches, such as Churches of Christ or the Plymouth Brethren reject formal ties with other churches within the movement.

Other Christian groups originating during the Second Great Awakening including the Adventist movement,[62] the Jehovah's Witnesses,[63] and Christian Science,[64] founded within fifty years of one another, all consider themselves to be restorative of primitive Christianity and the early church. Some Baptist churches with Landmarkist views have similar beliefs concerning their connection with primitive Christianity.[65]

The Russian Orthodox Church has a long history of opposing heresies, beginning with Bogomilism and the Old Believers, a sect opposing the reforms introduced in the Russian Empire under Patriarch Nikon in 1666.

In 18th to 19th century Imperial Russia, there arose a new type of denominational schism grouped as Spiritual Christianity (духовное христианствоIn 18th to 19th century Imperial Russia, there arose a new type of denominational schism grouped as Spiritual Christianity (духовное христианство). Many heresies, nicknamed by the church or government, called themselves "spiritual Christians", such as: Dukhobors, Ikonobortsy ("Iconoclasts"), Khlysts, Molokans, Pryguny, Skoptsy, Shtundists, Subbotniki, etc. These sects often have radically divergent notions of spirituality. Their common denominator is that they sought God in "Spirit and Truth", (Gospel of John 4:24) rather than in the Church of official Orthodoxy or ancient rites of Old Believers. Rejecting the official church, they considered their religious organization as a homogeneous community, without division into laymen and clergy.

In the 1830s, Ivan Grigorev Kanygin founded religious communities with communal practices in the Novouzensk region. They called themselves Communists or Methodists, but from the 1870s became known as "Mormons", by comparison with the contemporaneous American movement. An unrelated community known as "Samara Mormons" developed near the Volga city of Samara. They avoided alcohol, tobacco, and swearing, cooperated in commercial enterprises, and governed themselves by "apostles" and "prophets".

A more recent charismatic movement in Russia is the "Church of the Last Testament", which established a substantial settlement in the Siberian Taiga in the 1990s.

Due to a number of similarities, some Protestant writers describe the doctrines of the Philippines originating Iglesia ni Cristo as restorationist in outlook and theme.[66] INC, however, does not consider itself to be part of the Restoration Movement. On the other hand, some Catholic leaders viewed Iglesia ni Cristo as an offshoot or sect of the Catholic Church, since the then first leader or Executive Minister (Felix Ysagun Manalo) was a former Catholic member. However, INC is working and functioning spiritually and financially on its own, thus, completely independent from any religious body and communion.

The church hierarchical administration (Filipino: Pamamahala),[67] centralized church governance, theological orientation, places of worship architectural design, adaptation to modern technology, very strong and strict discipline, and co

The church hierarchical administration (Filipino: Pamamahala),[67] centralized church governance, theological orientation, places of worship architectural design, adaptation to modern technology, very strong and strict discipline, and country of origin or establishment, are some of the INC features, polity and organizational structure that identify itself different from Restoration Movement, Protestantism, Catholicism and mainstream Christianity. Iglesia ni Cristo members are noted for bloc voting in political elections[68] which is unique to the church due to their doctrine on unity and a practice that cannot be found outside INC.

Another group of churches is known under the banner of "New Thought". These churches share a spiritual, metaphysical and mystical predisposition and understanding of the Bible and were strongly influenced by the Transcendentalist movement—particularly the work of Emerson. Another antecedent of this movement was Swedenborgianism, founded in 1787 on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, who said he received a new revelation from Jesus Christ through continuous heavenly visions which he experienced over a period of at least twenty-five years.[69]

The New Thought concept was named by Emma Curtis Hopkins ("teacher of teachers") after Hopkins broke off from Mary Baker Eddy's Church of Christ, Scientist—the movement had been previously known as the Mental Sciences. The New Thought movement includes Religious Science founded by Ernest Holmes; The New Thought concept was named by Emma Curtis Hopkins ("teacher of teachers") after Hopkins broke off from Mary Baker Eddy's Church of Christ, Scientist—the movement had been previously known as the Mental Sciences. The New Thought movement includes Religious Science founded by Ernest Holmes; Divine Science, founded by Malinda Cramer and the Brook sisters; and Unity founded by Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore. The founders of these denominations all studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins. Each of one these New Thought Churches has been influenced by a wide variety of ancient spiritual ideas.[70] Each of these churches identify to different degrees with Christianity, Unity and Divine Science being the most explicit in the use of the Bible.

The Christian Community is a movement for religious renewal. It was founded in 1922 in Switzerland by the Lutheran theologian and minister Friedrich Rittlemeyer, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and founder of anthroposophy. Christian Community congregations exist as financially independent groups with regional and international administrative bodies overseeing their work. There are approximately 350 worldwide. The international headquarters are in Berlin, Germany.

The Christian Community does not require its members to conform to any specific teaching or behaviour.[71] Seven sacraments are celebrated within the Community: the Eucharist, generally called the Act of Consecration of Man

The Christian Community does not require its members to conform to any specific teaching or behaviour.[71] Seven sacraments are celebrated within the Community: the Eucharist, generally called the Act of Consecration of Man, and six other sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, The Last Anointing, Sacramental Consultation (replacing Confession), and Ordination.[72]

A Christian denomination founded in 2016 by Arthur David Beaman and approved as a tax-exempt church.[73] It classifies itself as a contemporary version of the Ebionites.[74] The original Jewish Christian Church in Jerusalem, headed by James the Just, was Ebionite. Members of the Way Followers Christian Institution (WFCI) follow the Seven Laws of Noah. They are not strict observers of the Torah. Rather, they interpret the Torah in a contemporary context, such as interpreting the dietary laws, Kashrut, as being God's way of keeping the Israelites from eating unhealthy food in an age where disease was not understood as it is today. They also use contemporary relevant sections of the Didache in their religious ethics and services.

Contained within the WFCI is a religious order, the Society of James the Just (SJJ).[75] The SJJ also serves as a charitable ministry within the WFCI, providing services for the poor.

Other movements[75] The SJJ also serves as a charitable ministry within the WFCI, providing services for the poor.

Protestant denominations have shown a strong tendency towards diversification and fragmentation, giving rise to numerous churches and movements, especially in Anglo-American religious history, where the process is cast in terms of a series of "Great Awakenings". The most recent wave of diversification, known as the Fourth Great Awakening took place during the 1960s to 1980s and resulted in phenomena such as the Charismatic Movement, the Jesus movement, and a great number of Parachurch organizations based in Evangelicalism.

Many independent churches and movements considered themselves to be non-denominational, but may vary greatly in doctrine. Many of these, like the local churches m

Many independent churches and movements considered themselves to be non-denominational, but may vary greatly in doctrine. Many of these, like the local churches movement, reflect the core teachings of traditional Christianity. Others however, such as The Way International, have been denounced as cults by the Christian anti-cult movement.

Two movements, which are entirely unrelated in their founding, but share a common element of an additional Messiah (or incarnation of Christ) are the Unification Church and the Rastafari movement. These movements fall outside of traditional taxonomies of Christian groups, though both cite the Christian Bible as a basis for their beliefs.

Syncretism of Christian beliefs with local and tribal religions is a phenomenon that occurs throughout the world. An example of this is the Native American Church. The ceremonies of this group are strongly tied to the use of peyote. (Parallels may be drawn here with the Rastafari spiritual use of cannabis.) While traditions vary from tribe to tribe, they often include a belief in Jesus as a Native American cultural hero, an intercessor for man, or a spiritual guardian; belief in the Bible; and an association of Jesus with peyote.

There are also some Christians that reject organized religion altogether. Some Christian anarchists - often those of a Protestant background - believe that the original teachings of Jesus were corrupted by Roman statism (compare Early Christianity and State church of the Roman Empire), and that earthly authority such as government, or indeed the established Church, do not and should not have power over them. Following "The Golden Rule", many oppose the use of physical force in any circumstance, and advocate nonviolence. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You,[76] and was a Christian anarchist.