Part 2 of 2: The Worlds Religions

Posted By Thomas Perez. May 11, 2010 at 11:59pm. Copyright 2010.

The Facts and Stats on 33,000 Denominations:

Now for a few facts and stats from the actual source: World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001). The source does refer to 33000 + total “Christian” denominations, but it defines the word “denomination” as an organized Christian group within a specific country:

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

there are 33,000 + total of these “Christian denominations” in 238 total countries

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

Independents (about 22,000)

Protestants (about 9000)

Marginals (about 1600)

Orthodox (781)

Roman Catholics (242)

Anglicans (168)

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

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

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

The Breakdown

Independents (about 22,000 denominations)Let’s deal with these first, since this is the largest mega-bloc (22000+ “denominations” of the total 33000+). These are broken down into various large groups, and their lists and numbers span from the bottom of page 16, through page 17, and most of page 18. I’m not going to type all of these since the list is quite long — much longer than any of the groupings in the other mega-blocs which are listed below in full. I will quote a major sampling of these “Independent” Christian groups, and still try to cover the whole list:

1 African Independent Apostolic

2 Black American Apostolic

3 Filipino Apostolic

4 Indian Apostolic

5 another 8 groups have “Apostolic”

6 African Independent Charismatic

7 Black American Charismatic

8 Chinese Charismatic

9 another 14 groups have “Charismatic” or “Neo-charismatic”

10 African Independent Full Gospel

11 Black American Full Gospel

12 Chinese Full Gospel

13 another 10 groups have “Full Gospel”

14 three have something-“grassroots”

15 another 20 groups have “house-church network” or “cell-based network”

16 five have “Messianic”-something

17 another 14 are something-“Neo-charismatic”

18 another 12 are something-“Oneness Pentecostal”

19 another 18 are something-“Pentecostal”

20 another 12 are something-“radio/TV believers [or “network”]” (i.e. the “pastor” for these independent Christians is some personality on radio or TV)

21 final 2 on page 17 are something-“Spiritual”

22 then we have a couple Deliverence/Pentecostal groups

23 Word of Faith / Prosperity groups

24 a couple of “mixed traditions”

25 some “Zionist” groups

26 Independent Anglicans or Anglo-Catholic groups in both Catholic and Protestant directions

27 Independent Adventists

28 apocalyptic or eschatological (“end times”) groups

29 Independent Baptists

30 British-Israelites

31 Hidden Buddhist believers in Christ

32 some Independent Orthodox groups

33 independent Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren)

34 schismatic Conservative Catholics

35 Independent Congregational, Congregationalists

36 Independent Disciple, Restorationist, Christian

37 Independent Dunkers (Tunker, Dipper)

38 Independent Exclusive Brethren (Closed, Strict)

39 Episcopi Vagantes (“wandering” bishops-at-large, very small under 100 members)

40 Independent Estonian Orthodox

41 Independent Anglican Evangelical

42 Independent Fundamentalist

43 Gay/Lesbian homosexual tradition (i.e. so-called “gay churches” such as Metropolitan Community Churches)

44 Independent Greek Orthodox

45 Hidden Hindu believers in Christ

46 Holiness or Conservative Methodist (non-Pentecostal)

47 Independent Hungarian Orthodox

48 Independent Jehovah’s Witnesses

49 Messianic, Jewish-Christian congregations

50 Independent “Latin-rite” Catholics

51 Independent “Liberal” Catholics (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic)

52 another seven Independent Protestant or Orthodox churches

53 Hidden Muslim believers in Christ

54 Independent Assyrian or Nestorian

55 No-Church Movement

56 Non-denominational (no church or anti-church groups)

57 Old Believer, Old Ritualist

58 Old Catholics (i.e. split from Rome after Vatican Council I)

59 Old Calendarist (Authentic Orthodox)

60 various schisms from Orthodoxy, in Protestant directions

61 Orthodox sect/sectarian

62 Independent Friends (Quakers)

63 Three indy “Reformed” groups (Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox)

64 more Independent Reformed or Orthodox

65 Independent Spiritualist, Spiritists, Occultists

66 Traditionalist Anglicans

67 True Orthodox (Conservative Russian Orthodox)

68Independent Ukrainian Orthodox

69 United church (various united bodies)

70 community church or union congregation

71 ethnic or monoethnic denominations

72 independent evangelicals (dispensationalist)

73 marginal independent Christian (Black / Third-World)

74 isolated radio churches (unorganized)

75 single autonomous congregations

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

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

65 Filipino Charismatic

70 Chinese neo-charismatic

71 Chinese Charismatic

78 Black American Pentecostal

82 Holiness (Conservative Methodist, non-Pentecostal)

86 Afro-Caribbean Oneness Pentecostal

92 Latin American Charismatic

92 Anglican/Independent Evangelical

92 Independent Methodist

95 Indian Pentecostal

96 African Oneness Pentecostal

96 marginal independent (Black/Third World)

99 White-led Oneness Pentecostal

102 Arab Charismatic

133 Black American Oneness Pentecostal

133 Independent Disciple, Restorationist, Christian

136 Independent Reformed, Presbyterian

158 Zionist African Independent

167 Korean Pentecostal (mixed traditions)

177 Indonesian Pentecostal

208 New/Old Apostolic, Catholic Apostolic (Irvingite, an Anglican / Presbyterian / Adventist sect)

221 Brazilian/Portuguese Pentecostal

225 ethnic or monoethnic denomination

226 White-led Full Gospel

236 Nondenominational (no church or anti-church)

271 Independent Baptist

281 Latin American grassroots

281 Filipino Peo-charismatic

300 Brazilian grassroots

343 Afro-Caribbean Pentecostal

439 African Independent Spiritual

475 Indian Charismatic

609 African Independent Charismatic

644 Latin American Pentecostal

805 single autonomous congregations

813 White-led Pentecostal

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

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

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

435 Conservative Catholic (schism ex-Rome), the biggest group of these already mentioned

32 Independent Russian Orthodox, second largest

30 Orthodox sect/sectarian

27 Liberal Catholic (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic), questionable what this means, but I’ll include them

26 Old Catholic (i.e. split with Rome after Vatican Council I)

25 Old Believer, Old Ritualist (the “Old Believers” are a Russian Orthodox sect)

24 Independent Ukrainian Orthodox

23 Reformed Orthodox (un-canonical)

16 Reformed Catholic (retaining Roman Catholic claims)

8 Old Calendarist (Authentic Orthodox)

6 True Orthodox (conservative Russian Orthodox)

5 Independent Serbian Orthodox

5 Latin-rite Catholic

5 Independent Assyrian or Nestorian

3 Independent Romanian Orthodox

2 Independent Estonian Orthodox

2 Independent Greek Orthodox

1 Independent Bulgarian Orthodox

1 Independent Byzantine rite

1 Independent Hungarian Orthodox

1 Independent Macedonian Orthodox

1 Independent Moldavian Orthodox

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

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

Protestants (about 9000 denominations)The second largest group of “denominations” are Protestants. The encyclopedia breaks these down into major groupings like this:



Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren, Open only)

Congregational, Congregationalist

Disciple, Restorationist, Restorationist Baptist, Christian

Dunker (Tunker), Dipper, German Baptist, Brethren

Exclusive Brethren (Plymouth Brethren, Closed, Strict)

Anglican Evangelical, Independent Evangelical


Holiness (Conservative Methodist, Wesleyan, Free Methodist)

Lutheran / Reformed united church or joint mission


Mennonite, Anabaptist (Left Wing or Radical Reformation)

Methodist (mainline Methodist, United Methodist)

Moravian (Continental Pietist)

Nondenominational (no church or anti-church groups)

Oneness-Pentecostal or Unitarian-Pentecostal: Jesus Only

Baptist-Pentecostal or Keswick-Pentecostal

Holiness-Pentecostal: 3-crisis-experience

Apostolic, or Pentecostal Apostolic (living apostles)

Pentecostal (Protestant; Classical Pentecostal)

Friends (Quaker)

Reformed, Presbyterian

Salvationist (Salvation Army)

United church (union of bodies of different traditions)


community church or union congregation

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

Encyclopedia categorizes them, for whatever reason.

Marginals (about 1600 denominations)The “Marginal Christian” groups include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, various “Arian” or pseudo-Christian cults, some Christian science or “mind science,” some Unitarian/Universalist groups, and tiny numbers of other Christian or Catholic “Gnostics.” These break down this way:


apocalyptic, eschatological (i.e. “end times” Christians)

Divine Science

Gnostic, esoteric, anthroposophical

Holy Spirit Association for Unification of World Christianity

Jehovah’s Witnesses (or “Russellites”)

Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), including Mormon schismatics

Liberal Catholic (Theosophical, Masonic, Gnostic)

schism from Orthodox, in marginal direction

Paulician, Bogomil

metaphysical science or “Divine/Religious Science”

Spiritualist, Spiritist, psychic, occult

Swedenborgian (Church of the New Jerusalem; spiritualistic)

Theosophist, Theosophical, Synthesist

Unitarian, Universalist, Free Christian, Liberal Christian

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

Orthodox (781 denominations)This is an even smaller group of “denominations” and these are broken down as follows:

Albanian/Greek-speaking Orthodox

Arabic or Arabic/Greek-speaking Orthodox

Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian)

Bulgarian Orthodox

Byelorussian / Belorussian (White Russian / White Ruthenian)

Coptic Orthodox

Czech / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox

Estonian Orthodox

Ethiopic, Ethiopian Orthodox, GeOez-speaking

Finnish / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox

Georgian Orthodox

Greek Orthodox

Hungarian / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox

Latvian Orthodox

Macedonian Orthodox

Moldavian Orthodox

Assyrian or Nestorian (East Syrian, Messihaye Christians)

Polish / Slavonic-speaking Orthodox

Romanian Orthodox

Russian Orthodox

Serbian Orthodox

Slovak Orthodox

Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Syrian), Syriac/Malayalam-speaking

Syrian, Syriac-speaking Orthodox or Syro-Antiochian

Ukrainian Orthodox

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

Roman Catholics (242 denominations)Now for the “Roman Catholic” denominations. These appear to be broken down by various rites:

Armenian (Eastern-rite Catholic)

Bulgarian (Byzantine rite)

Byzantine-rite (jurisdiction for more than one ethnic group)

Chaldean (Eastern Syrian rite)

Coptic (Alexandrian rite)

Ethiopic (Alexandrian rite)

Greek (Byzantine rite)

Hungarian (Byzantine rite)

Italo-Albanian (Byzantine rite)

Jurisdiction for both Latin-rite and Eastern-rite Catholics

Latin-rite Catholic

Malankara (Syro-Antiochian, Eastern Syrian), Syro-Malankarese

Maronite (Syro-Antiochian, Western Syrian)

Melkite (Byzantine, Greek Catholic; Arabic-speaking)

plural Oriental (jurisdiction for several Eastern rites)

Romanian Byzantine rite

Russian (Byzantine rite)

Ruthenian (Byzantine rite)

Slovak (Byzantine rite)

Syro-Malabarese (Eastern Syrian)

Syrian, Syriac-speaking (Syro-Antiochian, West Syrian)

Ukrainian Byzantine rite

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

When dividing these “denominations” by country as they do, there are definitely some problems in figuring out the true total” denominations” since many of them are being counted more than once – and in fact 241 times too much in the case of “Roman Catholic” denominations. Barrett’s Encyclopedia states this explicitly: “As a statistical unit in this Encyclopedia, a ‘denomination’ always refers to one single country. Thus the Roman Catholic Church, although a single organization, is described here as consisting of 236 denominations in the world’s 238 countries.” (Barrett, et al, World Christian Encyclopedia, volume 1, page 27, in the “Glossary” under definition for “Denomination” [later updated to 242], emphasis added)

Anglicans (168 denominations)

The smallest “mega-bloc” are the Anglicans. These are broken down in Barrett’s Encyclopedia as follows:


Central or Broad Church Anglican

Ecumenical (Anglican/Protestant/Orthodox joint parishes)

Anglican Evangelical, Evangelical Anglican

High Church Anglican (Prayer Book Catholic)

Low Church Anglican (Conservative Evangelical)

Anglican, of plural or mixed traditions

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

World Totals (33000+ Denominations)

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

Total Number of Affiliated Christians for 1970 = 1,130,106,000

Total Number of Affiliated Christians for 1995 = 1,769,920,000

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

Total Number of Denominations for 1970 = 16,075

Total Number of Denominations for 1995 = 33,090

Total Number of Denominations for 2000 = 33,909

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

SOURCE: Global Christianity — Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary database

  1800 1900 1970 mid-2000 mid-2007 2025 projected
Roman Catholics



































Marginal Christians














Congregations (worship centers)







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

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