Lets start by pointing out who this article is about. Specifically it is about the various denominations of the Protestant Christian Faith, because there are many of them and most of us don’t even know the difference. I’m here to provide a guide. I grew up in the bible belt meaning there was a church on every corner, so I had to learn quickly what these names meant.
The Most Populous Groups Are:
1. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.2 million members
2. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million members
3. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million members
4. National Baptist Convention: 5.0 million members
5. Evangelical Lutheran Church, U.S.A.: 4.5 million members
6. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million members
7. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million members
8. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): 2.8 million members
9. African Methodist Episcopal Church: 2.5 million members
10. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America: 2.5 million members
11. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS): 2.3 million members
12. The Episcopal Church: 2.0 million members
13. Churches of Christ: 1.6 million members
14. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World: 1.5 million members
15. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: 1.4 million members
This list come from the noted website The Christian Post. You’ll notice in here that there are certain terms that overlap, besides the obvious things like god, including the terms methodist, baptist, and episcopal. TO simplify things I will be talking about over arching groups, including methodist, episcopal, baptist, pentecostal, presbyterian and lutheran.
I must first point out my affiliation to this church so that any possible bias can be recognized. Historically this denomination was a subgroup of the Church of England started by John Wesley that later broke off. The beliefs of m ethodists include: doing good work and loving others as a means to reach a closeness with god. Another teaching is that Christ died for everyone, all people, not an elite or selected group and thereby everyone can be saved. That view is termed Arminianism. Methodists do ordain women as well, which is not very common. This church is neither the best or worst on the issue of homosexuality. They do not allow gay ministers, but welcome gay members. They do not recognize any marriage of gays or lesbians, but you won’t likely find them picketing any gay persons funeral and they do not support any crimes on them.
All of these churches have ties to the Catholic Church and the Episcopal’s connections are very clear. That is true of traditions such as confirmation and anointing. What is very different is the views on LGBTQ. Since the 70s this church has been part of the fight for equal right for these people. Furthermore they have opening gay leadership in the church. This is a great group, and very forward thinking. Each episcopal church has its own identities.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the stereotypes from the rivalry of the southern baptist and Methodist churches. Being from the south and a member of a Methodist church I can assure you the majority of us do not have any sort of rivalry. A major difference in baptists and other groups is that they do not baptize young children. They believe that baptism needs to be reserved until a person is mature enough to fully understand the significance of what they are doing. It is hard to pin down anything else specific about the Baptist Church because these churches are usually fairly autonomous. For more information, you’ll have to visit the one you are curious about and find out more.
My head immediately had the image of speaking in tongues and charming snakes with this particularly group but I recognize that is a stereotype just as much as the Methodist/ Baptist Rivalry. First off, they trace their roots back through the Methodist and Baptist churches, and the speaking in tongues is supposed to be evidence of being baptized in the holy spirit. This group puts more emphasis on their spiritual experiences than on the scripture itself. Furthermore they are known for a highly emotional spiritual fervor. Furthermore they are in opposition to the idea of Arminianism .
At the outset I knew nothing about this church but that is the beauty of the internet. This denomination has roots in the British Isles. The do have infant baptism and both men and women serve in the various leadership positions in the church. Like other groups on this list, there are a variety of views on most issues so it is safe to realize there is some degree of autonomy.
Lutherans, not shockingly, trace their origins back to Martin Luther. Furthermore Lutheran churches will bear more similarities to the catholic church than likely any other of this list. They also have more rituals that are followed on a regular basis. Lutherans are more focused on repentance for sins than for good works to create a type of holiness on earth.
Each of these denominations has its strengths and its weaknesses and none of them are bad. Instead you should think of them as trying to find what works best for you. For example, if you prefer lots of tradition, consider the Lutherans. If you love service, maybe the Methodist church would be a better fit. Regardless this is just an overview so if you want more information your best option is to walk into your local church.