Trying to highlight the differences between the Catholic faith and the Protestant faith is comparable to trying to point out the differences between apples. What we mean is that Catholics and Protestants, like the Eastern Orthodox Church, are all Christians.
Unlike the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which form their own single communions, Protestants are actually a group of various Christian faiths all lumped together under a single title. They are not governed by a central earthly authority, instead choosing to interpret the Good Book in their own way, thus making each individual group live their lives according to how they believe God intended.
This means that what one denomination of Protestant may believe to be acceptable behavior or practices, can be vastly different from another group’s beliefs. For example, did you know that the Amish are considered to be Protestant just as much as Evangelist, and the Pentecostal Movement.
For a brief summary on the main types of differences between Catholics and Protestants, please read our article on The Difference Between Catholic and Christian. The main commonality between Protestants, other than being followers of Jesus Christ, is that they do not acknowledge the authority of the Pope like the Catholics do. Many of their differences come from geo-political and cultural differences, with others being more rooted in tradition and how they interpret Gods will.
- 1 Who are Protestant
- 2 Protestant Groups
- 2.1 Historical Protestantism
- 2.1.1 1) Anabaptism – 4 Million Members
- 2.1.2 2) Baptist Churches – 90 Million Members
- 2.1.3 3) Congregationalism – 5 Million
- 2.1.4 4) Continental Reformed Churches – 25 Million Members
- 2.1.5 5) Hussites – 1 Million Members
- 2.1.6 6) Lutheranism – 80 Million Members
- 2.1.7 7) Methodism – 70 Million Members
- 2.1.8 8) Presbyterianism – 45 Million Members
- 2.1.9 9) Quakers -0.4 Million Members
- 2.2 Modern Protestantism
- 2.2.1 1) African Initiated Protestant Churches – 60 Million Members
- 2.2.2 2) Chinese-Originated and Chinese Independent Churches – 10 Million Members
- 2.2.3 3) New Apostolic Church – 10 Million Members
- 2.2.4 4) Nondenominational Evangelicalism – 80 Million Members
- 2.2.5 5) Pentecostalism – 280 Million Members
- 2.2.6 6) Plymouth Brethren – 1 Million Members
- 2.3 Anglicanism – 85 million
- 2.1 Historical Protestantism
- 3 Other Articles on Religious Differences
Who are Protestant
Who exactly is included in the group of Protestants can be open for debate. Some scholars classify various groups as being Protestant, while the group themselves may reject the claim. Other times scholars may not be able to agree as to whether a particular group should be considered to be Protestant or not. One such group would be Anglicanism. While most scholars would regard Anglicanism to be Protestant, some do not. Just as some Anglican sources consider themselves to be Protestant, others refute the claim.
This can make determining exactly how many Protestants are in the world rather difficult. Some sources may put their numbers at 400 million, while others may put them at well over a billion by claiming some fringe Catholic denominations as being more Protestant, as well as other Christian Faiths that the majority of scholars do not consider to meet the criteria.
Here in this this article we will be considering the majority of the consensus. Should you feel offended for the inclusion or exclusion of your particular denomination, we apologies, but we can only work with the resources we have.
None the less, this makes Protestants the second largest major group of Christians, with over 920 million members of differing beliefs and practices, some of whom would prefer to be referred to as either Christian or by their particular denomination, rather than just Protestant.
There are three main groups that account for all of the Protestant faiths, Historical Protestantism, Modern Protestantism, and Anglicanism. Within each group there can be found different sub-sects of denominations. While they many be grouped together, this does not necessarily mean that they share the same beliefs and practices.
From the 9 denominations that are considered to be Historical Protestantism, there is an estimated 320 million members from the different Christian groups.
1) Anabaptism – 4 Million Members
Anabaptist can be found in small communities on every inhabited continent. Consisting of the Amish, Hutterites, German Baptist, and Mennonites, Anabaptist today can trace the origins of their faith back to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century.
2) Baptist Churches – 90 Million Members
We have covered The Difference Between Catholics and Baptists before. Baptist will only baptize professing believers and not young children/infants. Similar to the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation, when prospective members reach the age of reason, they make the choice to become a member of the community and church for themselves. Baptism is also performed by submerging people under a body of water.
3) Congregationalism – 5 Million
Each individual church is autonomous, as in fully independent from one another. Any and all decisions made by a church applies solely to that church and their particular members. This has resulted in various churches uniting together or drifting apart due to internal political differences.
4) Continental Reformed Churches – 25 Million Members
The origins of Continental Reformed Churches can be traced back to European countries during the Protestant Reformation, with a majority of their theology drawing inspiration from the Reformation in Switzerland in the 1520’s.
5) Hussites – 1 Million Members
Originating in the Kingdom of Bohemia, otherwise known as the Czech Kingdom. Hussites were one of the most important forerunners behind the Protestant Reformation of the 15th century. Today they are mostly represented by Czechoslovak Hussites Church, which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church following World War I.
6) Lutheranism – 80 Million Members
Members of Lutheranism follow the teaching of a 16th century German reformer, Martin Luther. Martin’s teachings go to contribute towards the Protestant Reformation. His teachings and theology were so despised by the Holy Roman Empire, that it was decreed that citizens found to be practicing Lutheranism, would have all of their property seized, with half being handed over to the party that made the accusations.
7) Methodism – 70 Million Members
Drawing inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley. The Methodist Movement firmly believes that salvation is available to all people, and not just the select group that the Calvinist believe God has pre-ordained for salvation.
8) Presbyterianism – 45 Million Members
Presbyterians govern themselves by having elected ministers. Locally their leaders consist of elected elders of equal rank. Regionally and nationally, decisions are made by courts of ministers and elders. They place great importance upon education, and committing to a life of learning and development. They strongly believe that an individuals actions, can not impede on ones salvation.
9) Quakers -0.4 Million Members
Formally known as Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends, and Friends Church. Quakers are largely represented by evangelicalism with up to 90% of their numbers being classified as evangelicals. Quakers in general believe that humans are capable of experiencing “the light within”, in other words the presence of God within themselves. Being more open and willing to experiment with worship practices, their worship services have been known to be conducted as if they were concerts and music festivals.
There are 8 denominations that are considered to be Modern Protestantism, with an estimated 440 million members from the different Christian groups.
1) African Initiated Protestant Churches – 60 Million Members
One of the worlds first Christian Churches, the Tewahedo, was founded in Ethiopia in the 4th century. African Initiated Protestant Churches were independently founded by Africans and not by European missionary, with many of them predating colonial Christian churches.
2) Chinese-Originated and Chinese Independent Churches – 10 Million Members
There are three main denominations that form this group. Regrettably they are treated as a dangerous sect by the Chinese Government, which has forced these Christians to hide their faith and practices from the authorities. This means that their churches are highly decentralized and secretive, making their true numbers unknowable.
3) New Apostolic Church – 10 Million Members
The New Apostolic Church broke away from the Catholic Apostolic Church in 1863. While the majority of their faith is very similar to other protestants, their hierarchy is more akin to that of Catholics, though the New Apostles believe that their leaders are the true successors of the 12 Apostles.
4) Nondenominational Evangelicalism – 80 Million Members
Nondenominational Evangelicals distance themselves from other Christian denominations, instead prefer to refrain from using labels to identify themselves.
5) Pentecostalism – 280 Million Members
Pentecostals strongly believe that through baptism, a Christian is able to live a Spirit-filled life, that empowers them and enables them to experience the miraculous, and to receive the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and divine healing.
6) Plymouth Brethren – 1 Million Members
A non-conformist, evangelical Christian movement that was founded in Dublin, Ireland in the late 1820’s, Plymouth Brethren are a spin off of Anglicanism. In the early days, the movement refused to take a denominational name for themselves, an ideal that is still honored by many of their members today. Most members are comfortable with “Brethren” as the bible describes all believers as brethren. They operate in a close-knit community where shunning can occur for any number of immoral behaviors, which is then upheld across all of their assemblies.
Anglicanism – 85 million
Following the English Reformation in the 16th century, The Church of England became the mother church of the Anglican Communion. Drawing inspiration from the Church of England’s core foundations and principles, which were set in place by King Henry the VIII, in response to failing to have the Roman Catholic Church annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1534. Today Anglicanism forms the third-largest Christian communion in the world.
Other Articles on Religious Differences
- Difference Between Catholics and Christians
- Difference Between Catholics and Baptists
- Difference Between Eastern Orthodox and Catholics