The following flow chart or “family tree” is based on historic schisms and/or splits due to theological disagreements, reformation, or geo-political relocation.
There is one major line of demarcation within the Christian church: Either a Christian is Catholic or Protestant and within the Protestant division of Christianity, there are primarily five major divisions or families of Denominations:
1. Orthodox - Eastern Byzantine empire – primarily represented by Greek and Russian
2. Unity of the Brethren - began by secret small study groups formed by John Hus – Half
of which left to join the Moravians – both groups are still in existence today.
3. Lutheran - started by Martin Luther and although some Lutheran pastors have left to
join or start other movements, there have been no significant denominations that trace
their roots to Lutherans. This is to the Lutherans credit.
4. Anglican - Most denominations trace their roots to this branch: Baptists, Methodists,
5. Reformed - A large number of denominations consider the Reformed church as their
historical foundation: Presbyterians, Amish, Evangelical Free, and CMandA
On the chart, I have colored each family separately to differentiate the direct and indirect relationships they bear to one another. Upon closer investigation of this chart, you will discover that the greatest contributor to the list of denominations is the Anglican church, followed by the Reformed family of denominations.
The chart is chronological from top down and works much like a family tree with the origin or “roots” of a denomination shown by a vertical line and a similarity or “sibling kinship” to another denomination drawn by a horizontal line. the top or beginning of the tree can be dated 30 A.D. and the bottom or last major denomination formed can be dated 1993 (International Church of Christ, formerly known as the Boston Church of Christ)
Much of this research has been compiled from the books “Church History In Plain Language” by Bruce Shelley, Frank Mead’s “Handbook of Denominations”, and Max Anders’ “30 Days to Understanding Church History” along with the historical information provided by a particular denomination’s official website.
To explore a more in-depth description of the history, reasons for, and origins of schisms and splits of the denominations below, visit our Christian Denominations page.
**I will soon add Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to the list above. Disciples of Christ is the result of an 1832 merger between two groups of Presbyterian(Stone) and Baptist influence (Campbellites).
***It is worth noting that missing are the groups: Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostal, Christian Science, United Pentecostal Church, The Apostolic Church, The Unitarian Church, and a few others. These belief systems veer from the essential, historic Christian belief in the Trinity and/or Deity of Jesus, both are doctrines which determine legitimate inclusion within the Biblical, historical Christian faith. The excluded groups named are mostly (if not entirely) based on the private interpretations of a charismatic leader or leaders, whereby the gods revealed by these “prophets” and “teachers” are wholly and completely different from the God of Christianity (despite having the same or similar names for their gods). It is for this reason that Christianity on the whole does not consider these groups e.g. LDS church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Christian Science to be part of the Biblical and historic orthodoxy of the Christian church.