With Christianity being the primary religion that stemmed from the accounts of the teachings, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth, it is essentially the largest religious belief system worldwide. Christianity is a very important part of American history, with roots in Europe. Over the years, there have been splits, and the number of churchgoers keeps reducing. So, many ask, how many Christian denominations are there in America?
The largest denominations are the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Churches. Of the three, the largest Christian denomination in the US is the Roman Catholic church, with 62 million Catholics. There are 16 million Southern Baptist church members, 7.6 million United Methodist Church members, 5 million National Baptist Convention, and 4.1 million Evangelical Lutheran Church of America members.
Even with several large Christian denominations, this article covers everything about these Christian denominations across the US.
How many branches of the Christian faith are there?
There are three main branches of the Christian Faith – The Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox faiths.
The Roman Catholic Church makes up a population of 52 million, against the Protestants, who comprise at least 46.5 million Americans, and Eastern Orthodox make up 6 million. However, the number of Catholics, for instance, could be inaccurate because 52 million only represents the number of baptized Catholics rather than everyone else who identifies as Catholic.
Similarly, the reported number of protestants is also an approximation because it may not include individuals identifying as protestants.
The number of Eastern Orthodox Church members is accurate because the believers of this faith give self-reports.
The Catholic Church
Roman Catholics are the largest Christian group in the US today, taking up the top spot from the Protestants. Even so, Catholics have been a huge part of the Christian community in the US, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries upon the arrival of the Spanish and French missionaries. The Spanish missionaries spread Catholic doctrines and built their churches primarily in the western parts of the country, while the French colonies and missionaries settled in New Orleans.
Before the American Revolution, Catholics were the minority group as they were only present in 13 colonies. These existing deterrents notwithstanding, the Catholics participated in different forms of communal worship. There were no priests then to officiate and celebrate Mass. It wasn’t until 1785 that John Carroll was appointed the Mission Superior of the US. And in 1789, he was made the first Catholic Bishop in the US. The population of the Catholic church kept growing during the first half of the 19th century, and by 1850, Roman Catholics made up the most significant denomination across the US.
During the Civil War, however, the number of Catholic believers declined, increasing again after hostilities ended. Late in the 1800s and early 1900s saw a considerable number of catholic Immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Unfortunately, these immigrants weren’t welcomed by the churches with Irish Americans and Irish immigrants. But the church kept growing. The expansion of the church also meant an increase in parishes, hospitals, and schools, all set up to meet the spiritual and physical needs of all new immigrants. The church also handled issues around economic and social justice. Later, it was believed that Catholicism answered problems like poverty, international relations, capital and labor struggles, and nuclear weapons.
The Catholic Church has since undergone numerous changes, including a decline in numbers across the US in 1960 – and an increase to 72 million from 45 million in 2021. That said, the number of Church-going Catholics stood at 39% in 2018, against 45% protestants. The sexual abuse crisis that made news before 2015 sent shockwaves across Catholic believers. Even with Pope Francis’ visit to America in 2015, there isn’t much that anyone can do about the numbers relating to Catholic believers.
Protestants in America
Did you know that France’s John Calvin, Switzerland’s Ulrich Zwingli, and even Germany’s Martin Luther OSA led the infamous Reformations or that the protestant denominations date back to the 17th, 18th, 19th, and the 20th centuries, both in Europe and in the US? It’s worth noting that Protestantism started in the 16th century, and it influenced the political, economic, social, and cultural lives of thousands from the 16th century to the 19th century.
Protestantism first came about in 1529 at the Diet of Speyer after Charles V, the Roman Catholic German Emperor, rescinded provisions in the Diet of Speyer of 1526. These earlier provisions gave every ruler the right to choose between the administration of the Edict of Worms or not – this declaration banned the writings of Martin Luther, who was considered the enemy of the state and a heretic. But there was a protest against the emperor’s decisions in 1529. The individuals that protested became the protestants because they revolted against obeying Caesar. The protestants ideally believed in the Reformation tenets.
What is the most significant number of Protestants in America?
Baptist Churches – The Southern Baptist
The largest Protestant denomination in the US is the Southern Baptist Church. As mentioned above, this denomination boasts at least 16 million individuals who identify as individuals of the Southern Baptist faith. Baptists value individualism and independence, and the congregational policy of the church is a mirror for democracy. This church was founded in 1845.
The other Baptist church is the American Baptist Church, founded in 1814 with about 1.2 million members.
United Methodist Church
Second on the list of prominent American Protestant churches is the United Methodist Church, which boasts 7.6M members. The United Methodist Church has a system rooted in deep English, founded in 1968. Other protestant churches like the United Methodist Church are the Episcopal Church, founded in 1789 with 2 million members, and African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1814 and boasting 2.5 million members. Even with its England roots, it didn’t grow as well during the American Revolution. Today, the Methodist church’s beliefs, started by John Wesley, remain just as strong as it was in the past.
Other large Baptist churches include:
- The National Baptist Convention (USA)
- The third largest protestant church in the US is the National Baptist Convention boasting over 5 million members. This church was founded in 1895
- National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – The church was founded in 1988 and has over a 2.5million.
- Baptist General Conference of Texas – this church was founded in 1848, and it has over 2.4 million members,
- Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. – It was founded in 1961 and had 1 million members.
Lutheran Churches – Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Next on the list, with 4.1 million members, is the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It is a Lutheran church formed by Martin Luther in Germany, also the Protestant Reformation’s epicenter. Since then, Germany has strongly influenced Europe and the US for over 500 years. This has since led to the success of the Lutheran churches and the Lutheran church’s branches for the Protestants. Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed in 1988.
One of the oldest Lutheran churches is the Lutheran Church of Missouri-Synod, with 2.2 million members, founded in 1847.
Assemblies of God
This is one of the oldest protestant churches. It is more than 100 years old since it was founded in 1914, and it has 3.1 million members, and as one of the Pentecostal evangelist denominations, it stands out as one of the Christian movements that have had the fastest growth. Even as church affiliations and memberships decline, the Assemblies of God is one of the churches that keeps growing steadily. There’s also the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, with 1.8 million members. It was founded in 1907.
The other more extensive versions of the Protestant churches include:
The other famous protestant church is the Presbyterian church, a denomination whose numbers have declined significantly in recent years because the believers of this faith have progressive social and political ideologies. Some Presbyterian denominations that remain popular today, even with low membership numbers, have held onto the teachings of the French Reformer John Calvin. The Presbyterian Church of the USA was founded in 1983 and has about 1.7 million members.
Seventh Day Adventists
While the other protestant denominations that started in Europe, like Methodists, Presbyterianism, and Lutheran, all started in Europe, one of the largest American-born denominations is the Assemblies of God, and it was started early in the 20th century in Arkansas.
The other church that started in the USA is the Seventh Day Adventist church, established in 1863 in upstate NY. This church has about 1.1 million members.
Other Protestant Churches with over a million recorded members include:
- The Church of God in Christ – Founded in 1897 and now boasts over 1.1 million members.
- Church of God, in Cleveland, Tennessee – was founded in 1886 and has 1.1 million members.
- Christian Churches & Churches of Christ – founded in the 1830s and boasting 1.4 million members.
- Armenian Apostolic Church (The Diocese of America) – this church has 1.01 million members and was founded in 1887.
- Other renowned protestant churches include Calvary Chapel, a protestant theology.
Eastern Orthodox Churches
As mentioned above, there are 6 million members recorded under the Eastern Orthodox Church. This is one of the older churches whose traditions were developed by Christians from the Eastern Roman Empires. This belief system was inspired and shaped by the politics, people, and pressures from individuals from these areas. And because the Roman Empire’s Eastern capital was called Byzantium, this Christian belief is often referred to as Byzantine Christianity.
Note that not all the orthodox churches are Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox Church is one of the other types of the church and is deemed a different or separate group from the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch of Constantinople rules or is the nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Some of the churches are ancient, while others are not.
How many denominations of churches are there in the US?
There are over 200 Christian denominations spread across the US, and this table lists 21 of the largest denominations in the US, specifically the ones with more than 1 million members.
|Churches||Founding Year||Population||Number of Churches Available|
|Catholic Church||16th century||62 million||20,000+|
|Eastern Orthodox Church||466||6 million||2000+|
|The Southern Baptist||1845||16 million||45800|
|American Baptist Church||1814||1.2 million||5400|
|United Methodist Church||1968||7.6million||33600|
|Episcopal Church||1789||2 million||6800|
|African Methodist Episcopal Church||1814||2.5 million||7000|
|The National Baptist Convention (USA)||1895||5 million||10000|
|National Missionary Baptist Convention of America||1988||2.5 million||1300|
|Baptist General Conference of Texas||1848||2.4 million||5300|
|Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc||1961||1 million||1500|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church of America||1988||4.1 million||9800|
|Lutheran Church of Missouri-Synod||1847||2.2 million||6100|
|Assemblies of God||1914||3.1 million||12900|
|Pentecostal Assemblies of the World||1907||1.8 million||2500|
|Presbyterian Church of USA||1983||1.7 million||10500|
|Seventh Day Adventist||1863||1.1 million||5800|
|The Church of God in Christ||1897||1.1 million||6100|
|Christian Churches & Churches of Christ||1830||1.4 million||5500|
|Church of God, in Cleveland, Tennessee||1886||1.1 million||6100|
|Armenian Apostolic Church||1887||1.01 million||108 parishes|
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.