Setting the Scene
Going back through history to discover why certain things today are the way they are is always an intriguing journey. With religion, there are many different views to look at and places to start from. This allows for a huge array of topics to research into, which can easily lead to an information overload. This post will give a thorough but quick description of a few of the biggest Christian Denominations in the United States.
To start with, Catholicism has the largest number of members in the United States, being one of the largest branches of Christianity. Catholicism was one of two types of Christianity formed when the Early Christian Church split, the other being the Eastern Orthodox Church, which does not have a large presence in America. The Catholic Church, or Roman Catholic Church, is headed by the Pope, or Bishop of Rome. The current Pope is Pope Francis, and is the 266th pope.
Next is the denomination of Baptism. Today, Baptism has many different branches withing itself, all with many different beliefs of their own, and it is likely because of this that Baptism is the second largest branch of Christianity in the United States. Baptism as a denomination developed out of Congregationalism, which rejected the Church of England’s structure of parishes. One of their major beliefs is that of voluntary membership to the church, and Baptism was primarily for believers, which, as might guess, likely led to the name.
Methodism is the next largest denomination in America, but also one of the latest formed. The United Methodist Church itself was not actually formed until 1968, but Methodism began in the 18th century. It was started by a religious movement spurred into motion by John and Charles Wesley, after they took a missionary trip to America.
The Reformation, begun by Martin Luther in 1517, led to large split of Christians from the Catholic Church. This led to the development of Protestantism, and the many differing denominations of Christianity. Martin Luther disliked the way the Catholic Church led its Christian members, and nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a church. This was the beginning of The Reformation, and prompted the creation of the many Protestant denominations that exist within America. Lutheran churches are not centrally connected, although many of them are loosely a part of a larger organization, they mainly govern themselves.
Another Protestant Denomination that arose from the Reformation is Presbyterianism. When looking at it more broadly, Presbyterianism is a form of church government that is led by “presbyteries” instead of bishops or congregations. The denomination itself follows many of the teachings of John Calvin, a French lawyer who was born in 1509, and much of his writing was similar to other Reformation thinking. The early creation of Presbyterian caused it to be one of the first Protestant denominations in America, with the first churches cropping up in the 1630s. However the first actual “Presbytery” was formed in 1706, by seven Presbyterian preachers who started the Presbytery of Philadelphia.
Who, What, When, Where, and Why
The foundation of most popular Christian denominations are explained here, and a general illustration for the development of different denominations shows how quickly denominations were created, and when.