Four Branches of Christianity

The four distinct branches of Christianity today

Three recognized divisions of Christianity stemmed from “Jewish-Christians” in Jerusalem (Book of Acts). I have listed four because of the significant impact of non-protestant and non-Catholic (non-denominational) mega-churches today.

The word “Catholic” (καθόλου) means “in general,” referring to all believers in Jesus regardless of religious affiliation. Thus “Catholic” can refer to (1) Orthodox (2) Roman Catholicism; (3) Protestants.

1. Oriental Orthodox Church

In the 5th and 6th Centuries, some communities split from mainline Christianity. Some that survived are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches. They are the descendants of those condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon. Although there are Oriental groups that claim they are non-Chalcedon.

Founders: The Apostles.
Population: 60 Million worldwide
Current Head: The Oriental Orthodox do not have a patriarch or Pope. However, its biggest church in Alexandria has a patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, the 118th successor, 2012 to present.

Six Autocephalous Churches:

Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
Armenian Apostolic Church
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

El-Samaeyeen Cathedral, a Coptic Orthodox Church in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

2. Eastern Orthodox Church (Catholic)

The Eastern Orthodox Churches are Greek-speaking Christians in the Byzantium Empire, the last vestige of the Roman Empire. Eastern split with the Western (Roman Catholic or RC) Church. The RC “absorbed” the fallen Roman Empire and became the Holy Roman Empire or Western Roman Catholic.

Founders:
Constantinople, established by Saint Andrew, currently in Turkey
Alexandria established by Saint Mark, currently in Egypt
Antioch, established by Saint Peter, currently in Syria
Jerusalem, established by Saint James
Population: 220 million members worldwide
Current Head:  Patriarch Bartholomew I (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), 270th in succession, 1992 to present.

14 Autocephalous Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria
Patriarchate of Antioch
Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Russian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
Georgian Orthodox Church
Church of Cyprus
Church of Greece
Orthodox Church of Albania
Polish Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

2. Roman Christianity (Catholicism)

The Western Catholic (Roman Christianity) rose above all other branches because of their seat of power. They basically took over with what’s left of the once-mighty Roman Empire.

Hence, the Pope became known as Pontifex Maximus (Supreme Pontiff) previously used by the Emperors of Rome. They grew in political power and influenced the Spainish monarchy, which in turn helped spread Roman Catholicism.

Roman Catholicism church grew from within the Roman Empire in Rome, who in turn, ruled Jerusalem. Rome, with its power and influence, was able to reclaim Christian relics and manuscripts for safekeeping.

Founders: Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Population: 1.2 Billion worldwide
Current Head: There is no ecumenical patriarch.

Church division:

Anglicans (Church of England)
Protestants

Roman Catholic church is filled with images and the veneration of the Blessed Mary who they refer as co-mediatrix..

3. Protestants (Reformed Church)

The Protestant Reformation was a period when priests and Bible scholars left the Catholic church for its unbiblical doctrines. The Protestant movement began with Martin Luther in Germany in 1517.

Today there are several Protestant denominations. There is NO unified leadership in Protestantism. Instead, denominations are divided into minor theology.

The Act of Supremacy: King Henry VIII established the Church of England and became the “Supreme head of the church.” He remained pro-Catholic. His daughter Queen Elizabeth I was pro-Protestant.

She used the title “Supreme Governor of the church.” Anglicanism in England or Episcopalians in other countries developed after the reformation.

Founder: Martin Luther ignited the reformation.
Population: 800 Million worldwide
Current Head: There is no ecumenical patriarch.

Protestant denominations:

Calvinist
Lutherans*
Presbyterian
Anglicans*
Adventists
Baptists*
Methodist*
Other denominations

* There are further divisions among these protestant denominations.

Protestant church in the USA have a cross with no image, as its center piece, not necessarily an altar.

4. Non-Denominational Christian Churches

After WW2, a new wave of evangelicalism swept the world. Non-traditional churches were established and by the 1980s to 2000s, “mega-Churches” sprung out of nowhere. Religious cults also proliferated.

There are also non-denominational churches who adapted “Reformed Protestant tradition.”

Prominent “mega-churches,” founded by Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen, sprung from the claim of divine inspiration. However, their preaching is geared towards Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, prosperity gospel, and Christian humanism.

Philippines, the new frontier of evangelism

A Christian revival that began in the 1980s gave rise to several mega-churches in the Philippines. For example, Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF) started in a garage in 1982, after the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Today, CCF is the biggest influencer in spreading the Gospel through social media. They have at least 2 Million followers, exceeding that of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church.

The Iglesia Ni Cristo has three million followers around the world and currently holds a Guinness record for the most number of a gospel choir. Although they are deemed as a “Christian cult.”

Since 2000, the growing appeal of “Evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition,” increasing. A fitting “resistance” to the ever-increasing threat of modern apostasy spread by other non-denominational churches today.

Founder: A Holy Spirit movement.
Current Head: There is no ecumenical patriarch.
Population: At least 150 million worldwide.
USA: 40 Million
Europe: 35 Million
China: 40 Million
Philippines: 1.2 Million
South Korea: 15 Million

The mix of non-denominational evangelical churches today:

Evangelical Churches
Reformed Christian Churches
Charismatic-Pentecostal Churches
Born-again Christian Churches
Full-Gospel Christian Churches
Independent Christian Churches

Iglesia Ni Cristo is non-denominational mega-church in the Philippines. It is classified as a “Christian cult” primarily because of claims of “intimidation” and “salvation by membership.”

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