Protestant denominations

17.05.2018 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Protestantism is one of the leading branches of Christianity.

Protestantism arose as a response to the abuse of power of the Roman Catholic Church and its attachment to material values. During the development of world history, many denominations with radical, conservative and missionary views were formed within the umbrella of Protestantism.

There are five principles of Protestantism. They include the proclamation of the Bible as the true source of God’s word, the remission of sins only through unshakable faith, the giving of salvation by God and the mediation of Jesus Christ between God and man.

Many Protestant denominations were formed and received further development during the Reformation (the 16th century) and during the era of the New Age. Also, throughout history, there have been Protestant movements with similar features. For example, associations of “brothers” and sectarian movements.

Protestant denominations of the 16th century

Almost immediately after the Reformation events began, several major religious movements stood out among Protestants, which continue to exist to this day.


Presbyterianism is a movement within Protestantism and one of the branches of Calvinism.

The organizational foundation of the Presbyterian Church was laid during the Reformation in Scotland by Protestants John Knox and Andrew Melville.

Presbyterian doctrine proclaims:

  • the supreme authority of God in matters of salvation
  • divine predestination
  • the infallibility of the Holy Scripture
  • the exclusivity of faith as a source of divine grace

Currently, Presbyterianism is most common in Scotland, the United States, Canada and Austria.

Protestant denominations

By the end of the 18th century, a movement of Restorationism (Christian Primitivism), most members of which were Presbyterians, appeared in the United States. They advocated the restoration of Christianity in its original, authentic form. However, such attempts led to the emergence of other groups generally beyond both Protestantism and Christian Orthodoxy.

Anabaptism and its movements

Anabaptism is the name of the radical religious movement of the Reformation period, spread in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. This name was received by adherents of Anabaptism from their opponents.

Re-baptism at a conscious age and the rejection of infant baptism are the main ideas of the Anabaptists. For Anabaptists, the life of a Christian is a process of transformation into the image of Christ, through one’s thoughts and emotions. Their teaching consists of three elements:

  • understanding the essence of Christianity as an apprenticeship
  • the perception of the Church as a brotherhood
  • the expression of the Christian life in love and non-resistance

The doctrine is applied; it is not perceived as the purpose of life.

The main modern movements of Anabaptism include:

  • The Mennonites which is the most common branch. In addition to general Anabaptist ideas, its characteristics include free personal perception in matters of faith, a closed way of life of members of communities and marriages only with co-religionists. The most conservative movement in Mennonism is represented by the Amish.
  • The Hutterites who are Anabaptists who adhere to the doctrine of community of property.
  • The Brothers (Tunkers) which is a movement that arose from Radical Pietism in Germany at the beginning of the 18th century. Its adherents try to separate from the world as much as possible. They proclaim pacifism ideas and deny such blessings of civilization as banking services, modern clothing, and jewelry.

The teachings of the Anabaptists have been significantly influenced by the doctrine of Baptists and other evangelical churches, as well as the movement of the Free Churches in general.

One of the most radical reform movements is the Schwenkfelders, named after their leader, Caspar Schwenkfeld. He insisted that the Church is a universal mystical organism of the Body of Christ, so it unites all believers in Christ, regardless of belonging to a particular church community (Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, etc.). The Schwenkfeld movement was prevalent in Silesia and southern Germany.

Modern times movements in protestantism

In the 18th-19th centuries, new Protestant movements evolved, the ideas of which became more extraordinary and permeated with all sorts of restrictions.

For example, adherents of the Holiness Movement were convinced that it was possible to attain a state of holiness and maintain it continuously during one’s life. It was possible to enter this state after passing several stages:

  1. Man’s awareness of his sinfulness, repentance and conversion to God.
  2. Instant spiritual rebirth, as a result of which an individual is freed from the burden of original sin.
  3. Sanctification as the overcoming of sinful thoughts and actions with the following of a righteous way of life.

Adherents believe that there are two ways to strengthen the achieved state:

Perfectionism is the first way, which involves the constant development of the qualities of the Holy Spirit. The acquisition of special charismatic status is the second – the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”. This is the acceptance by believers of the gifts of the Holy Spirit through a certain ritual. The second option is followed by Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.

Another striking example of a Radical Protestant denomination is the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (Shakers). The organization was founded in the North-West of England and later moved to colonial North America.

The supporters of this movement openly practiced ecstatic dances during worship services. They adopted a very restricted way of life, sought to preserve virgin purity and chastity and observing celibacy. The Shakers advocated religious communism (the socialization of property and income) and the need to confess sins. At the same time, they did not reject the results of scientific and technological progress and applied them in production.

The Shakers proclaimed:

  • recognition of the equality of all people before God
  • non-discrimination
  • simplicity of life
  • honesty
  • inadmissibility of oath
  • pacifism
  • diligence
  • spiritual and physical purity

There is only one Shaker commune now at Sobbatday Lake, Maine, which has existed since 1992. As of 2017, there were just two remaining members. Many of the previously existing communes in the US have become museums and historic sites.

Associations of “brothers”

In the Middle Ages and the Modern Era, several Protestant denominations were formed. Their members called themselves “brothers”.

Back in the 15th century, from the remaining Hussites arose the Czech Brothers (or the Community of Bohemian Brothers). The “Brothers” living in Germany had a more well-known name, which arose at the beginning of the 18th century—Herrnguters. Later, the Herrnguters also came to belong to the Moravian Church, a denomination formed by followers of the Hussite movement.

The purity of apostolic life, the preservation of the seven sacraments of the Church, the recognition of only spiritual communion and the denial of salvation by faith alone are the essence of the teachings of the Herrnguters. Currently, the community of the Czech Brothers is about 300 strong, united in 23 assemblies (gatherings) and other missionary organizations, which operate primary and Bible schools.

The Plymouth Brothers is another religious group formed in England and Ireland. They adhere to conservatism, biblical fundamentalism and dispensationalism — the idea of dividing the history of mankind into periods, each of which has its divine law.

Associations of "brothers"

The modern Plymouth Brothers recognize the absolute inspiration of the Bible. They believe in the imminent second coming of Christ and the onset of a thousand-year kingdom (Premillennialism).

Protestant sects

The diversity of religious views within the Protestant denomination gave rise to some sectarian movements.

  1. Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit. This movement flourished in the 13th-14th centuries and its participants belonged to believers of a radical mystical nature. They partly accepted the spiritual side of Christianity but denied the need for church organization and clergy. They preached pantheism – a philosophical doctrine that unites God and the world. They also resisted social inequality, practiced free relations between the sexes and free love.
  2. Initially, this originated as a religious movement that spread among Baptists, Methodists, and other groups of Protestants awaiting the Second Appearance of Christ. Then, after the Adventist leader’s unfulfilled prophecy of the date of the second appearing, the movement disintegrated.

As a result of the split, the Seventh-day Adventists sect emerged. This became very famous and the Seventh-day Adventist Church was formed which to this day preaches faith in the imminent Second Appearing of Christ and the observance of the Ten Commandments with an emphasis on honoring the Sabbath.

  1. This sect was founded in the nineteen thirties in London. Its adherents are also called the Apostles of the Last Days, the Catholic Apostolic Church and the Old Apostolic Church. The Irvingian leader, Pastor Edward Irving, preached to parishioners the need to restore the original form of the church service. Supporters of the sect unconditionally believed his sermons, which sometimes brought them to states of exaltation and hysteria.

The largest Protestant denominations have survived to this day. Today, the United States is called the world center of Protestantism, because it houses the headquarters of Baptists, Adventists, Presbyterians, etc. Denominations of Protestantism play a significant role in Ecumenism, a movement of Christian churches aimed at eliminating disunity between them and uniting common forces on an international scale.