Largest Christian Denominations in America: The Top 100


Christianity, in its various denominational expressions, is an important part of the American story. Some denominations came to America from Europe while others started on American soil. The size of a denomination doesn’t tell their whole story, but it does tell part of it.

Southern Baptist is the largest Protestant denomination in America with 16 million members. The United Methodist Church is second with 7.6 million members. The National Baptist Convention is third with 5 million members. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is fourth with 4.1 million members.

The charts below lists the 100 largest Christians denominations in America, largest to smallest. The figures mostly come from denominational records and census surveys. Keep reading to learn more.

141 million Protestants live in America

Historic Christian branches by size

Some consider Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy to be different religions, while others consider them different Christian denominations. Membership numbers for these three traditional branches of the Christian faith are given first. The Top 100 Protestant denominations come next.

Traditional BranchPopulation in America
Roman Catholicism51 million
Protestantism141 million
Eastern Orthodox6 million

51 million is the number of baptized members in America that the Roman Catholic Church reports. Protestantism has no central ecclesiastical authority like Catholicism, so the number 141 million comes from the membership totals of all Protestant denominations put together. The Eastern Orthodox Church self-reports 6 million members in America. [1]

Largest Protestant denominations

Men like Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in France, and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland led the Protestant Reformation. As noted below, other Protestant denominations started in the 17, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in Europe and in America.

Four of the top 10 denominations are Baptist. The Baptist denomination has flourished in American history. Baptist traditions have grown in America due in part to overlapping values. Baptists, like Americans, prize independence and individualism. Having a congregational church polity also mirrors American democracy for many people.

Three of the top 10 churches have roots in England. The United Methodist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church have roots in England, which explains in part why during the time of the American Revolution, these denominations failed to grow like others did. Nevertheless, the movement John Wesley began remains strong in the 21st century.

Two of the top 10 denominations are Lutheran. Germany, the home of Martin Luther, was the epicenter of the Protestant Reformation. Germany’s influence in Europe and America in the last 500 years has contributed to the success of Lutheran branches of Protestant Christianity. German and European migration to America bolstered the Lutheran church.

Please note: In some cases, the founding date listed reflects the theological beliefs of each particular denomination, which some historians may question. A founding date may also reflect when a particular denomination split from its original tradition and became its own organization.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
1Southern Baptist Convention16 million
1845
45,800
2United Methodist Church7.6 million
1968
33,600
3National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.5 million
1895
10,000
4Evangelical Lutheran Church in America4.1 million
1988
9,800
5Assemblies of God3.1 million
1914
12,900
6National Missionary Baptist Convention of America2.5 million
1988
1,300
7African Methodist Episcopal Church2.5 million
1814
7,000
8Baptist General Conference of Texas2.4 million
1848
5,300
9Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod2.2 million
1847
6,100
10Episcopal Church2 million
1789
6,800

The Assemblies of God denomination is perhaps the most surprising name in the Top 10 simply because of it’s age. At just over 100 years old, the Pentecostal evangelical denomination is one of the fastest growing Christian movements the world has ever seen. While some Protestant denominations are experiencing record decreases in church membership and affiliation, Assemblies of God continues to grow at a steady rate. [2]

Many Protestant denominations began in Europe, such as Lutheran, Methodism, and Presbyterianism

Largest Protestant denominations: 11-20

Baptist and Pentecostal traditions account for seven of the next 10 denominations on this list.

Presbyterianism: Some Presbyterian denominations have experienced declines in recent decades, which some attribute to their embrace of progressive political and social ideologies. Other Presbyterian denominations, though lower in membership numbers, continue to hold firm to the teachings of founder John Calvin, the French Reformer.

Seventh-Day Adventists: Many Protestant denominations began in Europe, such as Lutheran, Methodism, and Presbyterianism. The largest American-born denomination is Assemblies of God, which traces its roots to Arkansas in the early 20th century. Seventh-Day Adventist church started on American soil in upstate New York in the mid 19th century.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
11Pentecostal Assemblies of the World1.8 million
1907
2,500
12Presbyterian Church (USA)1.7 million
1983
10,500
13Christian Churches and Churches of Christ1.4 million
1830s
5,500
14American Baptist Churches in the USA1.2 million
1814
5,400
15Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)1.1 million
1886
6,100
16Church of God in Christ1.1 million
1897
6,100
17Seventh-Day Adventists1.1 million
1863
5,800
18Armenian Apostolic Church, Diocese of America1,010,000
1887
108 parishes
19Cooperative Baptist Fellowship1 million
1991
1,800
20Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.1 million
1961
1,500

Largest Protestant denominations: 21-30

Reflecting America’s history of immigration, Christian denominations that include cultural traditions from a particular country appear below. Specifically, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church are listed, like the Armenian Apostolic church is on the table above.

Calvary Chapel: It’s important to note that although Calvary Chapel is Protestant in theology, its founders didn’t consider a denomination. Instead, Calvary Chapel churches prefer to be called an “association” of like-minded churches. Since this association meets the definition of a Christian denomination generally speaking, they are on the list.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
21United Church of Christ915,000
1957
5,000
22Church of the Nazarene906,000
1908
5,000
23Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)690,000
1849
3,700
24United Pentecostal Church International646,000
1945
4,300
25Eastern Rite Catholic, Uniate Churches500,000
no consensus
unknown
26Calvary Chapels500,000
1968
700
27Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia480,000
unknown
198 parishes
28Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America476,878
1922
545 parishes
29Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers432,000
1962
684
30The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA)429,000
1887
2,000

Largest Protestant denominations: 31-40

One reason there are a lot of Christian denominations in America is because its laws espouse the freedom of religion for its citizens. The Church and State are not intertwined in America like they are in many other countries and the government largely stays out of ecclesiastical affairs.

As a result of America’s religion freedom, people can start churches, and even denominations, without threat of persecution or government interference. Other countries have since established such freedoms, but in America they have been cultural value since before the American Revolution in the 18th century.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
31The Salvation Army414,000
1880
1,200
32Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod385,000
1850
1,300
33Wesleyan Church385,000
1968
1,700
34Presbyterian Church in America370,000
1973
1,800
35Evangelical Free Church of America357,000
1950
1,400
36International Pentecostal Holiness Church330,000
1911
2,000
37African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church301,000
1821
1,600
38Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ300,000
2001
734
39Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ300,000
1957
350 global
40Coptic Orthodox Churches300,000
1st century
100 parishes
Racial issues affect Christian churches in America before, during, and after the Civil War

Largest Protestant denominations: 41-50

The history of Christian denominations in America partly reflects the history of America itself. Some argue that the issue of slavery has shaped American history unlike any other national matter. Racial issues affect Christian churches before, during, and after the Civil War.

The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church listed below started in 1870 in Jackson, Tennessee. African-American Methodist ministers wanted to organize a church, including ordaining and electing their own leaders, without having to seek the approval of white Methodist leaders.

In 2012, the C.M.E. denomination entered into “full union” with other historic African-American denominations as well as the United Methodist Church.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
41Christian Methodist Episcopal Church291,000
1870
1,500
42Converge Worldwide (Baptist General Conference)260,000
1852
1,300
43International Church of the Foursquare Gospel255,000
1927
1,600
44National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.246,000
1895
575
45Reformed Church in America246,000
1792
886
46Christian Reformed Church in North America238,000
1857
1,100
47Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)233,000
1881
2,100
48Evangelical Covenant Church231,000
1885
839
49American Baptist Association203,000
1905
1,400
50Amish Churches200,000
1720s

Largest Protestant denominations: 51-60

Amish churches trace their roots to 16th-century Europe and the Anabaptist movement, which didn’t consider itself Catholic or Protestant. Persecuted in Europe, the descendants of the Amish community in America migrated to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Largely separate from not only other Christian churches, but from society in general, Amish communities are found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere today.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
51Conservative Baptist Association of America (CBA)200,000
1947
1,100
52Vineyard Churches International186,000
1983
545
53National Association of Free Will Baptists185,800
1935
2,400
54Evangelical Presbyterian Church150,000
1981
575
55North American Lutheran Church140,000
2010
400
56Baptist Missionary Association of America138,000
1950
1,200
57General Association of Regular Baptist Churches133,000
1932
1,300
58International Churches of Christ128,000
1979
667
59Christian Congregation, Inc.122,000
1887
1,500
60Church of the Brethren114,000
1708
967

Vineyard Churches International (see above) was originally part of the Calvary Chapel network of churches from southern California. In the early to mid-1970’s, a group within Calvary Chapel churches desired to emphasize certain supernatural gifts of the Spirit like speaking in tongues and exorcising demons. The leaders of Calvary Chapel churches preferred the private exercise of such gifts and so the Vineyard group started their own church.

Largest Protestant denominations: 61-70

The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (see below) is one of several Messianic Jewish traditions in the United States. Members of this church believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Messiah spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e the Christian “Old Testament,” which makes them Christians. Yet they retain certain Jewish practices and traditions.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
61Anglican Church in North America112,504
2009
983
62Baptist Bible Fellowship International110,000
1950
4,000
63Free Methodist Church of North America110,000
1860
900
64Mennonite Churches USA105,000
2001
920
65Orthodox Church in America (Russian Orthodox)100,000
1970
800 parishes
66ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians100,000
2012
300
67Continuing Anglican Churches100,000
1977
1,000 parishes
68Messianic Jewish Alliance of America100,000
1915
200
69Southwide Independent Baptist Fellowship100,000
1956
500
70Pentecostal Church of God98,600
1919
1,100

The Anglican tradition has been in America for centuries, so why was the Anglican Church in North America (see above) founded in 2009? In the early 21st century, many denominations formed as a consequence of two groups splitting, being unable to reconcile their differences.

From 2003 to 2009, Anglican denominations in America disagreed about the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. The Anglican Church in North America started as a result of that controversy and is made up various Anglican groups that opposed the ordination.

Largest Protestant denominations: 71-80

All Baptists have common beliefs about practices like believers baptism, which holds that only professing Christians can be baptized, so not infants. Baptists also agree on the autonomy of local churches and the separation of Church and State. Baptists have diverse views on matters like salvation.

Some Baptists are Arminian and others are Calvinist. The General Association of General Baptists (see below) is Arminian. Historically, Calvinist Baptists are often called “Particular Baptists.” The word “particular” refers to Christ only dying for “particular” people (i.e. the doctrine of Limited Atonement) as opposed to all people.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
71Church of God of Prophecy98,500
1923
1,700
72General Association of General Baptists95,000
1823
816
73Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America75,000
1975
249 parishes
74Cumberland Presbyterian Church71,000
1810
685
75Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Mar Thomas Orthodox Syrian Church70,000
1978
154 parishes
76Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America67,000
1921
68 parishes
77North American Baptist Conference65,000
1865
410
78National Association of Congregational Churches63,000
1955
432
79IFCA International61,700
1930
659
80Grace Gospel Fellowship60,000
1945
113

Grace Gospel Fellowship (see above) is a cooperative fellowship of premillennial dispensational churches. Members hold to the central orthodox beliefs of the Christian faith and emphasize the doctrine of the end times. GGF doctrine states that God has different plans of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, which the majority of premillennialists in other churches and denominations don’t believe.

Largest Protestant denominations: 81-90

The Reformed Catholic Church (see below) has more liberal and progressive practices than the Roman Catholic Church. For example, it offers an open communion table to all people, including gay and lesbian attendees. The denomination denies the infallibility of the Pope as well.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
81Reformed Catholic Church57,000
1988
100 parishes
82Korean American Presbyterian Church55,000
1976
300
83National Primitive Baptist Convention, USA53,600
1907
547
84Primitive Baptists50,000
1827
1,600
85Transformation Ministries55,000
2006
170
86Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA50,000
1924
118 parishes
87Conservative Congregational Christian Conference43,000
1948
316
88Church of the Living God (CWFF)42,000
1889
170 temples
89Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren)42,500
1820s
860
90Association of Free Lutheran Congregations41,000
1962
273

The first bishop from the Ukraine Orthodox Church (see above) came to America in 1924. Today, the majority of this denomination’s members live in Pennsylvania and New York state.

Largest Protestant denominations: 91-100

The Friends United Meetings organized in the early 20th century as a group of like-minded Quakers who sought fellowship and effectiveness in missions. Today, they have ministries all around the world.

RankProtestant DenominationPopulation/
Founding/
Churches
91Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America40,000
1919
unknown
92Hutterian Brethren40,000
1530
400 colonies
93Church of God and Saints of Christ40,000
1896
2005
94Missionary Church38,200
1969
500
95Friends United Meeting36,000
1902
600
96US Mennonite Brethren Churches36,000
1878
200
97Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, North American Diocese35,000
1st century
19 parishes
98Friends General Conference35,000
1900
650
99Alliance of Baptist Churches35,000
1987
142
100Evangelical Friends Church, International34,500
1989
306

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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