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Some Major Contemporary Religious Bodies:
Oldest to Youngest

The focus of this page is religious bodies (denominations). This is not a timeline of when various religions began.

As used here, "religious body" is a technical term used in the taxonomic classification of religious groups. It is an organization, generally a subset of a broader, older religion. Note that some religious bodies descend from older religious movements, but represent relatively recent schisms, mergers, etc. The United Church of Christ, for example, is the primary religious body in which the older Congregationalist movement continues.

Religious BodyYear
ministry of Jesuscirca 30 A.D.
first known use of the
phrase "Catholic Church" *
107 A.D.
Coptic Orthodox451
Islam *610
East/West split formalized between bodies known today as
Catholic Church / Eastern Orthodox Church *
Veerashaivas (Lingayats)c. 1150
Anglican Communion1534
Moravian Church 1727
African Methodist Episcopal Church1787
Episcopal Church
A semi-autonomous church within Anglican Communion.
1789: U.S. church formally distinct from Church of England
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints1830
Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement
followers of Alexander Campbell (Church of Christ/churches of Christ)
merge with followers of
Barton W. Stone, i.e., Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Southern Baptist Convention1845
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod1847
Community of Christ (RLDS)1860
Baha'i Faith1863
Seventh-day Adventist Church1863
New Apostolic Church1863
Salvation Army1865
Jehovah's Witnesses1870
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
(Reform Judaism)
Church of Christ, Scientist
(Christian Science)
The Church of God (Seventh Day)1884
Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)1886
Christian and Missionary Alliance1887
Unity Church / Unity School of Christianity1889
Church of God in Christ1897
Aglipayan Church1902
Stone-Campbell movement formally splits into:
Church of Christ / churches of Christ
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.1907
Church of the Nazarene 1908
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism1913
Iglesia ni Cristo1914
Assemblies of God1914
National Baptist Convention of America 1915
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World1919
Kimbanguist Church1921
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel1923
United Church of Canada1925
Cao Dai1926
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (CC/CC)
North American Christian Convention (NACC) was first
organized in 1927 as the first step in separation
from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
a separation which was not fully formalized until 1968.
United Free Church of Scotland1929
Nation of Islam1931
Worldwide Church of God1934
Soka Gakkai1937
Sathya Sai Baba1940
United Pentecostal Church International1945
Church of South India1947
Unification Church1954
Church of Scientology1954
Aquarian Foundation1955
United Church of Christ1957
Unitarian Universalist Association1961
Secular Humanistic Judaism1963
Calvary Chapel1965
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (CC/CC)
Continues Stone-Campbell movement began in 1832.
Shared a common history with the
Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) until 1968.
Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar1968
United Methodist Church1968
modern GLBT movement
began 28 June 1969 at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC
Church of North India1973
Vineyard Churches1974
Uniting Church in Australia1977
Universal Church of the Kingdom of God1977
International Churches of Christ1979
China Christian Council1980
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)1983
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1988
Falun Gong 1992

NOTE: Many religious bodies are not listed here, either because they are small, or because we could not find out information about the year they began. We are happy to add additional groups to this page.

First known use of the phrase "Catholic Church": The word "catholic" means "universal." Today the word is widely used in a generic, etymological sense, but is most frequently thought of in relation to the Catholic Church, the headquarters of which are at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. According to a Catholic website (, the first known use of the phrase which is rendered into English as "Catholic Church" took place in 107 A.D.:
St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.), an Apostolic Father of the Church, and the Bishop of Antioch, wrote the following letter as he was being taken in chains to Rome to be martyred. It is believed that in this letter, the words Catholic Church, were used for the first time. See the New Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) ref 830, note 307.
Neither Catholics nor non-Catholics believe that this use of the term "Catholic Church" coincides with the foundation of the church. 107 A.D. should not be misconstrued to be the origin date of the Catholic Church.

In recent centuries the Catholic Church has also been called the "Roman Catholic Church," although many Catholics today find this geographically-delineated appellation unsatistactory and prefer simply "Catholic Church." "Roman Catholic" is also something of a misnomer, as the religious body in papal communion with Rome includes many non-Latin rites (i.e., Greek Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, etc.) which are part of the identical religious body, but are not historically called "Roman Catholics."

East/West split in 1054 A.D.: 1054 marks the formalization of a longstanding split between two bodies of Christians known today as the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (among other names). Obviously these two groups and their differences existed long before 1054.

Church of God (Cleveland, TN): As noted on its official website (, the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) began in 1886 as the Christian Union. In 1902, the name was changed to Church of God. In 1906 the first General Assembly was held. It is the oldest continuing Pentecostal denomination in the world, as it was organized even before the modern advent of Pentecostalism.

Some Major Contemporary Branches or Denominational Families of Christianity:
Oldest to Youngest

As described here, "branches" and "denominational families" are not single organzations, but are broader classifications comprised of historically related religious bodies. Branches and denominational families often started out as single organizations, before further branching.

Many distinct denominations or denominational families which today can be found almost entirely within one religious body already listed above are now shown in the list below.

Branch or
Denominational Family
schism that resulted in
Eastern Orthodoxy and
Catholicism being separate
Quakers (Religious Society of Friends)1654
Latter Day Saints1830
Stone-Campbell Movement1832
Evangelical Christians (contemporary form)1930s


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This document created 21 December 2000. Last modified 17 October 2005.
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