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Christianity: World Religion - Family Tree   [Return to List of Trees]

Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the 1st century CE. The sacred text of Christians (the Bible) is divided into an Old Testament, which draws from the Jewish Hebrew Bible, and a New Testament, which records the teachings of Jesus. A core belief of the Christian faith is that Jesus is the Son of God, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. Christianity has become the largest and most widely diffused of all world religions.

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Group/Place/Event Founded Description
Protestantism 1500s The Protestant movement emerged in the second decade of the sixteenth century when leaders across Europe began to call for a reform of the Roman Catholic Church and a discarding of various beliefs and practices which they saw as unbiblical innovations in church belief and practices. The movement began in Germany, quickly spread to Switzerland, Holland, and England, and eventually captured Scotland and Scandinavia. It became firmly established in North America.
Presbyterians -- The Presbyterian Church emerged in Scotland as the theologically reformed church emphasized the leadership of the church being handed over from bishops to the church elders (or presbyters). From Scotland, the movement spread to England and North America, and then in the nineteenth century around the world.
The Apostolic Church 1st c. The primitive Christian movement largely exists as a persecuted clandestine movement throughout the Roman Empire until the beginning of the fourth century CE when the new emperor Constantine (r.306-337) decriminalizes, legalizes, privileges and then aligns Christianity as the new religion of the Roman Empire. These changes culminate in the gathering of the churches leaders in council at Nicea (324-25) and the promulgation of the unique orthodox Christian perspective in a series of statements, most notably the Nicene Creed which is added to the liturgy of most Christian churches. The movement's organization is focused in three ancient metropolitan centers in the East (Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria), a new center at the Roman Empire's capital (Constantinople), and the major Western center (Rome). The churches at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Rome were named patriarchates at Nicea in 325, and Constantinople recognized in 381.
Jerusalem 325 No description available.
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church 301 Armenia, a land beyond the reach of the Roman Empire, was the first country to establish Christianity as the state religion (301 CE). The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church participated in the first three Ecumenical Councils of the Christian movement, but was not represented at the fourth council (Chacedon, 431) and later refused to ratify its pronouncements. It formally split with the Eastern orthodox churches in 554, and later replaced Greek with Armenian as it official language.
Antioch 325 No description available.
Alexandria 325 No description available.
Constantinople 381 No description available.
Rome 325 No description available.
Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem With a jurisdiction primarily in Palestine and Jordan, the Greek Orthodox church of Jerusalem is looked upon as the mother church of Christianity, a movement whose founding events occurred in the city of Jerusalem.
Reformed -- The Reformed Church dates to the reforming activity of Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland but was most firmly established in the French-speaking canton of Geneva under the leadership of John Calvin. From there is spread through southern France to the Holland, several German states, and then to Scotland, where it was termed the Presbyterian Church.
Lutherans -- The Evangelical Church grew from the reforming activity of Martin Luther and Lutheranism became most firmly established in Germany, and the Scandinavian lands, from whence it spread globally in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Ecumenical Patriarchate -- The archbishop of Constantinople emerges as the center of the church in the eastern Mediterranean due to its proximity to the political leadership of the Roman Empire. As the territory under its jurisdiction expanded, additional bodies of believers were distinguished from the Greek-speaking Ecumenical Patriarchate by the language spoken and the alphabet (especially Slavic) used in the liturgy. Constantinople was recognized as a Patriarchate in 371 and later designated as second only to Rome (Chalcedon, 451).
Mennonites 1500s The Mennonites trace their history to the most radical wing of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, whose adherents wanted a complete separation from the state and church membership limited to dedicated believing Christians. Persecuted for decades, they eventually found leadership in the person of former catholic priest Menno Simons and some havens from the suppressive powers of the state which allowed them to survive to the present.
Anglicans -- The Anglican Church separated from the Roman Catholic Church administratively during the reign of British king Henry VIII and subsequently adopted Protestant ideas. It was given its unique stance between Protestantism and Catholicism during the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It spread worldwide during the nineteenth church as England developed a global empire.
Congregational -- The Congregationalist church emerged in England among Reformed Puritans (attempting to purify the Church of England) who rejected the rule of presbyters in favor of basing the authority of the church in local congregations. The movement found its greatest success in New England, from whence it spread around the world in the nineteenth century. It continues today primarily in the American-based United Church of Christ.
Catholic Church 1054 The Catholic Church is centered in the Vatican and is headed by the Pope, also known as the Bishop of Rome. Rome is one of the original five Sees of the Christian Church. It became an important center of Christendom after Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity. It separated from the Sees of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria in 1054. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian communion worldwide. The Catholic Church first colonized what was to become the United States in 1565. Through processes of immigration and evangelism, it became the largest denomination in America in the late nineteenth century and remains so today.
Moscow Patriarchate (Russian Orthodox Church) 11th c. CE The church in Russia dates from the eleventh century. It gained status after the fall of Constantinople to Islamic forces in 1453 and the archbishop was named a Patriarch in 1589, and the Moscow Patriarchate subsequently recognized as being on a level with the ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. It is now the second largest church in Christendom.
Church of the East 451 In the fifth century, the church in Mesopotamia sided with Nestorius, the archbishop of Constantinople, whose views where condemned at the Council of Chalcedon (451) and as a result, like the Syriac Orthodox Church separated from the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and thus broke relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Roman Catholic Church. The Mesopotamian church became known as the Church of the East. A schism in the sixteenth century over the problem of succession of the Patriarch led to the formation of both the independent Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church (one of the Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome).
Assyrian Church of the East 1500s In the fifth century, the church in Mesopotamia sided with Nestorius, the archbishop of Constantinople, whose views where condemned at the Council of Chalcedon (451) and as a result, like the Syriac Orthodox Church separated from the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and thus broke relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Roman Catholic Church. The Mesopotamian church became known as the Church of the East. A schism in the sixteenth century over the problem of succession of the Patriarch led to the formation of both the independent Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church (one of the Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome).
Baptists -- The Baptist movement emerged as the radical wing of the Puritan movement in England in the seventeenth century with an emphasis on the autonomy of the local church and the rejection of church-state ties by Christian churches. It took its name from its belief that baptism, the rite of admission to church membership, should be reserved for people old enough to make a decision to accept Christianity and be by total immersion.
Friends 1600s The Friends (or Quakers) was revival movement in England founded in seventeenth-century England by George Fox who invited people to find Christ in the quiet movement of the Holy Spirit. The movement became known for its emphasis on quietly sitting for the movement of the spirit, the bodily reaction to the Spirit (quaking), and pacifism.
Methodists 1700s Methodism was founded by John and Charles Wesley in the eighteenth century as a revitalization movement within the Church of England. As the movement spread through the British colonies, the impetus for an independent church became acute following the American Revolution.
Restorationists 1800s The Restorationist movement developed among former Baptist and Presbyterians on the American frontier in the early nineteenth century. With a strong emphasis on the autonomous local church, it would eventually split into three major movements: the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
Holiness 1800s The Holiness movement emerged within American Methodism in the nineteenth century around church leaders who emphasized a modified version of John Wesley's understanding of sanctification and the idea that one could become holy (sanctified) in this life. Independent Holiness denominations began to form in the 1880s.
Adventists 1830s Adventism began as a movement in the 1830s around the preaching of Baptist preacher William Miller that Christ would return in 1843. The movement continued after the failure of that prediction and nurtured the development of a number of large groups including the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Old Catholics 1870s The Old Catholic movement emerged in the 1870s as church leaders primarily in Europe rejected the pronouncements of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), especially that of papal infallibility, as doctrinal innovations. Old Catholic churches were later set up in Holland, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, and a number of additional smaller churches were established across Europe and North America.
Pentecostals 1900s The Pentecostal movement emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century as revitalization movement within the Holiness movement as people began to search for the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and view the sign of its arrival in the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. That movement spread globally, produced hundreds of new denominations, and became a prominent element of both the Protestant and Catholic churches.
Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch 451 Members of the new movement focused on Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch, the second city to host a local Christian church. The Antiochean church would emerge with jurisdiction throughout Syria and eastward to the edge of the Roman Empire and beyond to Mesopotamia and even India.
Coptic Orthodox Church 451 The Church in Egypt was split when many rejected the pronouncements of the fourth Ecumenical Council (Chacedon, 451). The Coptic Orthodox Church represents those who continue the pre-council life and heritage of the Egyptian church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church emerged as part of the Coptic Church and was eventually recognized as an independent jurisdiction from it. In 1962, the Coptic Orthodox Church was organized in the United States as the Coptic Association of America.
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa -- The most important city in north Africa in the fourth century, the see of Alexandria recalled that the family of Jesus fled to Egypt shortly after his birth. The emergent church eventually had jurisdiction for all of the African continent.
Syriac Orthodox Church 451 In the fifth century, many in the church in Syria rejected the pronouncements of the fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon, 451) and the patriarchate split into two factions each claiming the heritage of Antioch. The Syrian Orthodox Church continues the beliefs and practice of those who rejected the council's statements. It uses Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus and the Apostles) as its liturgical language. The ancient St. Thomas Church based in Malankara, India, is an integral part of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Eastern Catholic Church c. 1054 The Eastern Catholic churches are autonomous bodies formed at various times since 1054 CE that follow the rites of the various Eastern Orthodox churches but which are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Churches. The leaders of several of these churches (including the Coptic Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church, and the Maronite Catholic Church) have been recognized as a patriarch. The existence of these churches remain as an additional item dividing the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox churches.

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