Membership, Community, Diversity

What are some of the main Protestant communities that arose out of the Reformation?

As a result of the Reformation and associated movements in late medieval Christendom, four large families of Christian communities began to develop. Among the earliest were those identified with the reformer Martin Luther. Today a number of structurally distinct churches, all calling themselves Lutheran, have local branches all over Europe and the United States especially. Out of the reformist teachings of John Calvin have grown a variety of ecclesial bodies. Most notable are the half-dozen or more Presbyterian churches, which trace themselves directly to John Knox (c. 1513-1572), a Scottish reformer much influenced by Calvin’s thought. The second group are known as the Reformed (including the Evangelical and Reformed) churches. A still more varied group of churches developed out of the so-called Radical Reform. From the Anabaptist wing of that movement came the numerous different Baptist churches as well as the Mennonites. From the Congregationalist wing arose the several Congregational churches, from which the United States organizations called the Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses split during the nineteenth century. While the reformers in Europe organized their various communities, King Henry VIII proclaimed himself head of the Church of England, no longer obedient to the Bishop of Rome. From that original movement, also known as Anglicanism, have emerged the Protestant Episcopal and Methodist churches, the latter beginning with the teaching of John Wesley (1703-1791).

A statue of Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany.


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