Protestantism is less a denomination than a general branch of Christianity encompassing numerous denominations and a wide theological spectrum ranging from conservative to liberal. Protestantism originated in the 16th century Reformation.
Some Protestant churches, such as Anglicans and Lutherans, tend to resemble Catholicism in their formal liturgy, while others, such as Baptists and Presbyterians, retain very little of the liturgy and tradition associated with the Catholic Church. Protestants adhere to the authority of the Bible and the doctrines of the early creeds. Protestantism encourages "Private Interpretation" of scripture by the individual.
Most Protestant churches recognize only two sacraments directly commanded by the Lord - baptism and communion - as opposed to the seven sacraments accepted by the Catholic Church.
Protestants number about 800 million among approximately 1.5 billion Christians worldwide. It is the largest branch of Christianity in the United States, followed by Catholics with about half as many members. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are the 3rd largest Christian branch, comprising about 2% of the U.S. population.
There are about 9,000 Protestant Christian denominations in the world according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press.
The 15 largest Protestant denominations are:
- Southern Baptist Convention: 16.2 million members
- The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million members
- The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million members
- National Baptist Convention: 5.0 million members
- Evangelical Lutheran Church, U.S.A.: 4.5 million members
- National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million members
- Assemblies of God: 2.9 million members
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): 2.8 million members
- African Methodist Episcopal Church: 2.5 million members
- National Missionary Baptist Convention of America: 2.5 million members
- The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS): 2.3 million members
- The Episcopal Church: 2.0 million members
- Churches of Christ: 1.6 million members
- Pentecostal Assemblies of the World: 1.5 million members
- The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: 1.4 million members