Wikipedia lists these denominations as "mainline protestant" churches in the United States:

  • American Baptists
  • Disciples of Christ
  • Congregationalists / United Church of Christ
  • Episcopalians
  • Lutherans
  • Methodists
  • Presbyterians

However in the UK some of those denominations don't exist; I've always understood the British mainstream protestant denominations to be:

  • Anglican
  • Baptist
  • Methodist
  • United Reformed Church (The Congregationalists and Presbyterians merged a few decades ago to form this denomination).

Does such a definitive list exist anywhere? Is there a way in which some denominations are "officially recognised" in the UK while others aren't?

  • 1
    This sounds like a list question. Furthermore, as @DJClayworth points out, 'mainstream' is a very subjective word. I have to VtC as not-constructive.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 17:12
  • 1
    The "official recognition" part could be answered definitively, but the rest is subjective.
    – James T
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 17:23
  • 1
    The reason I ask is that clearly there is an objective way of determining US mainstream denominations otherwise the WP article wouldn't exist. The "is there an equivalent for the UK" can surely be answered objectively, even if that answer is a straight no with a bit of reasoning
    – Waggers
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 18:10
  • 3
    That's a huge assumption that because Wikipedia makes a list of something it can be defined objectively. As a longtime Wikipedia editor I assure you that is not the case. In fact, in the first four sentences of that article two contradictory lists are presented. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 18:37
  • 2
    Maybe I should have posed this question on the WP talk page first :)
    – Waggers
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


This 2007 report entitled Churchgoing in the UK has a vast array of demographic data on churchgoers in the UK. It even differentiates between regular churchgoers and those who just state affiliation.

For example, among regular churchgoers surveyed, the denominational breakdown is:

  • Church of England 31%
  • Roman Catholic 29%
  • Church of Scotland/Presbyterian 9%
  • Methodist 6%
  • Baptist 4%
  • Pentecostal/New churches 7%
  • Other 7%
  • Non-trinitarian 3%

All these are defined in the report (especially Appendix 1 Figure 10). This should answer mainstream as in "most common." Mainline is defined as a specific doctrinal stance in the Wikipedia article you link, so denominations on that list would be "mainline Protestant" there too. Though some don't exist there, I think there aren't any that exist there that aren't here/in that master list.


There is no definitive list of "mainstream" denominations in the UK - indeed the term is largely subjective - but there are a number of official and semi-official ways in which denominations are recognised.

The NHS Data Dictionary, based on the international Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT), lists some 80 possible values for Christian religious affiliation - but since this is an international list it is not specific to Britain.

Some denominations self-identify as being mainstream; the URC website says:

Although one of the smaller mainstream denominations, the United Reformed Church plays a dynamic and challenging part in the British Christian community.

Wikipedia provides a comprehensive list of denominations in the UK, categorised into 12 groups (including "interchurch" - ie pan-denominational groups, and Catholicism) but does not indicate which are "mainstream". The twelve groups are:

Holiness & Pietist
Methodist & Wesleyan
New Church Movement
Presbyterian & Reformed

The Methodist Church website contains a basic introduction to Christian denominations which contains some links to some other useful resources. The World Council of Churches lists 11 member churches that are based in the UK while Churches Together in Britain and Ireland lists several more member churches. Since none of these lists are an exact match for one another it is fairly clear that no definitive list exists, but that lots of denominations are "recognised" by some larger organisations.

What constitutes "official" could also be somewhat subjective. It is well known that the Church of England is the officially established church in England. The Church of Scotland, Church in Wales and Church of Ireland are not, however, officially established. (The Church of Scotland is an unusual case where some official documentation implies the church is officially established, but the church themselves disclaim this.) (Source: good old Wikipedia)

Nevertheless there have been a number of Acts of Parliament relating to individual denominations; this does not of course make them official state churches, but does at least show that they are recognised by the state. Examples include:

  • Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Act 1707
  • Methodist Church Union Act 1929 / Methodist Church Act 1939 / Methodist Church Funds Act 1960 / Methodist Church Act 1976
  • Salvation Army Act 1931 / Salvation Army Property Trust Act 1934

'Mainstream' is not a word with a clear definition, so there is never going to be a definitive list of such things. You can always make arguments for including/excluding different groups. You have made an obvious omission: you've only listed English denominations, although you talked about British ones. If you want to include all UK mainstream denominations you should certiaily include the Scottish ones, especially the Church of Scotland (and assuming you count the Episcopal Church of Scotland as Anglican for your purposes), and also Northern Irish ones.

Apart from that the list you've made is a pretty good one, and I can't think of others with obvious cases to include them. The others listed in the US list have very small presences in the UK. You might also consider that Baptists come in different flavours.

In answer to your second question, the only form of official recognition is the special privileges granted to the Church of England as the state church. These days these are largely ceremonial.

  • He didn't talk about Britain. He talked about the UK. Northern Ireland is not part of Britain (and, indeed, has a very different religious profile to Britain), but is part of the UK.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 17:28
  • 2
    "I've always understood the British mainstream protestant denominations to be...". "British" is the correct adjective for something that is part of the UK. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 17:42
  • Thanks for the comments on English/British. I'm tempted to edit the question but don't want to make a nonsense of your answer! On the official recognition thing, I understand the Methodist church was founded by act of Parliament (but that of course doesn't make it the official church, just an official church)
    – Waggers
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 18:38
  • 1
    Methodists were not founded by act of parliament. They were a breakaway group from the Church of England. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 18:42
  • 2
    To say a little more, there are Acts relating to the Methodist churches, but these are private rather than public Acts - they give legal effect to church unions, transfer of property, etc., but don't amount to establishment. Just like private Acts that reorganize corporations (like HSBC in 2002) without nationalizing them.
    – James T
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 18:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .