Two distinct branches of Protestantism grew out of the Reformation. The evangelical churches in Germany and Scandinavia were followers of Martin Luther, and the reformed churches in other countries were followers of John Calvin and Huldreich Zwingli. A third major branch, episcopacy, developed in England. Particularly since the Oxford movement of the 19th cent., many Anglicans have rejected the word Protestant because they tend to agree with Roman Catholicism on most doctrinal points, rejecting, however, the primacy of the pope (see England, Church of; Episcopal Church; Ireland, Church of). In addition, there have been several groups commonly called Protestant but historically preceding the rise of Protestantism (see Hussites; Lollardry; Waldenses). Protestantism has largely been adopted by the peoples of NW Europe and their descendants, excepting the southern Germans, Irish, French, and Belgians; there have been important Protestant minorities in France, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland.
The doctrine that the individual conscience is the valid interpreter of Scripture led to a wide variety of Protestant sects; this fragmentation was further extended by doctrinal disputes within the sects notably over grace, predestination, and the sacraments. Certain movements have claimed new revelations (see Agapemone; Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of; New Jerusalem, Church of the). Of a fundamentally distinct nature is Christian Science, which as an article of faith repudiates any medical treatment.
Since the 1960s a main thrust in Protestantism has been toward reunification (see ecumenical movement); this was particularly strong in North America. Most Protestant and many Eastern Orthodox churches are allied in federated councils on the local, national, and international levels (see World Council of Churches and National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America).
For some of the major tendencies in Protestantism, see Adventists; Anabaptists; Baptists; Calvinism; Congregationalism; Lutheranism; Methodism; Pentecostalism; Presbyterianism; Puritanism; spiritism; Unitarianism.
For individual churches in addition to those already mentioned, see Brethren; Christian Catholic Church; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Christian Reformed Church; Christians; Churches of Christ; Churches of God, General Conference; Protestantism; Evangelical and Reformed Church; Evangelical United Brethren Church; Friends, Religious Society of; Huguenots; Mennonites; Moravian Church; Ranters; Reformed Church in America; Salvation Army; Scotland, Church of; Scotland, Free Church of; Seventh-Day Baptists; Shakers; United Church of Canada; Universalist Church of America.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.