About the World Directory of Churches
ecumenism, n. – the pursuit of unity among every Christian church in the entire world, regardless of tradition, creed or denomination
The aim of the World Directory of Churches is to catalog every single Christian church on the planet, regardless of language, size, tradition, creed, or denomination.
Anyone can add a church, and no registration is required.
From the growing church communities in Africa and Latin America, to the ancient churches of the Middle East, from the cathedrals of Europe, to the megachurches of North America – our goal is to provide an accurate and up-to-date resource for Christians everywhere on Earth.
By doing so, we hope to help people everywhere encounter their Christian brothers and sisters, learn more about their faith, or help find a church to call home.
The World Directory of Churches was started on July 16, 2011 by Alex Moore, a student of ecumenical theology from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The site went public on August 1, 2011 with just two churches in its database. Today there are over 90 churches in the Directory.
In May 2016, the WDOC was relaunched, with a focus on openness, usability, technology and integration.
We are not associated with any denomination, church, organization or company.
Q. Has a project like this ever been attempted before?
A. As far as we know, no one has ever attempted a worldwide catalog of Christian congregations. Some efforts have been made individually to catalog churches in North America and Canada, and in various countries globally. In 1982, the World Christian Encyclopedia was published which cataloged some 22,000 denominations (not congregations) worldwide. To date, it remains the largest single survey of Christianity.
Various denominations worldwide keep detailed records of their member congregations; lists of churches within denominations exist online or in print, but many are not easily available for public consumption. Some large denominations like the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have a detailed (and ancient) structure in place for identifying parishes by diocese, episcopal see, or bishopric. However, never has there been a comprehensive, worldwide list of worship service/mass times published or maintained across all church branches
We can confidently say that no cross-denominational database of Christian congregations exists at the global level. It can safely be assumed there is not even a comprehensive list of the branches/denominations within Christianity.
Q. Is the World Directory of Churches associated with a denomination or church?
A. We are not associated with any larger body; we are totally independent. We have no governing denomination, church, company or organization. In order to offset server costs, we run ads on the website through the Google advertiser networks, but we are beholden to none of those advertisers.
Q. How many churches are there in the world?
A. The effort required to estimate this number is staggering. There are more than 30,000 Protestant denominations in the United States alone, with each denomination containing one to thousands of individual congregations. In the world, it has been estimated that some 50,000 congregations are founded each year, mainly in Africa and South America where growth is explosive.
But the practicalities of this census are even more difficult: Christian communities without access to a physical building are often hard to categorize, and some underground churches in oppressive societies would be dangerous to publicize, and to that end should remain in safe hiding. The World Directory of Churches also aims to catalog many inactive churches, though surely thousands of ancient or destroyed church buildings are simply lost to history, never to be cataloged.
Current estimates suggest there are well over 2 billion Christians living in the world, or approximately 2 in 5 human beings. If each congregation averaged 100 members, there might be 20 million active congregations on Earth, but there can be no telling for certain.
Q. What exactly does "Church" mean in the context you're using?
A. We are aware that the term "Church" has many different meanings. One common usage of the word is employed in the description of branches or denominations. For example, Roman Catholics might use "The Church" to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Just as frequently, a person might speak about "going to church", meaning visiting a physical building on a Sunday morning. And of course, one might talk about the members of one's "church", or one's congregation, who may worship together with or without church building.
Thus, in different contexts the term "church" might refer to a denomination, building, or congregation. The World Directory of Churches aims to catalog all three uses of this term, all three telescoping layers of Christianity, from the universal to the local.
Q. What about XXXX denomination? Are they included in this project?
A. To exclude any one denomination or branch of Christians on the grounds of being "not Christian enough" would be hypocritical and detrimental to the spirit of this project. Some surveys of Christianity exclude Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. Ours includes them, and welcomes them. It is beyond our mission to judge Christians for their theological differences -- instead we celebrate them here.
Q. What about mosques (Islam) or synagogues (Judaism), etc.?
A. Our focus is to catalog Christian communities in the World Directory of Churches. Other world religions are outside of the scope of this project.
Q. How can you possibly hope to catalog every church on Earth?
A. Internet users across the world have the opportunity to contribute to the World Directory of Churches by creating or editing pages for any church anywhere. By increasing awareness online, and through word-of-mouth in Christian communities globally, we aim to gain enough momentum to reach critical mass: that moment where our users are maintaing church pages and keeping them updated with correct worship service times, contact information, history, photos, current events, and more information.
New website features are rolling out weekly, and we hope to find inventive ways to encourage people to maintain the database.
The Directory is only as strong as its volunteers, but with a diverse, global audience and such an important mission, we are confident that we can catalog many prominent Christian churches within a few years -- and we're not stopping. Help us make it happen!
Q. Can the information on this website be copied or duplicated elsewhere for profit?
A. Short answer: No. Please do not copy or crawl the directory in order to make a duplicate of our database.
Long answer: No. The content on the website is user-supported and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, see our Terms of Service.