Christianity Timeline

Christianity in the World (text)

C. 4 BCE - 30 CE The Life of Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth, the man whom Christians consider to be the Messiah (or Christos in Greek) prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, was born in Palestine in present-day Israel. Many biblical scholars today, drawing on the known date of King Herod’s death, assert that Jesus was likely born in 4-5 BCE. Jesus spent the years before his death teaching, healing, and traveling with a group of disciples. Jesus’ death by crucifixion in Jerusalem and his subsequent resurrection are dated to about the year 30 CE. 

50-60 CE Paul’s Letters to Churches

Paul, a Jewish tentmaker, was converted to the way of Jesus in about 30 CE. He preached not only to Jews in synagogues, but also to non-Jews or “Gentiles.” He nurtured small communities of Christians throughout the Mediterranean world. His letters to these churches — largely written between 50-60 CE — constitute the earliest Christian literature and became part of the New Testament.

70-100 CE Gospels Emerge from Early Communities

The word “gospel” is a translation of the Greek term used by gospel writer Mark: euangelion, meaning “good news.” The writers of the Gospels were “evangelists” telling the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. Though there were several early Gospels, only four came to be part of the New Testament canon.

150-200 CE Initial Formation of the New Testament Canon

The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, along with the letters of Paul and other writings such as the Book of Acts, came to be regarded as having special authority for the early church. These writings were described as a “canon of truth” and were collectively referred to as the “New Testament.” The process of collecting and defining the New Testament involved much controversy, as some writings were deemed heretical and excluded from the canon.

300s CE Beginnings of Monasticism

Beginning at the end of the 3rd century CE, St. Anthony (Anthony the Great) and the “desert fathers” of Egypt began withdrawing from the world for an intentional life of solitude, asceticism and prayer. They are widely considered to be the origin of the Christan monastic movement. Athanasius’ Life of Anthony (362 CE) was widely read in both Greek and Latin, as monasticism grew throughout the 4th century CE. 

313 CE Constantine Converts to Christianity 

The conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity in 313 CE marked the end of nearly three centuries of persecution and martyrdom of Christians throughout the Roman Empire — with the 313 Edict of Milan granting toleration to all religions, including Christianity. In 330 CE, Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople.

325 CE Council of Nicaea

The First Ecumenical Council, called by the Emperor Constantine, was held in the city of Nicaea in 325 CE. 318 bishops and more than 200 priests attended the council, where they formulated the Nicene Creed. This Creed, still considered the most universal creed of the church, affirms the oneness of the Holy Trinity and the full divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

330-370 CE Orthodoxy in Africa

Ezana of Axum, ruler of the Axumite kingdom in present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, embraced Christianity, laying the foundation for what would become known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  

354 - 430 CE Saint Augustine of Hippo

Augustine was a North African theologian and bishop, whose writings on the nature of God and God’s relation to humankind have remained central to Christians from his own time until today. Augustine’s Confessions, in which he describes his conversion to Christianity, was the first work of Christian autobiography.

380 CE Christianity the Official Religion of the Roman Empire

Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica establishing Nicene Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. The imperial state suppressed both non-Nicene Christian traditions (such as Arianism) as heresy and non-Christian worship as paganism. 

432 CE St. Patrick in Ireland

Patrick, a Christian Briton, was captured and enslaved by Irish tribes while still a youth in the early 5th century CE. After escaping to Britain for a monastic education, he returned to Ireland, where he sowed the seeds for the spread of Christianity on the island.

529 CE Saint Benedict

Benedict, an Italian cleric known as the “father of Western monasticism,” founded the abbey at Monte Cassino in 529 CE. His “Rule of St. Benedict,” a book of precepts, articulated the foundations of monastic life for the Benedictine order.

726 - 843 CE Byzantine Iconoclasm

In 726 CE, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III banned the use of religious icons, resulting in the widespread destruction of religious images and the persecution of those using them. The Pope, however, continued to support the use of icons, thus sparking a controversy which contributed to the eventual split between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

800 CE Charlemagne Crowned Holy Roman Emperor

After a thirty-year campaign to conquer and Christianize Europe, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III in the year 800 CE. This act marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. For nearly 1,000 years, the political development of Western Europe was inextricably entwined with the Catholic papacy.

987 CE Christianity in Russia

St. Vladimir of Kiev, known as the “Apostle of Russia,” came to power in Kiev in 980 CE. In 987, he converted from paganism to Christianity and was significant in propagating Christianity throughout Russia.

1054 CE The Great Schism

In 1054 CE, the growing estrangement between the Eastern Church based in Constantinople and the Western Church based in Rome climaxed in the mutual excommunications of the two sides’ leaders. This split between the Eastern and Western churches ended the original unity of Christianity and resulted in two major Christian churches: Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

1095 CE The First Crusade

The Crusades were a series of wars initiated by the Roman Catholic Church aimed at recovering Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic control. They were launched in 1095 CE at the Council of Clermont with Pope Urban II’s proclamation, “God wills it!” The crusades, sponsored and led by various figures, continued until the 9th Crusade, which ended in 1272.

1200s CE New Monastic Orders

The Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians were among the new monastic orders that began to flourish in the 13th century CE. The fruit of reform movements, they emphasized poverty, celibacy, and obedience.

1225 - 1274 CE Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican friar who incorporated Aristotelian logic into Christian theology. Among the most influential Christian thinkers, his theology profoundly shaped the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. 

1300s CE Christian Mystics 

In the 14th century, Christian figures such as Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) and Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) emphasized the inner life, the mystic love of Christ, and devotional union with God.

1400s CE Missionary Work and European Colonization Begins

European nations such as England, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain began a zealous colonizing project in the 15th century. As justification for their expansion, these colonizing governments frequently cited the “necessity” of converting the native inhabitants of foreign lands to Christianity. This missionary movement would eventually result in the growth of Christian churches in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

1454 CE The Gutenberg Bible

Johannes Gutenberg, German goldsmith and inventor of moveable type, printed his famous 42-line Bible in the 1450s. The increased availability of Christian scriptures as a result of Gutenberg’s press enabled a wider population of non-clergy persons to gain knowledge of the Bible. This new accessibility of the scriptures would prove to be a significant catalyst of the Protestant Reformation.

1478-1834 CE The Spanish Inquisition 

In 1478, the Inquisition, a church-organized tribunal in Spain, began to examine, try, and punish persons accused of heresy, especially targeting Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity. Intended to uphold Catholic orthodoxy and monarchical power, the Inquisition (distinct from the earlier Roman Inquisition) was incredibly violent and was also applied to Spain’s overseas colonies. The Inquisition lasted until it was disbanded in 1834. 

1517 CE Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses

In 1517 CE, priest and theologian Martin Luther posted his famous ninety-five theses on the door of the Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany. He challenged the Roman Catholic Church on many of its teachings and practices, and his doctrine of justification by faith alone launched the first wave of a movement that would become the Protestant Reformation.

1522 CE Zwingli and the Reformed Church in Switzerland

Ulrich Zwingli, the famed Swiss reformer, wrote his Sixty-seven Conclusions in 1522. These articles argued against papal authority, the veneration of saints, fasting, transubstantiation of bread and wine, and other Roman Catholic doctrines. Zwingli’s document was used by Zurich civil authorities in a dispute that successfully overthrew the authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in their city.

1520s CE Radical Reformation

The Reformation released an array of more radical social and theological movements, often designated “anabaptist” or “spiritualist.” In 1533 CE, Anabaptists seized the city of Munster in order to create a short-lived “Kingdom of the Saints,” drawing the condemnation of Catholics and other Protestants alike. The most permanent Anabaptist traditions would be defined by their practice of adult baptism, pacifism, and a rejection of state power.

1534 CE The English Reformation

The 1534 British Act of Supremacy declared that the British sovereign, King Henry VIII, is “the only Supreme Head in earth of the Church of England” — thus denying the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope over the Church in England. Under Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, the Puritan movement would begin to challenge the Church of England as insufficiently reformed on Protestant lines.

1536 CE John Calvin’s Institutes

The French reformer John Calvin, one of the most influential leaders of the Reformation, published his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. Calvin was called to bring the Reformation to Geneva, where he instituted biblically-based worship and a close coordination of church and state.

1540 CE The Jesuits

The Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, was formed in France by Ignatius of Loyola and six others committed to poverty, celibacy, preaching the gospel, and the internal reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1540, the organization was sanctioned by the Church. Among the prominent early Jesuits were Francis Xavier, who traveled as a missionary to India and Japan, and Matteo Ricci, who traveled to China.

1545-1563 CE Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation

In three sessions between 1545-1563, the Catholic Council of Trent produced a series of doctrinal and institutional responses to the Protestant Reformation. At the Council, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed its rejection of Protestant teachings while also initiating internal reforms. The renewal launched at the Council of Trent is sometimes called the Catholic Reformation, or “Counter-Reformation.” 

1555 CE Peace of Augsburg 

Amidst intense hostilities between Catholics and Protestants, the Holy Roman Emperor and the German Electors reached an agreement that the subjects of a territory should adhere to the religion of their ruler (cuius regio eius religio). This achieved some peace between religious factions, but precluded toleration for religious minorities. 

1560s CE Presbyterianism in Scotland

In the mid 16th century, church reformer John Knox applied the Presbyterian system of church governance that he had observed in Calvin’s Geneva congregations to churches under his influence in Scotland. 

1567 CE Congregationalism and Puritans 

The first Congregational church was established in England in 1567 with the conviction that local congregations should have authority over their own affairs, independent of central ecclesiastical control. In 1609, Congregationalists, also known as Puritans, fled England to the Netherlands and later to New England (beginning in 1620) where they organized new churches based on what they considered to be biblical principles.

Mid 1600s CE Society of Friends, Quakers

In mid 17th-century England, George Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends, a group dedicated to the worship of God based on the teaching that an “inner light” dwells within each individual. The group received the popular name “Quakers” because of the tendency of some of its members to tremble during moments of religious fervor.

1648 Peace of Westphalia 

Bringing an end to the Thirty Years War that had ravaged Central Europe, treaties between the Holy Roman Empire and both France and Sweden established peace among Catholics and Protestants and instituted some protections for religious minorities. Memory of the violent period that had just concluded would help inspire new ideas about religious toleration.

1784 CE John Wesley’s Methodism

Church of England priest John Wesley and his brother Charles together organized a Pietist movement, emphasizing a heart-centered and disciplined Christian life as a supplement to Anglican worship. Their followers in the United States established an independent Methodist denomination in 1784, as did English Methodists after Wesley’s death.

1844 CE Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Begins

Founded by Englishman George Williams in 1844, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) aimed to provide a Christian environment for the physical, mental, and religious development of working-class young men. The movement became international, as did the YWCA, founded soon after in 1855.

1884 CE Christianity in Korea

Small communities of Catholic Christians had survived persecution in Korea during the nineteenth century, and in 1884, Protestant missionaries began to establish a presence. Christianity would grow steadily during the first half of the 20th century, and then rapidly in South Korea during the second half. Today, Korea is home to some of the largest Christian congregations in the world and one the principal sources of missionaries around the globe. 

1893 CE World’s Parliament of Religions

Held in Chicago as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions signaled an emerging awareness of religious pluralism in the United States. The meeting included religious leaders from numerous traditions around the world, many of whom denounced the Christian missionary movements in their countries. Although some conservative Christian leaders refused to attend the Parliament, it nevertheless marked a turning point in American Christianity’s stance toward those of differing faiths.

1906 CE Pentecostalism in Los Angeles

The Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, which began in April 1906 under the leadership of African-American minister William J. Seymour, signaled the emergence of Pentecostalism — a tradition which would become a major force in Christianity in the U.S. and globally.

1919 CE Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans

Karl Barth, a Swiss Calvinist, influenced generations of European and American Christians with his “neo-Orthodox” Christian theology. Barth rejected liberal Protestantism’s emphasis on divine immanence, and instead emphasized that God can only be encountered by humans through His Word. Barth’s impact in Europe and the U.S. reflected widespread disillusion with early hopes of earthly progress towards the Kingdom of God, brought about by the horrors and destruction of World War I.

1920s CE African Independent Churches

Many new African churches began to break away from historic mission churches in the 1920s. These included the Church of Simon Kimbangu, sometimes called the Kimbanguist church, in what was then the Belgian Congo and the Aladura, or Praying Church of the Lord in West Nigeria.

1934 CE Barmen Declaration

A group of German Christians who called themselves the Confessing Church formed to speak out against the co-optation of the German church by Hitler. In 1934 at Barmen, the Confessing Church declared itself the only legitimate German Evangelical Church and condemned the state church for having betrayed the gospel in its alliance with Hitler.

1948 CE World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches (WCC) was formed in Amsterdam in 1948. It eventually brought together both Protestant and Orthodox churches worldwide in what would become an unprecedented new ecumenical movement of cooperation and consultation. Based in Geneva, the WCC now includes more than 300 churches from over 100 countries.

1957 CE Christian Conference of Asia

The Christian Conference of Asia, formed in Indonesia in 1957, was the first effort to bring together Christian leaders from the churches of South Asia and East Asia.

1962-1965 CE Second Vatican Council

The historic Second Vatican Council was called by Pope John XXIII to bring about renewal and “open the windows” of the Roman Catholic Church to the world. Meeting over the course of three years, the Council formulated major statements on the nature of the Church, its role in the modern world, the use of vernacular languages in Catholic services, and the Church’s relation to both other Christian churches and to non-Christian faith communities.

1970s CE Communications Revolution 

In the 1970s, as television replaced radio as the primary form of home entertainment, TV-based Evangelical Christian ministries — often known as “televangelism” — became increasingly popular. Ministers like Billy Graham reached billions of audience members and achieved enormous international influence. Later, with the rise of the internet in the 1990s, thousands of Christian websites emerged. This wide and effective use of communications technology continues to aid in the spread of evangelical Christianity. 

1974 CE Lausanne Covenant

In 1974, the International Congress on World Evangelization gathered more than 2500 evangelicals from around the world to “frame a Biblical declaration on evangelism.” This covenant became a major milestone in the emergence of a twentieth-century evangelical consensus.

1976 CE Episcopal Church Ordains Women

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1976. Over the next twenty years, all major branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion (including the Church of England in 1994) affirmed the validity of women’s ordination. The Episcopal Church was the last of America’s “mainline” Protestant denominations to admit women to ordained ministry.

1978 CE Pope John Paul II

Elected Pope in October of 1978, John Paul II became the most widely traveled Pope in history. After ten years, he had traveled to over seventy countries on six continents, providing a visible presence for the Roman Catholic Church worldwide. His papacy was characterized by a return to traditional and papal authority.

1984 CE Desmond Tutu awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa had long been active in working against apartheid. He was General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches from 1978 to 1984 before becoming bishop of Johannesburg and then archbishop of Cape Town. In 1984, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism. 

1990 CE Religious Freedom in Soviet Union

In the new era of openness that preceded the breakup of the Soviet Union, a “freedom of conscience” law was adopted in the USSR in 1990. For the first time in many decades, it allowed both freedom of worship and religious education. Russian Orthodox churches began to be restored and to reopen at a rapid rate.

2002 CE Roman Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal

Investigative journalism published in the Boston Globe in 2002 uncovered pervasive sexual abuse of children and young adults by Roman Catholic clergy in North America, Australia, and Europe. The revelation of widespread abuse led to great instability in many dioceses, but also re-invigorated calls for reform and renewal in the Church, including an increase in women’s leadership. 

2002 CE The Church of England and Controversy over Homosexuality

Welsh theologian Rowan Williams was elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. He unsuccessfully attempted to establish an Anglican Covenant to maintain unity among the Worldwide Anglican Community, which was threatened by controversies over homosexuality and women’s ordination. He ultimately resigned in 2012. Teachings on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and women’s ordination continue today to be the subjects of rifts as well as renewal and reforms in Christian churches and denominations across the globe. 

2013 CE Papacy Changes

In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI, the first German pope in modern times, became the first pope since 1415 to resign office while alive. He was succeeded by Francis I (Jorge Mario Bergoglio), Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the first Latin American and Jesuit to hold the office. Pope Francis I is known for his reformist tendencies, including his second encyclical, Laudato si’, which calls for “swift and unified global action” to combat climate change.


Christianity in America (text)

1566-1573 CE Jesuit and Franciscan Missions Founded in Florida

Spanish Catholics in the mid 1500s, first Jesuits and then Franciscans, undertook the first Christian missions in the territory that would become the United States. They eventually built a network of forty-four missions.

1607 CE Anglicanism Arrives at Jamestown

The founding of the English colony at Jamestown in 1607 CE marked the arrival of Anglicanism (the Church of England) in Virginia. Anglicanism was later established as the colony’s official state-supported church—a status it held until the American Revolution. Other churches, such as the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches, eventually flourished in Virginia as well, despite legal restrictions placed on their activities.

1608 CE French Catholics Establish Quebec

In 1608, Quebec became the capital of the French empire in North America and served as the headquarters for Franciscans and Jesuits, who worked to convert indigenous peoples to Catholicism in eastern Canada, Maine, and in the Great Lakes region.

1619 CE Enslaved Africans Arrive in Jamestown

Kidnapped, enslaved Africans first arrived in Jamestown in 1619. Although English law forbade the enslavement of Christians, the legal status of slaves was soon redefined, thus permitting both the evangelization and enslavement of the Black population of Virginia.

1620 CE The Pilgrims Arrive at Plymouth

The Pilgrims, a group of radical Puritans, founded Plymouth Colony in 1620 and organized congregational churches independent of the Church of England. A second company of Puritans arrived in Boston in 1629, founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They hoped to set an example for English society by creating a “Bible commonwealth” in which conversion experience, church membership, and political rights were linked. Massachusetts Puritanism was marked by a sense of mission and rigorous religious conformity.

1629 CE Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam

Despite the established status of the Dutch Reformed Church, New Amsterdam (later New York) in 1629 pursued a policy of limited religious tolerance like that in the Netherlands. From an early date, New Amsterdam became known for its ethnic and religious diversity.

1634 CE Establishment of a Catholic Colony

Maryland, “the Catholic colony,” was conceived by prominent English Catholic Lord Baltimore and founded by his son, Cecil Calvert, in 1634. Although religious freedom was granted to all Christians in 1649, Protestants later gained control of the Maryland government and curtailed the political and religious rights of Roman Catholics.

1636 CE Roger Williams and Religious Tolerance

Roger Williams was a dissenter from the Massachusetts Puritan leadership. In 1636, he fled with his followers to the colony of Rhode Island, which he founded upon the principle of religious freedom. In Providence in 1638, he organized the First Baptist Church in America, which still exists today. 

1637 CE Anne Hutchinson’s Challenge

Like Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson was a spiritual adviser and reformer, and an outspoken critic of Massachusetts’ religious and civil leaders. She was considered especially threatening because she was a woman whose authority derived from her claims to direct spiritual revelation. Her dissent sparked a theological schism and she was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. 

1663 CE Bible Published in the Algonquian Language

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England was founded in 1649 to support the work of John Eliot, an early Puritan missionary. His Algonquian Bible of 1663 was the first Bible published in British North America, as part of his efforts to catechize and convert Native Americans. 

1670 CE Anglicanism Extended to the South

Joseph West and 140 others founded Charleston in 1670, the first major settlement in the Carolinas. Although the Church of England was formally established there, Protestant dissenting groups flourished in the South after the 1760s.

1680s CE German Mennonite and Quaker Communities 

German Mennonites and Quakers arriving in Germantown, Pennsylvania in the 1680s formed the nucleus of the larger German settlement that would develop throughout the subsequent century. At the time of the American revolution, Germans formed the largest free ethnic minority in the predominantly English colonies.

1681 CE Religious Haven in Pennsylvania

In 1681, William Penn  established a haven for Quakers with the colony Pennsylvania. In the founding documents of the colony, Penn extended religious tolerance to all who believed in God, Protestants and Catholics alike.

1688 CE Religious Protest Against Slavery

In 1688, the Quakers of Germantown issued a formal objection to slavery in a letter to their Monthly Meeting in Philadelphia. This was the first official protest by white Americans against the evils of slavery.

1692 CE Salem Witch Trials 

There were a number of witch scares in colonial New England, but none as devastating as those in Salem in 1692. Nineteen people–mostly women–were executed. These were the last executions of “witches” in Massachusetts, and the colony eventually annulled the convictions of those persecuted.

1728 CE Benjamin Franklin’s “Articles of Belief”

Benjamin Franklin penned his unorthodox religious beliefs in “Articles of Belief” while still a young man in 1728. Like those of other cosmopolitans of his time, Franklin’s ideas reflect the Enlightenment emphasis on reason, nature, and liberal Theism over revelation, scripture, and the God of the Christian tradition.

 1740 CE George Whitefield and the First Great Awakening

George Whitefield, a priest of the Church of England, fanned local religious enthusiasm into a transatlantic religious revival with an evangelical preaching tour in 1739. During this Great Awakening, Protestant revivalism took shape. It also generated strong inter-colonial bonds, which would prove to be an important development when political tensions with Britain intensified later in the century.

1740s CE Presbyterian Migrations Soar in Pennsylvania

Presbyterianism grew as a result of the substantial influx of Scotch-Irish immigrants to the colonies after 1740. Presbyterianism eventually spread throughout the middle and southern colonies.

1747-48 CE German Churches Unite

Germans struggled to maintain their ethnic traditions in an English-speaking society. In 1727, the German Reformed Church was organized in Philadelphia, and is today one of the city’s oldest congregations. Twenty years after the establishment of the German Reformed Church, the founding of the Lutheran Pennsylvania Ministerium in 1747 marked an effort to unite all Lutherans in America into a single organization.

1758 CE Baptists in the South

Shubal Stearns and other New England Baptists moved south and founded the Sandy Creek Association in 1758 at Sandy Creek, North Carolina. This laid the groundwork for later Baptist expansion. Baptist itinerant farmer-preachers were highly successful in gaining converts throughout the southern colonies.

1769 CE Spanish Missions in the Far West

The founding of Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 marked the expansion of Spanish Catholicism in the West, as twenty-one Franciscan missions in California eventually stretched from San Diego to San Francisco. These missions extended the Spanish mission work in the Southwest, which had begun in the late seventeenth century.

1770s CE Methodist Foundations in New York

Methodism, which began as a movement within the Church of England under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley, was reorganized as an independent denomination in America after the revolution. Its successful use of circuit-riding preachers and camp meeting revivals enabled Methodism to thrive on the expanding frontier of the early nineteenth century.

1773 CE Early Black Independent Church

David George, a slave preacher, was an elder in a Baptist church at Silver Bluff, South Carolina. Around 1773, George took charge of the congregation when its white minister withdrew. George’s church is often cited as the first independent Black Baptist congregation.

1774 CE The Quebec Act and Catholicism in Canada 

The Quebec Act of 1774, instituted by the British, strengthened Catholicism in Canada and established Canada’s border at the Ohio River. This Act was perceived by colonists as a threat to religious freedom, thus fanning revolutionary sentiments on the eve of the Declaration of Independence.

1774 CE Christian Alternative Communities

“Mother” Ann Lee and the Shakers arrived in New York state in 1774 and established a religious community near Albany two years later. By 1794, they had twelve communities in New York and New England, the beginnings of a long tradition of Christian utopian communities that persists today. Almost 80 years later in 1848, the successful Oneida community would be founded in upstate New York by John Humphrey Noyes as a community devoted to Christian perfectionism. 

1776 CE The “Declaration of Independence” and Civil Religion

The appeals to the “Creator” and to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” contained in the Declaration of Independence served as the foundation for American civil religion, a flexible set of religious ideas that envisioned America as central to God’s plans. While growing out of a heavily Christian context, these ideas make no explicit reference to a particular religion or denomination. During the American revolution, civil religion allowed people of many different religious convictions to agree on propositions about freedom and rights, while avoiding theological controversy.

1775-1783 CE The Revolutionary War

Advocates for the Enlightenment, established Christian clergy, and religious dissenters all played important roles in the American revolution. The war served as an inspiration for American civil religion, as ideas such as liberty and freedom were seen in a religious as well as political light, and revolutionary leaders like George Washington were transformed into quasi-religious symbols of the new republic.

1790 CE First Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States

John Carroll, a European-educated priest from an old Maryland family, was appointed the United States’ first Roman Catholic bishop in 1790. Carroll charted a course between traditionalism and forms of religious liberalism inspired by the Revolution, a perennial balancing act for leaders of the American Catholic community.

1794 CE First AME Church

In 1794, Richard Allen founded the Bethel Church in Philadelphia in response to racial exclusion from his local Methodist Episcopal church. This marked the origin of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which formally incorporated in 1816 and is the oldest Black denomination in the U.S. today.

1794 CE Russian Orthodox Mission Begins in Alaska

The first Alaska mission in 1794 served as the foundation of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, which remained distinct from other Orthodox churches that arrived during the nineteenth century. 

1801 CE Cane Ridge and the Camp Meeting Tradition

At Cane Ridge in 1801, between ten and twenty thousand people, both Black and white, gathered for a series of revivals in the backwoods of Kentucky. This began a tradition of camp meeting revivalism that played an important role in the expansion of evangelical Protestantism on the American frontier.

1805 CE The Rise of Unitarianism in New England

The appointment of Henry Ware as Harvard’s Hollis Professor of Divinity in 1805 signaled the emergence of Unitarianism as a significant intellectual and religious movement. Unitarianism — along with Universalism, which arose in the 1770’s — marked the flourishing of theological liberalism in New England.

1812 CE American Foreign Missions

Missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions left New England for Asia in 1812. While concerned primarily with the conversion of non-Christians, these missionaries also began to establish important personal and scholarly links between the East and West that deepened over the course of the century.

1810-40s CE Voluntary Societies

Throughout the 19th century, numerous voluntary societies, composed of members of leading evangelical Protestant churches, were founded to publish tracts, undertake home missions, and engage in charity work. These interlocking organizations not only undertook the moral and religious reform of the U.S., but also helped to maintain the dominance of Protestantism.

1820s CE The Rise of Urban Revivalism

Charles Finney, a Presbyterian minister, forged a new form of revivalism in the 1820s in response to the growth of urban communities. He undertook a highly successful revival campaign in the industrial towns along the Erie Canal in upstate New York. His emphasis on moral perfection also contributed to the temperance, abolition, and women’s rights movements.

1829 CE David Walker’s Call for Abolition

David Walker, a free Black man, became active in reform in the Methodist Church in Boston. His “Appeal,” published in 1829, denounced Christian hypocrisy and warned of a dire fate for America unless slavery was abolished. Along with the writings of Frederick Douglass and others, the “Appeal” became an influential text in the abolitionist movement.

1832 CE Disciples of Christ and New Churches on the Frontier

Revivalistic religion and utopian optimism about the future of America encouraged the rise of many new Christian sects on the frontier. Under the leadership of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, the largest of these groups joined to form the Disciples of Christ in 1832, a new American church that by the early twentieth century was considered a part of the Protestant mainline.

1836 CE Ralph Waldo Emerson Publishes “Nature”

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were among the first writers of the transcendentalist tradition — a romantic offshoot of Unitarianism. Texts such as “Nature” marked the transformation of traditional Christianity by modern philosophy and signaled the emergence of literature as a source and site of American religious experience.

1840s CE U.S. Catholic Population Soars

The arrival of Catholic immigrants from Germany and Ireland in the 1840s permanently altered the religious landscape of America. By 1860, the Roman Catholic Church had become the single largest denomination in the U.S.

1844 CE American Millennialism 

Millennial expectation was pervasive in the decades before the Civil War. The movement led by William Miller, who predicted the end of the world in 1844, was the most conspicuous. When Miller’s prophecies that Jesus would return did not materialize, some of his followers, under the leadership of Ellen Gould White, organized the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1860 to perpetuate his teachings.

1845 CE The Southern Baptist Convention

As evangelicals in the northern U.S. began to espouse antislavery ideas, schisms along regional lines appeared in the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention, organized in 1845 to defend slaveholding, eventually became the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

1843 CE Phoebe Palmer and the Holiness Movement

Lay evangelist Phoebe Palmer was instrumental in the growth of the Holiness movement, which flourished in the late nineteenth century. She published The Way of Holiness in 1843, led hundreds of revivals, established urban missions, and emphasized that holiness is immediately available to believers through faith in Jesus Christ.

1849 CE Mormons Establish Deseret in Utah Territory

Mormonism arose in upstate New York in the early 1830s under the leadership of Joseph Smith. Under Brigham Young, Mormons later began organizing a communal society in Utah in 1847. Formally establishing Deseret in 1849, the early Mormon community’s political separatism and teachings on polygamy led to persecution and serious clashes with the federal government in the years prior to the Civil War.

1853 CE First Woman Ordained as Protestant Minister 

In 1853, Antoinette Brown Blackwell was ordained in the Congregationalist Church, becoming the first woman officially ordained a minister in a Protestant denomination. Olympia Brown, a Universalist, was ordained ten years later. Some other churches followed suit, but a broad-based trend toward women’s ordination would emerge only in the middle of the twentieth century. Although many scholars now maintain that women served as clergy in the early Christian church, Brown Blackwell’s ordination was a “first” in modern times. 

1859 CE Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, published in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, marked an important watershed in the relationship between modern science and traditional Christianity — posing new questions for many Christians about Biblical interpretation and the creation of life on Earth. Darwin’s work was met with a conflict that still reverberates in the contemporary U.S., as some Christian churches and even school districts struggle over whether science classes should teach evolution or “creationism” (teachings based on literalist biblical interpretation) or both.

1861-1865 CE The Civil War

The American Civil War proved as traumatic for American Christianity and for the nation as a whole. The controversy over slavery not only divided the U.S. on regional lines, but also caused schisms in several Protestant denominations. The devastation wrought by the war led many preachers–and most famously, President Abraham Lincoln himself–to see it as an occasion for both divine judgment and national renewal.

1866 CE African-American Citizenship

The emancipation of slaves after the Civil War fostered the growth of Black Christianity in the South, even though the failure of Reconstruction and the establishment of “separate but equal” in 1896 blunted its impact. But over the course of the many decades after the war, independent Black churches flourished, becoming some of the most influential Black institutions in the country.

1874 CE Women’s Christian Temperance Union

An outgrowth of antebellum reformism, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (founded in 1874) became an important political force under the leadership of Frances Willard. The Union linked women’s rights to moral reform, temperance, and the protection of the family. 

1877 CE Japanese Gospel Society in San Francisco

The Japanese Gospel Society, founded in San Francisco in 1877, was among the first Asian-American Protestant organizations. The further growth of Asian-American churches in the U.S. was hampered by restrictions on Asian immigration and widespread anti-Asian sentiment.

1879 CE Zion’s Watchtower Begins Publication

In 1879, Zion’s Watchtower became the official publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Founded by Charles Taze Russell, the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Their refusal to swear oaths and to enter the military later led to landmark Supreme Court decisions regarding religious freedom.

1879 CE Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science

In 1879, Mary Baker Eddy founded the First Church of Christ, Scientist. The Christian Science movement taught a distinct form of Christian mental and spiritual healing which reflected the growing interest in healing and metaphysics in New England.

1880 CE The Salvation Army Comes to America

In 1865, British Methodists William and Catherine Booth founded the Christian mission that would become the Salvation Army, and in 1880, the organization arrived in the United States. Although the Salvation Army’s primary focus was on evangelism, the practical relief efforts they sponsored demonstrated that they took seriously both the social and spiritual aspects of Christianity.

1880-1920 CE Another Wave of Catholic Migration 

Millions of Catholics from south, central, and eastern Europe migrated to cities across North America between the late 19th to early 20th century. This immigration was followed by increased tensions among ethnic groups within the American church, though it gave an enduring multi-ethnic cast to the American Catholic community.

1884 CE Roman Catholic Leaders Mandate Parochial Schools

In 1884, the Third Plenary Council of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States required parishes to open schools in order to resist assimilation. This mandate resulted in the creation of an extensive educational system that supported Catholic distinctiveness well into the 1960s.

1889 CE Jane Addams Founds Hull House in Chicago

Jane Addams founded the Hull House in Chicago in 1889. Hull House was an important expression of the Protestant “social gospel.” Under Addams’s leadership, Hull House programs helped to bridge the gulf between mainstream Protestants and the urban poor, many of whom were first-generation Catholic immigrants.

1889 CE Andrew Carnegie Pens “The Gospel of Wealth”

Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay, “The Gospel of Wealth,” reflected the cautious social ideals of many prosperous Christians in the Gilded Age. He supported charity and stewardship on the part of the wealthy, while suggesting that the ability to accumulate wealth was an indication of morality.

1891 CE Pope Leo XIII Promulgates Rerum Novarum

Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerun Novarum laid the foundation for distinctly Roman Catholic approaches to Christian social action. American Catholics applauded Leo for his espousal of social Christianity because of their wide support for the labor movement.

1893 CE World’s Parliament of Religions

The 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions was an important event for the ecumenical aspirations of many liberal Christians. It was also the first major encounter on American soil between American Christians and representatives of major traditions of Asia.

1895-1898 CE “The Woman’s Bible ” Raises Controversy

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “The Woman’s Bible” (first published in 1895) criticized the representation of women in the Bible and offered alternative readings affirming the religious role of women. It voiced the criticisms of Christianity made by women’s rights advocates in the decades after the Seneca Falls convention of 1848. Conservatives condemned Cady Stanton’s book, but it became a best-seller and went into seven printings in six months.

1906 CE Pentecostalism Erupts in Los Angeles

Pentecostalism, which had emerged in 1901 at a Bible college in Topeka, Kansas, took on new life at a revival led by William J. Seymour, an African-American preacher, at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in 1906. The revival stressed gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and healing. Within a few years, the Church of God in Christ, a Black pentecostal denomination, was formed.

1907 CE Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel

Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist minister and theologian, published Christianity and the Social Crisis in 1907. The text became one the most articulate mainstream Protestant statements of the “social gospel” tradition.

1908 CE Federal Council of Churches

Meeting in Philadelphia in 1908, delegates from thirty-three denominations formed the Federal Council of Churches, which became a platform for expressing a Protestant Christian voice on urgent social issues. The Council adopted a study on “The Church and Modern Industry” at its inaugural meeting. Alongside laborers in the steel industry, the Council raised its voice against the twelve-hour work day and the seven-day work week.

1910-1915 CE Publication of “The Fundamentals”

In response to the growing authority of liberal Protestantism, conservative scholars published an influential series of books entitled “The Fundamentals” in the 1910s. These texts helped to define beliefs about the Bible and Christian theology central to the rise of the fundamentalist movement.

1914 CE Assemblies of God Formed in Hot Springs, Arkansas

In 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Assemblies of God Church was formed by a group of mostly white Pentecostal ministers. Later in the 20th century, the denomination would become the fastest growing church in the United States, and ultimately the world’s largest Pentecostal church. 

1914 CE Universal Negro Improvement Association

Founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) has been called America’s largest African-American mass movement prior to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Many of Garvey’s ideas about Black nationalism and pride are seen as forerunners of Black liberation theology.

1919 CE Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction

In 1919, the National Catholic War Council published “Social Reconstruction: A General Review of the Problems and a Survey of Remedies.” Written largely by Father John A. Ryan, this progressive call to reform was the first comprehensive Catholic analysis of American social issues. 

1920 CE Prohibition Takes Effect

The passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920 prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicants marked the triumph of the nineteenth-century temperance movement and a victory for a long-standing Protestant moral vision of America. The revocation of the amendment in 1933, however, signaled the eroding authority of the Protestant mainstream.

1927 CE Dorothy Day Converts to Catholicism

Dorothy Day, later a celebrated Christian activist, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1927. In 1933 she helped found the Catholic Worker newspaper, predicated on the belief that living out Christ’s commandment to love one’s neighbor could transform society. The Catholic Worker movement, which affirmed economic justice, racial equality, and pacifism, had a profound impact on American Catholic social thought.

1932 CE Reinhold Niebuhr Publishes “Moral Man and Immoral Society“

Reinhold Niebuhr and his brother, H. Richard Niebuhr, were prominent representatives of a theological movement that grew disaffected with the optimism of mainstream liberal Protestantism. Their “neo-orthodox” theology transformed Protestant social thought and remained intellectually influential through much of the twentieth century. 

1939-45 CE World War II

American participation in the Second World War encouraged the identification of nationalism and religion. The unity of purpose the war created also helped spark a sustained religious revival that began in the late 1940s. In addition, religious toleration became more commonplace after 1945, as Protestants, Catholics, and Jews came to be seen as part of a single “Judeo-Christian” religious mainstream that countered the antireligious threat posed by Communist regimes.

1942 CE National Association of Evangelicals

The National Association of Evangelicals was founded in St. Louis in 1942. It was intended to foster coordination among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, and to act as a conservative counterforce to the more liberal Federal Council of Churches. The Association played a significant role in sparking the evangelical resurgence of the 1970s and 80s.

1947 CE Billy Graham Rises

Billy Graham, who stood in the tradition of popular nineteenth-century revivalists such as Dwight L. Moody and Charles G. Finney, rose to prominence in Los Angeles in 1947. His extremely popular radio and television appearances, as well as numerous tours, reached billions of people. He also became a spiritual adviser to a number of presidents. 

1950 CE National Council of Churches

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (a successor of the Federal Council of Churches) was formed in 1950 by thirty-two mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations. The NCC sponsored the publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1952. The NCC is an ecumenical instrument for theological reflection and social action, including relief work such as Church World Service.

1952 CE Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship

Founded by Demos Shakarianin 1952, the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship helped spread pentecostal beliefs and practices in mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches, and helped to lay the foundation for the charismatic movement that burgeoned in the 1960s.

1957 CE The United Church of Christ Is Formed

The United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed in 1957 through the merging of denominations in the Congregational and German Reformed traditions. Its creation exemplified both the movement toward consolidation among older Protestant denominations and the emerging importance of ecumenicism in mid-twentieth-century America.

1957 CE Southern Christian Leadership Conference

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded in 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia, in the wake of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The Conference’s purpose was to coordinate nonviolent protests against racist laws. Under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other clergy, it became one of the central organizations of the Civil Rights Movement.

1960 CE John F. Kennedy Is First Catholic President

The first Catholic to run for the presidency since Alfred Smith in 1928, Kennedy’s election in 1960 helped put to rest long-standing fears about a Catholic in the White House. 

1963 CE Pat Robertson Founds the 700 Club

Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson launched the “700 Club” in 1963 by convincing 700 viewers of his Christian television station to pledge $10.00 a month to support his work. Robertson later organized the Christian Broadcasting Network, one of the most successful instruments of the “electronic church.” Robertson was able to mobilize such widespread support for his moral views that he emerged as a leading figure in Republican circles in the late 1980s.

1963 CE March on Washington

In the late summer of 1963, more than 250,000 people came to Washington D.C. to march for civil rights for Black Americans. Many groups marched under the banner of churches and church organizations. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated one of the strongest visions of an anti-racist America in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

1965 CE Congresses Passes the Immigration and Nationality Act

The Hart-Celler Act changed national immigration quotas and resulted in a sharp rise in immigration from Asia and Latin America. The new immigration contributed to a realignment in American Christianity, as Christians from Asia, Africa, and Latin America became part of American life and churches. 

1967 CE Christian Response to the Vietnam War

Early in 1967, over 2,400 Christian clergy and lay people opposed to the Vietnam War gathered in Washington D.C. to lobby for an immediate negotiated peace. The group came to be called Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. Under a new name, Clergy and Laity Concerned, the organization continued beyond the Vietnam War era to bring Christian concern to the political arena.

1968 CE Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated; Rise of Black Theology

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis in 1968 marked the end of the moderate interracial Civil Rights movement and the start of more radical protests. This new era profoundly affected African-American theology and the tenor of religious belief in Black churches. In 1969, James Cone published Black Theology and Black Power, signaling the emergence of Black liberation theology as a significant movement in American religion.

1970s CE Southern Baptist Growth

The Southern Baptist Convention grew rapidly in the 1970s, becoming the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. In this period it also became more theologically conservative. However, this largely white denomination also became more racially inclusive. In 1996, the Convention voted to issue a public apology for its support of slavery in the antebellum era.

1973 CE Abortion and Roe v. Wade

The 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade precipitated intense controversy in the Christian churches. Many Christians understood abortion to be a difficult moral choice, but one that women have a right to make. Others saw abortion as the wrongful ending of a human life, and called for a moral crusade to halt it. Roe v. Wade became a rallying point and a litmus test for many Christians as they participated in public life.

1980s CE Churches Respond to Nuclear Arms

Concerned with the dangers and ethical implications of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, many major Christian churches in the U.S. issued strong responses to the arms race. Two of the prominent consensus statements were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response” (1983) and the document of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church “In Defense of Creation: The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace” (1986).

1983 CE Christian Churches Respond to the AIDS Crisis

Several years into the AIDS epidemic, churches began to organize efforts to respond to the crisis. In July of 1983, for example, an ecumenical coalition in San Francisco formed an AIDS network, bringing together United Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Buddhist communities.

1988 CE Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America signaled a partial solution to the long-standing fragmentation of Lutheranism in the United States. As the religious landscape of America shifted in the 1970s and 1980s, older groups often attempted to consolidate, while new conservative Protestant groups claimed to form the new mainstream of American Christianity.

1990s CE Homosexuality and the Churches

During the 1990s, all major Christian denominations in the U.S. began to wrestle with issues relating to homosexuality and same-sex marriage — as well as welcoming LGBTQ+ Christians into the church community and the clergyship. National church bodies studied and debated the issue throughout the decade, though many American churches continue today to struggle over topics of gender and sexuality.  

2000 CE Religious Right Influences Presidential Election

The election of George W. Bush, a Methodist who had been “born again,” marked a victory for the Religious Right, which had strongly supported Bush and his conservative social, economic, and foreign policies.

2004 CE First Gay Man Consecrated as Episcopal Bishop

In 2004, Gene Robinson became the first partnered gay person to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church, provoking widespread tensions throughout the Worldwide Anglican Communion and precipitating the withdrawal of a number of dioceses and parishes from the Episcopal Church. Other mainline denominations continued to debate gay ordination and same-sex marriage, which was approved by the Episcopal General Convention in 2012.

2004 CE Roman Catholic Bishops Attack Catholic Candidate

John Kerry, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and a Roman Catholic, was publicly criticized and even barred from Communion by some bishops for his progressive stances on issues such as abortion and gay rights. He was defeated by George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

2006 CE Woman Becomes Episcopal Presiding Bishop

Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006. She was the first woman to serve as a primate – head of a national church – in the Anglican Communion. Her election incited increased conversation among Anglicans worldwide over women’s leadership roles.

2008 CE Barack Obama Elected President 

In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Black American to be elected to the US Presidency. Obama is a member of the mainline United Church of Christ. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Obama’s church in Chicago, became a campaign issue because of his speeches denouncing racial injustice in the United States.

2010 CE Supreme Court Has No Protestants

With the confirmation of Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens in 2010, the United States Supreme Court came to consist of three justices of Jewish background and six Roman Catholics. For the first time in history, no Protestant sat on the bench. 

2012 CE Mormon Nominated for President

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and an active Mormon, received the Republican nomination for President despite initial resistance by many Evangelicals suspicious of his religious affiliation. 

2012 CE Southern Baptists Choose Black Leader

New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, Jr., a Black American, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and in recent years has been associated with fundamentalist theology and conservative social positions.

2015 Obama Sings Amazing Grace in Eulogy 

In 2015, Barack Obama offered a powerful eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and those killed in a racist terrorist attack during their Bible Study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episocopal Church in Charleston, SC. Most poignantly, Obama spontaneously sang “Amazing Grace,” with the congregation joining in singing. This moment was a significant expression of faith — especially faith rooted in the Black Christian tradition — by a sitting president. 

2020 Amy Coney Barrett On Supreme Court

In October 2020, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. She is a Catholic and a member of People of Praise, a charismatic covenant community. Barrett has served as a lay pastoral women’s leader in People of Praise. 



Christianity in Greater Boston (text)

1620    The Pilgrims establish Plymouth Plantation, south of present-day Boston, becoming the first permanent Christian community in the region.

1630    Led by Governor John Winthrop, Boston is established by the Puritans. Prior to their arrival, Winthrop preaches a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity,” urging the new colonists to establish an ideal Christian community based on Puritan values.

1633    Rev. John Cotton, a renowned Puritan clergyman, arrives from England to become the minister of First Church in Boston.

1637    Anne Hutchinson, a learned Puritan woman in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, leads Bible study and theological discussions in her home. After voicing her disagreement with leading clergy, a theological schism emerges in the community. She is tried for heresy, found guilty, and banished from the Colony.

1651    Rev. John Eliot establishes Natick as a “praying town,” an enclave for Native Americans who have converted to Christianity.

1660    Mary Dyer, a member of the Society of Friends, is arrested and hanged on Boston Common for repeatedly defying a law banning Quakers from the Colony. She is one of four executed Quakers who become known as the Boston martyrs.

1663    Rev. John Eliot publishes the Bible in the Algonquin language; this is the first Bible printed in America.

1692    The Salem Witch Trials: accusations of witchcraft in Salem result in the trial and execution of nineteen people.

1700    As colonial tensions between the French and English increase, magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony ban all Catholic priests.

1740    Rev. George Whitefield preaches on Boston Common during the “Great Awakening,” helping to spark a series of revivals that spread throughout the Northeast.

1779    The new Massachusetts Constitution becomes law; provisions in the Constitution protect the right of all Christians to worship as they choose.

1785    King’s Chapel, formerly an Anglican church, revises its prayer book, and becomes the first Unitarian Church in the United States.

1788    The first Roman Catholic Church in Boston, Holy Cross Catholic Church, is established on School Street. The first public Mass is led by a French naval chaplain, L’Abbé Claude de la Poterie.

1790    First Methodist Society of Lynn is established; it is the first Methodist Society in Boston.

1805    Henry Ware, a Unitarian, is appointed Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, sparking a controversy within the Congregational Churches over Unitarian beliefs.

(1805)    The First African Baptist Church is established, becoming the first independent Black church in Boston. Rev. Thomas Paul, hired the following year, becomes the first African-American minister in Boston.

1808    Father Jean-Louis de Cheverus is made Bishop of Boston, as the number of Catholics in Boston increases.

1812    Five Andover Seminary graduates are ordained as missionaries at Tabernacle Congregational Church in Salem, becoming the first American overseas missionaries.

1825    Newton Theological Institute is formed, the oldest Baptist Seminary in the country.

1833    Massachusetts disestablishes the Congregational Church as the official church in the Commonwealth, becoming the last state to end the practice of having a state-sponsored church.

1834    The New England Anti-Slavery Society is launched by William Lloyd Garrison at the African Meeting House.

(1834)    The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown is burned by a Protestant mob, spurred by anti-Catholic rhetoric in Protestant churches.

1863    Boston College is established by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and is the first Catholic college in Boston.

1866    John Williams becomes Bishop of the Diocese of Boston, now the second-largest Roman Catholic Diocese in the United States. Bishop Williams undertakes the construction of many new churches to meet the needs of the growing Catholic community in the Boston area.

1868    Boston University is chartered by Methodists. Unlike other institutions of the day, BU is open to people of all races and sexes.

1869    Phillip Brooks becomes rector of Trinity Church in Boston; during his tenure, he becomes a renowned preacher and a leading figure in the city.

1870  Boston’s first Seventh Day Adventist church, The Boston Temple, is established after the community holds baptisms in the Charles River.

1873    The Italian community grows in East Boston and the North End. St. Leonard’s of Port Maurice, in the North End, is the first church in Boston built by Italian immigrants.

1875    As Boston’s Roman Catholic population continues to grow, Pope Pius IX raises Boston to the level of Archdiocese. John Williams becomes the first Archbishop of Boston.

(1875)    The new Cathedral of the Holy Cross is finished in Boston’s South End and is consecrated. Stones from the Ursuline Convent are included in the new building.

(1875)    Mary Baker Eddy publishes Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, the foundational text of the Christian Science religion, in Boston. 

1879    Mary Baker Eddy founds the Church of Christ, Scientist, and oversees construction of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. The new denomination grows quickly.

1888    The Pentecostal Church in Lynn is built, marking the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement in Boston.

1891    The Armenian Church of Our Savior, the first Armenian Orthodox Church in the United States, is consecrated in Worcester.

1894    The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts ordains Oscar Lieber Mitchell, the first Black priest in the Episcopal Church in Boston.

1899    The Greek community grows in Boston and begins holding regular Greek Orthodox worship services in a rented hall in Boston.

1902    The member denominations of what later became the Massachusetts Council of Churches organize, becoming pioneers in the twentieth-century ecumenical movement.

1908    Theophan Stylian Noli celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the Albanian language for the first time ever, in St. George’s Eastern Orthodox Church in the South End.

1910    The Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso is celebrated for the first time by Sicilian immigrants; today it is the oldest of Boston’s many Italian festivals.

1923    Father Joakim Alexopoulos becomes the first Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in Boston.

1933    The Massachusetts Council of Churches is established in a merger of the Massachusetts Federation of Churches & the Council of Religious Education.

1938    Emmanuel Gospel Center is established to serve Boston’s urban churches.

1946    Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the only seminary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas, moves to Brookline from Connecticut.

1950    Rev. Billy Graham preaches in Boston, sparking a revival among the churches and an increased interest in evangelical Christianity.

1953    Howard Thurman becomes Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University; he is the first African-American to serve as the Dean of the Chapel at a predominantly white institution.

1958    Archbishop Richard J. Cushing is made Cardinal by Pope John XXIII; he is the first Cardinal from Boston.

1961  The Boston Chinese Evangelical Church is founded; today it is the largest Chinese church in Boston.

1963    Clergy and seminarians from the Boston area participate in the Civil Rights March on Washington.

1960s    Several Spanish-speaking churches emerge to minister to the growing Hispanic community in Boston, including Iglesia de Dios, M.B.

1968    The Boston Theological Institute is established to foster collaboration among the area’s many seminaries and theological schools.

(1968)    Mary Daly, a faculty member at Boston College, publishes The Church and the Second Sex, a landmark feminist text critiquing the oppression of women in the Christian church.

1969    The First Haitian Baptist Church of Boston is founded to minister to the growing Haitian community. Today there are more than 500 independent Haitian churches in Boston.

1971    Mary Daly preaches at Memorial Chapel at Harvard and stages “Exodus” (from the church) for women.

1972  St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church of Boston is founded, becoming the second Indian Orthodox parish in the United States.

1979    Pope John Paul II visits Boston and conducts Mass on Boston Common.

1989    Barbara C. Harris is consecrated as Bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts of the Episcopal Church, becoming the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion.

1992    After a shooting occurs at a funeral at Morning Star Baptist Church, prominent Black clergy found the Ten Point Coalition to work on reducing violence among youth in Boston.

1996    Jubilee Christian Fellowship is founded in Mattapan; today it is the largest church in Boston with a membership of over 5,000.

2000    Emmanuel Gospel Center publishes their Millennium edition of the Boston Church Directory, listing over 500 congregations in Boston.

2002    Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard Francis Law resigns as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston in the wake of a scandal over sexual misconduct by priests in the Archdiocese.

2009    Massachusetts Bible Society celebrates its bicentenary with the re-enactment of its original charter.


Selected Publications & Links

Explore Christianity in Greater Boston

Since 1630, Christianity has been a vital part of Boston’s history, continually evolving as new waves of immigrants incorporate their own traditions into the life of the city. Recent immigration from around the world is creating an increasingly vibrant and diverse Christian community in Boston. Among the trends that will shape the future of Christianity in Greater Boston are multi-ethnic churches, emerging churches, and multiple congregations that share the same house of worship.

Map of Christian Centers in Boston