Do (or did) any Protestant denominations believe in apostolic succession? If so, who do they consider the most recent valid Pope?

  • I started trying to answer this question then I realised I'm really not sure what "valid Pope" means, can you clarify? (Upvoted this question for now but could definitely use this explanation.) – Reluctant_Linux_User Nov 24 '14 at 15:20
  • @Reluctant_Linux_User By "valid pope" I mean one who is a successor of St. Peter, not an antipope. – Geremia Nov 24 '14 at 15:41
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    I have upvoted your question, because I think the title question is a good one. But I have, for the moment, also voted to close, because you're asking too many questions at once. I suggest removing the question about the "recent valid pope", since that doesn't even make sense in the context of protestant churches. – Flimzy Nov 24 '14 at 15:51
  • @Geremia Not really what I am getting at: do you mean a valid church leader or validly head of the world church and in authority over all other church leaders or something else entirely? For example, do you mean are there any protestant denominations that think that the papacy is valid because that is a different question again. – Reluctant_Linux_User Nov 24 '14 at 16:04
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    @Geremia This is the second time you've tried to ask the same question. What you're not getting is that Protestants generally place little value on apostolic selection. Your question is akin to asking, "Who is the last valid monarch of England that radical anarchists recognize?" – Affable Geek Nov 24 '14 at 16:16

Yes a number of churches other than the Roman Catholic Church believe in the Apostolic succession. A good example is the Church of England, which also follows the commonly accepted definition of Protestant (though it considers itself somewhat different from most other Protestant churches, largely because of the belief in Apostolic Succession). Specifically they believe that the leaders of the Church of England also follow the Apostolic Succession (there is not necessarily only one Apostolic Succession - the Apostles appointed many leaders, and they in turn appointed many leaders etc.)

The situation is that the Anglican church does not deny the validity of the Pope's Apostolic Succession, or of his leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. It does (and more importantly, did in 1534) deny his status as a wordwide leader of all Christian churches. This is in effect the theological difference that led to the English Reformation and the formation of the independent Church of England, and eventually the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The difference of opinion in 1534 was that the Roman Church believed that all (Western) churches should owe their (earthly) allegiance to the worldwide church, which happened to have its seat in Rome. The founders of the Church of England believed that a national church should be independent. (I'm leaving out a lot of things that aren't relevant to the immediate question).

Therefore: the last Pope that Anglicans recognize as the leader of the Church of England would be the one immediately before the Act of Supremacy came into effect - Pope Paul III. However they would not deny the validity of all subsequent Popes, up to and including the current one, as leaders of the Church of Rome.


Wikipedia has a short list of churches claiming apostolic succession, and a few of them are Protestant, most notably:

  • So, who's the last pope they recognize? – Geremia Nov 24 '14 at 15:42
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    @Geremia: They don't recognize popes. If you want to know who is the head of each church, you can use Google, or ask a separate question for each one. – Flimzy Nov 24 '14 at 15:49
  • How do they trace their apostolic succession, then? – Geremia Nov 24 '14 at 15:51
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    The latest Pope they recognize as the leader of the Catholic church would be Pope Francis (until another one is elected at any rate). The last Pope the Anglicans recognize as a valid leader of the Church of England would be the last Pope before the Act of Supremacy came into effect, i.e. Paul III – DJClayworth Nov 24 '14 at 15:53
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    @Flimzy Not true that the Anglicans don't recognize Popes as valid church leaders or successors to the Apostles. Just not the leader of the Anglican church. – DJClayworth Nov 24 '14 at 15:55

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