A question came up recently as to which Protestant churches do not accept the first six Ecumenical Councils. This leads to related questions as to the definition of "Protestant." And that, in turn, leads to the question "who decides whether a church is Protestant or not?"

For this site, the tag "Protestantism" is:

a broad tradition referring to the churches which broke from the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th Century and those that descended from them.

This leaves the door open to a large range of churches and leaves open the question as to whether any church that evolved from a Reformation tradition may be considered Protestant: for example those of the Second Great Awakening in the United States (including the LDS and Seventh Day Adventists) or small Oriental Sects that emerged from the activities of various Protestant missionaries in the 20th century.

I have decided for purposes of this question not to seek an answer to the question "which post-Reformation churched should be considered Protestant." That would be an opinion-based question and various answers might exclude churches that consider themselves to be Protestant. Therefore the question is:

Which post-Reformation Churches consider themselves to be Protestant?

Note: Perhaps someone else could try to create a question about the definition of Protestantism that would not be closed as opinon-based.

  • 2
    "I have decided for purposes of this question not to seek an answer to the quest "which post-Reformation churched should be considered Protestant." That would be an opinion-based question" Not really, this isn't a matter of personal opinion. There are standard definitions in church history and academia. It's just not really up for debate that Protestantism is a branch of Nicene Christianity. Meanwhile this question would include churches which have the we-reject-all-labels approach, but, when you consider their theology, are just unquestionably Protestant (usually baptistic Protestant!)
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 21 at 5:39
  • A complicating factor is that there are a few denominations who think theirs is the only "true" Christian faith (Protestantism and Catholicism being part of 'Babylon the Great' in their opinion). Strangely, not all of them openly admit to saying they are neither Catholic nor Protestant. Some like to give the impression they are Protestant. But they are not. They happily label themselves as this and that, with an identifying name, and are pleased at Catholics and Protestants saying they are Christians, but they're not so keen to return the favour. It's got nothing to do with ecumenical councils
    – Anne
    Jan 21 at 14:50
  • Good follow up question, +1 Jan 22 at 2:02
  • @curiousdannii I'll create a question as to what is the standard definition of a protestant church. I hope you will weigh in. Jan 22 at 2:21
  • 1
    I think it would probably be most helpful to reverse this question. The two answers already received are ones that are already well known so it wouldn't hurt to remove them. The more interesting (and probably helpful) question would be which non-Nicene churches do identify with and claim to be Protestant. For example, I'd exclude Oneness Pentecostalism from Protestantism, but do they perhaps claim they are still Protestant? Maybe!
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 22 at 21:53

3 Answers 3


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider itself to be Protestant.

From an FAQ published by the church:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church but is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Rather, it is a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ as originally established by the Savior in the New Testament of the Bible. (Source).

The Church rejects the creeds that developed in the third and fourth centuries (ibid)


Jehovah’s Witnesses are neither Catholic nor Protestant, according to this article

Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, but we do not consider ourselves to be Protestants... Protestantism has been defined as a “religious movement opposing Roman Catholicism.” While it is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not consider ourselves to be Protestants...

With regard to any denomination that believes in the trinity or does not use the name Jehovah, they are considered to be part of the Antichrist. That would include most Protestant denominations and Catholicism. Source: June 2015 Watchtower magazine

EDIT: Just found this quote regarding how LDS view the creeds:

According to Joseph Smith's written testimony of his First Vision:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; (Joseph Smith History 1:16-19)

  • Appreciate you finding the full quotation from that document.
    – Lesley
    Jan 25 at 8:12

Among those who call themselves, "Christian" and actually believe in the Trinity (thus excluding JW & LDS groupings), confessional Lutherans would also most likely reject the name, "protestant."

Lutherans are the original "Evangelicals"

If one reads through the entire Book of Concord (the official confessional collection of Lutherans), in vain does one find the word, "protestant." The word, instead, that they (the Christians that would later on be called, "Lutherans") used for themselves was "Evangelicals." Lutherans were the original 'gospel-centered' church. It's ironic that, probably without knowing it, loosely-connected more-or-less-Baptist groups now claim that name for themselves.

Luther sought a Conservative Reformation

There's a reason why. Lutherans, among all the Reformers, were different. Luther promoted a preservative reformation. He wanted to conserve/preserve what was good within the Western Church at that time and also then throw away that which was non-biblical. There are many books written on the subject. But one of the best and most approachable is Charles Porterfield Krauth's The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. Luther worked hard to work within the framework of the Western church at that time to adopt change. For that reason, especially in the early years and even centuries after the Reformation, it's hard to find the word, "Protestant" linked too closely to Luther/Lutherans by Lutherans.

Luther's excommunication complicated his plans

The difficulty with this, though, is that even though Luther strove to work within the church for change, the Pope at that time was not interested in an ecumenical council to address abuses within the Western Church. So he issued his excommunication of Luther in Exsurge Domine. This put Luther (and later Lutherans following him) in a very difficult place. For, on the one hand, they sought unity within the Western Church by appealing to God's word and by calling for a council. But the Pope consigned Luther to burn in hell.

In reaction to the Pope excommunicating Luther, he did then, finally, make very, very strong objections (protests). But even then, his objections were qualified. For example, he did not object to the pope being the head of the Western Church de jure humano, "by a human arrangement." Instead, he objected to the pope being head of the church de jure divino, "by divine right."

The Landscape today

As a result, you will find many among Lutherans that would object to the title, "protestant" being applied to them. Or, at the very least, it would be a highly-qualified title that they would accept to have applied to them only after you properly understand that, unlike many Reformation groups, their protest was reactive, not proactive. And the Lutheran response was preservative/conservative, not absolute and radical.


You must log in to answer this question.

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