Do Protestants have something like the Catechism or the Code of Canon Law?

Just recently I asked some Protestants whether they had some sort of Catechism like we do or another book with rules but none of them could tell. Maybe some of our knowledgable members here will :slight_smile:
And also, you guys have bishops so I was just wondering who is the head of them?

You’re making a major error in asking if “protestants” as a whole do something, because each denomination has their own way of worship. and individual denomination might have a menifesto of it’s beliefs, but not Protestants as a whole

There’s no such thing as a catechism for Protestants, and obviously, they don’t have a Pope or Bishops. Some denominations have a “Conference,” such as the Southern Baptists. But it’s a loose organization of individual churches - each church is run by a pastor, on his own.

Protestants threw out Church tradition and teachings when they left the Church, so they tend to believe only in the Bible (sola scriptura), so there is no need nor would they pay attention to a catechism or the traditions like we do.

There are about 38,000 protestant denominations right now. The only thing they have in common is that they love Jesus and do not want to be Catholic, thus the term “protest-ant”.

Some churches do have a book similar. The Luthern church has a Catechism. The United Methodist Church has their “Book of Discipline”.

When I was pentecostal, I was in several independant churches and they had nothing to give any guidelines that I know of.

Some Protestants, such as Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans, have bishops, though they are almost always not validly ordained, and often the episcopal structure exists alongside and in a complicated relationship with a conference structure.

Some Protestant ecclesial communities are more centralized, others less so. Some put strong emphasis on obedience and tradition, some don’t, or even shun the concepts. Protestantism is such a diverse phenomenon it’s hard to make accurate generalizations about it.

Responding more to the original question, the United Methodist Church, in which I was raised, has the Book of Discipline, which is like the Code of Canon Law in some ways and like the Catechism in others, though without the same kind of authority as either, and they come out with a new edition of it every four years.

If I were a Protestant I would say “The Bible is my catechism”. I would believe that even though it is not consistently applied. A United Methodist would have an entirely different concept from a Reformed Baptist.

Luther wrote a catechism and I’m sure there have been numerous Episcopal catechisms over the years but there is no such thing as a representative Protestant. The only thing they agree on is that they aren’t “Roman” Catholics. “Roman” because they have no idea there are 22 other flavors. Catholic because - well - we’re not, ya know, the pope and works and all that…

When I was Presbyterian we had the Westminster Confession of Faith which contained our catechism, among other things. We also had the Book of Church Order which contained the laws of the church. Generally the more “liturgical” a denomination is, the more likely they are to have books of doctrine and law. Non-denominational churches that set up in storefronts, not so much :wink:

Many evangelical or independant groups have what they call “Statements of Faith” where they outline what they believe or profess.

Lutherans actually have 2 catechisms, both written by Martin Luther. The Small catechism is brief, easy to read, and designed for the head of house to teach his family in the faith. It is also now used for catechetical class/ confirmation instruction. The Large Catechism is more indepth.

One of the sincere concerns I have about Lutheranism (I am a cradle Lutheran), is the lack of uniformity in our orders. Some Lutheran synods and bodies do have bishops, some can even trace their lines of succession to before the Reformation. Our synod doesn’t call them bishops, but they essentially are.


All of them that I have experience with have a statement of faith. This appears to be more of a creed than a catechism. None of the independent groups I’ve seen adhere to the ancient creeds of Christianity. For instance, one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, flies in the face of the belief that Baptism is not effective. Therefore, a credal statement to that effect would be inconsistent with the theology.

Thanks for that explanation. I come from an independent evangelical background and I never quite understood that a statement of faith and a creed were the same thing. In fact there were a lot of things I never understood. So in 2002 I “came home” to the Catholic Church (a place I’d never been before!) The first time I ever darkened the door of a Catholic Church I didn’t understand what was going on but I felt I was home!:shrug:

I’m so glad I posted this question. Thank you all so much for all your replies! I learned something again :slight_smile:

:tiphat: You’re welcome!

Some less traditional Protestant denominations will have statements of faith that ministers must adhere to for ordination. Sometimes new members are also required to assent to the church’s doctrinal statement as well. Statements of faith, however, are not catechisms. They are often very brief and deal with the non-negotiable tenants of the faith. Other aspects of doctrine, practice, and social teaching are explained in position papers and other documents, which may or may not be binding.

Evangelical churches will not have canon law. Usually at the denominational level they will have a Constitution and Bylaws which set out the form of government and policies of the denomination.

Local churches will not use catechism. They will instruct members and children through a variety of Bible studies and classes. Often, new member classes will educate participates on what the church believes.

Some denominations, like the Nazarene Church, actually have handbooks that detail the duties and rules that every level of authority must follow. My cousin’s family goes to a Nazarene Church and she said that they are always referring to the handbook, “The handbook says this, the handbook says that.”

You are home. Don’t you think, from your experience, that anything called a “Code of Canon Law” would be seen as legalism in the Evangelical community? I’m not sure I know what the definition of legalism is, but the idea of a “man made law” seems like a good place to start if your so inclined.

Actually, it wouldn’t. Legalism would be, “You can’t cut your hair if you want to be holy.”

The Code of Canon Law is much more comparable to the Constitution and Bylaws that most evangelical denominations and congregations have. These will detail the rights and responsibilities of the various governing bodies (both local and national), clergy and members, and will make provision for a disciplinary process.

ANGLICANS: The earliest Books of Common Prayer (certainly starting in 1559) have almost always contained a catechism.

PRESBYTERIANS have a Longer Catechism and a Shorter Catechism.

**LUTHERANS **also have a Longer and Shorter Catechism. I don’t know how they agree and differ from the Presbyterian ones.

**METHODISTS ** seem to have had catechisms but do not seem to have them in modern times.

**BAPTISTS **also seem to have had catechisms but not in modern times.

In practice, the catechism among American Episcopalians is really just a formality, a link with the past, sadly. It has also been rewritten to avoid offense, to some extent. But, how many Catholics ever refer to their catechism?

If the Presbyterians agreed with Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, they’d be Lutheran.


The various Anglican churches all have codes of canon law.

In the US Episcopal Church, there was a bishop who was deposed, and when he appealed, he was reinstated. There was a real trial with lawyers and witnesses and evidence and all.

His name is Bennison and you can read about him in Wikipedia. He was accused of allowing his younger brother to carry on with (as a youth leader) with a young teenage girl. It was subsequently proven that the brother and the girl had taken lengths to keep knowledge from the elder brother. The younger brother was defrocked as an Episcopal priest.


Perhaps you can tell us the extend of difference between the two (or four) catechisms.

I assume that you, in the LCMS adhere to the whole of Luther’s catechisms, right?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit