By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part VII - I am a Churchman because of the Protestant Principles of the Church of England.
As Archbishop Benson once said: “Protestant is not a word to be forgotten, but to be understood.” Protestantism must never be regarded as a mere negation; it is the assertion of a living principle—the declaration of the absolute Supremacy of God’s most Holy Word. A Protestant is one who witnesses for God’s truth and protests against error. Historically the word Protestant had its origin in 1529, at the Council of Spires. This Council passed a decree enjoining those States which had adopted Reformation principles to retrace their steps, reintroduce the Mass, and “use and explain the Scriptures only as they had hitherto been used and explained in the Church.” Against this decree a considerable number of princes and deputies strongly protested, and at the same time witnessed, saying: “We are resolved by the grace of God to maintain the pure and exclusive teaching of His only Word.” These were afterwards called Protestants, and ultimately the term was applied to all who protested against the pretensions and errors of the Church of Rome.
It should never be forgotten that the Act of Settlement requires the Sovereign of these Realms to be a Protestant. So our King on his Coronation declared that he was “a faithful Protestant,” and took a solemn oath before the Archbishop of Canterbury that he would to the utmost of his power “maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.” Other Acts secure “the true Protestant religion Professed and established in the Church of England, and the doctrines, worship, discipline, and government thereof.”
The title of Protestant does not stand in antagonism to Catholicism, but to Romanism. Bishop Ellicott says: “Never let us be ashamed of that word ‘Protestant’ which is so often urged against us as a badge of disunion; never let us shrink from speaking of our Church as Protestant. Catholic it is in faith and principles—Protestant it is in attitude to false teaching and doctrinal error.”
Dr. Stubbs (Bishop of Oxford), in a visitation charge, said: “I think that there ought to be no hesitation in admitting that the Church of England, since the Reformation, has a right to call herself, and cannot reasonably object to be called, Protestant. . . . Her Protestant attitude is the complement of her Catholic history. Whilst, however, I distinctly claim for our Church her full Catholic character, I would in the strongest way condemn the idea that would repudiate the name of Protestant as a mere name of negation.” In keeping with this, Dr. Wickham Legg remarks: “A Protestant may very well be a Catholic, though on the other hand he cannot possibly be a Roman Catholic.”
True Protestantism is the resolve in the name of God to maintain and defend the Catholic Faith set forth in Holy Scripture, and no well-instructed Churchman will be ashamed of the name Protestant.
>> Part VIII. - I am a Churchman because of the Paramount importance our church gives to evangelical teaching and evangelistic work.