Differences Between Catholic and Methodist?

Hello everyone, this is my first post and I need some help. I have a friend who is a member at a Mehtodist church and we have had many discussions on the differences between the two churches. I decided to go to a Methodist service and see what the differences were and realized a few, but the basic message is the same. We have had many conversations and keep coming back to some of the same thingsand I was just wondering if there was anyone out there who knew a little about the differences between the two so I could learn a little more and be able to have an intelligent conversation with a friend. Thanks.

I honestly do not know a whole lot. I know that it was founded by John Wesley, who broke off from the more structured Anglican church. Methodism became really popular among the lower classes, I believe, and it quickly spread to the New World. The Methodists mostly broke away from the Anglican Church because they felt that the Anglican Church was not as alive with the Spirit as it should have been. The Methodists were big into preaching, and they preached that one had to come into a deep, living and personal relationshop with Christ through faith.

Theologically they are for the most part Arminian, free-will oriented. Suprisingly, they still maintain the sacraments of baptism and communion. I believe that they still baptize infants, and that for communion they believe in the Real Presence to some degree–although on a more spiritual level.

There’s some similarities between Catholicism and the Methodists.

There are several VERY DIFFERENT… CRITICALLY DIFFERENT… things that are Catholic only.

For example:

The True Presence of Jesus… Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity… in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine for the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

We are apostolic with Jesus as the Head, the Pope as His vicar in a direct line unbroken from St. Peter, the cardinals and bishops under the Pope, the priests under the bishops and cardinals.

We have 7 Sacraments. Protestants have 1 sacrament (Baptism).

You won’t find a Methodist going to his preacher to confess his sins, expecting his preacher to absolve the sin.

You might want to run the Catechism of the Catholic Church past your friend… paragraph by paragraph… to learn how your Methodist friend disagrees with what we as Catholics believe.

If you want to go at it in the summary type of way, I suggest that you print out Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth.

Revised Second Edition
Copyright © 1996, Catholic Answers.
All Rights Reserved.


thanks for asking…


It might be helpful to know what kind of Methodist you are talking about. I don’t know much about the diffrence, but I think the Methodists are split into several different groups, some of which are more traditional or liberal than others. For example, I think Weslayans may be more traditionaly, while the United Methodist Church is more liberal. I’m not sure though. Good luck!

oh, and i’m not sure, but didn’t the Methodists break away afte John W. died? I thought he was against schism, but I’m not sure. I could be way off or oversimplyfying.

the following might be of interest to you:

New Publications Celebrate 30 Years of Catholic-Methodist Dialogue

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2001) – Two new publications which explore the results of some 30 years of United Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue–and invite local level congregations to partake in the spiritual fruits of these conversations themselves–have been jointly published by agencies of the two churches.

Yearning to Be One: Spiritual Dialogue Between Catholics and United Methodists is a six-session study guide designed to help small groups of United Methodists and Catholics experience ecumenical dialogue. Dialogue between Catholics and United Methodists has been taking place at the national level since 1966. Yearning to Be One expands the dialogue from the national level to the local level. It is published jointly by Discipleship Resources, Nashville, and the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) in Washington.

Methodist-Catholic Dialogues:Thirty Years of Mission and Witness is a resource to introduce the theological dialogues, which deal with the careful, and often technical, discussions by which the two churches hope to achieve full communion in faith, sacramental life, and joint witness.

The dialogues were sponsored on the global level by the World Methodist Council and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and on the U.S. level by the General Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church and the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Methodist-Catholic Dialogues is published by the USCC and the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church in New York.

Both books contain prefaces by Bishop William Boyd Grove, United Methodist Church Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop William Skylstad, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interrreligious Affairs. The two churchmen, who were Cochairs of the United States dialogue from 1993 to 2000, expressed a desire to share with others what they and their dialogue partners had experienced.

“We studied together about one another,” they wrote. “We celebrated John Wesley’s Love Feast and sang Charles Wesley’s hymns. We read and discussed Pope John Paul II’s letter That They May Be One (Ut Unum Sint): On Commitment to Ecumenism. We read one another’s worship books and prayed one another’s prayers…We have found the process of producing these materials for you an exciting time of spiritual sharing. We hope it will be a blessing for you as well,” they said.

Both publications may be ordered from the USCC by calling toll-free 800-235-8722. The U.S. Bishops’ Internet site is www.nccbuscc.org.

and this, a remarkable letter for its day:

John Wesley’s Ecumenical Letter to Catholics in Dublin

John Wesley, the great English evangelist and founder of Methodism, wrote a remarkable open letter, dated July 18, 1749, which was published in Dublin, in the context of great inter-faith bitterness. His Letter to a Roman Catholic reads in part as follows:

Brotherly love is utterly destroyed and each side, looking on the other as monsters, gives way to anger, hatred, malice, to every unkind affection . . . Can nothing be done, even allowing us on both sides to retain our own opinions, for the softening our hearts towards one another, the giving a check to this flood of unkindness? . . . Be our opinions right or be they wrong, these tempers are undeniably wrong . . .

I think you deserve the tenderest regard I can show . . . How much more, if you are a person fearing God (as without question many of you are) . . .

Let us resolve, first, not to hurt one another, to do nothing unkind or unfriendly to each other . . . Let us resolve, secondly, God being our helper, to speak nothing harsh or unkind of each other . . . to say all the good we can, both of and to one another . . . Let us, thirdly, resolve to harbour no unkind thought, no unfriendly temper towards each other . . . Let us, fourthly, endeavor to help each other on in whatever we are agreed leads to the Kingdom. So far as we can, let us always rejoice to strengthen each other’s hands in God.

visiting a large Methodist church in San Antonio (more beautiful than any Catholic church built in the last 40 yrs) and saw on their bulletin board a conference for those interested in exploring the benefits of confessing sins to a pastor especially trained in spiritual counselling, and praying for forgiveness together. The class included a bible study on the scriptural foundations for this practice.

I grew up in the United Methodist Church. My parents are still Methodist. I became a Catholic 8 years ago. The differences don’t seem major to Methodists because they don’t understand the true meaning of being Catholic. They don’t believe it is the true church that was started by Jesus. They DO NOT believe in the true presence at the Eurcharist. The Methodist Church I grew up in did have “sacraments” of baptism, marriage, and communion, but they are not looked at the same way as Catholic Sacrements.
They don’t believe in Saints or the Infalability of the Pope. They don’t believe in purgatory. They also believe that the only thing you need to be saved is belief in God and Jesus. That it is a very personal thing that is just between you and God. (Which is not a bad thing, it’s just not the only thing.)
It is very hard to understand being protestant if you have never been protestant, the same as you cannot truly understand the Catholic faith if you haven’t studied and lived the faith.
There are just many, many little differences that you don’t notice until you live them both.
The Catholic faith is so much more rich and full. When I was in Jr. High, I had so many questions. The main one being “How do we know which faith is the right faith?” I had these questions until I began to study the Catholic faith. Then all my questions and doubts were answered.

It depends on what Methodists you are talking about. John and Charles Wesley, who founded Methodism as a movement within Anglicanism (much like Cursillo or the Neo-Catechumenal Way in Catholicism), had a “high-church” theological background–that is to say, they believed in baptismal regeneration, apostolic succession, and a spiritualized but still pretty robust doctrine of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice. (Best summarized as the view that the bread and wine transmit to believers the glorified Body and Blood of Christ in a mystical but very real way without being transformed themselves; meanwhile, the Eucharist “pleads” the sacrifice of Christ in such a way as to renew its benefits for those who participate in it in faith.) In the course of his ministry, John (and to a lesser extent Charles) modified these views somewhat. In particular, he became convinced that presbyters and bishops are not essentially different, and that in principle any presbyter can ordain. Therefore, while he refused to sanction the Methodists’ becoming an independent church in England, he ordained clergy for them in Scotland and in the newly independent United States (where there were very few Anglicans and the future of Anglicanism looked uncertain, leaving many people without access to the sacraments). In the course of the 19th century, Methodists became more and more low-church and revivalistic, especially in America. In other words, they became more like your standard American evangelicals. They kept infant baptism but generally saw the sacraments as purely symbolic. Over time their fervor cooled off and they became more liberal and more respectable. The more evangelical Methodists thus tended to leave and found their own denominations–examples that still exist today include the Free Methodists and the Wesleyans. But others stayed, and today the evangelical wing of Methodism is very strong. In the 20th century, there has also been a revival of interest in liturgy and the sacraments. Many Methodists are pushing for weekly communion, a full celebration of the church year, and a strong view of the sacraments as means of grace. Unfortunately these are often on the liberal side of social and moral issues such as sexuality and abortion. The more conservative Methodists tend to be low-church (i.e., more like Baptists).

These days I see some hopeful signs of an orthodox high-church Methodism emerging. I went to grad school at Duke, which is a center of this. Many of the younger theologians and clergy in the United Methodist Church are both conservative and sacramental, and very pro-Catholic. Many Methodist theology and ethics professors assign papal encyclicals to their students, for instance (my wife had to read Veritatis Splendor in her ethics class in seminary), and praise the Catholic Church’s stand on abortion and other social issues. The main issue where these Methodists tend to disagree with Catholicism is women’s ordination.

That being said, the average Methodist parish does not have communion every week and treats the sacraments as more or less purely symbolic. Generally everyone is admitted to communion, whether baptized or not, so that most Methodists regard the Catholic stance on communion with horror and incomprehension. The more catholic emphases are taking their time to trickle down.

This is a serious issue for me, because right now Methodism looks like the only possible alternative to becoming Catholic.

In Christ,


Well having been raised Methodist and now having been looking and learning about Catholicism I can very honestly say that they are similar. Sure they have differences in how they percieve things but depending on where you are it is a lot closer than a lot of people I met at the Methodist church I was attending would want you to believe.

Although I have never been to a church that did not have weekly communion, and our confirmation was taken very seriously in some ways. I am alot happier with where I am now, but I can see many similarities.

A lot of my friends that are still practicing Methodists believe more in Catholic views, but some people are so anti Catholic that they will say anything.

Another issue I was very confused on is the perception of Mary in the Methodist church. It seems that Methodist don’t believe Mary had anything to do with Jesus other than being a mother, if anyone had any kind of insight on this topic I would love to hear them, Thank you.

I am and grew up in the United Methodist Chruch. i was always taught that Mary is the mother of God, she was a virgin when He was concieved, and she helped raise Him. Other than that, the buck stops there from my recollection.

Methodist believe communion is symbolic, not actually the blood and body of christ. To add to what another poster said about communion for everyone, Methodist believe communion is for all, considering the word itself means an instance of sharing.

I can also tell you that most Methodist believe your relationship with God is very personal and you do not need a priest to absolve you of your sins. You are always welsome to talk to a pastor about your sins if it bothers you enough. The pastors are also there for counseling.

:Methodist believe communion is symbolic, not actually the blood and body of christ.:

The Articles of Religion say that Christ is truly (though spiritually) received in the Sacrament. This isn’t the Catholic view, but it is certainly not a purely symbolic view either. The Wesleys’ Eucharistic hymns teach the same doctrine as the Articles–arguably even more clearly in fact. A purely symbolic view has been held by many, maybe most Methodists historically, but it is not the view of Wesley or (which is a lot more important) of the official Methodist doctrinal statements. Nor is it the view implicitly taught by the most recent versions of Methodist liturgy as found in the 1989 Hymnal and the Book of Worship.

As for Mary, Methodists do not as a general rule believe in the Perpetual Virginity or the Immaculate Conception, and they do not usually venerate Mary by asking for her intercession. But Methodists don’t have the same theological reasons for rejecting Mariology as other Protestants do. Methodists believe in the possibility of entire sanctification in this life, which means that the notion of saints is not as foreign to them as to Lutherans or Reformed or Baptists.

In Christ,


QUOTE: The church preaches and teaches the doctrines of the Trinity, the natural sinfulness of humankind, its fall and the need of conversion and repentance, freedom of the will, justification by faith, sanctification and holiness, future rewards and punishments, the sufficiency of the scriptures for salvation, the enabling grace of
God, and perfection. Two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are observed; baptism is administered to both infants and adults, usually by sprinkling. Membership . . . is based on confession of faith or by letter of transfer from other evangelical churches…There is wide freedom in the interpretation and practice of all doctrines…END QUOTE

From the Handbook of Denominations in the United States, Tenth Edition, Revised by Samuel S. Hill, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995, p. 198.

Some significant differences with the Catholic Church, based on the above description:

  • The nature of the Church (Catholic = One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic)
  • The founding of the Church (one by Christ, the other by Wesley)
  • Justification by faith (Sola Fide)
  • The sufficiency of the Scriptures for salvation (Sola Scriptura); private interpretation
  • Methodism is inclusive of many conflicting doctrines, interpretations and practices
  • God’s revelation and the teaching of the Apostles is not a big factor in the beliefs of Methodists (nor Protestants in general)
  • Methodism is liberal, to put it mildly

My two cents . . .


Some of the major Methodist denominations in the U.S.:

African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Congregational Methodist Church
Evangelical Methodist Church
Free Methodist Church of North America
Primitive Methodist Church, U.S.A.
Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church
Southern Methodist Church
United Methodist Church

Source: Handbook of Denominations in the United States, Tenth Edition, revised by Samuel S. Hill, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995 (only denominations of significant size are reported in the Handbook)


That’s kinda funny b/c we were always taught that Mary was a vrigin when Jesus was concieved and it was Immaculate Consumption. I can’t recall anything different ever coming out of a Methodist’s mouth. But you’re absolutely right that be don’t pray to Mary. Why should we? Why pray to her for intercession when you can ask the big man yourself?

Some significant differences with the Catholic Church, based on the above description:

  • The nature of the Church (Catholic = One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic)
  • The founding of the Church (one by Christ, the other by Wesley)
  • Justification by faith (Sola Fide)
  • The sufficiency of the Scriptures for salvation (Sola Scriptura); private interpretation
  • Methodism is inclusive of many conflicting doctrines, interpretations and practices
  • God’s revelation and the teaching of the Apostles is not a big factor in the beliefs of Methodists (nor Protestants in general)
  • Methodism is liberal, to put it mildly

My two cents . . .

United Methodists are not Liberal on the whole; most are conservative. Methodist are no more liberal than Roman Catholics. There isn’t too much private interpretation. God’s teaching and the Apostle’s is a big factor; w/o those things, going to church would be just like going to a history class.

“- The founding of the Church (one by Christ, the other by Wesley)”
I’ve always been taught that wherever man gathers to worship God, then there is His Church, regardless of Denominations (w/ the exception of LDS and Jehovah Witness’ :smiley: )"

“- Methodism is inclusive of many conflicting doctrines, interpretations and practices”
Do you mind expanding on this?

When Jesus was born it was the “virgin birth”.

Mary was born as the result of the Immaculate Conception.

Not “Consumption”. :nope:

I’m in RCIA, but as a youth I was United Methodist (and I went through confirmation too).

I know Jesus was the result of the Virgin Birth. Unless I’m having a brain cramp, Mary wasn’t born out of Immaculate Conception, Jesus was.

Sorry, I’ve got the name of the local coffee shop on my mind. :o

Sorry to hear that the UMC wasn’t fullfilling your spiritual needs, but I’m glad you’ve found a church were they are.