Like most protestant denominations, Methodists emerged during the Protestant Reformation. However, they didn’t emerge from the catholic church but rather from the Church of England around the 18th century. It began as a religious revival that was championed by John Wesley and Charles Wesley. They were seeking to renew the spiritual vitality of the church while also addressing social issues of the time. Catholicism on the other hand traces its origins to the early Church in the book of Acts. As such, Catholics consider themselves the original form of Christianity. Let us have a look at how these two denominations differ.
Doctrinal Beliefs and Practices:
Methodism places a lot of weight on personal faith, social justice, and the pursuit of holiness. The methodist doctrine is founded on four sources of authority namely scripture, reason, and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral because they are based on the teachings of Jon Wesley. It is believed that these four sources work hand in hand to give a balanced understanding of the will of God for the church.
Even though tradition and reason are respected by methodists, they also realize that the scripture is the most important source of authority. The Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) principle taught by John Wesley is upheld in methodist doctrine. Methodists believe in the Bible as the word of God and their theology lays emphasis on the grace of God as well as the importance of personal conversion.
There are two main sacraments recognized by the Methodist doctrine: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist). Methodism believes in open communion which means that all baptized Christians are welcome to participate. Methodism practices baptism as a way of introducing Christians into the Christian community and as such, both infants and adults can be baptized.
Papal authority is at the center of Catholic doctrine. Catholics believe that the Pope is not only a successor to apostle Peter but also the true head of the church. Catholics believe in apostolic succession which teaches that the Pope and the Bishops are the direct successors of the 12 apostles that founded the Church. The doctrine of the catholic church is based on scripture, tradition as well as the magisterium. The magisterium is made up of the pope and bishops who are in communion with him. They have the authority to interpret scripture as well as give direction on issues of doctrine.
There are seven important sacraments that are recognized by catholic doctrine. These are
baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation (confession), anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. The seven sacraments are viewed as signs of the grace of God and are believed to be important for the spiritual growth of believers.
Worship and Liturgy:
Methodism allows for some flexibility in worship services across different congregations but they still adhere to some common elements. A typical worship service includes prayers, Scripture readings, a sermon, hymn singing, and corporate prayer. The service may begin with an opening hymn followed by a call to worship, an invocation, a time for confession and forgiveness, the reading and preaching of Scripture, prayers of intercession, the sharing of testimonies, and the celebration of sacraments like baptism and Holy Communion.
A closing hymn and a benediction are often used as the conclusion of a service.
The sermon is the central part of methodist worship and it is meant to offer spiritual guidance to the believers. Hymns are typically chosen to reflect the theme of the sermon. Some rituals and ceremonies may also be included in a service. These include baptism, holy communion, confirmations, funerals, weddings, etc.
Catholics have a strict liturgical order that is characterized by symbolism and adherence to rituals. The Mass is the central part of catholic worship and it revolves around the Eucharist. The mass typically includes the reading of scriptures, hymns, and prayers. The mass can be categorized into two broad categories namely: the Liturgy of the Word, where Scripture is proclaimed and reflected upon, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where the bread and wine are consecrated and received as the body and blood of Christl.
The Catholic doctrine has a liturgical calendar that specifies the seasons and feasts that are observed in the church. These include Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time. Each of these seasons has its themes and rituals and the structure is outlined in the liturgy.
Methodists have a connectional organization system. This is a structured hierarchical approach that includes central governing bodies, annual conferences, districts, and local churches. The concept of connectionism in Methodism helps to promote the interconnection of the local churches to promote the unity of doctrine and faith. The pastors serve as the leaders of the local churches and they are responsible for preaching and pastoral care of the congregation. Bishops offer oversight to multiple districts and the annual conferences. Methodism also recognized laity (non-ordained ministers) in the governance of the church by allowing them to serve on committees. Decisions in the Methodist church are made via consensus building throughout the different levels of leadership.
Catholics use a hierarchical structure and the pope is considered the vicar of Christ on earth and is, therefore, the ultimate authority. The church is organized into dioceses with a bishop preceding each diocese. The dioceses are a collection of several churches and these dioces are further grouped into larger regions referred to as provinces.
Unlike methodists who use consensus in decision-making, Catholics believe that the pope is a supreme leader who cannot make a mistake. As such, the trickle-down approach is used in decision-making.
Here is a table that summarises the key differences between Catholics and Methodists:
|Sacraments||Catholics observe seven sacraments namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation (confession), anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.||Methodists have two main sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist.|
|Worship and liturgy||Emphasis is placed on the eucharist and they follow a strict liturgical order and calendar||Emphasis is placed on the sermon and the order of service is a bit more flexible|
|Governance||The pope is considered a divine leader and is the final authority||The concept of connectionism is used to promote consensus building in decision-making|
To wrap it up, the Catholics and methodists differ mainly in liturgy and governance. The governance structure of methodists allows for a more collaborative approach that includes even the laity in the decision-making process. Catholics however believe that the papacy has absolute authority, especially on matters affecting the doctrine and general direction of the church. Also, Catholics have a more structured approach to their liturgy, unlike methodists who allow for more flexibility.