The Episcopal Church, otherwise referred to as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) is part of the Anglican communion. The Anglican communion refers to a global association of churches that have a common ancestry in the Church of England. The word episcopal was adapted from the Greek word episkopos which means bishop. As such, episcopal doctrine emphasizes the role of the Bishop in church administration. Episcopalians believe that Bishops are successors of the Apostles and they are therefore anointed to continue the faith and authority of the early apostles.
On the other hand, Methodism is a protestant movement that originated in the 18th century based on the teachings of the Wesley brothers (John Wesly and Charles Wesley). Methodists adopted a “methodical” approach to organization and spiritual disciples and that is why they were christened methodists. Methodists emphasize social justice, personal piety, and sanctification.
The main difference between Episcopal and Methodist is that, unlike methodists, Episcopalians are part of the Anglican communion. This means they rely on the Book of common prayer for worship style and doctrine. On the flip side, Methodists pattern their worship and beliefs on the teachings of Martin Luther.
Doctrines and Beliefs
Both Methodist and Episcopal denominations have unique doctrinal emphases and organizational structures. Here are some of the important doctrinal emphases of the two groups:
Sacraments and Liturgy
Sacraments are very important in Episcopal doctrine. There are two main sacraments that they observe – the Holy Communion and Baptism. Episcopalians believe that the sacraments are an outward display of God’s inward grace. Baptism is practiced as a rite of passage into the Christian family of believers. Holy Communion, on the other hand, is celebrated as a way of commemorating Jesus’ last supper. It is believed to offer spiritual nourishment to the believers.
Episcopal worship is liturgical in nature and it follows the Book of Common Prayer, which is used by most churches that are part of the Anglican communion. This liturgical book prescribes the rituals, prayers, and readings for the various church services. Episcopalians conduct the liturgy with reverence and they also incorporate elements of tradition and historical continuity.
B. Methodist Beliefs
Methodists emphasize personal piety and holiness and they believe that all Christians can have a personal relationship with God. It is through a personal relationship with God that Christians can seek sanctification (a process of becoming Christ-like). This is based on the teachings of John Wesley who emphasized Christian perfection or entire sanctification. As a way of attaining the goal of personal sanctification, methodists are encouraged to practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, Bible study, and acts of mercy. These disciplines are believed to be a means of experiencing God’s transformative grace.
Methodism doctrine follows a connectional system that supports itinerary ministry. This means that all methodist churches are interconnected and share a common governance and decision-making process. The system creates a sense of cooperation and unity in the congregations. Methodist churches are assigned using an itinerant ministry system. In this system, the Bishops appoint pastors to a congregation based on the needs of the church vis-a viz the gifts of the ministers. This style of leadership aims to ensure that all the individual congregations receive pastoral care and leadership.
Worship Styles and Practices
- The Book of Common Prayer:
Central to Episcopal worship is the use of the Book of Common Prayer. This comprehensive liturgical resource contains a collection of prayers, psalms, hymns, and prescribed rituals for various occasions, such as Sunday worship, weddings, funerals, and other sacramental rites. The Book of Common Prayer helps maintain liturgical consistency across Episcopal churches, ensuring that congregations across the denomination participate in familiar and meaningful worship experiences. The prayers and liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer often reflect the rich historical and theological heritage of the Anglican tradition.
- Rituals and Traditions in Episcopal Services:
Episcopal worship services are known for their reverence, structure, and adherence to ritual. The liturgical order follows a predictable pattern, which may include elements like Scripture readings, prayers of confession, the recitation of creeds, and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Clergy, including bishops, priests, and deacons, play central roles in leading worship, and their vestments and gestures add to the sense of sacredness and continuity with ancient Christian practices. Episcopal worship services often incorporate traditional hymns, choral music, and organ accompaniment, enhancing the overall sense of solemnity and beauty.
- Diversity in Worship Styles:
Methodist worship practices are more varied and adaptable compared to the structured nature of Episcopal liturgy. Methodism allows for flexibility in worship styles, allowing individual congregations to shape their services according to their cultural context and preferences. While some Methodist churches may follow a traditional order of worship, others might adopt contemporary elements, such as contemporary music, multimedia presentations, and participatory activities. This diversity in worship styles allows Methodists to cater to the needs and preferences of their congregations while staying true to their theological principles.
- Importance of Communal Singing and Music:
Methodist worship places a strong emphasis on communal singing and music. Hymn-singing is a cherished tradition in Methodist congregations, as it encourages active participation from the entire congregation. Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, composed numerous hymns that are still sung and cherished by Methodists worldwide. Music plays a vital role in fostering a sense of community and shared worship experience. Many Methodist churches have choirs, and congregational singing is often accompanied by various musical instruments, ranging from pianos and guitars to more traditional pipe organs.
To sum it up, Episciploians follow the guidelines of the Book of Common Prayer since they are part of the Anglican communion. The Book of common prayer offers guidelines on liturgical elements including the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. On the flip side, Methodism is based on the teaching of John Welsy and they are very methodical in their approach to doctrine, worship and governance. For instance, they adopt an itinerary ministry system to ensure each church is marched with a pastor based on the gifts of the minister and the needs of the congregation.