Methodist Vs Presbyterian: Difference and Comparison

comparing methodist and presbyterian

In the realm of Christian denominations, the Methodist and Presbyterian traditions stand out for their unique origins, beliefs, and practices.

While Methodism emphasizes personal faith and social justice, Presbyterianism centers around God's sovereignty and structured church governance.

This article delves into the similarities and differences between these influential denominations, exploring their historical origins, beliefs, practices, worship guides, local church structures, and stances on theological topics like salvation and homosexuality.

By examining these aspects, readers will gain a nuanced understanding of Methodist and Presbyterian traditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Methodist denominations originated from the teachings of John Wesley.
  • Methodists emphasize personal faith, social responsibility, and achieving Christian perfection.
  • Presbyterian denominations are rooted in the Reformed tradition.
  • Presbyterians emphasize the sovereignty of God, the authority of Scripture, and church governance.

Historical Origins

The historical origins of Methodism and Presbyterianism can be traced back to specific time periods and geographical locations.

Methodism originated in England in 1739 under the influence of John Wesley, who sought to reform the Church of England. Wesley's teachings emphasized personal faith, social responsibility, and the possibility of achieving Christian perfection.

Presbyterianism, on the other hand, was founded in Scotland in 1560 by John Knox. It is rooted in the Reformed tradition, with a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God, the authority of Scripture, and structured church governance.

Both denominations have had a significant impact on the religious landscape, shaping beliefs and practices within their respective communities. The historical context and founders' influence have played a crucial role in shaping the distinct characteristics of Methodism and Presbyterianism.

Beliefs and Practices

Beliefs and practices in Methodist and Presbyterian denominations can be distinguished by emphasizing personal faith and social justice, respectively. Here are some key differences in their beliefs and practices:

  • Role of sacraments:
  • Methodists believe in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper as means of grace and symbols of God's presence.
  • Presbyterians also believe in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, but they view them as signs and seals of God's covenant.
  • Views on predestination:
  • Methodists believe in free will and the possibility of achieving Christian perfection through the grace of God.
  • Presbyterians believe in the sovereignty of God and predestination, that God has already chosen those whom he will save.
  • Social justice:
  • Methodists have a strong emphasis on social justice and actively engage in issues such as poverty, inequality, and human rights.
  • Presbyterians also value social justice but may focus more on the church's role in advocating for justice and equality within society.

These differences in beliefs and practices shape the identity and mission of Methodist and Presbyterian denominations, highlighting their unique perspectives on personal faith, social justice, sacraments, and predestination.

Worship Guides

An essential aspect of Methodist and Presbyterian worship is the use of worship guides, as they provide structure and guidance for their respective religious services. Methodist worship guides follow 'The Directory of Worship,' while Presbyterian worship guides follow 'The Book of Discipline.' These guides play a crucial role in shaping the liturgical practices of each denomination.

In Methodist worship, scriptures hold a central place, with readings from the Bible incorporated into the order of service. The scriptures are seen as a source of inspiration and guidance for personal faith and social action.

Similarly, in Presbyterian worship, scriptures also hold significant importance. Presbyterians believe in the authority of Scripture and view it as the ultimate source of truth and guidance for their worship services. The role of scriptures in worship is to teach, inspire, and direct the congregation in their worship of God.

Local Church Structure

When it comes to local church structure, Methodists and Presbyterians differ in their approach to leadership and decision-making processes. Here are three key differences to consider:

  • Methodist Leadership Structure:
  • Methodists have an administrative council that leads the church under the guidance of a pastor.
  • The pastor is often sent to different places by the choice of Methodist bishops, providing a sense of freedom and flexibility.
  • Decision-making processes typically involve input from both the pastor and the administrative council, allowing for a collaborative approach.
  • Presbyterian Leadership Structure:
  • Presbyterian churches have the right to ask a pastor to leave and call another to lead the church, giving the congregation more control over their leadership.
  • Decision-making processes in Presbyterian churches often involve sessions of elders who collectively make important decisions for the church.
  • This structured approach ensures accountability and a clear hierarchy of leadership.

These differences in leadership structure and decision-making processes highlight the unique approaches that Methodists and Presbyterians take in organizing their local churches.

Views on Homosexuality

Regarding the topic of homosexuality, both Methodist and Presbyterian denominations hold distinct views on the matter.

Methodists view homosexuality as a sin without exceptions, while Presbyterians consider it a sin but believe it is a complex issue that requires further examination.

These theological differences stem from the denominations' differing beliefs and practices. Methodists emphasize personal faith, social justice, and achieving Christian perfection, which leads them to view homosexuality as incompatible with their understanding of biblical teachings.

On the other hand, Presbyterians emphasize the sovereignty of God, the authority of Scripture, and church governance, which allows for a more nuanced approach to the issue.

While both denominations hold firm positions on homosexuality, it is important to recognize the diversity of opinions within each denomination and the ongoing conversations and debates surrounding this topic.


In conclusion, the comparison between Methodism and Presbyterianism reveals distinct differences in their historical origins, beliefs, practices, worship guides, and local church structures.

Methodism emphasizes personal faith and social justice, placing a strong emphasis on individual salvation and the importance of actively serving others. Its historical origins can be traced back to the 18th-century England, with John Wesley as its founder. Methodists believe in the possibility of experiencing a personal relationship with God and strive to live out their faith in their everyday lives.

Presbyterianism, on the other hand, prioritizes God's sovereignty and a structured church governance. It traces its roots to the 16th-century Reformation movement in Scotland and the teachings of John Calvin. Presbyterians believe in the authority of the Bible and the importance of a well-ordered church structure, with ordained elders playing a significant role in decision-making.

In terms of practices, Methodists often incorporate dynamic worship styles, including enthusiastic singing, clapping, and expressive prayers. They also place a strong emphasis on small group gatherings for discipleship and spiritual growth. Presbyterian worship, on the other hand, tends to be more formal and structured, with a focus on liturgy and the sacraments.

Regarding local church structures, Methodism is characterized by a connectional system, with churches being part of larger regional and national bodies. This allows for a sense of unity and shared decision-making. Presbyterianism, on the other hand, operates with a system of governance through elected representatives, known as elders, who oversee the affairs of individual congregations and participate in higher governing bodies.

Despite their differences, both denominations have made significant contributions to the Christian faith. Methodism played a vital role in the evangelical revival of the 18th century and has been known for its emphasis on personal piety and social reform. Presbyterianism, with its theological depth and commitment to order, has contributed to the development of Reformed theology and the establishment of educational institutions.

Understanding these differences enriches our understanding of these influential Christian traditions, making it clear that they are far from being 'just another church.' Each denomination has its unique history, beliefs, and practices that have shaped the lives of millions of Christians around the world.

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