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Difference between Methodist and Presbyterian

Methodist and Presbyterian

The most popular religion in the world is Christianity. There are more Christians in the world than the followers of any other religion. However, these people do not all have exactly the same beliefs and practices. There are many divisions and sub divisions within Christianity, all of which have some practices that are unique to them such as the core belief of Christianity that Jesus Christ is the lord and the saviour of the masses and so on. The most common and well known wedge amongst the Christians of the world is due to the division between the Protestants and the Catholics. This, however, is not just the only dividing factor. There are other differences responsible for varying faiths within Christianity, two of which are the Methodists and the Presbyterians.

Let us first shed light on the Presbyterian Church, which was founded by John Knox, a formal Catholic priest, in 1560. This faith has its roots in Calvinism. The faith was founded by Knox in Scotland and he did so by using a lot of the church’s doctrines in order to help him construct the core beliefs of Presbyterians. In contrast to this, the Methodist Church became known and began to gain influence first in England in 1739, thanks to a religious vigilante, John Wesley, who broke his ties with the Church (Anglican Church) and came up with his own doctrine of religion. He called this ideology Wesleyism. Some of the beliefs of his new Methodist faith were based on Lutheranism.

The two types of churches have many differences. One important differentiating factor between the two is how they address social issues. The Presbyterian Church opposes the death penalty openly, be it for any crime. On the other hand, the Methodist Church allows the death penalty, but only for crimes that are very serious. Moreover, this punishment, according to the Methodist Church should only be administered by law. Another issue, homosexuality, is where the two churches have opposing views. Although both view it as a sin, the Methodists consider it to be a sin in all cases without any exception whereas the Presbyterians believe that it is a sensitive issue that is difficult to judge without proper examination.

The Governance of the Church is yet another issue where these two churches can be distinguished. The Methodist Church employs a worship guide that is known as ‘The Directory of Worship’. The Presbyterian Church, however, uses the ‘The Book of Discipline’ as its worship guide. Moving on, the two faiths have different methods of selecting and giving responsibility to church pastors. The Presbyterian faith ‘calls’ or hires pastors so as to serve the community. Methodists, however, send their already existing pastors to various church locations with the responsibility of presiding over the respective regions of the Methodist Churches.

Salvation is a very important thing in any religion. It is also present in Presbyterian and the Methodist Churches but is quite different to each other. The Methodist Church recognizes the good deeds of the people as a symbol of the strength of their faith. It focuses on ‘deeds not creeds’. To be righteous, people need to do good deeds. The Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, believes in justification only by grace and says that the ‘predestined elect’ is the only thing that will lead one to heaven.


1. Presbyterian Church-founded by John Knox, a formal Catholic priest, in 1560, had its roots in Calvinism, founded by Knox in Scotland, used a lot of the church’s doctrines to construct the core beliefs of Presbyterians; Methodist Church found in England in 1739, by John Wesley who broke his ties with the Church, ideology of Wesleyism, beliefs based on Lutheranism.

2. The Presbyterian Church opposes the death penalty openly, for any crime; Methodist Church allows the death penalty for serious crimes.

3. The Methodist Church employs the worship guide: ‘The Directory of Worship’; Presbyterian Church uses the ‘The Book of Discipline’ as its worship guide.

4. The Presbyterian faith ‘calls’ or hires pastors; Methodists send their existing pastors to various church locations

5. The Methodist Church recognizes the good deeds of the people as a symbol of the strength of their faith, focuses on ‘deeds not creeds’; The Presbyterian Church believes in justification only by grace and says that the ‘predestined elect’ is the only thing that will lead to heaven.

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  1. Up front, I want to say that I understand there will be distinctions that are glossed over in any writeup of the differences between two subjects, particularly so when it comes to divisive religious topics with centuries of discussion on each side. And I’ll also acknowledge that I’m biased, given that I was raised as a Presbyterian. Even so, this particular write up seems to make a particularly egregious mistake: it confuses beliefs held by subsets of an extremely fractured group for distinctives representative of the group as a whole, rather than talking about the things those fractured groups have in common.

    With Presbyterianism, the singular distinctive that sets it apart from other denominations is right there in its name. “Presbyterian” is derived from the Greek meaning “elder ruled”, and refers to the fact that presbyterian churches are governed by a group of elders, rather than by the clergy, the congregation, or a board of trustees, as you might find in other denominations. That’s its chief distinction from other denominations. Pretty much everything else that a person might use to describe Presbyterian beliefs can also be said of other denominations as well.

    For instance, you mentioned Calvinism, and while that is a core tenet of Presbyterianism, they hardly have a monopoly on that particular belief, given that there are numerous other groups, including Baptists, Congregationalists, and even some Methodists, who also practice Reformed theology (of which Calvinism is a core component).

    On the flip side, Presbyterians have historically held a generally conservative view towards the topics of homosexuality and the death penalty, though several modern, mainline denominations, such as the PC(USA), have softened their stances considerably, including permitting the ordination of LGBT members, which has led to additional fracturing within Presbyterianism.

    Essentially, the fact that Presbyterianism really only refers to a very small set of shared, core beliefs (only one of which you accurately addressed) means that there’s a large diversity of beliefs when it comes to the various controversial subjects, so it’s understandably difficult to pin down what separates a Presbyterian from a Methodist without specifying a particular Presbyterian denomination.

    Even so, I’m disappointed that you missed the defining aspect of Presbyterianism–that they are elder ruled–since pretty much everything else after that is up for grabs.

    • This piece is a mess.

      The Book of Discipline is Methodist. The BOD decries executions. Gays are welcome in the congregation but not as ministers (officially) even though some Jurisdictions ( regional body) fail to follow the Disipline. Likewise same sex unions.

      Methodists will likely split over those issues.

      • I agree. This article does not show accuracy. Methodists do not believe that works lead to salvation but that salvation comes through grace. Good works are result of trust and faith in God and recognition of his goodwill for all people. Methodists use Book of Worship and its governing book is the Book of Discipline. Being Methodist my whole life, I know about UMC. I am just now learning about the Presbysterian Church but I do know they have a psalter. Apparently somebody did not do a good job of research in this article.

  2. You got it backwards: the United Methodist Church uses The Book of Discipline, while Presbyterians use a Directory of Worship

    • Hi there. So there is also a Book of Discipline in various Presbyterian denominations. However you did get it right that there is a Book of Worship or Common Worship employed by the largest Presbyterian mainline denomination the PCUSA.

    • Ok to the author of this article I also have a few points. Have been baptized in the Methodist Church and later Confirmed in the Presbyterian Church some things that you posted are not just so. Also you said the following…” Methodist Church found in England in 1739, by John Wesley who broke his ties with the Church, ideology of Wesleyism, beliefs based on Lutheranism.

      That above statement is not correct. John Wesley and his brothers had beliefs tied with the Anglicans, for they were Anglican Priests. So their beliefs were not based on Lutheranism, in fact some things that Lutherans do hold onto are not adhered by Methodists.

      John Knox while he was a Roman Catholic Priest at one time also had ties with the Church of England. The Reformed Church is just that to which Presbyterians are part of ” The Reforming of the Roman Catholic Church”

      Outside of the Office of Bishop which is similar to what Presbyterians have as Presbyters..and the fact of Predestination which is not adhered by all Presbyterians. In fact the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination does not teach that and is more Armenian in theology as is many PCUSA churches.

      So I would say there is more in common than opposed. So much so that many Methodist and Presbyterians, when they do not find their proper church in town will go to the other one. I would say they are about the closes to each other and next the United Church of Christ and then the Low Anglicans and finally the Lutherans.

    • Presbyterian uses Book of Church Order and a Book of Worship

  3. The United Methodist Church believes in salvation by grace through faith. We believe that salvation is a gift of God.

    • That is actually saying the same thing. The UMC believes that grace is indeed a gift from God, but like any gift, one must accept it. I think you’ll agree that you could hand someone a $1,000,000 check, but if they don’t cash it, it doesn’t do any good. Thus one accepts the free gift through faith that it is indeed available for their acceptance.

      Presbyterian theology includes the idea of “the predestined-elect,” who are believed to have been given salvation whether they accept it or not.

    • As do Presbyterians

  4. Good article. I have to make one, minor correction though. The UMC utilizes 2 books. Where you mentioned the Directory of Worship, it is actually called The *Book of Worship (so you were essentially correct). There is also The Book of Discipline, which is a separate device.

    The Book of Discipline mainly guides the more political side of church – whether local or the greater body (how to set up committees, how the committees function, how Charge Conference works, policies, beliefs, etc.).

    The Book of Worship details theological worship elements, worship tradition, seasonal decor and its symbolic meaning, as well as guides to services such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.

    I highly recommend checking out umcdiscipleship.org or umc.org for more information and answers to other questions 🙂

  5. fyi

    The Book of Order for the Presbyterian Church


    Confessions within the Presbyterian Church( Mainline PCUSA)

    Book of Common Worship ( Presbyterian Church USA)


  6. Methodists do not believe works get you into heaven. Save by Grace through Faith.

    The faithful will do good works because of their faith. The works come because we have been blessed not as prepayment for salvation.

    • BRAD2 not sure where you got that info on Presbyterians not believing its a gift. I was baptized United Methodist and Confirmed in the United Presbyterian which is not PCUSA.

      This is what Presbyterians believe in salvation- Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God’s generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments.

      Also for you here is what Presbyterians believe on a whole on different topics..not hearsay.

  7. Thank God. You guys got it right! This is from Larry Jones a black man simply love all churches of God in Christ

  8. I’m so confused. I was confirmed into th Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ.
    I have moved to an area where no such church exists. What denomination is closest to my upbringing…Presbyterian or UMC?

  9. Lol. I saw parts of this article ripped, word from for word in another online post. Lots of errors.

    “Presbyterian Church-founded by John Knox, a formal Catholic priest, in 1560, had its roots in Calvinism, founded by Knox in Scotland, used a lot of the church’s doctrines to construct the core beliefs of Presbyterian

    You can describe him as a “former” priest, not a “formal” priest. Lol. Edit much?

    It might just be sloppy writing (again) but it sounds like you’re saying Calvinism was founded it Scotland. I don’t think John Calvin ever visited Scotland! He was a French theologian who was mostly active in Geneva, Switzerland. While he heavily influenced John Knox (Presbyterianism) and the Congregational and Reformed churches, the strength to which various orthodox Calvinist positions survive in those churches today varies widely.

    You seem particularly fixated in predestination. I personally know not a single Presbyterian (remember that’s at least a step removed from Calvinist) who believes that. Not one.

    The defining difference between Presbyterians and Methodists (and everyone, really) is in governance. The theology among mainline Protestant churches is fairly similar and even a lot of the practices are very similar. The Presbyterian Church has long been governed like a Republic. Individual church congregations elect elders (Presbyters is the old time word), who call the pastor as a faith leader and administrator but politically subordinate to the elders. Sometimes the elders dismiss the pastor! Churches are grouped into Synods. Synods and some larger Presbyteries send representatives to the General Assembly which sets policy for all the member churches. Some Presbyterian churches do not participate – generally some of the more traditionalist churches are not part of Presbyterian Church (USA).

    Think United Nations, but even slower moving! Some criticize Presybterianism as representative to a fault – we form committees to nominate people to serve on other committees

    Modern mainline denominations (think Baptist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, but also Evangelical Lutherans, AME,Quakers, Reformed and (American) Epiacopal tend to be more alike than they are different.

    In particular, Most mainline churches tend to be more alike to one another than any is like various Evangelical churches, which is another major grouping of Protestants. Evangelicals are far more likely to insist that the Bible is perfect and the exact Word of God. Mainliners are more likely to say that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God, but that while the meaning and Truth is there, focusing ok the less important details (such as Methuseleh living 900 + years, which I think is nonsens3) is sometimes not the main point. The world didn’t have to be literally created 7,000 years ago for Jesus’ lessons to love one other to be real. for many main liners, the written Word can be understood in the contest of the time and the cultures that wrote it. Add in the fact that the Gospels weren’t written down for scores of years after the Resurrection and parts of the Old Teatament were oral stories for centuries before being written down and you really have to allow room to for a certain amount of human interpretation of the Word.

    Evangelicals tend to be exclusionary in Salvation – not only is the only Salvation through Jesus, but you must personally accept it (I.e. convert) in order to receive it. Evangelicals take very seriously the need to spread the Gospel. Traditionally, Mainline churches, some more than others, were also very busy converting non-believers. Today, however, the push to spread the Word is often part of a package to promote social justice and fight poverty too. Mainliners talk about their faith and how it pushes them to do what they do, but they don’t tend to demand that you convert as a precondition of helping you or tell you you’re going to hell if you do not believe as they do. That attitude is more common among Evangelicals. Some Mainliners allow for the possibility that there’s might not be the only patj to salvation (goes back to that whole boy thing God’s hands thing. Surely he can grant Grace to whomever he pleases)

    Even then, there is substantial belief overlap between some Mainline and some Evangelical churches. It’s not, and neither has been Black and White.

    One thing you’ll find that distinguishes Protestant churches (of all stripes)from Catholicism is that Protestants do not believe they can “earn” salvation. It’s not a transaction with God. You can’t get 50 salvation points added to your account for feeding a homeless family or 2 points for repeating a prayer 100 times. Protestants are called in the example of Jesus to serve others, but they do not believe they can force God’s hand and be guaranteed salvation. Catholics believe, in theory, that you really can earn salvation “through good works”.

    Traditionally, the Catholic notion of salvation through good works has been abused by priests, bishops and cardinals – the “selling of indulgences” was one of many irritants that provoked Martin Luther to nail his 99 theses to the church door in attempt to clean up what had become a corrupt organization drifting farther and farther from the Gospel and New Testament.

    But now we’re getting far off topic. Methodists and Presbyterians? In 2020, pretty similar. Rhere is more variation at a church by church basis in both denominations(more liberal, more conservative) than there is between an a stage Methodist church and an average Presbyterian church. Someone accustomed to services in one would find the other quite familiar.

  10. I am not openly religious or not but found the discussion very interesting particularly that of Lothar, cheers all

  11. This portrayal of the Presbyterian faith is unconscionably wrong in so many aspects that I won’t even try to point them all out. This site, and those who might wander upon it, would be well-served if you simply removed this page, then get a reformed Presbyterian (PCA or Orthodox, not PCUSA) to review it prior to re-publishing.

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