Methodist vs. Presbyterian

What's the Difference?

Methodist and Presbyterian are both Protestant Christian denominations that share some similarities but also have distinct differences. Both denominations emphasize the importance of faith in Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible. However, Methodists tend to place a greater emphasis on personal experience and the role of emotions in faith, while Presbyterians focus more on the sovereignty of God and the importance of intellectual understanding. Methodists also have a more flexible structure, allowing for a variety of worship styles and practices, while Presbyterians have a more centralized and hierarchical system of governance. Ultimately, both denominations seek to live out their faith in service to others and the world.


Founding Year17391560
FounderJohn WesleyJohn Knox
Belief in PredestinationNoYes
Church GovernanceEpiscopalPresbyterian
SacramentsBaptism, Holy CommunionBaptism, Holy Communion
Worship StyleVaries (traditional, contemporary)Varies (traditional, contemporary)
Ordination of WomenYesYes
Belief in Apostolic SuccessionNoNo
Church HierarchyConnectionalPresbyterial

Further Detail


Methodist and Presbyterian are two prominent Christian denominations that share similarities in their beliefs and practices, while also having distinct attributes that set them apart. Both denominations have a rich history and have contributed significantly to the development of Christianity. In this article, we will explore the key attributes of Methodist and Presbyterian, highlighting their theological differences, worship practices, church governance, and social engagement.

Theological Differences

While both Methodist and Presbyterian denominations are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, they have distinct theological differences. Methodists emphasize the importance of personal faith and salvation through grace, often referred to as the "Methodist Quadrilateral." This quadrilateral includes Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience as sources of theological understanding. Presbyterians, on the other hand, place a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture. They adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which outlines their theological beliefs.

Methodists also have a strong focus on social justice and the concept of "social holiness." They believe that faith should be expressed through acts of love and service to others. Presbyterians, while also valuing social justice, tend to place a greater emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the importance of personal piety.

Worship Practices

Both Methodist and Presbyterian churches have structured worship services, but there are some differences in their practices. Methodists often have a more informal and expressive worship style, with lively music, contemporary hymns, and opportunities for congregational participation. They may incorporate elements such as clapping, raising hands, and spontaneous prayers. Presbyterians, on the other hand, typically have a more formal and liturgical worship style, following a set order of service. Their music tends to be more traditional, with hymns accompanied by an organ or piano.

Another notable difference is the sacraments. Methodists recognize two sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion). They believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Presbyterians also recognize baptism and the Eucharist, but they view the Eucharist as a memorial rather than a literal presence of Christ.

Church Governance

Methodist and Presbyterian churches have different systems of church governance. Methodists have a connectional system, meaning that individual churches are connected to one another through a hierarchical structure. The highest governing body is the General Conference, which meets every four years to make decisions on matters of doctrine, polity, and social issues. Presbyterians, on the other hand, have a representative system of governance. They are organized into regional bodies called presbyteries, which are made up of ministers and elders from local congregations. The highest governing body is the General Assembly, which meets annually to make decisions on behalf of the denomination.

Both denominations value the participation of laypeople in decision-making processes, but the specific roles and responsibilities of laypeople may vary between Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

Social Engagement

Methodists and Presbyterians have a long history of social engagement and activism. Methodists have been at the forefront of various social justice movements, including the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and civil rights. They believe in the importance of addressing societal issues and advocating for the marginalized and oppressed. Presbyterians also have a strong tradition of social justice, with a focus on issues such as poverty, human rights, and environmental stewardship. They often engage in community outreach programs and support initiatives that promote justice and equality.

While both denominations share a commitment to social engagement, the specific causes and approaches may vary based on the local context and the priorities of individual congregations.


Methodist and Presbyterian denominations share a common Christian heritage but have distinct attributes that shape their beliefs, practices, and engagement with the world. Methodists emphasize personal faith, social holiness, and a connectional system of governance, while Presbyterians focus on the sovereignty of God, personal piety, and a representative system of governance. Both denominations value worship, sacraments, and social justice, albeit with some differences in style and theological emphasis. Ultimately, the attributes of Methodist and Presbyterian reflect the diversity and richness within the broader Christian tradition.

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