Presbyterian vs Methodist: What Are The Key Differences?

As a Christian, it can be overwhelming to choose a denomination that aligns with your beliefs and values.

Two of the most popular Protestant denominations in the world are Presbyterian and Methodist. While both denominations share some similarities, they also have significant differences.

In this article, I will explore the key differences between Presbyterian and Methodist, including their origins, beliefs, and church governance.

comparison of Presbyterians and Methodists churches

Key Takeaways

  • Presbyterianism is rooted in the Reformed tradition of Protestantism, while Methodism is a movement within Anglicanism.
  • Presbyterians believe in predestination, while Methodists believe that anyone who believes in God will gain salvation.
  • Presbyterians are elder-centric, while Methodists have a pastor as their leader with a council as a backup.

Origins and History

These two traditions are two of the most prominent branches of Protestant Christianity over the last 500 years.

The Presbyterian Church is said to have originated in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, founded in Scotland in 1560 by John Knox, a Catholic priest who became a Protestant reformer.

Knox is said to have been a student of French theological scholar John Calvin, who was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation.

Methodism, on the other hand, began as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century.

John Wesley, an Anglican priest, and his brother Charles Wesley, a hymn writer, founded the Methodist movement, which grew rapidly in popularity.

John Wesley’s preaching and teaching emphasized the importance of personal piety, evangelism, and social justice. Methodism grew from a small group of four to 132,000 in John Wesley’s lifetime.

Both movements got their beginnings in the Protestant movement before splitting into different denominations.

While they both strongly believe in Jesus as the savior of humanity, the manner in which they practice their faith differs.

The Presbyterian Church is known for its emphasis on the sovereignty of God, predestination, and the authority of scripture, while the Methodist Church is known for its emphasis on personal piety, evangelism, and social justice.

Overall, both traditions have had a significant impact on the history of Christianity, especially in England, Scotland, and the United States.

Their origins and histories are intertwined with the broader history of the Protestant Reformation and the development of Christianity in the modern era.

Beliefs and Teachings

Beautiful church in the USA

As Protestant denominations, both Presbyterians and Methodists share a common faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

However, there are significant differences in their beliefs and teachings.


Presbyterians believe in the doctrine of predestination, which holds that God has chosen some individuals for salvation and others for damnation before the foundation of the world.

Methodists, on the other hand, believe that salvation is available to all who accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Scripture and Authority

Both denominations believe in the authority of Scripture, but they differ in their interpretation of the Bible.

Presbyterians adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which outlines their theological beliefs and interpretation of Scripture.

Methodists, on the other hand, do not have a single creed or confession but instead rely on the Book of Discipline for guidance on their beliefs and practices.

God and Trinity

Both Presbyterians and Methodists believe in the Holy Trinity, which consists of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

However, Presbyterians emphasize God’s sovereignty and predestination, while Methodists emphasize God’s love and grace.

Sin and Atonement

Both denominations believe in the concept of original sin, which holds that all humans are born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve.

Presbyterians believe in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which holds that salvation is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from good works.

Methodists also believe in justification by faith, but they emphasize the importance of good works as evidence of one’s faith.

Both denominations believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

In summary, while Presbyterians and Methodists share a common faith in Jesus Christ, they differ in their beliefs and teachings on predestination, interpretation of Scripture, emphasis on God’s sovereignty versus love and grace, and the role of good works in salvation.

Church Governance and Leadership

Governance and Leadership

In terms of church governance and leadership, both churches have distinct structures and processes, similar to the Lutheran church.

Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church is governed by a group of elders, also known as presbyters, who are elected by the congregation.

These elders are responsible for overseeing the spiritual well-being of the congregation and making decisions about the church’s direction and activities.

The Presbyterian Church emphasizes the autonomy of the local church, meaning that each church is responsible for its own governance and can make decisions about its own ministry without interference from the central church.

In terms of leadership, the Presbyterian Church does not have a hierarchical structure. Instead, the elders work together as a council to make decisions about the church’s direction.

Ordination is open to both men and women, and pastors are typically chosen by the congregation.

Methodist Church

The Methodist Church, on the other hand, has a more hierarchical structure with bishops overseeing churches.

However, it also emphasizes the importance of lay leadership, with a council serving as a backup to the pastor.

The council is made up of lay members who are elected by the congregation and work together with the pastor to make decisions about the church’s direction and activities.

In terms of ordination, the Methodist Church allows both men and women to become pastors and bishops.

The process of becoming a pastor or bishop involves years of education and training, as well as a thorough examination of the candidate’s spiritual and personal qualities.

While the Presbyterian emphasizes the autonomy of the local church and the importance of lay leadership, the Methodist has a more hierarchical structure with bishops overseeing churches.

Regardless of these differences, both churches strive to provide spiritual guidance and support to their congregations.

Sacraments and Rituals

Become pastor in Methodist church

As a Presbyterian, I believe in the importance of sacraments and rituals in our faith. These acts serve as a way to connect with God and strengthen our relationship with Him.

In this section, I will discuss the two sacraments recognized by the Presbyterian Church and how they differ from the Methodist Church.


Baptism is a sacrament that marks the beginning of our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.

As a Presbyterian, I believe in the practice of infant baptism, which is a symbol of God’s grace and covenant with us.

We believe that baptism is a one-time event and that it is not necessary to be baptized again.

Methodists also recognize baptism as a sacrament, but they view it differently from Presbyterians.

Methodists believe that baptism is a symbol of new life and regeneration, and it serves as a covenant between God and the person being baptized, whether they are an adult or an infant.


Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is another sacrament recognized by Presbyterians and Methodists.

This sacrament commemorates the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion.

I believe in the practice of open communion, which means that anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ is welcome to partake in the sacrament.

Methodists also practice open communion, and they view communion as a way to remember and celebrate the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.

However, there are some differences in the way that Methodists and Presbyterians view the sacrament.

Presbyterians believe in the concept of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine used in communion become the actual body and blood of Christ.

Methodists, on the other hand, reject this doctrine and view communion as a symbolic act.

In conclusion, while Presbyterians and Methodists share many similarities in their beliefs and practices, there are some differences when it comes to sacraments and rituals.

Understanding these differences can help us to better appreciate and respect the diversity within the Christian faith.

Social Issues and Justice

As with many religious denominations, Presbyterian and Methodist churches have experienced division over social issues in recent years.

Church leaders and members wrestle over whether or not to ordain women and to fully accept same-sex couples and those who identify as transgender.

Presbyterians and Methodists have taken different stances on the death penalty.

The Presbyterian Church opposes the death penalty, while the United Methodist

Church has a more nuanced view, stating that “capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime and that any miscarriage of justice in the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable.”

Both denominations have a long history of involvement in social justice issues, but their approaches may differ.

Methodists emphasize personal faith and good works, while Presbyterians stress a decentralized church structure and predestination.

In terms of homosexuality, the Presbyterian Church allows for the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The United Methodist Church, on the other hand, officially considers homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching and prohibits the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Overall, while both denominations have a commitment to social justice, they may differ in their approaches and stances on specific issues.


In conclusion, the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations have many similarities, but also some important differences.

Both faiths share fundamental Christian beliefs, such as the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and the Second Coming.

However, they differ on some key theological points.

Presbyterians believe in predestination, the idea that God has already determined who will be saved and who will not.

Methodists, on the other hand, believe in free will and that anyone can be saved if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

Another difference is in the way they view baptism. Methodists see baptism as a symbol of new life and regeneration, while Presbyterians view it as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

Both denominations have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to each individual to decide which faith is right for them.

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