How do Methodist and Catholic beliefs differ?

Who believes what (2): Methodist Church

In the coming weeks we will introduce various churches and denominations. In the second part of our series we dedicate ourselves to the United Methodist Church (UMC).


The English revival preacher John Wesley (1703-1791) is considered to be the founder of the Methodists. He, his brother Charles (1707-1788) and their college friend George Whitefield (1714-1770) wanted to live a faith that was also evident in everyday life, especially in social engagement. For them evangelism and diakonia are inseparable. They started a Bible study group at Oxford University to emulate this goal. Among other things, John Wesley was inspired by members of the Pietist Brethren in Herrnhut. Methodism first spread as a revival movement within the Anglican Church. Traveling preachers roamed England taking care of the sick, socially excluded, uneducated people of the lower class.

By 1788 there were an estimated 75,000 Methodists in Britain. The first Methodist Church in the United States had been organized four years earlier. The movement also came to Germany in the middle of the 19th century. In 1881 the "World Council of Methodist Churches" was established, in which most of the Methodist churches are represented, which refer to Wesley and his teaching. In the course of the history of the Methodist Church, there have been several splits and (re-) unions around the world. In Germany, the “Methodist Church” and the “Evangelical Community” existed in parallel for a long time. In 1968 there was finally the unification as the "Evangelical Methodist Church" (UMC).


The members of the above-mentioned Bible study group at Oxford University caught the eye of outsiders because of their systematic time management and consistent way of life, which is atypical for students. Mockers therefore referred to the group as "Methodists". The name is derived from the English word "method" (method, rule, certain way).

Baptism and membership:

Baptism and church membership are closely related. Adolescents and adults who are baptized become members of the Church. Infants and children are also baptized (there is no such thing as “re-baptism”). They are then members of the community in the church. Later, however, it is up to them to decide whether they want to say “yes” to faith and church and thereby receive full membership.

Organization and structure:

Typical of the Methodist Church is its local and global networking (“connexionalism”). The UMC in Germany is part of the “United Methodist Church” and, together with 73 other churches, belongs to the World Methodist Council. The direction and decision-making within the Methodist Church takes place through the "conferences" already initiated by John Wesley. This term stands for both regular meetings, similar to a synod, as well as permanent institutions. Several municipalities form a district, the districts are in turn combined into districts that belong to one of the three "annual conferences (North German, East German and South German Conference). At the top of the list in Germany is the Central Conference of the UMC. It meets every four years. The general conference is the most important body worldwide.

In addition to the full-time pastors of the congregations, the Methodists also have preachers or lay preachers. Both are volunteers and need a permission to preach annually. For the latter, a two-year theological training is a prerequisite. For all offices in the Evangelical Methodist Church, it does not matter whether they are held by men or women. With Rosemarie Wenner, there is currently a bishop at the head of the UMC Germany.


In the Evangelical Methodist Church a distinction is made between “church members” and “church members”. Members of the church include all persons who have been baptized as Christian in the congregation. Church members include all those baptized who, on the occasion of their baptism or a divine service for acceptance into church membership, have professed their faith in a predetermined liturgical form. Adding up both groups, the UMC Germany has a membership of over 55,000 (as of December 2010). The UMC employs 287 pastors in 504 parishes. According to the UMC, 70 million people worldwide visit Methodist churches.


As a Protestant free church, the UMC is financed exclusively through donations from its members and does not levy any church tax.

What is typically Methodist?

For the Methodists, diakonia and social engagement are inseparably linked with faith (“recognize need and act”). The church operates various diaconal institutions (hospitals, old people's homes, senior centers with nursing homes, day-care centers, etc.), which are organized in the "Association of Evangelical Methodist Diakoniewerke" (EmD). To this end, it has adopted a social commitment in which it dedicates itself, among other things, to the fight against injustice and need. The Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, is also of Methodist origin.

Another typical feature of the Methodist Church is its strong ecumenical expression. In 2006 the “Methodist World Council” was a co-signatory of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation. In Germany there is a pulpit and communion community with the Protestant regional churches.

There is also a special feature of the Methodist celebration of the Lord's Supper: Nobody is excluded from the “table of the Lord” (not the congregation, but Christ invites), it is open to everyone - adults and children, believers and seekers. Behind this is the conviction that Jesus shared bread and wine with everyone, including sinners, without asking them to "confess". Decisive for participating in the meal is the personal desire to meet God.

Cooperation with other churches:

The UMC Germany is a member of the “Working Group of Christian Churches” (ACK), “Association of Evangelical Free Churches” (VEF), the World Council of Methodist Churches (WMC), the “Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe” and the World Council of Churches / Ecumenical Council of Churches ( WCC). At the local level, there is also cooperation with the “Evangelical Alliance”.


The Methodist Church on the Internet:

If you are interested in what the work of a modern Methodist church looks like, you can do so in our article about the "JesusCentrum" in Nuremberg read:Colorful "packaging" but in terms of content "completely in line"