What are the differences and similarities between the Methodist
and Episcopalian denominations?
Methodism and Anglicanism were born in England. Both are expressions
of Reformation Protestantism.
Church of England came first, when King Henry VIII broke away from
Rome's authority and established a new national church, under the
Crown's authority, to serve the English. Archbishop
Thomas Cranmer supported the King, joined his new effort, and led
the writing of a new worship manual called the Book of Common
Prayer. It combined several Roman Catholic manuals and used
the common tongue, rather than Latin. The Bible was used in English
translation, as well. Warfare between Catholics and Protestants
dominated British history for many years.
the 18th Century, a movement that came to be called “Methodism”
began within the Church of England, led by discontented Anglican
priests who believed the Church of England had become corrupt, effete,
and too focused on the needs of the aristocracy. Methodism
cast its lot with the working class, especially with the new industrial
poor. Worship was simplified, new hymns were written, certain forms
of abstinence became mandatory, and styles such as clergy vestments
became less extravagant.
movements came to the American colonies and eventually became competing
denominations within a religious environment that now has more than
300 separate denominations. As I perceive it, Methodist worship
uses many prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
and, depending on the tastes of the local parish, can seem remarkably
similar to “low church” Anglican worship. Some Methodist
congregations make more of remaining simple and non-liturgical (not
guided by standard liturgical forms). Some Episcopal parishes move
in the opposite direction with “high church” styles
such as incense.
a time, the socioeconomic profiles of Methodists and Episcopalians
seemed different. The old
saw was that Methodist missionaries went west first and on horseback,
and that Episcopal missionaries came later by Pullman car. Probably
never true, but symptomatic of perceived differences. For
many years now, however, the two denominations have seemed indistinguishable
in terms of political views, socioeconomic profiles, location and
theology. People seem to flow easily back and forth between the
United Methodist Church is substantially larger than the Episcopal
Church, equally open to certain expressions of modernism such as
women in leadership, but perhaps not as open to affirming gays and
lesbians in leadership.