Methodists vs. Protestants: What is the main difference?

I had the chance to join a Methodist Bible Study in my college days. I was impressed by how well they understood Scripture and their devotion to reading and reasoning from the Bible. However, I was curious about what else made Methodists different from Protestants. To answer this, I visited a Methodist preacher at the local church. He shared with me their history, doctrine, and beliefs. This information proved helpful last week as I taught my theology students about the 16th-century Reformation. A student wanted to know what separates Methodists from other Protestant denominations. This question prompted others around the subject and led us down a rabbit hole of doctrines and dogmas within the Protestant church. Finally, we came to a consensus in our Methodist vs. Protestant debate. So, what’s the main difference?

Methodists and Protestants differ in their history. Methodists are Protestants who split from the Church of England. They trace their origins to the 18th century under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley. Protestants, in contrast, split from the Catholic Church in the 16th century under Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other reformers.

Keep reading to learn what other ways Methodists and Protestants differ. I’ll explore their varying beliefs, similarities, and popular opinion about Methodists.

Methodists vs. Protestant: Difference in the definition

Methodists vs. Protestant. Image source: Pixabay


The word “Methodist” refers to the adherents of Methodism, a denomination that traces its origins to the 18th century. The word was first used as a nickname for John and Charles Wesley’s group of Oxford University students who dedicated themselves to bible study, frequent communion, visiting prisoners, and regular fasting.

This group started as a study group. They met and discussed classical literature. However, with time, they delved into theology. Charles Wesley formed the group to get serious about his studies. However, he still felt behind, so he wrote to his brother John, an ordained minister and fellow at Oxford. John had left Oxford to help his father run the parish. John returned to Oxford and joined the group in 1729 and joined the group.

Their methodical approach to devotion and charitable work earned them several nicknames, but none stuck as well as the Methodists.


Protestants are members of any church borne out of the 16th-century Reformation. The word was first used in 1529 to describe a group of German nobility and city representatives who opposed the decision to repeal the Diet of Speyer.

The Diet of Speyer was a decision made in 1526 that allowed the German nobles to choose whether to enact the Edict of Worms, which banned Luther’s teachings. The Roman Catholic Church stripped them of this choice by revoking the Diet of Speyer. In 1529, 14 German cities and six Lutheran princes wrote to oppose this decision. Their protest earned them the name Protestants. Gradually, this word came to mean adherents of the Reformation.

What’s the Difference between Methodists and Protestants?

Comparison Parameters



Prominent figures

John and Charles Wesley

Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin.


Split from the Church of England.

Split from the Roman Catholic Church

Meaning of the name

Nickname for John and Charles Wesley’s group that practiced Methodical devotion.

Name given to opponents to the repealing of the Diet of Speyer

Significant writings

Wesley’s version of the 39 Articles of Faith and United Methodists hymn book.

Luther’s 95 Theses and Calvin’s Institutes of Religion.

Major denominations

United Methodist Church.

African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Evangelical Methodist Church.

Baptists, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians, among others.

Differences in the beliefs between Methodists and Protestant

Methodists and Protestants differ on their beliefs surrounding Baptism, Eschatology, and Liturgy.


Methodists believe that baptism is a sign of profession that distinguishes Christians. It represents regeneration and new birth. However, they uphold infant baptism and base their argument on Acts 16, when the Jailer and his family were baptized. Methodist theologians reason that the family could involve children and infants. As such, there isn’t a scriptural basis to rule out infant baptism. Additionally, they believe that the child’s dormant faith is sufficient to warrant baptism.

Protestants are split over the issue of infant baptism. Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans uphold infant baptism. However, some groups reject the doctrine, insisting that a confession of faith is necessary before baptism. We see this among most Evangelical groups and Anabaptists.


Eschatology is the study of end times. Methodists believe that Jesus Christ will come to judge the earth before revealing the new heaven and earth. However, most dismiss the millennial rule, rapture, and great tribulation. An apt description of their position is Amillennial.

Amillennialists hold that the thousand-year reign spoken of in Revelation 20:1-6 is spiritual. They further believe that it began with the rise of the Church age. As such, Jesus will return at the end of the Church age to establish his kingdom.

In contrast, most Protestants are either Pre-millennialists or Post-millennialist. Pre-millennialists believe that Jesus will return before establishing the millennial rule. Post-millennialist believe that Jesus will return after the thousand-year reign. Postmllenialists believe the millennial rule will be a period of prosperity and dominance for Christians.


Methodism blends liturgy and spontaneity in their worship. They sing hymns and read prayers but also have extemporaneous prayers in their worship. This resulted from Wesley’s background in the Church of England and study of the Scripture.

Traditional Protestant churches like Lutherans and Anglicans follow an order of worship similar to the Catholics. They read prayer books that have a more rigid system of worship.

On the flip side, there are protestant churches that removed liturgy entirely and have a flexible order of service. We can say the Methodists toe the line by blending liturgy and spontaneity.

What are the similarities between Methodists and Protestants?

Similarities between Methodists and Protestants. Image source: Pixabay

Methodists are Protestants. As such, they share much with their Protestant counterparts. Here are a few similarities.

Belief in the Trinity

Methodists believe in the Triune God. According to their Articles of Religion, Methodists believe in one wise, powerful, and infinite God. They believe in the unity of the Godhead with three persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They share this position with other Protestants.

Scriptural Authority

Methodists uphold the authority and inerrancy of Scripture in all things about Salvation and doctrine. They believe that whatever isn’t written in the Bible isn’t necessary for Salvation. Additionally, they recognize only 66 books of the Bible. Likewise, Protestants hold the same position.

Deity of Christ

Like other Protestants, Methodists believe Jesus was 100% God and man. They believe Jesus was born of a Virgin and is part of the Godhead. They reinforce this in their Articles of Faith.

What do Protestants think of Methodists?

As mentioned, Methodists are Protestants. As such, Protestants see them as part of the family of faith. Most admire their zeal for missions and social issues. Methodists and Protestants agree on most issues of doctrine and Christian living. They often address contemporary issues, and they worship together on special occasions.

Do Methodists and Protestants use the same Bible?

Methodists and Protestants. Image source: Pixabay

Yes. Methodists and Protestants rely on the 66 books of the Bible for their doctrine and guidance for Christian living. Popular versions among the Methodists and Protestants include NIV, NKJV, KJV, and NRSV.

Which one is more popular between Methodists and Protestants?

Methodists are part of the Protestant movement. As such, comparing the popularity of these groups is difficult without including Methodists among the Protestants. Nevertheless, Methodists form a significant part of the Protestant church, with 80 million members. This represents about 10% of the total Protestant population, making Methodists among the most popular Protestant denomination.

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