Baptist vs. Methodist

Baptist vs. Methodist

My experience with a diversity of Christian denominations is fairly broad.  A friend recently asked me the difference between United Methodist (UM) and Southern Baptist (SB) traditions. Since I was raised in the United Methodist Church, and have planted a Baptist Church, I thought I’d put together a simple list of differences.

1. Historical

UM: The birth of the Methodist tradition is traced back to the English preacher John Wesley who in the 1700’s taught the need for personal holiness and service to others.  In large part, the Methodist tradition was born out of a desire for missional living. The legacy of early Methodism is a vibrant ministry to the poor, sick, and orphaned.

SB: The birth of the Baptists is traced back to the 1600’s when English Separatists rejected infant Baptism and instituted a system of believer’s baptism.  In large part, the Baptist tradition was born out of a desire for theological precision. The legacy of early Baptistic reformers is their evangelistic fervor.

2. Theological

The Sacraments

UM: Methodists believe that both Communion and Water Baptism are a means through which the Grace of God is given to the believer.  Neither sacrament can save the individual, but both are a way to experience the spiritual mystery of God.

SB: Baptists generally see both Communion and Water Baptism as symbolic acts of obedience to the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament.  The “Sacraments” (a word Baptists avoid) are simply as outward signs of an inward reality.


UM: Methodists practice “Open” communion wherein everyone; believer and non-believer alike, are invited to partake of the bread and cup of Christ.

SB: Baptists practice a “Closed” communion where only the believer is invited to participate in the bread and cup of Christ.

Water Baptism

UM: Methodists baptize both infants and adults using any method from sprinkling, pouring or total immersion in water.

SB: Baptists only baptize adults (including older children) and only by total immersion in water.

Theological Discernment

UM: The Methodist tradition uses the “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral” as their guide.  This methodology goes back to John Wesley—the founder of the Methodist movement.

  1. Scripture
  2. Tradition
  3. Reason
  4. Experience

SB: Born out of the reformation, Baptists use the “5 Solos” as their guide.

  1. Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
  2. Sola Fide (“by faith alone”)
  3. Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”)
  4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”)
  5. Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

3. Ministerial


UM: Methodists ordain Pastors/Elders at a Denominational level (Episcopal) and accept both women and men equally into the role.  All Methodist pastors are given appointments to a church by a District Superintendant, Cabinet, and Bishop, who have the discretion to move pastors from one church to another.  The Methodists believe that an itinerate pastorate keep the Church less focused on human leaders and more focused on Christ as the head.  In smaller communities, some Methodist pastors are assigned to lead more than one church at the same time.

SB: Each Baptist church is considered independent and so it is left to the local church to form a search committee to find pastors (Congregational).  Since pastors are not appointed by denominational leaders, they can freely move from church to church at their discretion and/or can be removed by the congregation. The local church also has the authority to ordain its own pastors.  While Baptist value women in leadership, they also believe the role of Pastor/Elder is reserved for men only.


UM: The Deacon in the UM tradition must meet the same educational requirements as a pastor. Deacons are both men and women who serve in a variety of ministries of outreach, congregational care, lead worship and/or serve as  youth ministers.

SB: The role of a deacon in Baptist tradition can vary widely from church to church.  Deacons can be men or women (although some churches restrict the ministry to men only). Deacons are selected from the church’s membership and tasked with a practical ministry of service such as helping with a pastor search committee, overseeing the church property, heading up ministries of outreach or congregational care.

4. Denominational

UM: The United Methodist Church is a formal denomination and has authority over each local church.  The denomination owns the church property and buildings and can allocate its resources through the discretion of its denominational leaders.  The Book of Discipline governs the actions of all Pastors, Bishops, Superintendents and church life.

SB: The Southern Baptists are not a denomination, but are a network of independent churches who choose to affiliate with the “Convention” based on shared values and theology.  Each church; therefore, has its own policies, procedures, and is in full control of its own properties.

Did I miss something?  

I know my blog is read by folks from both traditions, so if you have some corrections or additions, please leave a comment and help improve the quality of this post.  Please also feel free to post links to other good articles or books that could be used for anyone wanting deeper study on anything in the post.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for other young leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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  • Craig L. Adams

    That seems like a pretty good brief overview. There are always things one could add…

    • J.R. Miller

      If you had a friend from a Baptist Church visiting a UM church, how would you prepare them for the difference in worship style?

      • Craig L. Adams

        I guess I would just describe the particular church’s worship. I’m not sure it is possible anymore to describe UM worship over-all. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan you can choose traditional UM worship (hymns, pastoral prayer, etc.) or Willow Creek type worship (choruses, praise band, informal dress). And, there isn’t much in between. Some UM churches are on the charismatic side (or am I just being nostalgic?) and some are more evangelical/revivalistic (or am I just being nostalgic again?), but around here the choice is traditional or seeker-oriented.

        • J.R. Miller

          Both the Baptists and Methodists, it seems, share a very diverse approach to worship and that was my difficulty in trying to write about it. But do even the more “Willow” style UM churches still recite the Apostle’s creed and do regular communion?

          • Craig L. Adams

            Monthly communion is the norm around here, across the board. Only one church I know of around here is reciting the Apostles’ Creed.

          • J.R. Miller

            Oh, wow! That is a big change from what I knew growing up in the UM church. I had not realized churches had moved so far from those traditions.

          • Craig L. Adams

            What part of the country did you grow up in? Bear in mind that I’m a Michigander.

          • J.R. Miller

            I grew up in Pennsylvania’s Central District. Keith McIlwain, whom you follow on Twitter @KeithMcilwain, and I grew up together @ Westmont UMC.

          • Adinmac

            Most churches have not moved away from these traditions! My what a terrible place Michigan must be if Methodists are rejecting the Anglican in their heritage! My church says the Apostles’ Creed, the Doxology, the Lord’s prayer, and a congregational response to the benediction every week. The Lord’s Prayer and Doxology are used even at the contemporary service and the Great Thanksgiving (The Lord be with you, and also with you etc.) is said at both services preceding communion. Furthermore, we use the Lectionary with all 3-4 of the readings being used a lot of the time and print the liturgical calender in the bulletin. (For example: 10th Sunday after Pentecost) The only tradition we are slacking off on is the vestment-wearing. The minister only robes for Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, Weddings, and Funerals. However, suits and ties when it is cool outside are still common even for some of the young people. I certainly wish that ALL Methodists fell into the old-school evangelical/holiness category and stayed way out of the pentecostal/charismatic category or worse yet the liberal category. However, I am satisfied to know that my church is (for the most part) true to the teachings of John Wesley and the former Methodist Episcopal, Evangelical, and United Brethren in Christ churches!

            As for the LGBT issue, as far as I know all of the churches in my hometown of York, Pennsylvania (which is in the Susquehanna Valley of Central Pennsylvania) have held fast to the UM Book of Discipline which declares that “Homosexuality is INCOMPATIBLE with Christian teaching!” The Word of God is the final word!!!

            I would like to remind Methodists everywhere of a meaningful powerful statement…

            Holiness unto the LORD, so be ye holy!

          • Emily Copeland

            I really like the fact that you mentioned the independence of the SBC churches. You can walk into 10 SBC churches and have 10 different experiences. My husband has been in ministry for 12 years now and we’ve seen the broad spectrum of beliefs and implementation among the churches we’ve served. For example, only one of our 4 churches ever had closed communion. Because we had never seen it enforced, it was rather awkward to be a part of the exclusion of others in attendance.

            Also, our last church was also the only church where the sentiment was that women are only in church handle fellowship and nursery duty. Ugh! It’s almost strange though, we’re now serving in a church that celebrates women in ministry (my first church to have women deacons), yet it’s the most conservative church we’ve served when it comes to worship style.

          • J.R. Miller

            Thanks Emily for sharing your experiences. Yes, I think the great thing about Baptist tradition in general (that is beyond just the Southern Baptists) is that it really is irenic in nonessentials.

      • Craig L. Adams

        BTW, your post reminded me of why I could never be a Baptist. The attitude toward women in leadership would be a total turn-off. Some of the rest of it I might like — like the local autonomy, for example.

        • J.R. Miller

          Regarding women in leadership, I see extremes in both Baptist and Methodist churches. On the one extreme there are some SB churches who are misogynist. On the other extreme there are some UM churches who have created a moral equivalence between women in leadership with all Gender issues. This has led to the acceptance of gay and/or transgendered as pastors.

          Between the two extremes lies a healthy middle road that may not agree on the terminology, but still has great respect and value for women in leadership.

          Do you think that is a fair assessment.

          • Craig L. Adams

            I see it as quite a bit more complex than that. Women in leadership was advocated in the Holiness movement, and some precedent can be found for it in the ministry practice of John Wesley. So anyone informed of and committed to the Wesleyan tradition would be in favor. But, yes, the UMC is currently heavily influenced by the feminist movement and (with much more controversy) by the GLBT movement. And, the holiness movement is barely a memory. However, women in leadership per se is not controversial. And, there are many conservative/evangelical female pastors around.

          • J.R. Miller

            I agree with your assessment brother.

  • Shawn Foles

    I would also reframe the “open” communion statement. The UMC’s stance on communion is basically a response to the Catholic stance on communion (only catholics may receive communion) than anything else like many of the early Methodist stances on issues (Google Book of Discipline Purgatory). The UMC liturgy for communion also usually contains a confession of sin before communion is offered and usually contains a statement from the Pastor to the extent of “Christ sacrificed himself for the forgiveness of sins and seeks to welcome all to the table who earnestly repent of their sins”. That’s not saying the believer not believer statement is inaccurate, but it could use some clarity.

    • J.R. Miller

      I talked to some UM pastor friends to get their input on the open communion. There seems to be some disagreement on how this is perceived. I am hoping a few will jump in the conversation though to help bring clarity.

      • Adinmac

        Only believers may take communion in UM Churches. We only call in open communion in rejection of the idea that only members of a specific denomination (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church or the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod). The United Methodist Service of Word and Table I states in its invitation to the Lord’s Supper: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

        • J.R. Miller

          Thanks Adinmac for your input on this topic.
          God bless!

  • Don Purvis

    Isn’t permanence of salvation a pretty big difference?

    • J.R. Miller

      Don, yes. This is an important difference as well and I should add it to the post. I just need to make sure the terminology is right. How would you define the Baptist position?

    • Adinmac

      Absolutely! Methodists believe that one must continue to follow Jesus to retain their justification. If I am not mistaken, Baptists believe “once saved always saved”.

      • J.R. Miller

        Adinmac, you are correct as is Don. The only reason I have not included that in this post is that I wanted to do a bit more research to ensure that I get the terminology correct when representing each tradition. I just have not found the time to do it :-)

        • Lance Roberts

          Actually no, Baptists of the Reformed persuasion believe in Perseverance, which is different that “once saved always saved”.

  • Sally Roach

    I was raised American Baptist and our communion tradition was closed to the unbaptized. Part of my motivation for baptism at age 8 was to be able to partake of the cute little juice cups and crackers. Deep. Last Sunday, I visited a Lutheran church and sat thinking about the Lord’s Supper and all the traditions surrounding it and wondered why children were excluded. Wasn’t the Lord’s Supper in the first century a meal shared by believers who gathered as the church? I’m sure the children took part in that. Today, churches use scripture from the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. In Jewish custom, children most certainly take part in the Seder. I know this post is a little off topic, so a comment on the subject: I have been a part of many different denominations over the years, Baptist, Presbyterian, Charismatic, AOG, Lutheran, Messianic, Bible Christian. It seems to me they all have more in common than not.

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi Sally, like you I have been experienced fellowship in a diversity of denominational groups and found genuine brothers and sisters in almost every place.. almost :-)

    • Adinmac

      You would be happy to know that Methodists offer Holy Communion to children (most of whom are baptized as infants anyway) so long as they have decided to follow our Lord Jesus Christ! Children are such a blessing to services of worship. There are many similarities in worship between Methodists and Lutherans but the one difference I could never get over is that Lutherans require people to be confirmed to take communion.

      By the way, I hope that you wanted to take communion as a child for other reasons than just the “cuteness” of the elements. :)

  • Mike Szekely

    Under heading #1, HISTORICAL, you wrote, “The birth of the Baptists is traced back to the 1600’s when English Separatists rejected infant Baptism and instituted a system of believer’s baptism”. Are you telling us that you believe no one before these English Separatists ever rejected infant baptism, so therefore there were no baptists before the Reformation?

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi Mike, I am not even sure how you arrive at that question… it is a complete non sequitur. But to set your mind at ease Mike, no, I am not saying that the baptist are the only people ever in the history of the world to reject infant baptism. What I am saying is that that baptists trace their roots to that period of time under those circumstances. If you have other historical evidence to suggest otherwise along with a quality resource for your point, I am open to it.

      • J.R. Miller

        Hi Mike Szekely

        In thinking on your question, I am still not sure how you make such a conclusion from what I write, since I made no real effort to give a history of infant/believer baptism, but maybe I should address in brief the history in question.

        That others prior to the Baptists rejected pedobaptism is evident. We can go back to John Wycliffe (c. 1320 – 31 to1384) as one potential forefather. Wycliffe was an early reformer and some think he rejected infant baptism (although others vehemently refute that claim). His followers were known as Lollards who were a precursor to the Protestant Reformation. Regarding his view of infant baptism, Thomas Crosby writes, “But whether [Wycliffe] denied infant-baptism, or not, it is certain he was the first reformer of any note, that spread those tenets among the English which tend to overthrow the practice of baptizing infants. And if he did not pursue the consequence of his own doctrines so far, yet many of his followers did, and were made Baptists by it. (1)”

        The Anabaptists of the 16th Century were also a distinct precursor to the Baptists who taught believer baptism. Oosterbaan writes in his history,

        “The connection which the early Anabaptists established between a personally confessed faith and baptism was not merely a peculiarity arising from certain deviate interpretations of Bible texts. The total Christocentric view of the Bible, the basic ideas of Christology, the reality of the new man in Christ, the church of new-born believers, and baptism upon confession of faith—which is the sign of the change from the old life to the new—all this forms an organic theology which fits together and of which no single part can be missing. (2)”

        Certainly many more examples that go back to the NT church could be cited brother. But this bit of history notwithstanding, lets turn back to my original statement, “The birth of the Baptists is traced back to the 1600′s when English Separatists rejected infant Baptism and instituted a system of believer’s baptism”

        Given the context of the post, I believe this statement to be completely accurate. Here is a short intro from Christian History Magazine that affirms the veracity of my point.

        “The Baptist movement was born in the midst of the ferment and evolution of the English Church in the seventeenth century. Originally a collection of hole-in-the wall dissenters who were easily confused with Seekers, Ranters, Quakers, and political anarchists, Baptists rose to positions of prominence and respectability by 1700 in England and Wales. Along the way their leaders made major contributions to the theory and practice of religious liberty and the theology of the believers’ church. The principle ordinance of their faith, adult baptism by immersion, became the symbol for a people who dared to take the Bible seriously and specifically.

        The Baptist faith soon spread to other lands by individuals and entire congregations. In America Baptists at first encountered persecution and yet thrived in an unusual way. In fulfillment of their legacy, 25 million Baptists live in the United States, as of 1985, of the 45 million Baptists worldwide. There are important reasons for this success. (3)”

        I hope that helps clarify the point and allays your concern regarding my historical acumen brother.


        (1) Thomas Crosby, The History of the English Baptists, Vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2011), 11-12.

        (2) Oosterbaan, “Theology of Simons,” p. 196. Quoted by William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism, 3rd ed., rev. and enl. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 235.

        (3) Christian History Magazine-Issue 6: The Baptists (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1985).

  • Michelle Hollomon

    I always pick my teams based on what the uniforms look like. So it depends if the Baptists or the Methodists have the best color combos… :) Just Kidding. Thanks Joe, for the thoughtful post.

    • J.R. Miller

      What about the shoes Michelle? I know that matters to you :-) Blessings sister!

  • Chuck McKnight

    Great overview! There are of course plenty of exceptions.

    My uncle pastors an “Evangelical Methodist Church” (independent). They follow more after George Whitfield than John Wesley, as they are pretty strongly Calvinistic. They believe the sacraments to be symbolic acts of obedience. Communion is limited to believers. Baptism is post-conversion only (though they do baptize via sprinkling). They hold pretty strongly to the five solas. They have a congregational church rule. And they definitely do not allow women to be pastors.

    Frankly, I’m not sure why they keep the name “Methodist” other than the fact that they split off from the United Methodists.

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi Chuck, yea.. there are a lot of variations and it is quite impossible to write a comprehensive blog post consideration all splinter groups… that is a lifetime of research. That is why I tried to stick with United Methodist in the main.

      • Chuck McKnight

        Yep. And a good job you did of it. It’s just fascinating to me the variety we have, even within supposed denominations.

        • J.R. Miller

          yeah.. when I wrote my book on the historical development of the Pentecostals in the 1800’s-1900’s I ran into that same kind of thing. Mind boggling to try and grasp it all.

    • J.R. Miller

      BTW, I had never heard of the “Evangelical Methodist Church” so that is an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Chuck McKnight

        You’re welcome. If you look them up, you’ll find even more variations within that label as well. The following is the specific church I refer to:

    • Wilmerdon

      In fact, the Methodists churches here (India) are more like “Evangelical Methodist”. Very interesting to read this!

  • J.R. Miller

    Yes, here are some other interesting facts about Baptists in general.
    Baptists were at first erroneously called the “Anabaptists” because they called for believer’s baptism. and their enemies wanted to associate them with the behavior of the sixteenth-century Münster radicals.
    As of 1985 there are over 45 million Baptists in over 175 groups worldwide. In the United States alone there are over 30 recognized groups claiming the name “Baptist.” Together they form the largest category outside of the Roman Catholics.
    One of the reasons why King James I called for a new version of the Bible was to put an end to the use of the Geneva Bible, which the king felt contained translations that led to political criticisms of his authority by the Baptists and Independents!
    The first Baptist college was founded at Bristol, England in 1679. Graduates of Bristol helped to found the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University), in 1764, the oldest Baptist college in the United States.
    Harvard College president, Henry Dunster, was fired from his position in 1654 and his house confiscated because of his Baptist beliefs!
    Baptists do not celebrate the sacraments as many other Christians do. Instead, the two ordinances, the Lord’s Supper and believer’s baptism, are administered. Many Baptists also practice a service of infant dedication but without the use of water.
    Most early Baptists preferred to be baptized in “living waters,” that is, water that flows in a river or stream as opposed to water in a pond or baptistry.
    In the Baptist tradition each church has a preacher. There are no bishops or superintendents. The leader is bishop, shepherd, elder, and pastor. The congregation calls the leader and may terminate the leader’s services.
    Some churches may form groups or clusters for fellowship, service, and/or advice. Baptists call these associations conventions, connections, or fellowships. Such groups have no power over individual congregations.
    Baptists helped in the founding of the colony of Liberia. Lott Carey, a Virginia Baptist and a former slave, was the first missionary there. A century and a half later, Liberian president William Tolbert was elected the first Black president of the Baptist World Alliance. He was assassinated in 1982.
    It is impossible to generalize about Baptists. Some hold to the doctrine of general atonement; others to a limited view. Some practice open Communion; others closed. Some are ecumenical; others are not. Some ordain ministers; others do not. Some allow musical instruments in worship services; others only singing.
    The largest group of Black Christians in the United States are Baptist. In three major groups, Black Baptists total almost 15 million!

    From Christian History Magazine-Issue 6: The Baptists. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1985.

  • No Matter Me

    Two wholly incidental comments:

    1. John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, was a Baptist

    2. One of the largest, most wildly successful churches in the Kansas City metropolitan area is a United Methodist Church, pastored by a relatively young and heretical man.

    Most professing Christians I know under the age of 50 have no idea regarding who is John Bunyan and what is Pilgrim’s Progress, but they would (and some do) have zero qualms about sipping a latte in the heretic’s huge, affluent church.

    • Chuck McKnight

      I guess we must run in different circles. I’ve come across very few people (even non-believers) who don’t at least know about Pilgrim’s Progress.

      What about this pastor you speak of makes him a heretic?

  • Ben B

    I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for sharing this information, unfortunately there is not much out there that really compares the two denominations.

    • J.R. Miller

      You are welcome Ben. I’m glad it could fill a gap in what is missing out there. Blessings.

  • Adinmac

    I am a confirmed Methodist and an organist in a Methodist church. I would like to say that we do not allow non-Christians to partake of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We believe that Christ only offers those who “truly and earnestly repent of their sin” to his table. Open communion just means that those who are not members of the United Methodist Church may take communion so long as they are Christians. I would also like to add that deacons are ordained by a Bishop like in other episcopal churches. It is important to note that the UMC is mainline (along with Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and other similar groups) though it is more conservative on social issues and perhaps more spiritual and biblical than most of their fellow traditional denominations. (This is a result of the traditional emphasis on holiness, including Christian service, chastity, temperance, and abstinence from vices) One big difference between Methodists and Baptists is the use of ritual. Because the history of Methodism is directly connected to the Church of England and, by extension, the Catholic Church, UM parishes frequently use liturgies, candles, altars, paraments, and other ecclesiastical impedimenta associated with mainline denominations. However, like most of the formerly mentioned sects, some Methodists have adopted a contemporary worship service to accompany their usual traditional ones. (I much prefer the hymns myself!) Such services may seem more similar to those of a SB Church though I have not visited enough SB churches to decipher how traditional or contemporary they usually are.

    I hope that this was helpful. This was a delightful article to read; thank you Dr. Miller! God bless everyone!

    • J.R. Miller

      Great insights Adinmac, thanks for taking the time to share your insight into the UMC.

    • Wilmerdon

      Yes, even here (India) we do not allow non-Christians to partake of the Holy Communion (although the other members of the other denominations are allowed). Excellent insights!

      • J.R. Miller

        Hi, thanks for sharing your practices on this all the way from India brother. God bless.

  • Chan

    Hey! This is a great article. It cleared up a lot. I’m a Baptist, and i would like to explain why we don’t let children at our church (the ones that haven’t been dunked) do communion. My pastor had very good reasoning for it. We don’t let them because we want the children to watch their parents, and learn, and have a desire to understand why their mom and Dad do that. We want the children to not focus on the “I get to drink from the cool little cup”, but to think “why does mom do that? I wanna know!”.That way, there’s meaning behind the action of communion when thy decide to do it as they get older, and it doesn’t become pointless repetition to them in the end.

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi Chan, thanks for jumping into the conversation and for taking to the time to comment.
      God bless.

    • Joel

      That is actually, not at all biblical. The reason baptists do not let UNSAVED partake in communion, is because of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. Not because “we want the children to see their parents do it” that is just silly, and it sounds like your pastor needs to explain why he doesn’t let them better, or study himself.

      • Wilmerdon

        Joel, you are right about that but I think what Chan here says is the net outcome.

  • Micah

    Although some baptists may allow women to be deacons the SBC policy is to not allow them to be deacons and that’s only a minor distinction. Otherwise looks good. Useful article.

    • J.R. Miller

      Micah, thanks for the information. Glad the article was helpful. God bless!

  • Wilmerdon

    Mr Miller, very useful article. I would like to point out here that the Methodist churches in India seem to follow half of this and half of that! For instance the Assemblies of God church here functions as a Methodist church with some of the liberties (of the congregation) of the Baptist church!

    • J.R. Miller

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience from India.

  • Guest

    Not a believer (let alone a theologian), but I find things like this fascinating. Another difference is that Baptists, unlike Methodists, tend to reject prepared creeds like the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed because they interfere with their ideal of personal interpretation of scripture. That ideal fits neatly with the idea that Baptists are a network of similar but independent churches: a Baptist congregation is a network of like-minded individuals with (potentially) slightly different beliefs. I think in practice the same is true of other denominations, but it’s interesting to imagine Methodism as a tree in which the power of the church, for lack of a better word, flows from the trunk (the United Methodist Church in the US) to the leaves (individuals), whereas in the “Baptist tree” it’s the opposite.

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting look at the concrete differences between them. It’s tough when Baptists don’t have an consistent set of beliefs!

    • J.R. Miller

      Welcome, you make a good point, with one caveat. I would say that while Baptists are not creedal (as you rightly observe), neither do not value “personal” interpretation as its replacement. In other words, They do encourage each person to read, but that does not imply each person has the right or ability to make their own theology. Baptists still value the historic Faith tradition passed down from the Apostles, but they just tend to not put them into creedal form. To be honest, it is often a distinction without a difference, but that is how I would phrase it.

      Feel free to stay engaged on my blog. I would be happy to conversate with you on anything related to the Christian faith :-)

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  • Kayla

    This is weird, I was apart of the Baptist church. Never baptized, but always took apart of the communion. Actually they allowed children to be baptized ( yes, dunked).

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi, Baptists do baptize children, they just want them to be old enough to make a personal decision for Christ. They will dedicate infants, but not baptize them.

  • Warchild_70

    The first Baptist’s were call ana-baptist (rebaptised) they were discriminated against by the Anglican Church. The Conventions are, Independent free-will, The Southern Baptist Convention, Some Baptist churches call their church “Bible Baptist” which literally believed word for word the Holy Scriptures written in the King James 1611 and all others are considered “Perverted”. This is due to the two versions of the Scriptures they are the Vatican-is Receptive, and the Testis Reception. Now a sdays there is new written Bible that are as close to the K J 1611 on with out the Shakespearean dialog. I’m a former Lutheran (Holy Cross St. Louis MO) I got “Saved” in Feb. 1972 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) by a friend and a missionary for the Navigators. It was at this time period there was a great Revival period and the phrase “Born Again” (from Christs answer “You must be born again.”) was in vogue. Sorry for the windy reply just some FYI. BTW when a child reaches the age of dispensation and confesses to the Lord and then to tell the congregation that they have accepted Christ as their Saviour then they are Baptized fully immersed however, there is lots of questions to insure that they do understand what their commitment means. Blessings to all.

  • Warchild_70

    I want to thank Dr. Miller for this enlightening article well written sir and very informative. Blessing to you and yours.

    • J.R. Miller

      You are welcome. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  • George

    Just a quick question: Don’t United Methodists and Baptists have different views on Eternal Security(“Once Saved Always Saved”)?

    • J.R. Miller

      Welcome George and thanks for your question. There is some difference in that traditional baptists will emphasize “Once saved always saved” and Methods, while not using that terminology, do believe in Eternal security. In my opinion, each tradition uses its own set of unique terminology that makes them seem a lot farther apart than they really are.

      • Keith Mcilwain

        Actually, our doctrinal standards in the UMC teach that apostasy is possible, so we do NOT believe in “eternal security”. We don’t believe it’s biblical.

        • J.R. Miller

          Thanks again Keith Mcilwain for your expertise.

          I fear that detractors of the UMC tradition overstate the case of “losing” ones salvation. It is not like UMC is telling people they can “sin away” their salvation. Salvation is neither “earned” by works or “unearned” by sin. I don’t think the UMC is out there telling folks that you lied one too many times so now you are no longer saved. Please correct me if I am wrong, but Apostasy is a very strong word and one that is not taken lightly by the UMC.

          • Keith Mcilwain

            I’ve never met a UM who teaches one can “lose their salvation”; that’s typically how Calvinists caricature Wesleyan theology. Wesleyans DO believe that God’s gift of salvation can be rejected, even after having initially accepted it.

          • J.R. Miller


  • Thomas

    No one has mentioned alcohol or wine in communion. Do Methodists use wine since they are closer to Catholics in that regard/tradition? All Baptist churches I have gone to preach total abstinence from alcohol and use grape juice in communion. My parents generation (in their 60’s) and their parents all believe in the complete abstinence of alcohol, while it seems most of my generation are getting away from it. I’m curious if that has always been a Baptist thing or if it’s a hold over from Prohibition.
    I have always heard about Baptists being against Dancing as well. While there definitely were never any dances held at or by the church, no kids were ever encouraged to not attend school dances, or proms.

    • J.R. Miller

      Hi, I grew up in the United Methodist church and based on my experience there is no one way this topic is approached. There are some Methodist churches who would use wine and others who would refuse and scriptures. I can also say from my experience with Baptist on the West Coast, that while most would not approve of using wine there are some that would use it and I have no problem with it. Not all Baptists view alcohol as sinful, but even those that approve of its use in moderation may not feel comfortable using wine for communion. In many cases it has to do with communion being open to families with children and not wanting kids to be served alcohol.

      • Keith Mcilwain

        We are only permitted to use “the unfermented juice of the grape” in the sacrament according to church law. The history is because of our desire to be gracious to those who abuse or have abused alcohol.

        • J.R. Miller

          Thanks for that info @keithmcilwain:disqus. I was not aware it was part of UMC law.

    • Evan

      United Methodists also use grape juice in communion, and if I remember correctly it was to keep people that struggle with alcohol (ie recovering alcoholics) from the temptation, although John Wesley was known to have an occasional beer.

  • jozie

    coming from the camp of FSB, i can say with all certainty that most baptist i’ve met have been mean spirited, highly judgmental and possessing little if any compassion. that is not to say all are like this and it’s certainly not an attack. i’m simply making an examination of my personal experiences. if we are going to get into the habit of oppressing people then we should also get into the habit of frequent examination of self. we are all guilty of something…which now brings me to my point about UMC. the beautiful thing that draws me to this group is it’s love for humanity. in comparison, it would appear over-all that this clergy pours out their love into the body, whereas baptist clergy/pastors/leaders encourage their body to service and practice supporting their leaders. iow, bow down… for me personally, there is much wrong with this. i’m really very sick and tired of the body servicing the baptist leaders…Jesus was given care and nurturing from his followers and disciples. they were given food water shelter …but they were not put up in luxury houses and supported in terms of what we today call supporting our leaders. when i see the body struggling financially and being brought to guilt, it breaks my heart. i’ve watched this occur over and over thru the years and unless one is a member of this body, they will reap no rewards. however, for the leaders it a no holds bar…we do not know what goes on behind the doors of the offerings, we can only assume they are trustworthy to handle the money in a discerning fashion…but more times then not, this has not been the case. they will always pass around the plate but hardly do you ever see them pass around the communion, strikingly so as money may be the priority here. just one example of how ‘we are all guilty”…i’ve never seen the collection being dispersed among the needy…i mean isn’t that what it was meant for…so then this brings us to the controversy of homosexuality…which i am most uncomfortable with..but they are people too….i try to imagine how i would feel if i was a homosexual? would Jesus talk to me? did he die for me too? why am i this way? i just wonder how we can love them and explain to them that their veil has yet to be lifted…i mean it must be frustrating to be so different and rejected…just like a person who suffers from mental illness…the church rejects these rejects…how do i know…bc i suffer from depression and no one really wants to bring this topic up…it’s not talked about…also i am divorced, another characteristic of a person who is rejected…another is, I’m disabled…and lastly, I have a serious illness..I’ve been told had i not sinned so much i wouldn’t be suffering and God would not be punishing me…how sad it is to be told you are sick bc your a sinner! i thought we are are sinners, saved by grace…still, i cannot get past homosexuality within the church…but then how can you object to a homosexual when one is a divorced remarried living in adultery….i will never be able to feel comfortable in a church who caters to an practicing homosexual, but i’m okay with welcoming them in the hopes they will change…but what does that say to a divorced remarried practicing adulterer/adulteress… boils down to this…we are all sinners!! desperately in need of a savior!! any loving suggestions are certainly welcomed….peace be with you!

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