Although Methodists, Protestants and Catholics have derived their religious beliefs and practices from the Catholic Church and are all Christians of faith, the three “wings” have developed in time apart from one another. The three religious groups have several things in common, but they also differ in organization, religious values and beliefs, the approval or rejection of several moral and social issues and the religious practices they observe.
The highest authority of the Catholic Church is the bishop of Rome, as of 2011 Pope Benedict XVI elected in 2005. The Baptist movement began with English separatists who espoused baptism for believers only, rejected infant baptism and stated salvation was by faith alone. Baptists are organized in independent congregations which elect their own pastors. Methodism was founded by John and Charles Wesley as an offshoot of the Anglican Church. The term "Methodist" refers to the followers methodical study of scriptures, their holy living and fervent worship. Today, some Methodist churches have their pastors assigned by bishops; others reject them and build their own church organizational system.
The Catholic Church believes in Apostolic Succession — the passing of authority from Jesus to the Apostle Peter down to the present day Pope. They respect seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick.
Methodists and Baptists observe only two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Baptists are the only one of the three that believe baptism must be by immersion in water — the other two accept sprinkling. Unlike Catholics, Methodists and Baptists don’t recognize the apostolic succession. Methodists are the only one of the three to allow ordination of women.
All three believe in one God, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the virgin birth, the Holy Trinity, a heaven and a hell and the Second Coming.
Catholics oppose social practices of same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce, capital punishment and genetic research applications. They believe in saints and purgatory.
Methodist churches have no official position; some approve of abortion and support gay marriage, others do not. Baptist churches generally oppose abortion, gay marriage, divorce and genetic research.
Catholics observe the practice of transubstantiation in communion — the bread and wine become body and blood of Christ. They also practice baptism and they confess to a priest that can forgive people’s sins by the authority given to him by the Church.
Methodists and Baptists believe that Jesus has the only power to forgive sins. Methodists baptize and give communion to people of all ages. Baptists baptize only confessed youth and adults and give communion only to baptized church members.
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images