I have a friend whose husband is a United Methodist minister. She is Catholic. They attend services at one another’s churches weekly and seem to have a deep respect for one another. The other day my friend said it’s very hurtful for a person (I believe she was thinking of her husband) to not be able to receive Eucharist at Mass. She said he believes it is the essence of God in both churches. I have always thought that was one of the main beliefs that separated Catholics from Protestants…that Protestants believe Eucharist is a symbol of Christ, whereas Catholics know it IS Christ. Thanks for your any information you share.
What Protestants believe depends upon the particular Protestant denomination. There appears to be varying degrees of belief in a presence of Christ in communion. The closest to Catholicism would be High Anglicanism which essentially believes the same as Catholicism. A close second would be Lutheranism which basically believes in consubstantiation (though that term does not fully define their beliefs). Other denominations believe in a kind of spiritual presence of Christ but not a true presence as Catholics, Anglicans or Lutherans would understand it.
According to the United Methodist’s Church’s website:
The bread and wine represent the living presence of Christ among us—though we do not claim, as some denominations do, that they become Christ’s body and blood.
In their website’s questions and answers about communion they state:
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?
No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
Your friend’s husband may believe that there is some kind of spiritual presence of Christ, but as Catholics we believe it is a true and real presence. As Catholics we believe the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is as real as the presence of your friend and her husband standing next to each other.
The idea of adoration of the Eucharist is idolatry without the Real Presence. Without the Real Presence we are genuflecting to a piece of bread. I would doubt your friend’s Methodist minister husband would think genuflecting to and worship of the Eucharist to be valid.
The lack of inter-communion is not a punishment or an exclusion of other Christians, it is simply a recognition of the fact that we are not in true communion with one another. Faith is about truth, not “feeling” included. When the day comes that Christians are once again all one, the feeling of oneness will not only be present but it will also be true!