Methodists and the Real Presence

I grew up in the Methodist church, and my parents are Methodist to this day. However, I’m having a hard time getting a clear answer on whether all Methodists must believe in the real presence in the elements of the Lord’s Supper.

This Holy Mystery, which I own, seems to say, “Yes”, but actual Methodists I know hold to a purely symbolic interpretation.

Of course, we Catholics have folks in our parishes that don’t believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist, but the rest of us are clear that they are in error.

Do orthodox Methodists feel the same way about those who deny the real presence, or are Methodists free to believe whatever they want?

I was raised Methodist and the teaching in my church was… Communion is a memorial observance of the last supper… The term “In Remembrance of Me” is taken to mean when you eat bread and drink wine (grape juice) remember Jesus and his sacrifice… >> It was taken to mean that since wine and bread were part of each meal in the day of Jesus, you are to remember Him at each meal.

To think that the bread and wine were actually the Body and Blood of Jesus was cannibalism…

As I said, this is what our pastor taught us youth in 1963.
I was dating a Catholic girl then and we had some very heated discussions… While I didn’t marry her, she gave me insight to the truth that aided my conversion.

I also came from the Methodist church. The answer to your question is - no they do not believe in the real presence. My understanding and experience is the Methodist belief is that Jesus is spiritually present and essentially it is symbolic since it is not real to them.

But like many protestant denominations, I’m sure you could get a difference of opinions if you went from say United Methodist to Methodist or to a Southern Methodist church! :slight_smile:

A better answer to the question is that there is not one dogmatically binding position, and that among Methodists, there is a wide variety of beliefs, ranging from Zwinglian memorial meal, to Calvinist spiritual presence, to transubstantiation.

I can believe the yellow coins in my pocket are real gold all I want but that does not make it true.
The real presence requires a validly ordained priesthood which is not present in the Methodist Communion. Anglicanism. Lutheranism or any Protestant denomination.

So you are saying Christ is not present in the Eucharist?

It used to be believed by Methodists but times have changed.

I was raised Methodist back in the 50’s and we were taught that Jesus was truly present in the Sacrament. Our church had an altar rail and everyone went up and kneeled for communion. We moved a lot and every Methodist church we attended in my childhood was this way.

I’ve read the “This Holy Mystery”. It seems to say “yes”, but it is rather vague and could certainly be interpreted as “no” also.

And the point was made that the True presence of Christ requires apostolic succession, which the Methodists don’t have. So from the Catholic view of things it really doesn’t matter what the Methodists believe - belief and reality are not always the same.

No, he is saying that even if a protestant church division actually believes the wine and bread has been transubstantiated in to the Body and Blood of Christ, that it is not true because a validly ordained priest has not confected the sacrament. That being said, I am sure the Christ is present spiritually in other churches communion ceremonies. He said, where two or more are gathered in my name . . .

It is more than a semantic difference however. A priest is required for the Real Presence according to our belief substantiated by the scriptures.

So if a Roman Catholic takes holy Communion in a Lutheran church, they are only receiving a “spiritual” Christ?

Yes, but is probably also committing a sin. The other meaning of communion is subscribing to the beliefs of the religion - being in communion with them. A Catholic is not really to do that. They should definitely be respectful of other worshipers at that time, but cannot participate in communion.

By the way, having attended a young friend’s Confirmation in a Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod I think) I was struck by how much their liturgy is like ours. Presbyterian also. Sorry, I have not had much contact with Methodist since I attended the funeral of a classmate when I was a child. (That was back in prehistory!) For me, these churches all have a spirituality and a Christ centeredness. They just do not have the fullness I experience in the Catholic Church.

Is the answer in the “Book of Discipline 2012” ? If someone can navigate this book online better than I can…
I did read it, can’t find it now, and noticed that the wording was extraordinarily similar, if not exactly the same as the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer…

I’m hoping this isn’t off topic, but I have a quick question. Why is “spiritual” often modified by “only” in this context? It seems like people are implying that the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised to send us in John’s Last Supper discourse, is a lesser Person than Christ. Clarification, please? What is meant by a “spiritual” Christ, if the speaker is not referring to the Holy Spirit?

The Wesley’s themselves seemed to have some concept of Real Presence and Sacrifice. They did not however subscribe to Transubstantiation and also rejected Zwinglian doctrine. One only has to look at their many hymns. Here are a few verses:


We need not now go up to Heaven,
To bring the long sought Savior down;
Thou art to all already given,
Thou dost ev’n now Thy banquet crown:
To every faithful soul appear,
And show Thy real presence here!

His presence makes the feast;
Now let our spirits feel
Thy glory not to be expressed,
The joy unspeakable.

He bids us drink and eat
Imperishable food;
He gives his flesh to be our meat,
And bids us drink his blood.


With solemn faith we offer up,
And spread before Thy glorious eyes
That only ground of all our hope,
That precious bleeding Sacrifice,
Which brings Thy grace on sinners down,
And perfects all our souls in one.

To Thee His passion we present,
Who for our ransom dies;
We reach by this great instrument
Th’ eternal sacrifice.
The Lamb His Father now surveys,
As on this altar slain,
Still bleeding and imploring grace
For every soul of man.

Ok, perhaps the OP should provide a “better” question by clarifying WHICH Methodist denomination they are asking about? :wink: I’ll stick my simple answer to the general question …“no they do not”.

I suppose if we really wanted to know we could just ask a former or current Methodist. :thumbsup:

I was primarily interested in United Methodists.

Based on being a former Methodist, as well as having earned both two graduate theological degrees at Duke Divinity School, which is a Methodist theological school, I can assure you that Methodist beliefs are all over the place. The UMC official position seems to be that the presence of Christ is merely spiritual, as is explained on the page linked below. However, this has no dogmatically binding force. You can find United Methodists whose beliefs concerning communion are basically Zwinglian (mere memorial meal); there are those who beliefs are essentially Calvinist (Christ is spirtually present in the elements); others believe that the true body and blood of Christ are present, but that the substance of bread and wine remain (sacramental union, I suppose); finally, there are some who actually believe in transubstantiation. If I had to guess, based on my experience, I would say that the most commonly held position is that of a spiritual presence, with the position of transubstantiation probably being the least commonly held position.

Thanks for posting the document. It was on my agenda but had to step away from the computer. Trust me, I have read it. I wouldn’t have answered the orignal question the way I answered it if… 1. I hadn’t read it, 2. Wasn’t a former United Methodist myself who had received the United Methodist “spiritual” communion and 3. Had discussions with my former UMC Pastor on the subject. I’m not a Theologian, I’m a dual science/ engineering graduate who works in Forensics, and assume many people aren’t Theologians so I try to keep answers the same way I can understand them as it relates to this stuff. I apologize if my original answer missed the mark and was too simple. :o

Again, I mentioned a few of the different Methodist denominations having different opinions or whatever you call it, as I have experienced them first hand in discussions in the past. One of the many reasons I am not Methodist/ Protestant …I found the Truth and The Church does not change as it is biblical. Protestants decide for themselves what’s right and they maybe right in one instance, but disconnected with the truth in another.

there are some who actually believe in transubstantiation. If I had to guess, based on my experience, I would say that the most commonly held position is that of a spiritual presence, with the position of transubstantiation probably being the least commonly held position.…334393&notoc=1

More detail from the Book of Discipline:

Article XVIII, The Articles of Religion, The Book of Discipline: "The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. **"Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Scripture, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthrows the nature of a sacrament, and has given occasion to many superstitions. **"The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith. “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped.”

If I understand some of you correctly, the Methodist church does not state that a Methodist must believe one way or the other. However, after reading this, it seems to me to be saying that you dont have to believe one way or the other necessarily, but that it is dangerous to believe in transubstantiation. Am I completely misinterpreting this?

The Article is lifted from the Anglican XXIX Articles, showing the Methodist lineage. Which Anglican Articles are not normative for Anglicans in general, save, in a limited, technical sense, clergy of the Church of England, by a 450 year old act of Parliament. What import they might have for Methodists, I could not say.


How do Methodists view a non-baptized communing? Is Christ’s Body and Blood consumed?

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