Roman Catholic Practices in United Methodist Worship?

I recently received the following question via email from a member at Resurrection.

I was brought up my whole life roman catholic and I have asked my friends who I have attended resurrection with and they cannot answer maybe you can help me. Why in our church do we not make the sign of the cross after communion or after prayer? being brought up catholic you have the rituals that are imbedded in your head to do and not ask why. I was just curious. Also Do the United methodist believe in saying the rosary?

And here is how I responded:

Thanks for the email, these are great questions.  My best answer to your questions would be in reference to the Protestant Reformation.  In the early 1500’s Martin Luther became quite concerned about what he perceived to be great corruption within the Catholic Church.  Through a process of trying to reform the church he was ultimately kicked out and a new form of Christianity (Protestant) was born (please forgive this gross oversimplification).  In that process of reforming, many traditions that had been observed ceased to be observed.  I would suspect that genuflecting was one of those and that praying the rosary was another.  Neither are typically practiced in protestant (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian) churches today. 

 That said, I know of many members at Resurrection (and in other United Methodist Churches that I have served) who grew up Catholic and continue to find great meaning in both of those rituals (as well as in praying the Hail Mary).  It is not uncommon for me to see people cross themselves after receiving communion or in conclusion to a prayer at Resurrection and this is perfectly acceptable.  If crossing yourself, praying the rosary, or praying the Hail Mary are meaningful aspects of your connection with God, they are welcomed in United Methodist Churches, though they’re not a historical part of our tradition.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything that might have been helpful to include?  What would you add?  How would you answer the question differently?




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4 responses to “Roman Catholic Practices in United Methodist Worship?

  1. We have a large number of people with a catholic background at COH. Several of them make the sign of the cross when taking communion. While that isn’t part of my own tradition, I’m grateful that we have created an environment where people feel comfortable doing this.

  2. One of the reasons I chose to become a member of Church of the Resurrection was the respect its’ leadership has for all denominations of Christianity. Being raised Baptist, I was a little uncomfortable with infant baptism at first. Now I would feel the service was missing something without this covenant between the church and newborn children. However, when I was in Disciples class, I was err…I like to say very open with my opinions…, but one member of the group suggested in a kind, “Methodist” tone that it was “obvious that I was raised Baptist.” I took the hint and have tried to be less abrasive in my tone. Still, I feel that being candid with others has many advantages: people do not have to guess where you stand; you quickly get to the bottom of issues; you open yourself to correction. My point is that churches which are open to practices that are not necessarily a part of their own doctrine are enriched and renewed by the background faiths of its’ new members. Through Resurrection I have come to understand and love a diversity of perspectives that I was closed off from in my youth. If only Christians everywhere would embrace one another’s expressions of faith, we might rise above academic arguments and become a healthy, active Body for Christ.

  3. Jeff – I think that you have a great response. You addressed more history than I might have addressed, but I think that this is good as it helps put the answer in context. You might have made a connection with Wesley’s means of grace as something that could be compared from Methodist history.

  4. Chuck Russell

    Methodism, of course, flowed out of the English Reformation, rather than the Continental Reformation – meaning that it held to much more of the tradition than did the denominations formed from the CR. For example our understanding of Grace is somewhere in between (More precisely a both and ) the Catholic and Protestant understandings. Likewise our traditional liturgy is in line with the Catholic liturgy, and we have a high view of the sacraments with only clergy being allowed to administer them.

    On the flip side, I am not sure I can go with you on the Hail Mary. I do think there are correctives we protestants offer that are important, and the challenge to the near deification of Mary is certainly an important corrective. Our doctrinal standards (The Creedal Confessions of Methodism) actually specifically deny certain Roman Catholic doctrinal positions such, Including Purgatory, and there is much within the doctrinal standards when understood in context, that are implicit criticisms of perceived Catholic error.

    So basically I’m saying we are more Catholic like than our fellow protestants, but we definitely are distinct.

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