Is Cremation Allowed? (The Fount Account)

One of the topics requested by members of the congregation a few weeks ago was, “Is cremation after death allowed by the Methodist church?” The short answer is, Yes.

But let me flesh that out a bit. The question stems from the Roman Catholic teaching that cremation is not allowed, however even the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) now allows cremation in certain circumstances. Originally, the RCC taught that cremation was not allowed, but in 1963 it lifted that prohibition. There was still confusion, so in 1983, it issued its revised Code of Canon Law, which stated “The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, it does not however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” If a family believes, for instance, that cremation is a symbol of the annihilation of the departed at death, then they are doing so erroneously and incorrectly.

For Methodists, however, there has never been a prohibition of cremation. We believe that in the resurrection, all bodies of the saints (and all believers are saints in our understanding) will be raised, even those bodies that have been destroyed by cremation, explosion, vaporization or in any other way. In fact, if you think about it, a whole body that is interred in the ground becomes completely destroyed over time. We believe that the power of God in resurrection can over-come any and all destructions of bodies. Therefore, we Methodists leave the decision up to families whether to bury or cremate their beloved’s remains.

What does the Bible say about cremation? In the Old Testament, if a body was burned, it often would have been a sign of disrespect for the person or a punishment for sin (Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; 21:9; Joshua 7:25). However, it appears cremation may have occurred with no intent to dishonor the dead after a plague or large massacre (Amos 6:9-10). In the New Testament, of course, Jesus was entombed (briefly!), but otherwise there is really no mention of burial methods and no proscription against cremation.

The norm through the years has been burial, but the trend nowadays is moving toward cremation. The Methodist Church does not oppose the use of cremation for believers.


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