Do United Methodists believe the communion elements actually become the body and blood of Christ?
"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 cup that they may make us one with Christ, 'one with each other, and one in service to all the world.'" (Communion and United Methodists brochure)
This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, the official statement on communion, says, "The Christian church has struggled through the centuries to understand just how Christ is present in the Eucharist. Arguments and divisions have occurred over the matter. The Wesleyan tradition affirms the reality of Christ's presence, although it does not claim to be able to explain it fully...
Article VI of The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, speaks...of the sacraments: "They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening, strengthening and confirming our faith in him. . . . Those who rightly, worthily and in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes."
United Methodists, along with other Christian traditions, have tried to provide clear and faithful interpretations of Christ's presence in the Holy Meal. Our tradition asserts the real, personal, living presence of Jesus Christ. For United Methodists, the Lord's Supper is anchored in the life of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, but is not primarily a remembrance or memorial. We do not embrace the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation, though we do believe that the elements are essential tangible means through which God works. We understand the divine presence in temporal and relational terms. In the Holy Meal of the church, the past, present, and future of the living Christ come together by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may receive and embody Jesus Christ as God's saving gift for the whole world."