Who we are
What We Believe: a Brief Introduction
With Christians of other communions we confess belief in the triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This confession embraces the biblical witness to God’s activity in creation, encompasses God’s gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, and anticipates the consummation of God’s reign. The created order is designed for the well-being of all creatures and as the place of human dwelling in covenant with God. As sinful creatures, however, we have broken that covenant, becoming estranged from God, and wreaked havoc throughout the natural order. We stand in need of redemption.
- We hold in common with all Christians a faith in the mystery of salvation in and through Jesus Christ.
- We share the Christian belief that God’s redemptive love is realized in human life by the activity of the Holy Spirit, both in personal experience and in the community of believers.
- We understand ourselves to be part of Christ’s universal church when by praise and worship, preaching and teaching, and service in the world, we become agents of Christ.
- With other Christians we recognize that the reign of God is both a present and a future reality.
- We share with many Christian communions a recognition of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith, the confession that our justification (state of acceptance before God) as sinners is by grace through faith, and the sober realization that the church is in need of continual reformation and renewal.
Our Distinctiveness as United Methodists
Our roots are in the work of the Rev. John Wesley. His theology and organization stems from the reformation movement in the church during his time. The underlying energy of the Wesleyan theological heritage stems from an emphasis upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.
The task of the early Methodist movement was not to reformulate the doctrine of the Church of the time (he was a part of the Anglican Church of England. The tasks were to call people to experience the justifying (acceptance of God’s redeeming love) and sanctifying (growing in love of God and neighbor) grace of God and encourage people to grow in the knowledge and love of God through the personal and corporate disciplines of the Christian life. Those disciplines included belief in Christ, regular participation in the church (through worship and small accountability groups) as the body of Christ, reading and adherence to the Holy Scripture, participation in care for God’s people through mission and outreach. The Wesleyan emphasis upon the Christian life-faith and love put into practice-has been the hallmark of those traditions now incorporated into the United Methodist Church.
- Grace pervades our understanding of Christian faith and life. By grace we mean the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit. While the grace of God is undivided, it preceded salvation as “Prevenient grace,” continues in “justify8ing grace,” and is brought to fruition in “sanctifying grace.”
- We assert that God’s grace is manifest in all creation even though suffering, violence, and evil are everywhere present. The goodness of creation is fulfilled in human beings, who are called to covenant partnership with God. God has endowed us with dignity and freedom and has summoned us to responsibility for our lives and the life of the world.
- In God’s self-revelation, Jesus Christ, we see the splendor of our true humanity. Even our sin, with its destructive consequences for all creation, does not alter God’s intention for us-holiness and happiness of heart. Nor does it diminish our accountability for the way we live.
- Despite our brokenness, we remain creatures brought into being by a just and merciful God. The restoration of God’s image in our lives requires divine grace to renew our fallen nature.
- Faith and Good works. We see God’s grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. God’s grace call forth human response and discipline.
- Mission and Service. We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world.
- Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
- Nurture and Mission of the Church. We emphasize the nurturing and serving function of Christian fellowship in the Church. The personal experience of faith is nourished by the worshipping community.
- For Wesley there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The communal forks of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.
(Excerpted from Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task; The 2008 Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church.)