In the words of John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism, “A Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength.”
John Wesley was an ordained Anglican priest. At a prayer meeting in London on Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738, he received the new inspiration which led him to become the first teacher of Methodism, “I felt my heart strangely warmed”, he said. “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given one that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Today, John Wesley’s life and teaching still carry a special meaning to United Methodists:
- GOAL – being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ
- EXAMPLE – sharing God through missions
- CONCERN – with social problems
- EMPHASIS – on ecumenism
- BELIEF – in the grace and forgiveness of God’s love.
WHAT IS THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
The UMC traces its history from the 1st Century to the present time. After his experience in 1738, Wesley set out with his brother Charles to form societies of “Methodists”, so called because the members followed a daily routine of religious observances and social work. Wesley never intended to break from the Church of England, and died an Anglican priest.
Early christian Methodists, like all christian denominations, traces its roots back to the early christian church and to the teachings of Christ, Paul, Augustine, Francis and others.
In America, itinerant preachers spread the gospel and Wesley’s teaching to the settlers. After the Reformation, a separate church was formed…The Methodist Episcopal Church. Other Wesleyan denominations were also formed.
In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church joined to form the United Methodist Church, which is this country’s second largest Protestant denomination.
WHAT DO UNITED METHODIST BELIEVE?
This is not an easy question since United Methodists don’t all agree on all aspects of doctrine. The distinguishing marks of United Methodists are probably best illustrated by a commitment to the basics of Christianity and by a Christian life style, rather than be assenting to a particular scheme of beliefs.
In general, United Methodists agree on MAJOR ASPECTS of Theology. Sources for our faith include:
- The Bible
- Articles of Religion
- Confession of Faith
- The United Methodist Book of Discipline
- Theologians and Educators
- John Wesley’s writings
United Methodists share a common heritage with other Christians.
- A conviction that God has mercy and love for all people
- A belief in a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- A faith in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ
- Celebration of the sacraments
In these, and many other ways, United Methodists affirm within “The communion of Saints” a oneness in Christ.
United Methodists also share four main guidelines for belief. These guidelines help them, and they are:
- The Scripture
- Christian Tradition
- Your Christian experience
- Your own reasoning
They are interdependent, and allow for variety in theology.
PRIMACY OF GRACE
Grace is God’s loving action in human existence through the Holy Spirit. It is the spiritual climate and environment surrounding all human life.
God endows each person with dignity and moral responsibility. Humanity and its destiny are chief among God’s purposes. The full splendor of true humanity is seen in Jesus Christ, as God’s personal revelation.
CONVERSION AND NEW BIRTH
Change in the human heart can, and does occur–through grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christian experience may be expressed in many different thought forms and life-styles.
This is the grace — the divine love – that “runs ahead” of our conscious impulses and leads our hearts toward faith.
FAITH AND GOOD WORKS
They belong together. Personal salvation leads to involvement in Christian Mission in the world. Personal religion and Christian social action are mutually reinforcing.
While United Methodism retains much from its several heritages, it allows a variety of “special interest” theologies. It acknowledges the virtues of different points of view even within the same community of believers.
ONLY TWO SACRAMENTS
Like most other Protestants, United Methodists recognize only those sacraments in which Jesus Christ Himself participated– Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.
For United Methodists, baptism is the sacrament of invitation that joins us with the church and with Christians everywhere. Its a symbol of new life and a promise of God’s saving love. It is a sign of God’s forgiveness for our sins. Both infants and adults can be baptized. A person receives the sacrament only once in his or her life. Water is the special symbol of baptism. United Methodists are baptized by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Lord’s Supper (Communion) is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ. By sharing this meal, United Methodists give thanks for Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. The Lord’s Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family.
VISION OF LIFE
United Methodists share a “vision of life” for all humanity.
THE MATURING COMMUNITY
The role of the family is to nurture people in mutual love, respect and fidelity.
THE ECONOMIC COMMUNITY
United Methodists believe in the equitable sharing of the worlds wealth.
THE WORLD COMMUNITY
God’s world is one world. United Methodists believe war to be incompatible with the teachings and example of Jesus.
THE NATURAL WORLD
Human beings are stewards of the earth and must protect its natural resources.
THE SOCIAL COMMUNITY
United Methodists work toward a society where each person’s value is recognized, maintained and strengthened.
THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY
The role of government is to protect freedom, and guarantee the rights of people to adequate food, clothing, education, etc.
For United Methodists, social consciousness has always gone hand in hand with faith. Early Methodists opposed slavery, liquor traffic, gambling, industrial exploitation and war.
Today, United Methodists seek to follow a social creed that appears in The Methodist Book of Discipline, 1984 edition.
THE UNITED METHODIST SOCIAL CREED
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive, for ourselves and others, the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and those with handicapping conditions; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the good of themselves and others, and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to freedom for all peoples, and to the rule of justice and law among nations. We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs, and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Distinguishing Methodism from other denominations is its organization for ministry at several levels that maintain “connectional” links with one another. Both clergy and laity are elected to serve on the governing bodies of the church. Methodism is similar to American democratic government with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch ••. The Bishops (executive) are elected for life from the ranks of the ministry. They function as both spiritual and administrative leaders for their respective areas, and participate in governing the whole church organization.
Conferences (legislative) are made up of both clergy and laity.
- The General Conference is the primary law making body.
- There are five Jurisdictional Conferences which elect bishops and direct church programs.
- The Annual Conference is technically the basic unit of the church.
- The District Conference is organized within the Annual Conference.
- The Charge Conference is the governing body of a local pastoral unit.
This is sometimes called a “church conference”.
The Judicial Council (Judicial) has nine lay and clergy members. It is the court of ultimate appeal in the church. The authority and basis of all of its decisions is the Book of Discipline.
THE LOCAL CHURCH
United Methodists think of the local church as the visible extension of Christ in the world today. Ordained and lay ministers lead the local congregation, although every United Methodist is called to minister to others. The local church’s Council on Ministries recommends church programs to the Administrative Board and sets up committees to direct and implement them. Areas of local church work include:
- Christian unity
- Christian education
- Church and Society
- Higher Education
BEING A UNITED METHODIST MEANS MANY THINGS TO MANY PEOPLE
It means involvement in prayer, worship and the sacraments, in study of the scriptures, in Christian action, giving and discipline. It means sharing in the work of the local church, ecumenical efforts, and teaching Christ’s truth. It means knowing our commitment to God and to people. It means knowing our purpose in God’s world, and God’s concern with our lives.
When we join the United Methodist Church we are asked:
“Do you here, in the presence of God and of His congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that you make, or that was made in your name, at your baptism?”
(Answer: “I do”)
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and pledge your allegiance to His Kingdom?”
(Answer: “I do”)
“Do you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?”
(Answer: “I do”)
“Do you promise, according to the grace (God’s love) given to you, to live a Christian life and always remain a faithful member of Christ’s Holy Church?”
(Answer: “I do”)
“Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church, and uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts and your service?”
(Answer: “I will.”)
WELCOME TO THE METHODIST CHURCH!