To make followers of Jesus who love God, love others, and change the world.
Reaching and nurturing those who don't know Jesus.
The United Methodist Church is a Protestant movement and traces its roots back to John Wesley, an Anglican priest in the Church of England in the 1700s. John and his brother, Charles, intended to revitalize the Church of England by forming societies of “Methodists”– so-called because the members followed a daily routine of religious observance and social work. Methodism first spread to Ireland and then to America, where it officially became its denomination in 1784. Today United Methodist membership stands at nearly 10 million worldwide (more than 1 million are outside the United States).
Part of the mark of being a United Methodist is that we hold a wide range of theological beliefs. John Wesley said, “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” But, in general, we agree on the significant aspects of theology. For example, we believe in a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in God’s love and forgiveness of all people. We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. And we believe in celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
For United Methodists, social consciousness has always gone hand in hand with faith. We believe, with John Wesley, “that the world is our parish.” Hence, we support mission and justice work locally, regionally, and around the world. We cherish an ecumenical tradition and seek to work together with other Christian denominations and other religions. We believe in the dignity of each person and the practice of total democracy in our Church’s life.
John Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Therefore, United Methodists today follow four main guidelines that help us understand our faith.
Scripture, Tradition, Experience, & Reason:
Scripture – United Methodists share with other Christians the conviction that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine. Through Scripture, the living Christ meets us in the experience of redeeming grace. We are convinced that Jesus Christ is the living Word of God in our midst whom we trust in life and death.
Tradition – The Church’s story reflects the most basic sense of tradition, the continuing activity of God’s Spirit transforming human life. Tradition is the history of that continuing environment of grace in and by which all Christians live, God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ. As such, tradition transcends the story of particular traditions.
Experience – Some facets of human experience tax our theological understanding. Many of God’s people live in terror, hunger, loneliness, and degradation. Everyday experiences of birth and death, growth and life in the created world, and an awareness of broader social relations also belong to serious theological reflection. A new understanding of such experiences can inform our appropriation of scriptural truths and sharpen our appreciation of the good news of the kingdom of God.
Reason – Although we recognize that God’s revelation and our experiences of God’s grace continually surpass the scope of human language and reasoning, we also believe that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason, we read and interpret Scripture. By reason, we determine whether our Christian witness is clear. By reason, we ask questions of faith and seek to understand God’s action and will.
The Mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.
The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission – We make disciples as we:
proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome, and gather persons into the body of Christ;
– lead persons to commit their lives to God through Baptism by water and the Spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;
– nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
– send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and
– continue the mission of seeking, welcoming, and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
We confess belief in the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with Christians of other communions. 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, become estranged from God, wounded ourselves and one another, and wreaked havoc throughout the natural order. We need redemption.
A Triune God – There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead, there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
God the Father – We believe in the one true, holy, and living God, Eternal Spirit, Creator, Sovereign, and Preserver of all things visible and invisible. He is infinite in power, wisdom, justice, goodness, and love and rules with gracious regard for the well-being and salvation of men, to the glory of his name. We believe God reveals himself as the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct but inseparable, eternally one in essence and power.
God the Son – We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and indeed man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering Servant, he lived, suffered, and died on the cross. He was buried, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by him, all men will be judged.
God the Holy Spirit – We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from and is one in being with the Father and the Son. He convinces the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He leads men through faithful response to the gospel into the fellowship of the Church. He comforts, sustains, and empowers the faithful and guides them into all truth.
The Cross – Sin separated all persons from God. Jesus’ death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice, making possible our forgiveness and reconciliation with God. To repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ are the only requirements for receiving that salvation made possible by Jesus’ death.
Sin – Because of rebellion against God going back to Adam, all persons are inclined toward sin and selfishness. Sin means missing the mark of God’s righteousness; it means to be in rebellion against God, to disobey his laws. A person, by the strength of willpower alone, cannot forsake sin and please God. Only through an intervention of God’s grace can a person overcome sin and become part of the Kingdom of God.
Salvation – When a person repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, that person is forgiven of sin and receives the gift of eternal salvation (right relationship with God). The Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person, teaching and equipping them to be a disciple of Christ and confirming that the person is indeed a child of God.
Prevenient Grace – We acknowledge God’s prevenient grace, the divine love surrounding humanity, and precedes any of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our “first slight transient conviction” of having sinned against God. God’s grace also awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.
Justification and Assurance – We believe God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace with accepting and pardoning love. Wesleyan theology stresses that a decisive change in the human heart can and does occur under the prompting of grace and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In justification, we are, through faith, forgiven our sin and restored to God’s favor. This righting of relationships by God through Christ calls forth our faith and trust as we experience regeneration, by which we are made new creatures in Christ.
This process of justification and new birth is often referred to as conversion. Such a change may be sudden and dramatic or gradual and cumulative. It marks a new beginning, yet it is part of an ongoing process. Christian experience as personal transformation always expresses itself as faith working by love. Our Wesleyan theology also embraces the scriptural promise that we can expect to receive assurance of our present salvation as the Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Sanctification and Perfection – We believe sanctification is the work of God’s grace through the Word and the Spirit, by which those who have been born again are cleansed from sin in their thoughts, words, and acts and are enabled to live following God’s will and to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Faith and Good Works – We believe good works are the necessary fruits of faith and follow regeneration, but they do not have the virtue of removing our sins or averting divine judgment. We believe good works, pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, spring from true and living faith, for through and by them.
Service to the World – We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing. 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 world’s life.
Nurturing and Serving of the Church – We emphasize the nurturing and serving function of Christian fellowship in the Church. The worshiping community nourishes the personal experience of faith. For Wesley, there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The communal forms of confidence in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.
The outreach of the church springs from the working of the Spirit. As United Methodists, we respond to that by working through a connectional polity based upon mutual responsiveness and accountability. Connectional ties bind us together in faith and service in our global witness, enabling faith to become active in love and intensifying our desire for peace and justice in the world.
Baptism – Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized, but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. Therefore, the Baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church.
Communion – The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ. So likewise, the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. So the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.
Social Justice – The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. For example, early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, smuggling, and prisoners’ cruel treatment.
The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic Spirit. The Social Principles are a call to all members of The United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice.
Our 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 people with disabilities; to the improvement of the quality of life; and the rights and dignity of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and 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, the rule of justice and law among nations, and individual freedom for all people worldwide.
We believe in God’s Word’s present and final triumph in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.