What Do United Methodist Christians Believe?
United Methodist Christians believe in Jesus Christ.
United Methodists are a people who have trusted in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. We believe people can have a dynamic, personal and eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. In and through Jesus Christ we find abundant life in this life and in eternity. We profess the Christian faith as contained in the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, we believe that God desires for us to live our lives in harmony with all people and in a covenantal relationship with other Christians. Together United Methodists share a rich theological heritage and vow to uphold our church with our prayers, presence, gifts and service.
United Methodist Christians believe the world is our parish.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement traveled throughout the British Isles telling the good news story of the gospel. He believed Christ’s mandate to “make disciples of all nations” meant that the entire world was his mission field and his concern. Thus, his outreach was not limited by geographical, racial, or economic boundaries. Today, in the power of the Holy Spirit United Methodists continue to follow Wesley’s lead by proclaiming the story of God’s reconciliation of the world through Christ.
United Methodist Christians believe in a connectional church.
Affirming our historic tenet that “the world is our parish,” United Methodists are bound in faith and tradition with other Methodist Christians around the world. Indeed, we are connected in a governing and missional system that finds great strength in our unified diversity. At the end of 2005 approximately 11.4 million people about the planet called themselves United Methodists. There were 3.2 million United Methodists in Africa, 69,000 United Methodists in Europe, 201,309 United Methodists in Southeast Asia, and 8 million in the United States.
United Methodist Christians believe in an ecumenical faith.
United Methodists are inclusive Christians. We claim no exclusive corner on God’s salvation, saying rather with John Wesley: “Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship.” For generations Methodists have cooperated with other church groups to spread the gospel, care for those in need, alleviate injustice, and foster peace.
United Methodist Christians believe in a diverse community of faith.
The United Methodist Church is a faith community enriched by the diverse heritage of its people. We are composed of many histories, cultures, races, and nationalities. Though many, we are one in Christ. When a person unites with a local United Methodist Church, he or she professes his or faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. The Book of Discipline (The book that outlines the basic principles of the United Methodist Church) states: “They covenant together with God and with the members of the local church to keep the vows which are part of the order of confirmation and reception into the church.”
In addition, a United Methodist Christian is not just a member of a local congregation. “A member of any local United Methodist Church,” says The Book of Discipline, “is a member of the total United Methodist connection.” All persons are welcome in the United Methodist Church without regard to national origin, race or status. As people of God, all may take part in worship, participate in church programs and take the vows of membership.
United Methodist Christians believe in an involved faith.
For more than 200 years, The United Methodist Church has demonstrated concern for the needs of the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the aging, the imprisoned, and the oppressed. That concern is reflected in the variety of services which have historic ties to the Methodist denomination – hospitals, homes for older persons and services to children and youth. Involvement in the struggles of women and of ethnic minority persons to attain full stature in the church, in our economy and in our society is also a part of our history.
United Methodist Christians believe in a Biblically-oriented faith.
United Methodists trust free inquiry in matters of Christian doctrine. We are guided by four sources that encourage variety in United Methodist theologizing. These sources are scripture, tradition, experience and reason. Of paramount significance is scripture. The Bible, the record of the covenant between God and humanity, is the well from which our faith flows.
United Methodist Christians believe in a methodical faith –
we endeavor to “practice what we preach.”
As evidenced by our very name, United Methodists have always emphasized the systematic and the practical. However much we value spontaneity and insight, we are characterized by a practical and structured style. Both approaches in witnessing to the faith exist in United Methodism.
United Methodist Christians believe in an evangelical faith.
Winning people to Christ and to the Christian way of life always has been at the heart of United Methodism. Our founders, men and women alike, were master evangelists. We wholeheartedly believe that God desires a genuine relationship with every human being on the planet. God seeks relationship with all. Thus, in word and deed we are compelled to share the good news of God’s great love in Jesus Christ with all people.
United Methodist Christians believe in a representative church.
Methodism took form as an organized church in the United States during the Revolutionary War period. It is not coincidental that our structures parallel those of the U.S. government. Authority in the church is shared by executive, legislative, and judicial branches; representative bodies function at local, regional and church wide levels.
The highest legislative body (the only authority that can speak for the entire church) is the General Conference. It is an assembly of up to 1,000 delegates, equally divided between clergy and laity, that meets once every four years. These voting delegates are chosen by regional units (Annual Conferences) throughout the United States and 15 other nations. Non-voting, ecumenical representatives come from affiliated churches in 25 other countries.
More information about the United Methodist Church can be viewed at www.umc.org.