What do United Methodists Believe?
That’s not an easy question, since United Methodists don’t agree on all aspects of doctrine. The distinguishing marks of a United Methodist are probably best illustrated by a commitment to the basics of Christianity and by a Christian life-style – rather than by assenting to particular scheme of beliefs.
In general, United Methodists agree on Major Aspects of theology. Sources for their faith include …
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 …
conviction that God has mercy and love for all people,
belief in a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
faith in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ,
celebration of the sacraments.
In these and many other ways, Methodism affirms, within “the communion of saints,” a oneness in Christ.
Guidelines for Belief
United Methodists also share four main guidelines for belief. These guidelines help us understand our faith, and include:
They are interdependent and allow for variety in theology.
United Methodists Believe in …
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.
Human Dignity – 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.
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.
Prevenient Grace – This is the Grace, the divine love, that “runs ahead” of our conscious impulses and leads our hearts toward faith.
Tolerance – 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.
The Sacraments – Like most other Protestants, United Methodists recognize only those sacraments in which Jesus Christ Himself participated – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A Sacrament is something consecrated or holy. Traditionally, a Christian ordinance manifesting an inward, spiritual grace by an outward, visible sign or symbol.
Baptism – For United Methodists, baptism is the sacrament of initiation that joins us with the church and with Christians everywhere. It’s a symbol of new life and a promise of God’s saving love … and 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.
The Lord’s Supper – The Lord’s Supper 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.
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. Learn more about the United Methodist Social Creed and positions on issues that affect us all.
In Summary …
Being a United Methodist means … Involvement in prayer, worship and sacraments, in study of scriptures, & in Christian action, giving and discipline. Sharing the work of the local church, ecumenical efforts, & teaching Christ’s truth. Knowing our commitment to God and to people, our purpose in God’s world, & God’s concern with our lives.
Much of the materials presented above are from “About Being United Methodist”, Channing L. Bete Co, Inc. South Deerfield, MA, 01373 © 1975.
What is a United Methodist?
In the words of John Wesley “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.”