Basics of our Faith
As United Methodists, we have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church’s life and witness. To fulfill this obligation, we reflect critically on our biblical and theological inheritance, striving to express faithfully the witness we make in our own time.
Our Christian Roots: The Holy Trinity
When we say the Apostles' Creed, we join with millions of Christians through the ages in an understanding of God as a Trinity—three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. God became human in Jesus of Nazareth; and his life, death and resurrection demonstrates God's redeeming love. The Holy Spirit is God's present activity in our midst. When we sense God's leading, God's challenge, or God's support or comfort, it's the Holy Spirit at work.
Our Christian Roots: Human Beings, The Church, The Bible
Genesis 1:27 asserts that human beings been made in the image of the Creator. Like God we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create. The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today. We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
Our Wesleyan Distinctiveness
Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.
The distinctive shape of our theological heritage can be seen not only in this emphasis on Christian living, but also in Wesley’s distinctive understanding of God’s saving grace. Although Wesley shared with many other Christians a belief in salvation by grace, he combined them in a powerful way to create distinctive emphases for living the full Christian life.
Our Wesleyan View of Grace
Our view of God's grace is that it is a threefold process that works in us throughout our lives.
Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift — a gift that is always available, but that can be refused.
God’s grace stirs up within us a desire to know God and empowers us to respond to God’s invitation to be in relationship with God. God’s grace enables us to discern differences between good and evil and makes it possible for us to choose good….
God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. We do not have to beg and plead for God’s love and grace. God actively seeks us!
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). And in his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul wrote: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
These verses demonstrate the justifying grace of God. They point to reconciliation, pardon, and restoration. Through the work of God in Christ our sins are forgiven, and our relationship with God is restored. According to John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, the image of God — which has been distorted by sin — is renewed within us through Christ’s death.
Again, this dimension of God’s grace is a gift. God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith.
Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness.
Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived. As we pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, we deepen our knowledge of and love for God. As we respond with compassion to human need and work for justice in our communities, we strengthen our capacity to love neighbor. Our inner thoughts and motives, as well as our outer actions and behavior, are aligned with God’s will and testify to our union with God.
We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin.
With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God's love and forgiveness of our sins.
Persons of any age can be baptized.
We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.
The Lord's Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist)
The Lord's Supper is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.
The Lord's Supper recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God's family.
By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ's sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry.
We practice "open communion," welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.