Beliefs refer to our convictions – those things deep down that define us. Believing something is more than thinking certain things about it; believing is a matter of trusting so much that we lean into what we believe with every fiber of our being. So what do we, as United Methodist Christians, believe?
We believe what other Christians believe
With Christians of other traditions, we share a core of common beliefs:
We believe God is much more of a loving parent than a strict judge. We believe God loves us all unconditionally, simply because God is Love (1 John 4:8).
We Believe in Jesus Christ
We believe Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love on earth. We believe Jesus is the love of God with a human face. His life and teaching, death, and resurrection point us to the fullness of God’s love. Following him is an invitation to live lives defined by fully loving God and our neighbor, and the goal of being a Christian is to follow Jesus so closely that we become like him.
We Believe in the Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit is God’s enduring presence on the earth, leading and equipping to continue to grow in God’s love and share God’s love with the world around us.
About the Bible
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) and twenty-seven in the New Testament. These books were written over a one-thousand-year period in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), and Greek.
The books are of different lengths and different literary styles. In the Hebrew Bible we find legends, histories, liturgies for community worship, songs, proverbs, sermons, even a poetic drama (Job). In the New Testament are Gospels, a history, many letters, and an apocalypse (Revelation). Yet through it all the Bible is the story of the one God, who stands in a covenant relationship with the people of God.
We hold that the writers of the Bible were inspired, that they were filled with God’s Spirit as they wrote the truth to the best of their knowledge.
We hold that the Holy Spirit works today in our thoughtful study of the Scriptures, especially as we study them together, seeking to relate the old words to life’s present realities.
Perhaps the Bible is best put to use when we seriously answer these four questions about a given text: (1) What did this passage mean to its original hearers? (2) What part does it play in the Bible’s total witness? (3) What does God seem to be saying to my life, my community, my world, through this passage? and (4) What changes should I consider making as a result of my study?
We believe in grace
Grace is central to our understanding and experience of the Christian life. In fact, if you remember nothing else about what we believe, remember that we believe in grace.
Grace is the love and mercy given to us by God. God’s grace is universally-lavished on all people, in all places, throughout their lives.
Since the time of John Wesley, Methodist Christians have understood God’s grace as threefold:
Prevenient grace – God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. God reaches toward each of us long before we reach toward God.
Justifying grace – the process of salvation involves a change in us that we call conversion. Conversion is a turning around, or a turning toward God. It may be sudden and dramatic, or gradual and cumulative. But in any case, it’s a new beginning, marked by our acceptance of Jesus and commitment to live as his follower.
Sanctifying grace – Once we have accepted Jesus, God’s grace continues to work in us to help us live like Jesus. God is always working on us! Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence helping us to continue to grow in love, such that we become full of love toward God and neighbor. Full love of God and neighbor – or perfect, Christ-like love – is the goal of every Christian. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or “making us holy” (living and loving like Jesus).
We believe many things
United Methodists are, by design, a diverse family of faith. We come from many places and have many perspectives.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The essentials represent our core beliefs, and we allow and encourage great freedom and flexibility beyond them. John Wesley further went on to say, “In matters that do not strike at the heart of Scriptural Christianity, we are free to think and let think.”
So what’s essential? What matters are at the heart of Scriptural Christianity?
- A belief in and experience of a loving and gracious God
- A belief in and experience of Jesus as the fullest expression of God’s love and grace, and an acceptance of his invitation to follow him
- A belief in and experience of the Holy Spirit continuing to grow God’s love and grace within us so we can live like Jesus, fully loving God and neighbor
This core belief and experience of God’s love and grace is central to our understanding and practice of our faith. Beyond this core, there is room for wide variety of opinion, thought, and preference. We are proud to be part of a church who witnesses to the reality that God’s love and grace – and a commitment to live like Jesus in our love of God neighbor – is stronger than the differences that sometimes arise between people.