What We Believe as United Methodists
United Methodists affirm what our Book of Discipline calls “Basic Christian Affirmations.” These are essentially things all Christians believe. There are many things all Christians believe which are too numerous to list here. Basic examples include:
- We believe in a triune God – the Trinity. We believe in God who is in heaven and who is the Creator of all; Jesus, God in human form, who died on the cross and rose again for our salvation; and the Holy Spirit, God with us, in our hearts and in our midst.
- We believe that God will one day judge each one of us, but that our sins have been covered by the blood of the lamb – Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice and death paid the price for our sins, a debt we could never pay ourselves.
- We believe that Jesus Christ established the Church. He taught His disciples His message, and sent them out to teach others. When He ascended to heaven, He gave them the Great Commission – the calling to spread the gospel to all.
- We celebrate the sacraments of baptism and communion. Through baptism we are initiated into the fellowship of believers – the Church. Through communion, we remember Christ’s sacrifice, participate in His risen presence, and are nourished for faithful discipleship.
- We recognize the authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith.
What We Believe Which Distinguishes United Methodists From Some Other Denominations
- We believe in free will. We believe that God’s grace is freely offered to all, and that God gives us the ability to choose for ourselves whether or not to accept that grace. Some choose to accept God’s grace; others do not. Some denominations of Christians do not believe in free will but in pre-destination – that God determined in advance whom God would save and whom God would not. They believe this is pre-determined, and not a matter of free will. United Methodists believe in free will.
- We believe in ecumenism. Ecumenism essentially means trying to get all Christians to work together as one. While some denominations cling to strict interpretations of Scripture as a way to set themselves apart from other Christians, The United Methodist Church has long been one of the leaders of the ecumenical effort – trying to bring Christians to talk together and be in mission together and to emphasize our common beliefs instead of our differences.
- We believe that we are saved by grace and not by good works. We believe that our good works cannot save us, but that they spring forth naturally from a faith which is sincere and alive. Our good works are “fruits of faith.” In short, we believe salvation is through faith alone through God’s grace made manifest in Jesus Christ. For some Christians, good works are a necessary part of salvation and can redeem sin.
- We believe that communion is open to all. In The United Methodist Church, we believe Christ’s sacrifice was for all, and so communion is offered to all. Some denominations refuse communion to other Christians because they believe that they are the one true church or because they have the one true understanding of communion. We believe that communion is open to all.
- We believe Christians should be striving to grow to be more like Jesus Christ every day, to strive for “perfection” in the way we live as Christ was perfect. For some denominations, the Christian journey essentially ends when you have accepted Christ as your Savior. We believe this is really the beginning of the journey of faith. We believe we should be helping each other throughout our lives to study the life of Christ, know Christ personally, and grow to be more like Christ every day. We may never reach perfection, but we should be striving for it.
- All Christians recognize the authority of Scripture. However, United Methodists recognize the same passage of Scripture can speak to two different people in different ways. We believe two Christians can disagree with one another and still love each other as brothers and sisters; in fact, they can learn from one another. United Methodists do not have a single leader we believe to be infallible who tells people what to believe, nor do we have strict interpretations Christians must follow (you must baptize in this way, or you must believe this about communion). John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in America, said “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.” So if you’re looking for a very strict church which tells you their way is the only way, you’re probably not looking for a United Methodist Church. If you’re looking for a church where we believe all the fundamental foundations of the Christian faith, while still recognizing that people can disagree with one another and learn from one another and still love one another, then a United Methodist Church could be the church for you.