Our Christian Roots
United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:
We describe God in three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are commonly used to refer to the threefold nature of God. Sometimes we use other terms, such as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
We believe in one God, who created the world and all that is in it.
We believe that God is sovereign; that is, God is the ruler of the universe.
We believe that God is loving. We can experience God’s love and grace.
We believe that Jesus was human. He lived as a man and died when he was crucified.
We believe that Jesus is divine. He is the Son of God.
We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the risen Christ lives today. (Christ and messiah mean the same thing—God’s anointed.)
We believe that Jesus is our Savior. In Christ we receive abundant life and forgiveness of sins.
We believe that Jesus is our Lord and that we are called to pattern our lives after his.
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is God with
We believe that the Holy Spirit comforts us when we are in need and convicts us when we stray from God.
We believe that the Holy Spirit awakens us to God’s will and empowers us to live obediently.
We believe that God created human beings in God’s image.
We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
We believe that the church is “the communion of saints,” a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
We believe that the Bible is God’s
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
We believe that Christians need to know and study the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures).
The Reign of God
We believe that the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
We believe that wherever God's will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus' ministry, and it is also present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration, and healing.
We believe that although the fulfillment of God's kingdom--the complete restoration of creation--is still to come.
We believe that the church is called to be both witness to the vision of what God's kingdom will be like and a participant in helping to bring it to completion.
We believe that the reign of God is both personal and social. Personally, we display the kingdom of God as our hearts and minds are transformed and we become more Christ-like. Socially, God's vision for the
kingdom includes the restoration and transformation of all of creation.
With many other Protestants, we recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and the Lord's
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 (Communion,
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.
Source: Our Christian Roots - UMC.org
Reflection on Our Faith
There are two kinds of believing, and both are essential for Christian life. They’re closely related and influence each other, but they’re different. One is belief and the other, beliefs. One is faith and the other, doctrine or theology.
Faith is the basic orientation and commitment of our whole being—a matter of heart and soul. Christian faith is grounding our lives in the living God as
revealed especially in Jesus Christ. It’s both a gift we receive within the Christian community and a choice we make. It’s trusting in God and relying on God as the source and destiny of our lives. Faith is believing in God, giving God our devoted loyalty and allegiance. Faith is following Jesus, answering the call to be his disciples in the world. Faith is hoping for God’s future, leaning into the coming kingdom that God has promised. Faith-as-belief is active; it involves trusting, believing, following, hoping.
Theology or doctrine is more a matter of the head. It’s thinking together in the community of believers about faith and discipleship. It’s reflecting on the
gospel. It’s examining the various beliefs we hold as a church. Some may say that theology is only for professional theologians. This is not true. All of us, young and old, lay and clergy, need to work at this theological task so that our beliefs will actually guide our day-by-day actions and so that we can communicate our belief to an unbelieving world.
Our Theological Journey
Theology is thinking together about our faith and discipleship. It’s reflecting with others in the Christian community about the good news of God’s love in Christ.
Both laypeople and clergy are needed in “our theological task.” The laypeople
bring understandings from their ongoing effort to live as Christians in the
complexities of a secular world; clergy bring special tools and experience acquired through intensive biblical and theological study. We need one another.
But how shall we go about our theological task so that our beliefs are true
to the gospel and helpful in our lives? In John Wesley’s balanced and rigorous
ways for thinking through Christian doctrine, we find four major sources or criteria, each interrelated. These we often call our “theological guidelines”:
Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. (See The Book of Discipline of
The United Methodist Church—2008, pp. 76-83.)
Let’s look at each of these.
In thinking about our faith, we put primary reliance on the Bible. It’s the unique testimony to God’s self-disclosure in the life of Israel; in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ; and in the Spirit’s work in the early church. It’s our sacred canon and, thus, the decisive source of our Christian witness and the authoritative measure of the truth in our beliefs.
In our theological journey we study the Bible within the believing community.
Even when we study it alone, we’re guided and corrected through dialogue with
other Christians. We interpret individual texts in light of their place in the
Bible as a whole. We use concordances, commentaries, and other aids prepared by
the scholars. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we try to discern both the original intention of the text and its meaning for our own faith and life.
Between the New Testament age and our own era stand countless witnesses on
whom we rely in our theological journey. Through their words in creed, hymn,
discourse, and prayer, through their music and art, through their courageous
deeds, we discover Christian insight by which our study of the Bible is
illuminated. This living tradition comes from many ages and many cultures. Even today Christians living in far different circumstances from our own—in Africa,
in Latin America, in Asia—are helping us discover fresh understanding of the
A third source and criterion of our theology is our experience. By experience
we mean especially the “new life in Christ,” which is ours as a gift of God’s grace; such rebirth and personal assurance gives us new eyes to see the living truth in Scripture. But we mean also the broader experience of all the life we live, its joys, its hurts, its yearnings. So we interpret the Bible in light of our cumulative experiences. We interpret our life’s experience in light of the biblical message. We do so not only for our experience individually but also for
the experience of the whole human family.
Finally, our own careful use of reason, though not exactly a direct source of
Christian belief, is a necessary tool. We use our reason in reading and interpreting the Scripture. We use it in relating the Scripture and tradition to our experience and in organizing our theological witness in a way that’s internally coherent. We use our reason in relating our beliefs to the full range of human knowledge and in expressing our faith to others in clear and appealing ways.
Source: Reflecting on Our Faith - UMC.org
Theology of Discipleship
Theology is not just about God. It is also about us. We live out of our
understanding of who we are in relationship to God, to one another, and to the
world. The Christian faith is grounded in the love and grace of God, experienced
through Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is
our response to God’s love and grace.
The church calls our response to God Christian discipleship. Discipleship
focuses on actively following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Christian disciples,
we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God’s activity in
the world. Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God.
We order our lives in ways that embody Christ’s ministry in our families,
workplaces, communities, and the world.
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response
was: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment”
(Matt. 22:37-38. See Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; and Luke 10:25-28.)
Discipleship is about loving God….It is more than an acknowledgement of God’s
existence or a statement of belief regarding God. It is total devotion,
head-over-heals-in-love-with adoration. It is the deep desire to know God, to be
one with God, and to worship God.
There are a variety of ways that we can develop our knowledge of and love of
God. These include:
- Bible study;
- Conversations with other Christians.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, called these practices means
of grace. They are means for developing our relationship with God and for
experiencing God’s presence in our lives. These practices help us spend time
with God, a significant factor in loving God.
Jesus responded to questions about the most important commandment by quoting
the Hebrew Scripture’s admonition to love God with our whole being. (See Deut.
6:4-9 as well as gospel passages listed in the above section.) Then immediately
he broadened the meaning of this admonition:
“The second is this, ‘You shall
love your neighbor as yourself’”
These verses about loving God and loving neighbor as ourselves are known as
the Great Commandment. Again and again, the Bible teaches us that loving God and
loving neighbor are two sides of the same coin. We cannot do one without the
other. Check out some of these passages for a glimpse at how prevalent this
understanding of hristian discipleship is:
- Matthew 5:43-48
- Matthew 25:31-46
- Luke 10:25-37
- John 15:12-17
- Romans 12:9-18
- 1 Corinthians 13
- 1 John 4:19-21
From these passages and others we can draw several conclusions about what it
means to love our neighbors. First of all, loving our neighbors means responding
to specific needs—hunger, illness, imprisonment, loneliness, and so forth. Love
is more than a feeling; it is behavior. It is practical and concrete.
Secondly, our neighbors include many people. Within the context of the
Christian community, our neighbors are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Neighbors may also refer to the contemporary understanding of those who live near us. However, from a biblical perspective, neighbors often include people
whom we might not normally consider:
- people who mistreat us (who are our enemies);
- people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds;
- people from different religious traditions
- people who irritate us and push the boundaries of our patience.
Therefore, loving our neighbors requires attention and sacrifice. We have to
pay attention to what is happening around us in order to see our neighbors and
to recognize their needs. We must also consider their needs to be as important
as our own in order to live faithfully. Loving neighbor is more than random acts
of kindness. It takes time, energy, and commitment. It is a lifestyle carefully
cultivated in response to God.
Finally, these passages emphasize that loving our neighbors is not optional;
it is mandatory. It is what Christians do and what Christians are. Our lives are
a testimony to our love—our love for God and our love for neighbor.
Source: A Theology of Discipleship - UMC.org