A brief description of the beliefs and practices of the United Methodist Church.
The United Methodist church was founded by John Wesley in England. Wesley was an Anglican priest before establishing a number of Bible study groups which followed a "method" of study. The people in these groups came to be called Methodists. United Methodists share many basic, foundational Christian beliefs which are found in all Christian communities.
First, the United Methodist’s (UM’s) believe in the Trinity - God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe these terms refer to the threefold nature of God.
UM’s believe that there is only one God, who created the world and all that is in it. They believe that God is sovereign – that God is the ruler of the universe. They further believe God is a loving God and that humans can experience God’s love and grace.
UM’s believe that Jesus was human and lived and died as a man; that he was crucified, rose from the dead, and now sits with God in the heavenly realm. They believe Jesus is divine and is indeed the Son of God. They believe the Holy Spirit is God and moves constantly in the lives of human beings; that the Spirit comforts believers and guides them to follow God’s will.
They believe God created humans in his own image, that humans can choose to accept or reject God, and that all humans need to accept God in order to be fully human.
UM’s believe the church is in fact the body of Christ, extending his ministry in the world today; that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus; that the church is the communion of saints – made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ; that the church is called to worship God and support all who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
UM’s believe the Bible is God’s Word, that it is the primary authority for faith and practice, that all Christians need to know and study the Old and New Testaments.
UM’s believe that the kingdom (reign) of God is both a present reality and future hope and that wherever God’s will is done, the kingdom of God is present. The kingdom is present in reconciliation, restoration, and healing. They believe the complete restoration of God’s creation is still to come. They believe the church is both witness to the kingdom and participant in bringing it to completion. They believe the reign of God is both personal and social; personal as they individually become more Christ-like and socially as the whole creation is restored and transformed.
The United Methodist celebrates only two sacraments: Baptism and Communion
Baptism is performed by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. United Methodists believe Baptism needs to be performed only once in a person’s life. Through baptism, individuals simultaneously join the local church, the world wide church, and with Christians everywhere. While people can be baptized at any age, United Methodist’s practice infant baptism followed by a confirmation and acceptance of the baptism by the child when he/she reaches his/her early teens. This confirmation and acceptance is typically preceded by a period of training in matters of the faith.
Communion is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of every month and can be done in a variety of ways. A member of the ordained clergy is generally required to distribute the communion. UM’s believe that communion recalls the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all Christians; they do not believe in transubstantiation. They practice “open” communion, allowing all persons who believe in Jesus Christ to participate, not limiting participation only to their local members.
United Methodist worship services typically follow a liturgical pattern, somewhat similar to the Anglican church, varying primarily in the belief system and handling of communion. The services are formal but not normally considered to be truly “high” church. However, the style of service can vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Typically, a set ritual is followed for the sacraments of communion and baptism. Generally, the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed is repeated at each Sunday service. Many congregations have added or changed to a more informal type of service, usually called a “Contemporary Service”. In these less formal services, guitars and singers lead the singing, rather than a robed choir.
Hallmarks of the United Methodists typically include a very open-minded fellowship, a small group Bible study program following the Wesleyan tradition, and the ability to accept and welcome a divergent group of people into their fellowship.
The emblem of the United Methodist Church is the Cross and Flame, the cross in black and the flame in red. The emblem was selected after the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in the 1960's. The flame is to represent the presence of the Holy Spirit as at the first pentecost.