Basic Christian Affirmations
We confess belief in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We believe in God’s ongoing activity in creation, encompassing God’s gracious self-giving love. Through God’s benevolent self-involvement in human history, we anticipates the consummation of God’s reign in the fullness of time.
The created order exists for the well-being of all creatures and as the place of human dwelling in covenant with God. Through prideful selfishness and sin we broke the original covenant and separated ourselves from a perfect state of grace. We wound ourselves and one another, wreaking havoc throughout the natural order. We are in need of redemption.
We hold in common with all Christians a faith in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. At the heart of the gospel of salvation in this world, and in the next, is God’s incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth.
We share the Christian belief that God’s redemptive love is realized in human life by the power and transforming activity of the Holy Spirit, both in personal experience and in the community of believers. This community is the church, which the Spirit created for the healing of the nations and encompasses the communal life in worship, mission, evangelism, service, giving, and social witness.
We understand ourselves to be part of Christ’s universal church. Through worship, proclamation, and service we become conformed to Christ. We are initiated and incorporated into this community of faith by Baptism, receiving the promise of the Spirit that re-births and transforms us. We pray and work for the coming of God’s realm and reign to the world and rejoice in the promise of everlasting life that overcomes evil and death.
With other Christians we recognize that the reign and kingdom of God is both a present and future reality. The church is called to be that place where the kingdom of God are identified, acknowledged, and lived out in the world. We expect a final and complete reconciliation at the end of history in which all of God’s work will be fulfilled. This prospect gives us hope in our present actions, individually, and as the Church.
We share with many Christian communions a recognition of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith, the confession that we find salvation by grace through faith, and the sober realization that the church is in need of continual reformation and renewal. We affirm the general ministry of all baptized Christians who share responsibility for building up the church and reaching out in mission and service to the world.
With other Christians, we declare the universality of the church in Christ Jesus.This rich heritage of shared Christian belief finds expression in our hymns and liturgies, and our unity is affirmed in the historic creeds as we proclaim one holy, universal, and apostolic church. Nourished by this shared Christian heritage, the branches of Christ’s church have developed diverse traditions that enlarge our shared understandings and practices. Our ecumenical commitment as United Methodists is to express our own distinctives within the larger Christian unity, more meaningful within a richer whole.
Distinctive Wesleyan Emphasis
Rooted in The Church of England, the founder of Methodism was John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican priest and a gifted, inspiring preacher who brought the Christ’s message of grace to the fields and town squares of common people. Wesley preached the Christian beliefs of grace, justification, assurance, and sanctification. He combined them in a powerful revivalist manner to create a distinctive way to live the full Christian life of personal and social holiness. His revival movement in The Church of England eventually gave rise to a new denomination in America, known as the Methodist Episcopal Church. It formed in 1784 after The Revolutionary War in 1776 gave independence to the American colonies from England. Other Methodist and Wesleyan church movements in America arose, separated, and recombined over the next 150 years. Two historical communities of faith, The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren church unified in 1968 to become The United Methodist Church.
These historical traditions teach that we understand God’s grace as the unearned, self-giving love and action of God through the saving work of Jesus of Nazareth and the power of the Holy Spirit. Within the unity of grace, we understand that grace acts in our lives before salvation first as “prevenient grace,” then saves us as “justifying grace,” and is brought to spiritual maturity in us through “sanctifying grace.” Grace permeates all creation even though suffering, violence, and evil are pervasive. God created us with dignity and freedom, inviting us into a creative partnership with responsibility for our lives and the care of the world. The restoration of God’s image in our lives and in the world around us requires divine grace to always be at work to renew our fallen lives and our fallen world.
Prevenient Grace—the divine self-giving love that surrounds all humanity and precedes all our conscious awareness. This action of grace draws us toward God, prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our conviction of having sinned against God. It awakens a deep desire for deliverance from sin and death, moving us toward repentance and faith.
Justification and Assurance—God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace as acts of accepting and pardoning love. Wesleyan theology stresses that a decisive change in the human heart occurs under the prompting of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are, through faith, forgiven our sin, redeemed, and restored to God’s favor. This action of grace makes us “right” with God through Christ, calling forth our faith, trust, and obedience as we experience regeneration and new spiritual birth, as we are made new creatures in Christ.
This new birth is often called our conversion which may be sudden and dramatic, but is more often a gradual, cumulative process. While justification/conversion marks a new beginning, it is also always ongoing. Christian transformation always expresses itself as love living out through our personal faith and service. We embrace the scriptural promise of receiving assurance of our salvation and the peace that passes all understanding as the Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Sanctification—The wonder of God’s acceptance and redemption does not end God’s saving work, as our growth in grace continues. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love for our neighbor.
Justification/salvation is new birth and is the first step in sanctification. Sanctifying grace draws us toward the gift of personal holiness, which flows from a heart “habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor” as have “the mind of Christ.” This gracious gift of God’s power and love is neither earned by our efforts nor limited by our brokenness. Our salvation, in this world and the next, is a constant and ever-present gift from God. Salvation is “even more than heaven!”
Faith and Good Works—God’s grace and human activity is a creative partnership working together as faith and good works. God’s grace calls forth human response and discipline.
Faith is the only response essential for salvation. However, salvation makes itself evident through good works. Salvation should be accompanied by works of faith, justice, and mercy since faith and good works flow from God’s gracious love through the Holy Spirit working in and through us.
Mission and Service—Personal salvation and holiness must always include social holiness, involving Christian mission and service to the world. Our personal faith, evangelical witness, and Christian social action become unified when we join our hearts of love with our hands of service.
Personal holiness entails more than individual faith and good works; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for works of mercy, justice, and renewal in the life of the world.
Nurture and Mission of the Church—Finally, we emphasize Christian fellowship in the church. The personal experience of faith is nourished by the worshiping community. As United Methodists there is no individual religion without social religion, no personal holiness without social holiness. The communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.
The outreach of the church springs from the working of the Holy Spirit. As United Methodists, we respond through connectional relationships by all our congregations based upon mutual responsiveness and accountability. Connectional ties bind our churches and members together in faith and service in our global witness, enabling faith to become active in love and increasing our work for peace and justice in the world.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2012. Copyright 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.