What United Methodists believe – a personal statement:
What are the basic doctrines? These are held in common with most mainline Christian religions: the divinity of Christ, the reality of God, the power of the Spirit, the authority of Scripture. It’s one of the reasons why, when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we say that we believe in the holy catholic church. It does NOT mean we accept the pope’s authority; it means rather that there are many paths that Christians may take to follow Jesus – Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Baptist and so on - and the UMC is one of those. (In this context, catholic is another word for universal or ecumenical).
What’s different and distinctive about United Methodists? I’d like to offer the following:
- An emphasis on the importance of faith and works. United Methodists have long believed and practiced a strong connection between the social ministry aspects of Jesus’ Gospel and the believing-churchgoing-Bible reading dimensions. Some Christian belief systems focus on accepting a particular authority, or on simply accepting Jesus as your personal Savior. The UMC has long taught that a conversion to Christ must bear good fruit (see for example, James 3:14-20). We must be charitable, compassionate, and meeting the physical needs of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:31-46).
- We accept the authority of Scripture in the context of tradition, experience, and reason. We rely on these to help us interpret the Bible correctly and in good faith for our own time and place. (Actually, everyone interprets the Bible, even those Christians who claim to believe in the inerrant Word. But United Methodists admit they interpret).
As one example, there is at least one text (1 Cor. 14:34-5) which says women are not to speak in church. Tradition has latched onto and reinforced this position. However, the whole of the New Testament witness opens the door to a different interpretation. By allowing Mary of Bethany to be as a disciple, Jesus raised the dignity of women to be equal with men (Luke 10:42). In Galatians 3:28, Paul says that unity in Christ is so strong that it negates every division between slave and free, Jew and Gentile, and even male and female. Paul also refers on numerous occasions to
- Unlike most Protestant churches where clergy are called – that is, chosen by the local congregation where they serve - UMC pastors are appointed to their churches by a bishop and his/her advisors working together. And yes, when the bishop decides a pastor is needed elsewhere, that pastor will be expected to relocate. It should be added that there is an advisory process in this, and most UMC pastoral appointments last an average of six years, although some are shorter and some are longer. My own appointment history has seen me serve churches for three years, ten years, six years, six years, and three years. I began this current appointment in July 2005.
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I’d like to offer two sources for additional questions:
First, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your interest!