If you're new to Christianity,
you may want to know...

Not all Christians believe the same things.
For some, those differences don't matter much.
For others, they make all the difference in the world.

 

Generally, you could say that the major thing Christians have in common is that we all agree that "Jesus is Lord."

This means we look to the person and teachings of Jesus Christ as our guide for life and faith. Our source for stories of Jesus is the Bible.

 

Especially during the last 200 years, Christians have disagreed significantly over the most faithful way to read and interpret the Bible. These differences have caused some radically different ways of living out the Christian faith. Different Christian groups (often called denominations, fellowships, or traditions) have come up with different priorities about what's most important. This variety within Christianity isn't new.

 

For 2000+ years, Christians have wondered and disagreed about who Jesus was, how he was connected to God, what his life and death and resurrection mean for us, how we are best to follow him now, and what will eventually happen to us, to others, and to the world after we die.


These differences in understanding, (plus centuries of cultural and language differences), are why there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of churches that all call themselves "Christian."

Some of those different ideas are so subtle, it can take years of study to understand why it even matters. Other differences in belief can have a big impact the first time you come in contact with them.

What We Believe

(You can click on any underlined section for a link to read more from other sources on the web.)

We believe the strongest power in the universe is one of creativity, love, mercy, and justice. We call that power God.

We believe we can be in touch with that Source through prayer, meditation, service to others, rituals, worship, study, and by gathering together in community. We believe that we can be partners with God in transforming ourselves and the world to be more loving, just, and peaceful.


We believe that God can and does speak through the scriptures of the Bible. We are also humbly aware that scripture has been used to justify terrible actions, in addition to inspiring great things, so we are not satisfied with explanations that claim scripture is always "clear" or "simple."  It is not.

 

Like other churches sometimes called "Mainline Protestant," United Methodists take into account modern scholarship (archeology, science, history) in Biblical interpretation.

The Bible - How we interpret the Bible/Scripture matters. United Methodists believe that the Bible needs to be interpreted through:
Tradition (How have Christians before us found meaning in this? What interpretations have we inherited?)
Experience (What do I know because I have seen and felt it? How does my life experience influence my understanding of what I read in Scripture?)
Reason (What's the original context of this passage? Does it still apply to us now, given what we know of the differences in cultural values over centuries? How does it compare with Jesus' teaching, and with the Bible's message overall?)

Science & Evolution- Some churches teach that scientific inquiry and faith are rivals, that one must choose between "science or the Bible." United Methodists reject this.
We believe faith and science are complementary, not in competition. We accept evolution and natural selection. We support research and actions to reverse global climate change. We believe the scripture commands us to care for God's creation as interdependent stewards. 

Gender Equality - Many churches limit women's leadership to certain areas and do not ordain women to be pastors.
United Methodists believe men and women are equally created in the image of God and that our different gifts for ministry are not determined by our sex. Therefore, we lift up women to be leaders and equals in all positions of authority and service.

Salvation for all, or just a few? - Some churches claim to know who's going to be saved/go to heaven, who isn't, and what's going to happen to them in eternity.
United Methodists believe God can save anyone that God chooses to save and we cannot decide whom God will save. We trust the Way of Jesus for our salvation. Jesus commanded us to look to mending our own faults, and not to judge others. We trust that Jesus Christ is the final judge, and we know Jesus to be one who laid down his life for all. We look to our own spiritual growth, and encourage others in theirs. Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven is within you, among you." 

Jesus encourages us to live in the now.

Other Religions - Some churches teach that anyone who is not Christian is wrong. United Methodist teach respect for people of other beliefs, and cooperation for peace and justice wherever possible. We trust that God loves the whole world, and always has.
 

If you already have a church background, you may want to know...

Not all churches focus on the same things.
For some, those differences don't matter much.

For others, they make all the difference in the world.

United Methodists share a lot with other Christians, especially other Protestants. Our closest cousin in doctrine is the Episcopal Church (we share several hundred years of history and the Book of Common Prayer, but our worship tends to be much less formal). If you've been a part of an church that is referred to as "mainline Protestant," you will find many elements of our worship and church life familiar.

What We Believe

  • God is Love. God has love and mercy for all people.

  • God is Three-in-One. Christian tradition describes God as Trinity, God is made up of three co-equal persons: the Creator (a.k.a. God the Father), Jesus the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. Many people find the idea of the Trinity meaningful because God is always about relationships. Many people find the doctrine of the Trinity super-confusing. It's okay.

  • Jesus is God's special revelation to us. God's character is revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ. Out of love, God became human, so we could learn to love like God.

  • The Holy Spirit is still at work in individuals, and through the church. She is always at work surprising, inspiring, and challenging people to grow.

  • We celebrate two sacraments - outward signs of inward grace - baptism and holy communion (the Lord's Supper), because Jesus himself participated in them, and commanded his followers to participate and share them. United Methodists practice open communion - which means everyone who desires to live in love with Christ and neighbor is invited to participate. For more about our worship, click here.

 

Some distinctive features of  United Methodism:

  • Love is central: Love is the core of our faith. Love is the truest expression of devotion to God. Love is the way in which we hope to grow more like Jesus.

  • Human worth: All human beings are of sacred worth. All people should be treated justly, honorably, respectfully. We seek cooperation with other Christians and respect other faith traditions.
  • The Bible: We take the Bible very seriously, but not literally. Scripture is the source for matters of faith, and we interpret scripture through tradition (church teaching), reason (critical scholarship and scientific discovery), and personal experience. This 4-prong process is referred to as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

  • Faith and good works:  A relationship with Jesus should stir one to love and serve God by loving and serving our neighbors, working for justice for all people.

  • Grace - We emphasize the importance of God's grace. God's grace is a powerful force for transformation. God's grace is working for our good before we even know to look for God. God's favor is offered to us as a gift, without condition, unmerited and unearned by our efforts.

  • A Balanced faith - How we live matters. We strive for balance between personal transformation (personal piety or personal holiness) and community transformation (social holiness). We believe the Holy Spirit can shape us over the course of our lives, as we seek to become perfect in love. Through spiritual practices of study, prayer, and small groups for support and accountability, we grow in personal holiness. Through practices of charity and justice, we grow in social holiness and help transform the world.


You can learn more at: www.umc.org