Who We Are
Basics of Our Faith
As United Methodists, we have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church’s life and witness. To fulfill this obligation, we reflect critically on our biblical and theological inheritance, striving to express faithfully the witness we make in our own time.
What We Believe
Our Faith Journey
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.
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. 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 Gospel’s power.
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.
How We Serve
United Methodists believe that each of us is called to participate in the outreaching ministry of Jesus Christ. In this section, explore how United Methodists put faith into action.
Four Areas of Focus
The Four Areas of Focus express the vision and yearnings of the people of The United Methodist Church. The church seeks to focus the work of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world around these areas of ministry:
- Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
- Engaging in ministry with the poor.
- Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
- Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.
Putting our faith into action
United Methodists have believed, from the beginning, that each of us is called to participate in the outreaching ministry of Jesus Christ. John Wesley described this work in simple, practical terms: "Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can."
Putting our faith into action is at the very heart of our Christian calling. By volunteering to serve through programs such as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission or the Mission Volunteers program of The General Board of Global Ministries, every person in the church has the opportunity to serve and to live their calling more faithfully.
Volunteers embody Christian love in action by bringing their diverse talents to mission programs, local outreach ministries, and emergency response and recovery work around the world.
Methodism’s founder John Wesley said, "I look upon all the world as my parish." Wesley reminded us that we are called to step out of our little corner of the world to spread the good news, transform hopelessness into hope and help God’s children wherever they may be.
While it would be wonderful if we could reach out personally to everyone who needs our help, we know that is impossible. So we gather regularly with our congregation and put money into the offering plate, and through a carefully crafted system of United Methodist mission and ministry our gifts stretch around the world.
Your contributions to your local church not only benefit your local congregation, but also have regional, national and international impact through our connectional giving system. Most of the money you give is used to support the ministries of your local church. A small portion funds regional ministries.
Finally, a portion of your giving goes to the general church to support programs on a national and international level, which have been agreed upon by lay and clergy delegates of General Conference. We share the cost of these ministries, with each local church being responsible for contributing a fair portion or "apportionment."
The power of our collective giving enables us to spread the love of Jesus Christ, educate clergy, encourage cooperation with other faith communions, fund General Conference, nurture historically Black colleges and Africa University, and support bishops.
We can go beyond these primary gifts to the church and contribute to additional ministries through the Advance and churchwide Special Sundays with offerings. The Advance for Christ and His Church offers individuals and groups an opportunity to contribute to specific programs, missionaries and ministries of their choice. Six times a year, Special Sundays focus churchwide attention on specific ministries of the church such as promoting peace and justice and providing scholarships and student loans.
We live in a global village, and the world is our parish. When we give generously, our gifts do wonderful, life-changing things in the name of Jesus Christ.