United Methodism was born out of calling for Spiritual awakening in the Church of England. The founders, John Wesley and his brother Charles, started as a small group of persons seeking to have a vibrant connection between faith and action. They became known for taking the faith to people’s hearts that became a global denomination.
The three areas that define every denomination (even non-denominations): history, polity (political structure), and doctrine (beliefs). Each denomination has these components each operating with different variable within these three areas. When you hear someone say, they are opposed to organized religion, United Methodist do a double take in all three areas, as we are known for being ‘METHODical’ in each of these areas.
The Wesley’s connect our history to the Church of England and the Protestant Reformation. Since our beginning we have believed in scripture understood through tradition, reason and spiritual experience; we strive for a balance between personal holiness and service of God through serving others. We define this as making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Our polity (our style of organization) is representative and connectional. We have bishops that act as the prophetic voice of the church and administrate regional areas. We have ordained person and local members (laity) who each represent the local, regional and global church. Each church has two votes, one clergy, and one laity, in our regional conferences and our regional conferences elect representatives for our global church. Clergypersons are appointed by the bishops and clergy serve at the direction of the bishop. Methodist are guided by the “Book of Discipline” to maintain and adapt the organization of the church.
The basic Wesleyan rules of being a United Methodist are: 1) do no harm, 2) do all the good you can, and 3) practice your piety (practice growing your spiritual self.) The path of salvation comes in four parts: God’s grace works to claim and save us from sin and death through Jesus Christ. A) We find God working in preventative ways before we realize God is at work, B) God has worked through Jesus Christ to justify and make whole our brokenness in the cross and resurrection. C) God’s grace is at work through the Holy Spirit growing and maturing and sanctifying us. D) Finally, God makes us whole through grace that is the perfection that we strive toward in this life.
Our doctrines have remained the same since the foundations of the denomination in the basic standards in the “Book of Discipline.” This text also our work in progress concerning our history and polity. A guiding statement of “Social Principles” help to explain how we interpret our doctrines and beliefs in action in the world.
We are challenged to be fruitful as a denomination by a) extending radical hospitality, b) sharing passionate worship, c) encourage taking risks in service and ministry for spiritual maturity, d) engage in intentional spiritual growth and e) express God’s faithfulness in our extravagant generosity.
Trusting God’s grace is patient with us, United Methodist are not known for being hasty in judgment. For centuries United Methodist has been committed to caring for the children, persons of poverty, and elder persons. We are educating children and clergy. We work together in response to Christ’s call to transform the world.
So am I United Methodist? This brief summary is intended to open and inspire a desire to learn more, to ask more questions and grow in new ways. As we look at our communities and nations of the world, we are compelled to ask: How are United Methodist making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Ask how is my faith in action making new disciples? How does our history inform our present? Are we organized to do all the good we can do? Do we know our Methodist doctrines and are we faithfully living them out? Being a United Methodist uses our hearts, our minds, and actions unfolding in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Now that you have the notes go read the book and live the faith!
See You in Church,