We are United Methodist
The United Methodist Church shares a common heritage of basic affirmations with all Christian communities. The hallmarks of the United Methodist theological traditions are rooted in John Wesley, emphasizing Christian living and putting faith and love in action.
Below is a breakdown of our beliefs in three distinct areas:
- Our Christian Beliefs
- Our Wesleyan Heritage
- Our Social Principles
Click the accordion under each section to learn more about each topic.
Our Christian Beliefs
God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons.
Who God is
When we say the Apostles' Creed, we join with millions of Christians through the ages in an understanding of God as a Trinity—three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons. "God in three persons, blessed Trinity" is one way of speaking about the several ways we experience God.
We also try to find adjectives that describe the divine nature. In our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith, we affirm God is "everlasting" and "infinite" in "power, wisdom, justice, goodness, and love." Because we cannot speak literally about God, we use metaphors: God is a Shepherd, a Bridegroom, a Judge. God is Love or Light or Truth.
What God does
We cannot describe God with certainty. But we can put into words what God does and how we experience God's action in our lives. God works in at least these seven ways:
- God creates. In the beginning God created the universe, and the Creation is ongoing. From the whirling galaxies, to subatomic particles, to the unfathomable wonders of our own minds and bodies—we marvel at God's creative wisdom.
- God sustains. God continues to be active in creation, holding all in "the everlasting arms." In particular, we affirm that God is involved in our human history—past, present, and future.
- God loves. God loves all creation. In particular, God loves humankind, created in the divine image. This love is like that of a parent. We've followed Jesus in speaking of God as "our Father," while at times it seems that God nurtures us in a motherly way as well.
- God suffers. Since God is present in creation, God is hurt when any aspect of creation is hurt. God especially suffers when people are injured. In all violence, abuse, injustice, prejudice, hunger, poverty, or illness, the living God is suffering in our midst.
- God judges. All human behavior is measured by God's righteous standards—not only the behavior itself but also the motive or the intent. The Lord of life knows our sin—and judges it.
- God redeems. Out of infinite love for each of us, God forgives our own self-destruction and renews us within. God is reconciling the individuals, groups, races, and nations that have been rent apart. God is redeeming all creation.
- God reigns. God is the Lord of all creation and of all history. Though it may oftentimes seem that the "principalities and powers" of evil have the stronger hand, we affirm God's present and future reign.
When all is done, if we have difficulty in imagining who God is or in relating to God, there's a simple solution: Remember Jesus—for in the New Testament picture of Jesus, we see God.
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 72-73, alt. Used by permission.
We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. God became human in Jesus of Nazareth; and his life, death and resurrection demonstrate God's redeeming love.
In trying to find words to express their faith in Jesus, the New Testament writers gave him various names. Jesus was Master, Rabbi, Teacher. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He was the Doorway to the sheepfold, the Light of the world, the Prince of Peace, and more. In the church's long tradition, scores of other names or titles have been given. Let's look at five of the most central biblical names for Jesus:
Son of God
We believe in Jesus as God's special child. We call this the Incarnation, meaning that God was in the world in the actual person of Jesus of Nazareth...
Son of man
Paradoxically, we also believe that Jesus was fully human. One of the church's first heresies claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, that he was really a divine figure in disguise. But the early church rejected this. It affirmed that Jesus was a person in every sense that we are. He was tempted. He grew weary. He wept. He expressed his anger. In fact, Jesus is God's picture of what it means to be a mature human being.
We say "Jesus Christ" easily, almost as if "Christ" were Jesus' surname. Yet this name is another way of expressing who we believe Jesus to be. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means God's Anointed One. For years before Jesus' time the Jews had been expecting a new king, a descendant of the revered King David, who would restore the nation of Israel to glory. Like kings of old, this one would be anointed on the head with oil, signifying God's election; hence, the Chosen One = the Anointed One = the Messiah = the Christ. The early Jewish Christians proclaimed that Jesus was, indeed, this Chosen One. Thus, in calling him our Christ today, we affirm that he was and is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and God's Chosen One to bring salvation to all peoples, for all time.
We also proclaim Jesus as our Lord, the one to whom we give our devoted allegiance. The word Lord had a more powerful meaning for people of medieval times, because they actually lived under the authority of lords and monarchs. Today some of us may find it difficult to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives. We're used to being independent and self-sufficient. We have not bowed down to authority. To claim Jesus as Lord is to freely submit our will to his, to humbly profess that it is he who is in charge of this world.
Perhaps best of all, we believe in Jesus as Savior, as the one through whom God has freed us of our sin and has given us the gift of whole life, eternal life, and salvation. We speak of this gift as the atonement, our "at-oneness" or reconciliation with God. We believe that in ways we cannot fully explain, God has done this through the mystery of Jesus' self-giving sacrifice on the cross and his victory over sin and death in the Resurrection.
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 76-77. Used by permission.
The Holy Spirit is God's present activity in our midst. When we sense God's leading, God's challenge, or God's support or comfort, it's the Holy Spirit at work.
In Hebrew, the words for Spirit, wind, and breath are nearly the same. The same is true in Greek. In trying to describe God's activity among them, the ancients were saying that it was like God's breath, like a sacred wind. It could not be seen or held: "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes" (John 3:8). But the effect of God's Spirit, like the wind, could be felt and known. Where do we find the evidence of the Spirit at work?
In the Bible
The Spirit is mentioned often throughout the Bible. In Genesis a "wind from God swept over the face of the waters," as if taking part in the Creation (1:2). Later in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), we often read of "the Spirit of the Lord."
In Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism, Jesus "saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him" (3:16) and he "was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted" (4:1). After his Resurrection Christ told his disciples, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). A few weeks later, on the Day of Pentecost, this came to pass: "And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind....All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2, 4). As the Book of Acts and Paul's letters attest, from that time on, the early Christians were vividly aware of God's Spirit leading the new church.
In guidance, comfort, and strength
Today we continue to experience God's breath, God's Spirit. As one of our creeds puts it, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance, for comfort, and for strength" (The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 884). We sense the Spirit in time alone—perhaps in prayer, in our study of the Scriptures, in reflection on a difficult decision, or in the memory of a loved one. The Spirit's touch is intensely personal.
Perhaps we're even more aware of the Holy Spirit in the community of believers—the congregation, the church school class or fellowship group, the soup kitchen, the planning committee, the prayer meeting, the family. Somehow the Spirit speaks through the thoughtful and loving interaction of God's people. The Holy Spirit, who brought the church into being, is still guiding and upholding it, if we will but listen.
In the gifts we receive
How does the Holy Spirit affect our lives? By changing us! By renewing us and by strengthening us for the work of ministry.
- Fruits: Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). What sort of fruit? Paul asserts that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).
- Gifts: Paul also writes that the Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on believers. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 he lists nine, which vary from one person to another: the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, the discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.
These fruits and gifts are not of our own achievement. They and others are the outgrowth of the Spirit's work in us, by grace, through our faith in Jesus the Christ. And they are not given for personal gain. Through these fruits and gifts, the Holy Spirit empowers us for ministry in the world.
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 84-85. Used by permission.
Genesis 1:27 asserts that we've been made in the image of the Creator. Like God we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create.
We believe that God created human beings in God's image.
We believe that humans can choose to accept or reject a relationship with God.
We believe that all humans need to be in relationship with God in order to be fully human.
We believe that the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ's life and ministry in the world today.
We believe that the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We believe that the church is "the communion of saints," a community made up of all past, present, and future disciples of Christ.
We believe that the church is called to worship God and to support those who participate in its life as they grow in faith.
Excerpt from What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Theology (Discipleship Resources, 2002), p. 14.
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice, but what exactly is the Bible? Here are four ways to view it:
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) and twenty-seven in the New Testament. These books were written over a one-thousand-year period in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), and Greek.
The books are of different lengths and different literary styles. In the Hebrew Bible we find legends, histories, liturgies for community worship, songs, proverbs, sermons, even a poetic drama (Job). In the New Testament are Gospels, a history, many letters, and an apocalypse (Revelation). Yet through it all the Bible is the story of the one God, who stands in a covenant relationship with the people of God.
In early times and over many generations, the sixty-six books were thoughtfully used by faithful people. In the process their merits were weighed, and the community of believers finally gave them special authority. Tested by faith, proven by experience, these books have become sacred; they've become our rule for faith and practice.
In Israel the Book of Deuteronomy was adopted as the Word of God about 621 B.C. The Torah, or Law (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), assumed authority around 400 B.C.; the Prophets about 200 B.C.; and the Writings about 100 B.C. After a struggle the Christians determined that the Hebrew Bible was Scripture for them as well. The New Testament as we know it was formed and adopted by church councils between A.D. 200 and A.D. 400.
God speaking to us about salvation
We say that God speaks to us through the Bible and that it contains all things necessary for salvation. This authority derives from three sources:
- We hold that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God, that they were filled with God's Spirit as they wrote the truth to the best of their knowledge.
- We hold that God was at work in the process of canonization, during which only the most faithful and useful books were adopted as Scripture.
- We hold that the Holy Spirit works today in our thoughtful study of the Scriptures, especially as we study them together, seeking to relate the old words to life's present realities.
The Bible's authority is, therefore, nothing magical. For example, we do not open the text at random to discover God's will. The authority of Scripture derives from the movement of God's Spirit in times past and in our reading of it today.
A guide to faith and life
We United Methodists put the Bible to work. In congregational worship we read from the Bible. Through preaching, we interpret its message for our lives. It forms the background of most of our hymns and liturgy. It's the foundation of our church school curriculum. Many of us use it in our individual devotional lives, praying through its implications day by day. However, we admit that there's still vast "biblical illiteracy" in our denomination. We need to help one another open the Bible and use it.
Perhaps the Bible is best put to use when we seriously answer these four questions about a given text: (1) What did this passage mean to its original hearers? (2) What part does it play in the Bible's total witness? (3) What does God seem to be saying to my life, my community, my world, through this passage? and (4) What changes should I consider making as a result of my study?
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 80-81. Alt 2019. Used by permission.
The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
Christian faith is, in part, a matter of hoping. We believe in and trust the Lord of the future, and we lean into the future that God has promised. God goes before us, beckoning us into the new world that is already being created, calling us to join in the challenging work of fashioning it.
However, when we're confronted with personal disasters or with the daily horror stories of society's ills, we may falter. Hope may seem to be unrealistic, naive optimism.
Yet our hope is not in trends. Our hope is in the Lord of all creation and all history—a God who is still in charge and is actively at work transforming the world. How do we know this?
The coming shalom
The Bible is a book of God's promises. It may seem to be about the past, but its outlook is toward the future. From promises in the Book of Genesis to Abraham and Sarah for a new land, a son, and countless descendants (chapter 17), to promises in the Book of Revelation of a "new heaven and a new earth" (21:1), God was helping biblical people live into the vision of creation's ultimate goal.
The Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) uses the word shalom to describe God's future. We often translate this word as "peace," but it means more than that. Shalom means a world of plenty, of personal and interpersonal harmony and righteousness, of liberation, of just economic practices, and of ordered political relations.
The coming kingdom
For Jesus, the shalom of God was the kingdom of God, the coming reign of God in human hearts and in all human affairs. In fact he proclaimed that this reign already "has come near" (Mark 1:15) and that the decision about one's part in it was an urgent necessity: "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
In the resurrection of our Lord, his amazed followers recognized that God's reign was breaking into their lives: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old regime of hostility, greed, injustice, and violence was obsolete and dying. The new order was coming in: "See, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). For those who see with the eyes of faith, it is apparent that our common human future on earth is indeed the promised reign of God.
The church as a sign of the future
There are signs of the coming Kingdom all about us—from random acts of kindness by individuals to the worldwide family's growth in tolerance and cooperation. In particular we see the church as a sign of the Kingdom. Imperfect as it is, the community of believers nevertheless provides the best clue we have to God's vision. Day after day, we see deeds of Christian courage, of compassion and reconciliation, of integrity in the face of temptation, and of witness for truth and justice.
And what is our role? To sit back and simply wait for God's kingdom to arrive? By no means! We are to pray earnestly for the Kingdom to come on earth (Matthew 6:10). We are to watch faithfully for any signs of its coming (Matthew 25:13). We are to put away our old selves and clothe ourselves "with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). As renewed people, we're to do "the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). As Easter people witness and serve, we take part in the Kingdom's dawning. Thy Kingdom come!
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised, by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 90-91. Used by permission.
Our Wesleyan Heritage
*This article comes directly from the United Methodist Church's main website and can be read here.
Holy Club. Bible Moths. Methodists.
These are just a few of the names people called Charles and John Wesley and those gathered around them before anyone called their group a movement, let alone a church. Charles and John Wesley are considered founders of the Methodist movement that led to what is now The United Methodist Church.
It all began around 1728 with a few men at Oxford University, where Charles was finishing his studies. Charles Wesley had not always been very good at focusing on his studies or his faith. His first year at school was full of diversions like playing cards and enjoying music, theater and dancing. Nevertheless, by his final year, he was ready to devote himself to a more focused method of engaging study and faith.
Charles knew he could not do this on his own. He gathered with others in a small group, a practice common at Oxford in those days.
Even with these conversations, Charles continued to feel like he was struggling. He reached out to his brother John for assistance.
"There is no one person I would so willingly have to be the instrument of good to me as you," Charles wrote in a letter to John. "It is owing, in great measure, to somebody's prayers (my mother's most likely) that I am come to think as I do; for I cannot tell myself how or why I awoke out of my lethargy, only that it was not long after you went away."
John had been away for a time helping at his father's parish since he had already graduated and was ordained in the Church of England. When he returned to Oxford, where he was also a fellow, he soon assumed leadership of the group and brought to it his organization skills and some initial instruction.
The Holy Club started here at Christ Church College, Oxford, England. Image by Photochrom Print Collection (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons..
Others started noticing the group. Some called them "Sacramentarians," that is they sought the sacrament of communion frequently. The Wesleys thought it good to have communion at least weekly, though the common thought was monthly was satisfactory.
This was one of the first items to grow out of their meetings. They had to search out communion since no single Protestant congregation offered it every week.
Others called the group "Enthusiasts." Were they religious fanatics of some sort?
"That was an insulting term," says Patterson. "People claiming to be spirit-filled [or enthused] were considered suspicious." The term pointed back to "the wild-eyed people of a century ago," during the English civil war.
Despite that, John Wesley considered himself a "reasonable enthusiast," says Patterson.
"Supererogation-men," was another term applied to this small, but growing, group. Supererogation refers to their desire to go beyond what is typically required by most religious in hopes of winning divine approval.
It was common for the Wesleys and their companions to engage regularly in prayer, fasting (twice a week), giving alms and visiting those in prison. Many of these activities were not even the Wesleys' ideas, though John would check in with the local bishop to ensure there was no problem with their activity.
"These guys are accused of doing too much good," says Ted A. Campbell, professor of Church History at Perkins School of Theology. The supererogation-men nickname was also, Campbell continues, "a veiled accusation of Catholicism." There remained tension in those days between Protestant and Catholic supporters, and the practice of Catholicism was restricted.
The group the Wesleys were a part of engaged in regular Bible study and were then called "Bible-moths." Did they eat their Bibles as a moth may eat their clothes?
They were viewed as "Bible-bigots," because they reproved others who they thought did not live up to scriptural standards. "A lot of people thought of them as sourpusses," Campbell says.
By the time they were called "The Holy Club," there were actually at least four small groups connected with the growing movement.
"These were all names foisted upon him," Campbell says, "but John Wesley had the habit of taking them onto himself."
It was "Methodist" that eventually stuck. While John Wesley initially did not like the name, he eventually made it his own.
Why did it stick? "It was something people could see," Campbell says.
The initial Holy Club dissipated when the Wesleys and two others went on a mission trip to Georgia. However, many, if not most, of the evolving group went onto ministry.
The Wesleys and their colleagues stuck to their methods upon their return to England and the Methodist movement would spread throughout Great Britain and into the Americas and now the world.
Today, United Methodists pledge in their membership vows to give of their "prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness." Thus, United Methodists continue the active life the Wesleys and their colleagues brought forward.
Our methods may have evolved over the years, but we still seek to follow John and Charles Wesley's desire to live a more holy life.
*Andrew J. Schleicher works at United Methodist Communications. Contact him at email@example.com or 615-742-5145.
This story was first published on September 21, 2015.
*This article comes directly from the United Methodist Church's main website and can be read here.
In April 1968, The United Methodist Church was born, but our roots go back much farther. Let's take a quick, chronological look at the shaping and reshaping of the historic denominations that led to the formation of The United Methodist Church.
Methodist Episcopal Church (1784)
One branch of our United Methodist roots was nurtured in the soil of the Church of England. John Wesley, his brother Charles, and a host of others formed societies throughout England to help people grow in their Christian faith. In the late 1760s Methodist societies began to gather in America.
On Christmas Eve 1784, the Methodist preachers in the United States came together at Lovely Lane Chapel. Over the next 10 days, they founded the Methodist Episcopal Church and Francis Asbury was ordained elder and then elected bishop at this gathering known as the Christmas Conference.
Church of the United Brethren in Christ (1800)
Another branch of United Methodism grew in the soil of the German Reformed Church and the Mennonites. As Methodism was growing in the United States among English speakers, a similar movement was happening among the German-speaking population.
Around 1767, German Reformed pastor Philip William Otterbein, heard a sermon by Mennonite pastor Martin Boehm. Although their two churches did not look kindly on one another, Otterbein announced to Boehm, "We are brethren."
In 1800, the movements each of these leaders started within their respective denominations came together to form the Church of the United Brethren in Christ with Otterbein and Boehm as their first bishops. Asbury, Boehm, and Otterbein knew one another and often shared in ministry together.
Evangelical Association (1803)
In the late 1700s, a German Lutheran lay person named Jacob Albright joined a Methodist class in Pennsylvania. When the class named him as a lay preacher, he began sharing the gospel throughout central Pennsylvania. In 1803, Albright was ordained and a new denomination was formed that in 1816 took the name Evangelical Association.
Methodist Protestant Church (1830)
In the early years of the 19th century, a group within the Methodist Episcopal Church became dissatisfied with the leadership of the bishops and lobbied to have lay members at both annual conferences and General Conference. In 1830, they separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Methodist Protestant Church, a denomination without bishops that included laity their decision making bodies.
Lay representatives were added in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1866 and Methodist Episcopal Church in 1872.
Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1844)
At the 1840 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, James O. Andrew was elected bishop. Andrew owned slaves, despite the Methodist Episcopal Church's antislavery stance since its founding.
At the following General Conference in 1844, the issue of a bishop owning slaves was an important debate. When the General Conference failed to come to agreement, a Plan of Separation was adopted that described how to divide the church. Two years later, the churches in the states where slavery was legal formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, a separate denomination.
United Evangelical Church (1894)
In the 1880s, early evidence of dissension was emerging in the Evangelical Association. Rivalries between leaders and disagreements over the role of bishops seemed to create irreconcilable differences. In 1887, all of this energy was focused on who had authority to set the place for the 1891 General Conference.
Although the General Conference voted to give that responsibility to the Board of Publication, others wanted to keep the decision with the East Pennsylvania Conference who had historically made the selection. When neither side yielded, two General Conferences were held in 1891 and the church was effectively divided. In 1894, the East Pennsylvania group met in Illinois and formed a new denomination, the United Evangelical Church.
Evangelical Church (1922)
A little more than 25 years later, the Evangelical Association and United Evangelical Church came back together to form the Evangelical Church.
Methodist Church (1939)
Discussions to reunite the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, began as early as 1869, but proceeded slowly. In 1884, the two churches celebrated the centennial of the Christmas Conference together. Then in 1898, they formed the Joint Commission on Federation that developed a common hymnal, catechism, and order of worship. By 1910, the Methodist Protestant Church joined these efforts.
The first attempt at unification was voted down by both churches in 1924, but the work to bring them together continued especially when the Methodist Protestants joined the discussion. Finally on April 26, 1939, the Uniting Conference began in Kansas City, Missouri, to bring together the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church to form the Methodist Church.
Regrettably, the Methodist Church created the Central Jurisdiction that segregated African-American congregations, conferences, and clergy.
Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946)
On November 16, 1946, the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Church came together to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
The United Methodist Church (1968)
Finally, in April 1968 in Dallas, Texas, the Uniting Conference brought together this family of churches that shares so much history. The Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church joined to form The United Methodist Church. The merger dissolved the Central Jurisdiction and all congregations were grouped geographically.
Today's United Methodists share a rich history. Through our steps and missteps God continues to work in and through us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
To learn more, explore the website of The General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church. They have published a timeline of significant events in our history.
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.
This story was published July 3, 2018.
Our Social Principles
Taking an active stance in society is nothing new for followers of John Wesley. He set the example for us to combine personal and social piety. Ever since predecessor churches to United Methodism flourished in the United States, we have been known as a denomination involved with people's lives, with political and social struggles, having local to international mission implications. Such involvement is an expression of the personal change we experience in our baptism and conversion.
Excerpt from The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church2016. Copyright ©2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.
A social creed was adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1908. Within the next decade similar statements were adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and by The Methodist Protestant Church. The Evangelical United Brethren Church adopted a statement of social principles in 1946 at the time of the uniting of the United Brethren and The Evangelical Church. In 1972, four years after the uniting in 1968 of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted a new statement of Social Principles, which was revised in 1976 (and by each successive General Conference).
The Social Principles, while not to be considered church law, are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit. The Social Principles are a call to all members of The United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice. (See ¶ 509.)
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
We, the people called United Methodists, affirm our faith in God our Creator and Father, in Jesus Christ our Savior, and in the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Guard.
We acknowledge our complete dependence upon God in birth, in life, in death, and in life eternal. Secure in God’s love, we affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God’s will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ. We have not always been faithful stewards of all that has been committed to us by God the Creator. We have been reluctant followers of Jesus Christ in his mission to bring all persons into a community of love. Though called by the Holy Spirit to become new creatures in Christ, we have resisted the further call to become the people of God in our dealings with each other and the earth on which we live.
We affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel. We stand united in declaring our faith that God's grace is available to all, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church — 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The Natural World," click here.
The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The Nurturing Community," click here.
The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The Social Community," click here.
We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs. We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The Economic Community," click here.
We hold governments responsible for the protection of people’s basic freedoms. We believe that neither church nor state should attempt to dominate the other. While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The Political Community," click here.
God’s world is one world. The unity now being thrust upon us by technological revolution has far outrun our moral and spiritual capacity to achieve a stable world. The enforced unity of humanity, increasingly evident on all levels of life, presents the Church as well as all people with problems that will not wait for answer: injustice, war, exploitation, privilege, population, international ecological crisis, proliferation of arsenals of nuclear weapons, development of transnational business organizations that operate beyond the effective control of any governmental structure, and the increase of tyranny in all its forms. This generation must find viable answers to these and related questions if humanity is to continue on this earth. We commit ourselves as a Church to the achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another. We pledge ourselves to seek the meaning of the gospel in all issues that divide people and threaten the growth of world community.
To read the complete list of our "Social Principles: The World Community," click here.
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
(It is recommended that this statement of Social Principles be continually available to United Methodist Christians and that it be emphasized regularly in every congregation. It is further recommended that “Our Social Creed” be frequently used in Sunday worship.)
A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed
God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ,
calls us by grace
to be renewed in the image of our Creator,
that we may be one
in divine love for the world.
Today is the day
God cares for the integrity of creation,
wills the healing and wholeness of all life,
weeps at the plunder of earth’s goodness.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God embraces all hues of humanity,
delights in diversity and difference,
favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God cries with the masses of starving people,
despises growing disparity between rich and poor,
demands justice for workers in the marketplace.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace,
celebrates where justice and mercy embrace,
exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.
And so shall we.
Today is the day
God brings good news to the poor,
proclaims release to the captives,
gives sight to the blind, and
sets the oppressed free.
And so shall we.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.