As United Methodists, we hold that the Christian faith is revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, made alive through personal experience, and confirmed by reason.
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 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.
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.
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.
The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we are reminded that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
We remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is alive and well to bring the written Word alive for the present.
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.
Being a part of the over 13 million United Methodists that are around the globe means that we are a part of a community centered on God and living holy lives. From the founding of the Methodist Church, the Evangelical Association, and the United Brethren Church (which all merged to form The United Methodist Church) we have been guided by our Wesleyan heritage. While we share much in common with Christians across the spectrum of denominations, this heritage makes our church and denomination distinct from others.
We believe that salvation is the act of God's grace entirely, from invitation, to pardon, to growth in holiness. This also means that God's prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace interacts dynamically in the lives of Christians from birth to death.
Good works (or doing good) are the fruit (or result) of one's salvation, not the other way around where salvation is earned through doing good. Faith and good works go hand in hand in United Methodist theology: a living tree naturally and inevitably bears fruit.
We reject the doctrine of eternal security (the idea that once you are saved you are forever saved). Instead, United Methodists believe that you can reject your salvation. Wesley (the founder of Methodism) emphasized that believers must continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, through the process of Sanctification.
United Methodists, therefore, believe in the Evangelical Gospel of repentance and a personal relationship with God AND the Social Gospel of a commitment to social justice issues that have included abolition, women's suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, and ministry with the poor.
The key emphasis of John Wesley's theology is on how the grace of God works with us as individuals. Wesley defined salvation as the working of grace in at least three parts: Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace.
Prevenient grace, or the grace that "goes before" us, is given to all people. It enables us to love and motivates us to seek a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is God working to turn us from our sin-corrupted human will to the loving will of the Father. God wants us to be able to sense both our sinfulness before God and His offer of salvation. Prevenient grace allows us to make a truly free choice to accept or reject God's salvation in Christ.
Justifying Grace, or “Accepting Grace”, is grace offered by God to all people, which we receive when we come to know our sinful state and choose to trust in Jesus for our salvation.
It is in justifying grace we are received by God, in spite of our sin and forgiven through Jesus Christ. This grace cancels our guilt and gives us the power to resist sin and to fully love God and neighbor.
John Wesley originally called this experience the New Birth. This experience can occur in different ways; it can be one transforming moment, such as an altar call experience, or it may involve a series of decisions across a period of time.
Sanctifying Grace is what sustains believers in the journey toward Christian Perfection: a genuine love of God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and a genuine love of our neighbors as ourselves. Sanctifying grace makes us able to respond to God by leading a Spirit-filled and Christ-like life aimed toward love. Wesley never claimed this state of perfection for himself but instead insisted the attainment of perfection was possible for all Christians.