Glenn Memorial UMC
Friday, September 19, 2014
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
What We Believe
We all share a faith in God and Jesus Christ, and we use reason, experience, tradition, and most importantly, the Bible as a guide. But the church encourages us to think for ourselves, so we don’t necessarily have the same opinions about every faith issue or social concern. We believe that God will comfort, guide, and forgive everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done; that faith and social action go hand in hand; and that we can make a real difference in the world. Want to know more? Keep reading below.
The United Methodist Church traces its roots back to John Wesley, an Anglican priest in the Church of England in the 1700s. John and his brother, Charles, intended to revitalize the Church of England by forming societies of "Methodists"– so called because the members followed a daily routine of religious observance and social work. Methodism first spread to Ireland and then to America where it officially became its own denomination in 1784. Today United Methodist membership stands at nearly 11 million people worldwide.
One of the marks of being a United Methodist is that we embrace a wide range of beliefs. John Wesley said, "As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think." In general, we agree on the major aspects of theology. We believe in a Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in God’s love and forgiveness of all people. We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. And we believe in celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
For United Methodists, social consciousness has always gone hand in hand with faith. We believe, as Wesley put it, "that the world is our parish," and that “the gospel of Jesus Christ knows no holiness except social holiness.” This is why we support missions and social justice locally, regionally, and around the world. We cherish an ecumenical tradition and work together with other Christian denominations as well as other religions.
We believe in the dignity of each person and the practice of democracy in our church’s life. All of God’s children are welcome to attend our worship services, participate in our ministries and activities, receive the sacraments of baptism and holy communion, and become members of the congregation.
John Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illuminated by tradition, interpreted in the light of experience, and confirmed by reason.
The primary source of our faith is the Bible. We believe the Bible is 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 Holy Spirit’s work in the early church. The Bible is our sacred book, and as such it serves as the decisive source of our Christian witness and the authoritative measure of the truth in our beliefs.
We study the Bible individually and as a congregation. 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.
United Methodists share with other Christians the conviction that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine. Through Scripture the living Christ meets us in the experience of redeeming grace. We are convinced that Jesus Christ is the living Word of God in our midst whom we trust in life and death.
Between biblical times and our own times stand countless witnesses on whom we rely in our theological journey. Through their words in creeds, hymns, and prayers; 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 of our beliefs is experience. By experience we mean especially the “new life in Christ,” which is ours as a gift of God’s grace. We believe that our spiritual rebirth and our personal assurance of God’s love give us new eyes to see the living truth in Scripture. But we also mean the broader experience of the life we all live, with its joys and its hurts, its fears and its hopes. So we interpret the Bible in light of our cumulative experiences, and we interpret our life’s experience in light of the biblical message. We do this not only for our experience individually but also for the experience of the whole human family.
Our own intelligence isn’t a direct source of Christian belief, but it is a necessary tool. We use our intelligence in reading and interpreting the Scripture. We use it in relating the Scripture and tradition to our experience and in organizing our personal beliefs in a way that holds together. We use our intelligence in relating our beliefs to the full range of human knowledge and in expressing our faith to others in clear and helpful ways.
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