Our Doctrinal Heritage
United Methodists profess the historic Christian faith in God, incarnate in Jesus Christ for our salvation and ever at work in human history in the Holy Spirit. Living in a covenant of grace under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we participate in the first fruits of God’s coming reign and pray in hope for its full realization on earth as in heaven.
Our heritage in doctrine and our present theological task focus upon a renewed grasp of the sovereignty of God and of God’s love in Christ amid the continuing crises of human existence.
Our forebears in the faith reaffirmed the ancient Christian message as found in the apostolic witness even as they applied it anew in their own circumstances.
Their preaching and teaching were grounded in Scripture, informed by Christian tradition, enlivened in experience, and tested by reason.
Their labors inspire and inform our attempts to convey the saving gospel to our world with its needs and aspirations.
Basic Christian Affirmations
With Christians of other communions we confess belief in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This confession embraces the biblical witness to God’s activity in creation, encompasses God’s gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, and anticipates the consummation of God’s reign.
The created order is designed for the well-being of all creatures and as the place of human dwelling in covenant with God. As sinful creatures, however, we have broken that covenant, become estranged from God, wounded ourselves and one another, and wreaked havoc throughout the natural order. We stand in need of redemption.
- We hold in common with all Christians a faith in the mystery of salvation in and through Jesus Christ.
- We share the Christian belief that God’s redemptive love is realized in human life by the activity of the Holy Spirit, both in personal experience and in the community of believers.
- We understand ourselves to be part of Christ’s universal church when by adoration, proclamation, and service we become conformed to Christ.
- With other Christians we recognize that the reign of God is both a present and future reality.
- We share with many Christian communions a recognition of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith, the confession that our justification as sinners is by grace through faith, and the sober realization that the church is in need of continual reformation and renewal.
Distinctive Wesleyan Emphases
- Prevenient Grace—We acknowledge God’s prevenient grace, the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our “first slight transient conviction” of having sinned against God.
- Justification and Assurance—We believe God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace with accepting and pardoning love. Wesleyan theology stresses that a decisive change in the human heart can and does occur under the prompting of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Sanctification and Perfection—We hold that the wonder of God’s acceptance and pardon does not end God’s saving work, which continues to nurture our growth in grace. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love for our neighbor.
- Faith and Good Works—We see God’s grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. God’s grace calls forth human response and discipline.
- Mission and Service—We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.
- Nurture and Mission of the Church—Finally, we emphasize the nurturing and serving function of Christian fellowship in the Church. The personal experience of faith is nourished by the worshiping community.