The Mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.
The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission – We make disciples as we proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;
– lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;
– nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
– send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and
– the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
The United Methodist Church seeks to create disciples for Christ through outreach, evangelism, and through seeking holiness, also called sanctification, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The flame in the church logo represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, and the two parts of the flame also represent the predecessor denominations, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, united at the base symbolizing the 1968 merger.
The United Methodist Church understands itself to be part of the holy catholic or universal church and it recognizes the historic ecumenical creeds the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed; which are used frequently in Services of Worship The Book of Discipline also recognizes the importance of the Chalcedonian Creed of the Council of Chalcedon. It upholds the concept of the “visible and invisible Church,” meaning that all who are truly believers in every age belong to the holy Church invisible, while the United Methodist Church is a branch of the Church visible, to which all believers must be connected as it is the only institution wherein the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are administered.
Some argue that The United Methodist Church can lay a claim on apostalic session, as understood in the traditional sense. As a result of the American Revolution, John Wesley was compelled in 1784 to break with standard practice and ordain two of his lay preachers as presbyters, Thomas Vasey and Richard Whatcoat. Dr. Thomas Coke, already an Anglican priest, assisted Wesley in this action. Coke was then “set apart” as a superintendent (bishop) by Wesley and dispatched with Vasey and Whatcoat to America to take charge of Methodist activities there. In defense of his action to ordain, Wesley himself cited an ancient opinion from the Church of Alexandria, which held that bishops and presbyters constituted one order and therefore, bishops are to be elected from and by the presbyterates. He knew that for two centuries the succession of bishops in the Church of Alexandria was preserved through ordination by presbyters alone and was considered valid by the ancient church. Methodists today who would argue for apostolic succession would do so on these grounds.
While many United Methodist congregations operate in the evangelical tradition, others reflect the Mainline Protestant traditions. Although United Methodist practices and interpretation of beliefs have evolved over time, these practices and beliefs can be traced to the writings of the church’s founders, especially John and Charles (Anglicans), but also Philip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm (United Brethren), and Jacob Albright (Evangelical Association). With the formation of The United Methodist Church in 1968, theologian Alber C. Outler led the team which systematized denominational doctrine. Outler’s work proved pivotal in the work of union, and he is largely considered the first United Methodist theologian.
For United Methodists, social consciousness has always gone hand in hand with faith. We believe, with John Wesley, “that the world is our parish.” Hence, we support mission and justice work locally, regionally and around the world. We cherish an ecumenical tradition and seek to work together with other Christian denominations as well as other religions. We believe in the dignity of each person and the practice of total democracy in our church’s life.
John Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. United Methodists today follow four main guidelines that help us understand our faith. Scripture, Tradition, Experience, & Reason:
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.
– The story of the church reflects the most basic sense of tradition, the activity of God’s Spirit transforming human life. Tradition is the history of that continuing environment of grace in and by which all Christians live, God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ. As such, tradition transcends the story of particular traditions.
– Some facets of human experience our theological understanding. Many of God’s people live in terror, hunger, loneliness, and degradation. Everyday experiences of birth and death, of growth and life in the created world, and an awareness of wider social relations also belong to serious theological reflection. A new awareness of such experiences can inform our appropriation of scriptural truths and sharpen our appreciation of the good news of the kingdom of God.
– Although we recognize that God’s revelation and our experiences of God’s grace surpass the scope of human language and reason, we also believe that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason we read and interpret Scripture. By reason we determine whether our Christian witness is clear. By reason we ask questions of faith and seek to understand God’s action and will.