Louisville UMC
Monday, April 12, 2021
I think of you every day. Love Always God.

What We Believe

 The officially established Doctrinal Standards of United Methodism are:

These Doctrinal Standards are constitutionally protected and nearly impossible to change or remove.[35] Other doctrines of the United Methodist Church are found in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

Summary of basic beliefs[edit]

The basic beliefs of the United Methodist Church include:

  • Triune God. God is one God in three persons: FatherSon and Holy Spirit.[37]
  • The Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God. F. Belton Joyner argues that there is a deep division within Methodism today about what this means. Does it mean the Bible was inspired when written (and the text today is always true and without error), or is it inspired when actually read by a Christian (and therefore depends on the interaction with the reader.) In the first case, says Joyner, the Christian is concerned only with the precise wording of the original manuscript, without regard to historical setting. In the other case, the reader tries to read the biblical text in terms of all of the influences of modern thought, with little regard for the meaning offered in the ancient texts. In that Wesleyan tradition, United Methodists balance these two extremes, aware that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures is alive and well to bring the written Word alive for the twenty-first century. (United Methodists) take seriously both the original inspiration and today's contemporary inspiration. "...In this way, the Bible itself becomes the balancing, clarifying, even correcting tool for understanding the Scripture. God’s gifts in the written Word are so rich that they can continue to give light and life as one digs again and again into the same Scriptures."[38][39]
  • Sin. While human beings were intended to bear the image of God, all humans are sinners for whom that image is distorted. Sin estranges people from God and corrupts human nature such that we cannot heal or save ourselves.[40]
  • Salvation through Jesus Christ. God's redeeming love is active to save sinners through Jesus' incarnate life and teachings, through his atoning death, his resurrection, his sovereign presence through history, and his promised return.[40]
  • Sanctification. The grace of sanctification draws one toward the gift of Christian perfection, which Wesley described as a heart "habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor" and as "having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked."[41]
  • Sacraments. The UMC recognizes two sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Other rites such as ConfirmationOrdinationHoly MatrimonyFunerals, and Anointing of the Sick are performed but not considered sacraments. In Holy Baptism, the Church believes that "Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth.[42] It believes that Baptism is a sacrament in which God initiates a covenant with individuals,[43] people become a part of the Church,[43] is not to be repeated,[43] and is a means of grace.[44] The United Methodist Church generally practices Baptism by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion[45] and recognizes Trinitarian formula[46] baptisms from other Christian denominations.[47] The United Methodist Church affirms the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion, but does not hold to transubstantiation.[48] The church believes that the bread is an effectual sign of His body crucified on the cross and the cup is an effectual sign of His blood shed for humanity.[49] Through the outward and visible signs of bread and wine, the inward and spiritual reality of the Body and Blood of Christ are offered to believers. The church holds that the celebration of the Eucharist is an anamnesis of Jesus' death,[50] and believes the sacrament to be a means of grace,[51] and practices open communion.[52]
  • Free will. The UMC believes that people, while corrupted by sin, are free to make their own choices because of God's divine grace enabling them, and that people are truly accountable before God for their choices.
  • Social Justice. The church opposes evils such as slavery, inhumane prison conditions, capital punishment, economic injustice, child labor, racism, and inequality.[53]

Distinctive Wesleyan emphases[edit]

The key emphasis of Wesley's theology relates to how divine grace operates within the individual. Wesley defined the Way of Salvation as the operation of grace in at least three parts: Prevenient GraceJustifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace.

Prevenient grace, or the grace that "goes before" us, is given to all people. It is that power which enables us to love and motivates us to seek a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.[54] This grace is the present work of God to turn us from our sin-corrupted human will to the loving will of the Father. In this work, God desires that we might sense both our sinfulness before God and God's offer of salvation. Prevenient grace allows those tainted by sin to nevertheless make a truly free choice to accept or reject God's salvation in Christ.[54]

Justifying Grace or Accepting Grace[54] is that grace, offered by God to all people, that we receive by faith and trust in Christ, through which God pardons the believer of sin. It is in justifying grace we are received by God, in spite of our sin. In this reception, we are forgiven through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The justifying grace cancels our guilt and empowers us to resist the power of sin and to fully love God and neighbor. Today, justifying grace is also known as conversion, "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior," or being "born again."[54][55] John Wesley originally called this experience the New Birth.[56] This experience can occur in different ways; it can be one transforming moment, such as an altar call experience,[57] or it may involve a series of decisions across a period of time.[58]

Sanctifying Grace is that grace of God which sustains the 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 enables us 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. Here the English Reformer parted company with both Luther and Calvin, who denied that a man would ever reach a state in this life in which he could not fall into sin. Such a man can lose all inclination to evil and can gain perfection in this life.[59]

Wesleyan theology maintains that salvation is the act of God's grace entirely, from invitation, to pardon, to growth in holiness. Furthermore, God's prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace interact dynamically in the lives of Christians from birth to death.

According to Wesleyan understanding, good works are the fruit of one's salvation, not the way in which that salvation was earned. Faith and good works go hand in hand in Methodist theology: a living tree naturally and inevitably bears fruit. Wesleyan theology rejects the doctrine of eternal security, believing that salvation can be rejected.[60] Wesley emphasized that believers must continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, through the process of Sanctification.

A key outgrowth of this theology is the United Methodist dedication not only to the Evangelical Gospel of repentance and a personal relationship with God, but also to the Social Gospel and a commitment to social justice issues that have included abolition, women's suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, and ministry with the poor.

Characterization of Wesleyan theology[edit]

Methodist theology stands at a unique crossroads between evangelicalholiness and sacramental,[14] between liturgical and charismatic, and between Anglo-Catholic and Reformed theology and practice. It has been characterized as Arminian theology with an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring holiness into the life of the participating believer. The United Methodist Church believes in prima scriptura, seeing the Bible as the primary authority in the Church and using sacred traditionreason, and experience to interpret it, with the aid of the Holy Spirit (see Wesleyan Quadrilateral).[61] Therefore, according to The Book of Discipline, United Methodist theology is at once "catholic, evangelical, and reformed."[62] Today, the UMC is generally considered one of the more moderate and tolerant denominations with respect to race, gender, and ideology, though the denomination itself includes a wide spectrum of attitudes. Comparatively, the UMC stands to the right of liberal and progressive Protestant groups such as the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church on certain issues (especially regarding sexuality), but to the left of historically conservative evangelical traditions such as the Southern Baptists and Pentecostalism, in regard to theological matters such as social justice and Biblical interpretation. The UMC is made up of a broad diversity of thought, and so there are many clergy and laity within the UMC that hold differing viewpoints on such theological matters.