“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not written therein, nor may be proved thereby is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation” (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, Article 5; see also – The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, Article 4).
2. Book of Discipline and other Documents
“The Evangelical United Brethren Church’s Confession of Faith and the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Articles of Religion help us understand what we believe as United Methodists. The writings of Methodism’s founder also continue to guide us. John Wesley’s Sermons On Several Occasions, his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament and the General Rules of the Methodist Church continue to inform our faith and practice” (United Methodist Foundational Documents, umc.org).
“We do not see the Discipline as sacrosanct or infallible, but we do consider it a document suitable to our heritage… It reflects our understanding of the Church and articulates the mission of The United Methodist… The Discipline defines what is expected of its laity and clergy” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, Episcopal Greetings, pp. v-vi).
Beliefs and Practices
1. Free Will
“We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil… we believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good” (The Articles of Religion, Article 7). This is called Prevenient Grace or Preventing Grace. God provides to all enough grace to overcome the effects of the fall so that man has free will to respond to God. “Wesley uses the metaphor of a house to describe our spiritual journeys. Our justification he calls the door. The conviction of our sins and the recognition of our need for salvation, he likens to a porch. Prevenient grace is the grace of the porch. It prepares our hearts and minds to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to respond in faith” (God at Work Before We Know It: Prevenient Grace by Joe Iovino, umc.org; Also: What is Prevenient Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson, seedbed YouTube).
2. Justification or Salvation
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Articles of Religion, Article 9). Justification is considered the door way of salvation (Justifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, seedbed YouTube).
“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. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church” (The Articles of Religion, Article 17). “We believe Baptism signifies entrance into the household of faith, and is a symbol of repentance and inner cleansing from sin, a representation of the new birth in Christ Jesus and a mark of Christian discipleship” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6).
They do not believe that it matters how one was baptized. Immersion, pouring, and sprinkling are all considered acceptable (What do I Need to Know About Baptism in the UMC?, umc.org).
They baptize infants. “In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to process their faith, with divine grace. Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are – whatever our age” (FAQs About Baptism, Membership, and Salvation, umcdiscipleship.org).
4. Lord’s Supper
“Transubstantiation… cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture” (The Articles of Religion, Article 18). “We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the suffering and death of Christ…” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6).
“Each local United Methodist Church determines how often to celebrate communion. Many churches celebrate communion once a month, often on the first Sunday… Some churches now celebrate every week” (How Often Do We Have Communion?, umc.org).
“Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost… enabled through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless” (The Articles of Religion, Article 25).
This allows one to live in the house. Preventient grace and convicting grace brings one to the porch. Justifying grace is the door. Santifying grace allows one to live in the house (Sanctifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, Seebed YouTube).
This is sometimes referred to as the second work of grace. The first work of grace occurs when one is justified. The second work of grace occurs in sanctification. “God’s sanctifying grace changes us and leads us to increase our faith, which leads to good works. Just as a one-sided marriage fails, a one-sided relationship with God fails, also. We must participate in the relationship God offers us, and God’s sanctifying grace leads us to do that” (Distinctive Wesleyan Doctrines, fumcwf.org).
Methodists do not believe in once saved, always saved doctrine. “Our church teaches we can end up ‘losing’ the salvation God has begun in us, and the consequence of this in the age to come is our eternal destruction in hell” (Do United Methodist Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved?”, umc.org).
6. The General Rules of The Methodist Church by John Wesley
“It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, First: By doing no harm, by avoiding even of every kind… Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men… Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God… These are the General Rules of our societies” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, The General Rules of The Methodist Church).
“Women were given limited clergy rights in 1924 and were accepted for full ordination in 1956. In 1980 the United Methodist Church elected its first woman bishop” (United Methodist Church, britannica.com).
The UMC is nearing division over this subject. A proposal is currently being considered to split the Church over this issue. This is scheduled to be decided in the August 2022 General Conference (United Methodist Conservatives Detail Breakaway Plans Over Gay Inclusion, A.P., March 02, 2021, nbcnews.com).
SMU, accepting of lgbtq, has claimed that it is not under the authority of UMC. This led to a lawsuit against the University (SMU sued as it moves to cut ties with United Methodist Church, religiousnews.com). SMU won this lawsuit (Judge Rules for SMU Over Jurisdiction By Sam Hodges, March 23, 2021, umnews.org).
The United Methodist Church has an organizational structure greater than the local church. “The United Methodist Church does not have a central headquarters or a single executive leader. Duties are divided among bodies that includes the General Conference, the Council of Bishops, and the Judicial Council” (Structure, umc.org)
The local church does not fully control church property. “All properties of United Methodist local churches and all other Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination” (The Book of Discipline 2016, paragraph 2501).
Types of Methodists
There are many types of Methodists. Here are a few:
1. United Methodist Church
The Methodists split over slavery in 1844-1845. The two Churches which formed out of this split were: The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Encyclopedia Britannica).
These two Churches merged in 1939. They became The Methodist Church (ibid).
The Evangelical United Brethren Church (Methodists of German heritage) merged with them in 1968, in Dallas, Texas. They became The United Methodist Church (ibid).
2. African Methodist Episcopal Church
“This Church began in 1787 when a number of members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia withdrew in protest against racial discrimination… The body was formally organized as The African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816” (Frank Mead and Samuel Hill Handbook of Denominations, p. 159).
3. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
“This Church dates from 1796, when it was organized by a group of members protesting discrimination in the John Street church in New York City… The present name was approved in 1848” (Mead, pp. 159-160).