The United Methodist Church is a Protestant movement and 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 10 million worldwide (more than 1 million are outside of the United States).
Part of the mark of being a United Methodist is that we hold a wide range of theological 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, 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.