What We Believe
Our doctrinal statements and history are stated clearly within the United Methodist Book of Discipline. We are “orthodox” in our theology pertaining to the Trinitarian nature of God as One in Three persons, the two natures of Christ as both fully divine and fully human, and the ongoing work and person of the Holy Spirit. We stand within the protestant tradition that affirms two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We affirm baptism of infants and adults, and affirm a variety of means of baptism including immersion, sprinkling and pouring as the Holy Spirit is active in and through each. Because we affirm infant baptism, we see the need for each person to publically affirm their faith through confirmation.
Our Wesleyan distinctive is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to transform the lives of the believer into Christian maturity as a part of what it means “to be saved.” Our theology is concerned with not just orthodoxy (right doctrine), but also orthorpraxis (right actions), and orthopathy (right heart). For United Methodists the purpose of theology is “holiness of heart and life.”
For United Methodists, salvation means redemption from the guilt and penalty of our sin in the work and person of Jesus Christ through His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. We believe that because of Original Sin the image of God within us has been totally corrupted and we are unable to respond to God’s grace on our own. We believe that salvation means restoring that lost and corrupted image of God, and that image of God is self-giving love.
Through prevenient grace (as working through preaching, witnessing and other forms of evangelism) we are brought to repentance of our sins and respond to the “justifying” forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ. This ushers in a “new birth” that brings us into a new life in Christ. This is a critical first step in salvation that leads us into what John Wesley would term “the way of salvation.” Standing with the ancient church, we believe that salvation means being freed from both the guilt of our sin and the power of sin that still remains. Salvation includes our sanctification as those who move on “from grace to grace.” Through God’s sanctifying grace we mature in our faith, and grow in our love of God and neighbor until Jesus is our “all in all,” and “Godly love is shed abroad in our hearts” motivating all we do and say; we grow into maturity as Christians.
John Wesley understood this in terms of “holiness of heart and life,” or “Christian Perfection.” A gradual growth in grace, faith and love with moments of instantaneous works of Grace whereby we are transformed and the image of God is restored within us.
The means of grace that move us down this path include a life of prayer, regular worship, searching the Holy Scriptures, regularly participating in the Lord’s Supper, “Christian conferencing” of small groups that hold one another accountable in their faith walk in love, love feasts, and works of mercy and serving the needs of others.
The church is the Body of Christ in the world that calls people into that relationship with God in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit working in and through the means of grace, moves us into Christian maturity; restoring that image of God. The church is sent into the world as a “sign and foretaste” of God’s reign in the world, witnessing to this through sign, word and actions; inviting and initiating others into God’s reign.