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United Methodists

Why does The United Methodist Church ordain women?

Clergywomen have been part of Methodism since John Wesley licensed Sarah Crosby to preach in 1761. Although women were ordained in the Methodist tradition as early as the late 1800s, it was the May 4, 1956 General Conference vote for full clergy rights that forever changed the face of ordained clergy.

What is the creed of The United Methodist Church?

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world. We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

Why do we say creeds?

Unlike some churches that require affirmation of a strict list of beliefs as a condition of membership, The United Methodist Church is not a creedal church.

So why do we recite creeds during worship?

The United Methodist Hymnal contains nine creeds or affirmations. Only two of these (Nicene and Apostles') are strictly considered to
be creeds because they are products of ecumenical councils.  The remaining affirmations are taken from Paul’s letters (Corinthians, Colossians, Romans and Timothy) along with affirmations from the United Church of Canada, the Korean Methodist Church and the United Methodist Social Affirmation.

United Methodists are not required to believe every word of the affirmations. Church founder, John Wesley himself did not agree with
a historic (Athanasian) creed, because he disliked its emphasis on condemning people to hell.

Affirmations help us come to our own understanding of the Christian faith. They affirm our unity in Christ with those followers who first
wrote them, the many generations who have recited them before us and those who will recite them after we have gone.

Do United Methodists believe that animals have souls and go to heaven?

With other Catholic and Protestant denominations, we United Methodists do not teach that animals have souls and therefore need redemption and forgiveness or heaven in the same way that humans do.

However, we do teach that "All creation is the Lord's, and therefore we are responsible for the ways in which we use or abuse it [including the animals and diverse forms of life on the planet]." ( 160, 2008 Book of Discipline)

Further, "We support regulations that protect the life and health of animals, including those ensuring the humane treatment of pets and other domestic animals, animals used in research, and the painless slaughtering of meat animals, fish, and fowl.

We encourage the preservation of all animal species including those threatened with extinction."  ( 160C, 2008 Book of Discipline)

We include in our Book of Worship a liturgy for the blessing of animals and we see animals as companions and "friends" to humans and believe that all of them belong to God.

What does The UMC teach about the second coming?

United Methodists have varied interpretations and understandings of the second coming of Christ as referenced in scripture.  While you would find many who take a literal approach to belief in the second coming, most United Methodists would be uncertain about the meaning of the second coming.

Generally speaking, United Methodists are focused on Christ and welcoming his grace--prevenient that moves us to turn to Christ for salvation, justifying that works righteousness in us and trust for salvation, and sanctifying that perfects us in lives of love of God and neighbor. We tend not to be a speculative people . Often attention to the second coming can get pretty dicey and speculative. As the children of John Wesley, we are practical people attending to Christ present in worship and in the daily life and needs of others around us.

The United Methodist Church accepts cremation and organ donation. How is this consistent with resurrection of the body? Our Articles of Religion affirm the bodily resurrection of Christ in very strong language:

"Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature" (Article III).

While the Articles of Religion say nothing about the Last Judgment or theresurrection of believers (though the Scriptures and the Creeds both affirm this!), the Confession of Faith speaks of it in these words:

"We believe all men stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ,
both now and in the last day. We believe in the resurrection of the dead;
the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to endless condemnation" (Article XII).

Our doctrinal statements, then, affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus, indeed the resurrection of the same body that entered the tomb. But for believers, many of whose bodies over the past two thousand years may have entirely decomposed, if they were not burned, lost at sea, or otherwise destroyed, our statements speak simply of the resurrection of "the dead."  This is consistent not only with biology, but also with the teaching of Paul in I Corinthians 15. There, Paul insists that resurrection is real, necessary, and more than a matter of revivifying dead bodies or remains. Instead, he speaks of a spiritual body that is raised of which our perishable, corruptible bodies are at most but the seed  (see especially verses 35-49).

For all of these reasons, United Methodists do not insist upon burial as the only appropriate means of committing our earthly remains to God, and so are generally open to cremation as a viable alternative. In some places burial or entombment is simply not an option, either because of costs involved or because of a lack of cemetery space. Ultimately, this is a decision that will be in the context of the individuals, families, and cultural norms involved.

While United Methodists take no direct stand against cremation, we do take a very proactive stand to encourage organ donation. Our Social Principles state that "organ transplantation and organ donation are acts of charity, agape love, and self-sacrifice. We recognize the life-giving benefits of organ and other tissue donation and encourage all people of faith to become organ and tissue donors as part of their love and ministry to others in need" ( 162 W).

Does The United Methodist Church believe that babies are born in sin?

Yes, we do believe that babies, at birth, are contaminated by sin. The ancient teaching of the church on this is called the doctrine of original sin. The Articles of Religion in our Book of Discipline state: "Article VII - Of Original or Birth Sin Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of  Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually." 

The point here is that we do not choose ["Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam"] to follow the way of sin; indeed, we cannot help it without the grace of God. 

It means, as Romans 5 puts it (see all of chapter 5 which is about salvation) "as by one man's disobedience [Adam's] the many [meaning all who are born] were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience [Jesus] the many will be made righteous." This is Paul’s way of spelling out both the doctrine of sin and the doctrine of salvation.  Remember here, we are dealing with Paul's way of setting this up. Christ can redeem all because his faithfulness to God in perfect love and obedience matches and exceeds the disobedience of one man, Adam. 

The notion of original sin does not compute very well with the modern outlook. Most of the 20th century church tried to dance around it and then wondered why Jesus' saving work was hard to get serious about. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” says 1st John, vs. 8. 

The point is that we, from birth, need the grace of God available in Jesus Christ. We cannot hope in some tiny spark of goodness at our core that is always there to get us through. We are without merit or claim upon God on our own. This is a hard pill to swallow in our "enlightened" and modern perspective. On the other hand, what a gracious hope and gospel we proclaim and live if we simply accept the desperate need we are in from the beginning and the washing of water and the word in baptism where God claims us as God's own in union with Christ, dying to sin and living alive to God by the power of the Spirit.

Does a person who commits suicide go to hell?

161 N) Suicide—We believe that suicide is not the way a human life should end. Often suicide is the result of untreated depression, or untreated pain and suffering. The church has an obligation to see that all persons have access to needed pastoral and medical care and therapy in those circumstances that lead to loss of self-worth, suicidal despair, and/or the desire to seek physician-assisted suicide. We encourage the church to provide education to address the biblical, theological, social, and ethical issues related to death and dying, including suicide. United Methodist theological seminary courses should also focus on issues of death and dying, including suicide.

A Christian perspective on suicide begins with an affirmation of faith that nothing, including suicide, separates us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, we deplore the condemnation of people who complete suicide, and we consider unjust the stigma that so often falls on surviving family and friends.

We encourage pastors and faith communities to address this issue through preaching and teaching. We urge pastors and faith communities to provide pastoral care to those at risk, survivors, and their families, and to those families who have lost loved ones to suicide, seeking always to remove the oppressive stigma around suicide. The Church opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Why do we say we believe in the "holy catholic church" in the Apostles' Creed?

Is this a reference to the Catholic Church? The Apostles' Creed is a statement of belief from the early church (probably from the first few centuries after Jesus' death and resurrection). When the creed states, "I believe in the holy catholic church," it refers to the universal church rather than a specific branch of Christianity. The word catholic comes from the Greek word katholikos whichmeans "universal" or "general."

Do United Methodists believe in saints?

United Methodists believe in saints, but not in the same manner as the Catholic Church. We recognize Matthew, Paul, John, Luke and other early followers of Jesus as saints, and countless numbers of United Methodist churches are named after these saints.

We also recognize and celebrate All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) and "all the saints who from their labors rest."  All Saints' Day is a time to remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us.  On All Saints' Day, many churches read the names of their members who died in the past year.

However, our denomination does not have any system whereby people are elected to sainthood. We do not pray to saints, nor do we believe they serve as mediators to God.  United Methodist believe "... there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human who gave himself a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5-6a). 

United Methodists call people "saints" because they exemplified the Christian life. In this sense, every Christian can be considered a saint.

John Wesley believed we have much to learn from the saints, but he did not encourage anyone to worship them. He expressed concern about the Church of England's focus on saints' days and said that "most of the holy days were at present answering no valuable end."

Wesley's focus was entirely on the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Our American Flag Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12

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