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How Are We Different?
What are some of the things that make United Methodism unique?
First, we are part of a family of denominations founded by John Wesley. Wesley lived in the 1700's in England and was an Anglican priest who wanted to revitalize the Church in England. In his efforts for revitalization he began preaching and teaching to the masses in England who were largley unchurched at the time. As he preached and established small groups, a new movement called Methodism emerged. Some of the particularlities of what he taught and what we as United Methodists believe can be found below.
Sanctification and Perfection
We hold that the wonder of God's acceptance and forgiveness does not end God's saving work, which continues to nurture our growth in grace. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love for our neighbor. This is sanctification.
New birth is the first step in this process of sanctification. Sanctifying grace draws us 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."
This gracious gift of God's power and love, the hope and expectation of the faithful, is not earned by our efforts nor limited by our frailties.
Faith and Good Works
We see God's grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. God's grace calls forth human response.
Faith is the only response essential for salvation. However, salvation shows itself in good works. For Wesley, even repentance should be accompanied by works that display our love for God and our love for our neighbor.
Both faith and good works belong within our understanding of grace since they stem from God's gracious love "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."
Mission and Service
We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are joined together and actually feed into one another.
Scriptural holiness entails more than personal belief; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
Nuture and Mission of the Church
We emphasize the nurturing and serving function of Christian fellowship in the church. The personal experience of faith is nourished by the worshiping community.
For Wesley there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The community of faith, in the Wesleyan tradition, not only promotes personal growth; it also equips and mobilizes us for mission and service to the world throught the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Sacraments and God's Grace
God makes God's grace available to us in many ways, but God promises to make it available and abundant through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
At Baptism, the worshipping community of the church recognizes God's gracious action of forgiving us of our sins and incorporating us into God's own life and mission by including us in the Body of Christ, the Church. Because it is God's action, it does not matter if the person being baptized is an infant, child, youth, or adult. Therefore, we practice both infant and adult baptism. Also, because it is primarily about God's action, it is only necessary to be baptized once in a lifetime.
During Holy Communion we gather around the table and eat the meal that Jesus shared with his Disciples on the night he was arrested. We believe that the bread and grape juice are the body and blood of Christ becuase he tells us that they are, and we believe that Jesus is present with us at the table comunicating God's grace to us every time we celebrate communion. Because Jesus is present at the table and makes God's grace abundant, we believe that the table should be open to anyone who desires to share in communion with God and with their neighbors. No one is excluded.
How Our Differences Make a Difference
As we seek to live into the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way we understand and practice our faith helps us to know how to respond to the difficult issues and situations in our lives and in our culture. Because of our Wesleyan background and our reliance on the grace of God, we always seek to respond to every person and situation from a postion of grace and not of judgment. God alone is capable of judgment. Therefore, we seek to be graceful and loving witnesses to God's power and grace in all that we say and do.