What WE Believe
The United Methodist Church stands firmly in the mainstream of Christian tradition. We share with many other denominations the basic tenets of Christian faith as put forth in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed:
The Trinity: God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God: God, often referred to as the Father or Creator, is the maker of all things.
Jesus Christ: We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God and Redeemer of all creation. God became human in Jesus of Nazareth; his life, death, and resurrection demonstrate God’s love.
Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit, or Sustainer, is God’s present activity in our midst, leading, challenging, supporting, or comforting us.
Humanity: Every person is of sacred value and is beloved by God, in whose image we are made. (Genesis 1:17). Like our Creator, we have the capacity to love, to communicate, and to create. However, God’s image has been marred by human sin.
The Church: The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
The Bible: The Bible is God’s Word, the primary authority for our faith and practice.
God’s Reign: The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
Distinctive elements of the Methodist tradition practiced here at Jackson First United Methodist Church include:
Grace: Grace is the free gift of God’s love and mercy given to us because God wants us to have it, not because we have earned it (Ephesians 2:8-9). This amazing grace is offered to us because of God’s great love, embodied in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Methodists identify three kinds of grace:
Prevenient Grace is the grace of God inherent in our creation which allows us to discern between good and evil, and causes us to yearn for relationship with God.
Justifying Grace is the grace-filled gift of Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins and reconciles us to God.
Sanctifying Grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, cooperatively working within us as we seek to live holier and more loving lives, and assuring us of God’s love for us.
Faith and Works: We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone, independent of anything we do. However, United Methodists insist that we respond to God’s grace through a life of loving service to those around us. Works of faith, mercy, love, and justice are a witness to our faith, and help us experience God’s love more fully. We affirm that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). Love of God is always linked to love of neighbor and to a passionate commitment to seeking justice and renewal in the world. United Methodists have one of the strongest mission programs in the world, and our social justice ministry is headquartered across the street from the U.S. Capitol.
Head & Heart: For Methodists, Christian faith is something to understand and something to feel. We encourage people to reflect on their faith using the tools of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Methodists affirm a few essentials (above) and welcome a latitude of belief on non-essentials. But faith is not just head knowledge. It is also a heartfelt assurance that Jesus Christ knows and loves each of us personally and forgives our sins.
Open Communion: Communion is a sacrament in which we experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Methodists welcome all to participate in this means of grace. In this holy mystery, we remember the loving sacrifice of Christ as we experience his presence in the bread and the cup. As a further expression of openness, Jackson First UMC uses grape juice instead of wine for those who struggle with addiction, and has optional gluten-free bread available for those who need it.
What is Methodism
Methodism began as an 18th-century movement founded by John Wesley that sought to reform the Church of England from within. The movement, however, became separate from its parent body and developed into an autonomous church. The movement got its name because of the habits of John Wesley, his brother Charles and a group of other earnest students who were dedicated to frequent attendance at Holy Communion, serious study of the Bible, and regular visitations to the filthy Oxford prisons. The members of this group, which Wesley came to lead, were known as Methodists because of their “methodical” devotion and study.
They were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living – putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.
The distinctive shape of our theological heritage can be seen not only in this emphasis on Christian living, but also in Wesley’s distinctive understanding of God’s saving grace. For Wesley, “grace is God’s active and continuous presence”:
For more in depth information on Methodism, visit UMC.org’s “Our Wesleyan Heritage” page.