I one time heard a person say that trying to understand what United Methodists believe is like trying to nail Jello to a tree. It’s a common sentiment among those who are outside of the United Methodist Church (and even some on the inside). People sometimes think that United Methodist can believe whatever they want, but the reality is something quite different – and often a well-kept secret.
I have my perspective on why this has become such a commonplace notion, but I don’t have the space to go into all of that in this post (I may start working on an article to try and publish regarding this dilemma). In simple terms it comes down to the fact that many are not aware and often are not taught about the Articles of Religion which are foundational to our life as a denomination, foundational to how we seek to live out our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I am not going to list these articles here – there are 25 of them and, while mostly brief, they do take up some space. Here is a link to an article by Dennis Bratcher, of the CRI/Voice Institute (The 25 Articles of Religion). He offers a brief historical commentary and then lays out the articles.
The point is this – from the beginning, Methodists have established their life and their faith on a firm foundation. The Articles are based on Scriptural understandings (yet, they are not seen as equal in weight or authority as Scripture upon which they were developed). The problem is not that we don’t believe anything, or that we do believe anything – the problem is we are not paying attention to who we are and what we do believe.
We are known as a Church founded upon and living out of the grace of God – the grace that saves us and transforms us. But to live out of the grace of God does not mean we avoid staking a claim as believers, it means doing so in a way that calls us into God’s grace more fully.
I believe the greatest gift we have is United Methodists is that we are firm believers anchored in the historical faith, which allows us to reach out in love and grace without fear. It is not that we are untethered, it is that we are unafraid to travel into the lives of untethered people with a message of love and hope in Jesus Christ. If that makes it hard for us to be known as staunch believers, that’s a risk we’ll just have to take.
Holy high-five to you, Mike