There are seven million Methodists currently practicing in the United States today, and over five and a half million more in the rest of the world. We are a protestant religion at heart and believe it is important to help others to become closer to God. While we believe solidly in the Bible as the word of God, we often have progressive beliefs about how to engage with the world around us. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand if we believe in the more traditional aspects of Christianity.
For example, do Methodists believe in Original Sin? The idea of Original Sin, or being born in sin, is a key part to our belief structure in the Methodist church. We believe that we are all inclined to sin, no matter how good we think we are. It is only through God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ that people will find salvation.
The original founders were heavily influenced by the Church of England and had many ideas about things they could do differently. Around since the 1700s as the Methodist Church, in 1968, the church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to become the United Methodist church. So, what else do we believe? Do we believe in the rapture? How often do we offer communion?
One of the biggest tenets of the early days of the church was the belief in the benefits of living a Christian way of life. We believed people should be hands-on in bringing God’s faith and love to others. This belief is still incredibly important to all practicing Methodists today. Mission and service work is still a chief goal for all our parishioners worldwide. In fact, we proudly call ourselves an evangelical tradition.
While not unique among Christian and other religions, we have been allowing women as clergy since one of its founders, John Wesley, allowed women to preach 1761. Women were allowed to become ordained in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1956 that they were given full clergy rights.
While we believe in the Second Coming, we don’t believe in the Rapture. we believe that someday, Jesus Christ will return to earth and judge both the living and the dead. However, we don’t recognize the Rapture within our doctrine. The Second Coming isn’t a big focus of our worship. Instead, we prefer to focus on making the hear-and-now a better place for everyone living in it.
Unlike most other Christian faiths, we don’t necessarily think we go to Heaven or Hell after we die. Because the Bible offers different scenarios, the church doctrines don’t say what happens after death. We believe that we will all return to God and become one with Him. We also don’t believe in purgatory, although we admit that we don’t really know what happens and it could exist. We also believe that people who commit suicide aren’t condemned to suffer for eternity. They return to God, just like the rest of us.
Unlike many other protestant religions, we do believe in saints. However, we don’t worship them or pray to them, like Catholics do. We also don’t have any kind of system where people can be chosen to sainthood, although we do believe many people over the centuries have proved saint-like in their words and deeds. Instead, most of the saints we recognize are from the Bible itself. In fact, many of our churches are named after Biblical saints.
Practicing The Faith
We have many different rites and rituals we practice, just like most other churches. We believe in two main sacraments: baptism and communion.
Baptism is one of the most important rites a person can undergo. We believe that the holy water washes away the sin and allows the person to be reborn as a follower of Christ. We can be baptized as a baby or at any point in our life. Once we’re baptized, we’re considered a member of the Methodist congregation for life. We also believe that we only need to be baptized once to receive God’s gifts. So, if you were baptized in a different religion, we don’t require you to get re-baptized to join the church.
Baptisms are always done on Sundays with the congregation present. Because not only are the parents or the person being baptized taking vows, but the entire congregation is, too. Everyone renews their pledge to live a life devoted to God and His love. The congregation also promises to help the newly baptized person to grow within the church and learn its teachings.
Communion is the second sacrament that we believe in. Many Christian faiths offer communion to become closer to God and renew our faith. Anyone can partake in the ritual at any time. We don’t require any special classes, have a minimum age requirement, or even that we’ve been baptized. Little children are welcome to take part if they feel called. Even people who aren’t Methodist can join us at the altar on any given Sunday for communion.
Instead of using communion wafers, we tend to use bits of bread. Instead of wine, we offer grape juice. The minister doesn’t put the bread on our tongue. Instead, everyone who is taking part is given a piece of the bread, then we dip it into the grape juice. By practicing like this, we are bringing the blood and body of Christ back together and it becomes one, and we become one with Christ. But we don’t believe that the bread and juice are actually Christ’s body (also called transubstantiation), like in other belief systems.
Every Methodist Church decided how often we offer communion. Some of us do it monthly, others will do it every Sunday. Most will offer communion along with major events and holidays like Easter and Christmas. Anyone can take communion at any time. You don’t need to be confirmed as a member of the church or take confession first.
Confirmation class isn’t considered a sacrament, but it is an important part of a young Methodist’s life as we grow up in the church. These classes are offered to young adults, usually twelve to sixteen. It could be considered the second half of the baptism we received as babies. Before the congregation, we re-take the same baptismal vows that were said by our parents. This allows us the opportunity to agree to the vows we were too young to take as babies.
Just like in the baptism, the rest of the congregation is there to support us as we become full members of the community. The congregants renew their own vows and promise to support us on their journeys of faith.
While we don’t believe confession is a sacrament, we do believe it’s good for the soul. Unlike the Catholics, where confession is necessary to take part in communion, instead we just have a prayer we use. During Sunday service, the entire congregation says the prayer and then its followed by a moment of silence while we each silently confesses our sins to God. After that, we all say the same phrase of pardon. Sometimes small groups will get together to confess their sins to each other, but that isn’t required in any doctrines.
Over the years, the United Methodist Church’s commitment to living a Christian life has meant a commitment to providing great services to the community. Our doors are still open to all, and we consider all to be God’s children and welcome in His house. We believe in salvation through God’s grace and in good acts in His name. Many of our beliefs mirror other Protestant religions, and in the end, we believe it is God who will bring salvation to us all.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.