METHODIST BELIEFS: GUIDELINES FOR USE BY METHODIST CHRISTIANS
Building on the Wesleyan Essentials of Christian Faith, These are Ideas and GUIDELINES FOR USE BY METHODIST CHRISTIANS in Congregations and Judicatories
A. RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE METHODIST FAMILY
In acknowledgement that we are a richly diverse family, living in all parts of the world, in the midst of a variety of challenges, with varieties of ways of expressing our faith, we commit ourselves to living in faithful relationship with all members of the Methodist family. This family of Methodist and United Churches can only be strengthened for its life an work in the world by living in mutual respect with one another.
We Promise To:
- Respect each other's integrity in the expression of beliefs and convictions
- Listen to one another, so that we may reach a deeper understanding of what each other believes, trusting that we are all as committed as each other, and recognizing that listening as well as speaking is necessary for genuine dialogue.
- Struggle with God's word, understood within different cultures, seeking faith in Jesus Christ.
- Strive together to discern God's will to seek to prevent disagreements from becoming alienating and isolating.
- Honor the varied beliefs and practices of members of the Methodist family, not misrepresenting or disparaging them.
- Be honest and bold about our intentions and convictions.
- Respect another's right to disagree without isolating them from the family
- Remember that our life together in the faith is at times difficult and painful, but that we are united in God's grace and love and called to love and serve one another
Some Of The Ways These Promises May Be Kept Are:
- By sharing our material and human resources for the purpose of enriching the life of the Church, between local churches and within communities
- By establishing programs to facilitate the linking of local churches both within and between countries. Such links (involving the sharing of experience, theology, liturgy and friendship) could not only contribute to an increasing sense of Methodist identity, but could lead to a developing awareness of being part of a wider Methodist family.
- By encouraging the use of this statement along with other documents approved by the World Methodist Council, such as the World Methodist Social Affirmation and "Saved By Grace", and the reports from dialogues with other communions.
- By not imposing theological debates current in one member of the family on the whole family, yet not restricting dialogue.
- By the WMC seeking ways, on an on-going basis, to ensure that it is as fully representative as possible of the world wide Methodist family (especially with regard to age, genber, and regional and denominational representation) so as to enable the voices of Methodists around the globe to be heard through participation in regional and international gatherings.
- Through the facilitation of debates, seminars, and forums in the Methodist family which focus on issues of concern and interest, such as the church family, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, unemployment and porverty, world hunger, etc.
B. DIALOGUE WITH OTHER CHRISTIAN WORLD COMMUNIONS
Having reconciled the world to Himself, God has entrusted us the Gospel of reconciliation. This Gospel demands that Christians be one at all levels of their life together, even while the riches of God's grace allow and enable many expressions of the one Gospel and of communal existence.
When Methodists engage in dialogue with other families of Christian churches, it is desired that the following assumptions be made:
- That such conversations take place between one Christian body and another as part of the Church universal.
- That there is sufficient commonality between us to make such conversation possible
- That there are significant differences between us to make conversation necessary.
- That there is a Christian imperative to unity for the sake of mission, evangelism, worship, fellowship, mutual enrichment, and solidarity in the face of challenges. Scripturally, such unity is necessary for the credibility of the Gospel (John 17:20-23) and the acceptability of our worship before God (Romans 15:5-6).
By engaging each other as a people with a common faith in Jesus Christ through inter-church dialogue, we seek the following purposes:
- Achieve mutual acquaintance and understanding, overcome suspicion and exclusion, and come to mutual recognition and respect
- Increase the measure of common prayer and of fellowship in mission and service.
- Work to present a common witness to the Christian faith before the world.
- Stand together to support each other with encouragement and in prayer to confront such realities as violence, racism, AIDS and other global life-threatening diseases.
- Work towards the goal of full communion in faith, mission, and sacramental life.
Methods and practices involved in inter-church dialogue and the building of relationships between Christians properly include the following:
- Being open with each other, holding to one's identity, showing respect and sensitivity towards the partner, and recognizing that accommodations and even major change may result.
- Institutional cooperation through the sharing of resources, the undertaking of common projects, and engagement with each other at all levels of churhc life (in local congregations this would include, as examples, some occasions of common worship, a joint ministry to the homeless, some sharing in artistic and recreational activities).
- Theologically responsible converstations at the deepest possible level and in situations of sensitive listening, where best is compared with best, and reality with reality. Such converstaions should include mutual commendation and criticism, given and taken in love.
- The sharing of experiences at both the individual and institutional level, recognizing that is is only through taking the risk of being open and honest that we can know each other better and grow together in Christian life.
- The support for existing local, national, and international ecumenical organizations
C. ENGAGING IN INTERFAITH RELATIONSHIPS
Around the world today, people of many different religious beliefs and traditions live side by side, providing wonderful opportunities for growth and knowledge. These differences also lead to conflict and worse.
Because we treasure our faith in Christ Jesus, Methodists and related United Church Christians have both a divine and a human responsibility to draw upon our faith as we enter into relationship with people of other living religious traditions. As we do this, we will learn that it is within our grasp to work together in the building of societies which are based upon mutual trust, openness and respect, rather than upon fear, suspicion and violence. We shall seek together to discern and respond to the truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed and seeks to reveal to us, acknowledging out misunderstandings and encouraging one another towards truer perceptions of God's will for us all. Living Jesus' call to love our neighbor makes it imperative to know that neighbor. People around the globe experience different struggles because of the diversity of culture, ethnicity, race and religious expression. We encourage each community to be in prayer as new relationships are formed. We offer the following as possible guidelines for approaching other religious communities.
- Respect other peoples' freedom to express their beliefs and convictions. Learn to understand what others actually believe and value.
- Repsect religious customs concerning food, dress, language, and social etiquette.
- Recognize that all people fall short of their beliefs and ideals. Avoid making judgments or comparisons regarding their beliefs or actions. Do no misrepresent or disparage another person's belief or practice.
- Be straightforward about intentions and agendas.
- Learn what ideals and values are help in common. Discover what actions might be taken together for the common good.
Christian mission includes offering Christ to others. In those places where different religious traditions exist together, it is important that the sharing always be characterized by humility, sensitivity, respect, and a concern for the other's freedom to decide with dignity.
- Practice respect and courtesy.
- Listen in order to ensure genuine converstaion.
- Proclaim faith without coervice inducements
- Be sensitive to persons who are in vulnerable situations by not imposing yourself.
- Respect another person's wish not to respond and the right of the other to disagree.
- Reduce and prevent disagreement that may lead to conflict or violence
People of diverse religious beliefs do live together side by side. Convictions are deeply held. It is frequently dificult to see beyond one's own tradition to the validity of another's tradition. Yet our faith in Christ Jesus calls us to strive for reconciliation and understanding in order that the human community might work together for the good of all.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
THE WESLEYAN ESSENTIALS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH