The United Methodist Church is the largest Methodist denomination, and the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States (after the Southern Baptist Convention). In 2004 worldwide membership was about 11 million members: 8.6 million in the United States, 2.4 million in Africa, Asia and Europe.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church which were themselves the result of mergers. The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 as the result of a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. The Evangelical United Brethren Church was formed in 1946 as the result of a merger of the United Brethren and the Evangelical Association.
Background and beliefs
The first Methodist clergy were ordained by John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, because of the crisis caused by the American Revolution which cut the Methodists in the States off from the Church of England and its sacraments.
United Methodist beliefs are similar to many mainline Protestant denominations. Although United Methodist beliefs have evolved over time, these beliefs can be traced to the writings of the church's founders, John Wesley and Charles Wesley (Methodist), Philip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm (United Brethren), and Jacob Albright (Evangelical). With the formation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, theologian Albert C. Outler led the team which systematized denominational doctrine. Outler's work proved pivotal in the work of union, and he is largely considered the first United Methodist theologian.
The officially established Doctrinal Standards of United Methodism are:
- the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church;
- the Confession of Faith (United Methodist) of the Evangelical United Brethren Church;
- the General Rules of the Methodist Societies;
- the Standard Sermons of John Wesley;
- and John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.
These Doctrinal Standards are constitutionally protected and nearly impossible to change or remove.
The basic beliefs of the United Methodist Church include:
- Triune God. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Scripture. The writings in the Old Testament and New Testament are the inspired word of God.
- Sacraments. The UMC recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion. The Church generally practices infant baptism and recognizes baptisms from other denominations, and also practices open communion.
- Free will. The UMC is generally Arminian in its soteriology. It believes that people, while corrupted by sin, may freely choose or reject Christ/salvation because of God's universal prevenient grace.