UM 101

The roots of the United Methodist Church begin with the life and ministries of our founder John Wesley (1703 – 1791) and of his brother Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788). Both were Anglican priests in the Church of England amid the immense changes of the Industrial Age. They first sought to reform the Church of England through a combination of intense, disciplined practices of piety and social activism. Wesley called the Methodist movement a “practical theology” of putting faith and love into action.

John and Charles Wesley traveled to the American colonies as young missionaries. Although their efforts were first judged unsuccessful and they returned to England discouraged in their work, they did lay the groundwork for itinerant preachers and lay leaders to build small communities of faithful Christians who gathered regularly for informal (and then increasing more formal) worship. Like the Wesley brothers, the Methodist movement in America emphasized a strong practice of prayer, study, accountability and compassion for the poor. This loose network of American Methodists gained momentum during the Revolutionary War. They officially broke from their English brothers and sisters to form the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784. This “Christmas Conference” occurred at Lovely Lane Chapel, the first Methodist church in America (located in Baltimore City). Over the next decades and centuries the Methodist Church would grow into one of the strongest Protestant traditions in the United States. Having split into two different churches — North and South — in the years preceding the Civil War, the Methodist movement would experience several layers of racial reconciliation during the twentieth century and then join with the United Brethren Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church is part of the global Methodist movement, which has strong witness across the world, especially in Africa and Asia. Our common purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The church further commits to creating churches with “open hearts, open minds and open doors.”

Methodist theology has always been less of a cerebral theology and more of a practical one. We affirm the major tenets of the Christian faith in our belief in God as revealed in Jesus Christ and the primary witness of Scripture in the Bible. We share in the two sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Holy Baptism while retaining the importance of the proclamation of God’s Word. Methodist theology is influenced by Wesley’s core beliefs. These include:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral — an understanding that faith is formed and ethical decisions are made through a combination of listening to scripture, accounting for the church’s tradition, employing reason through the sciences, and affirming one’s life experience. Navigating the tension among these four dimensions of faith can help individuals and groups discern a way forward amidst controversy. 

Affirming Wesley’s belief that the “world is my parish,” Methodists work tirelessly to relieve the suffering of the poor, the downcast, the lonely and the forgotten. Methodists have witnessed through campaigns against a variety of social evils, including alcohol and gambling addictions, human trafficking, and the reliance upon violence and coercion to ensure safety and stability. A collection of Methodist stances on a variety of issues can be found in our The United Methodist Social Creed.

The Methodist Church is a connectional church as demonstrated in our belief that we are all linked to one another. The church believes that a sense of shared responsibility for the welfare of the entire human community through out the world, we remain accountable to a variety of lay voices and under the oversight of our assigned bishop.

The United Methodist Church is governed by General Conference, a gathering of laity and clergy every four years who together serve as the official voice of the church. The United Methodist Church is organized into geographical areas called Annual Conferences. Grace United Methodist Church is part of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, the oldest and the most diverse conference in the country.  To learn more about the Baltimore- Washington Conference, click the link under the “What’s New” tab.

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