You can find pdfs of the Book of Discipline here and remember, this is just me going through it. I don’t claim to know everything about UMC doctrine.
Last Sunday, we discussed the rest of 101 which speaks more to the doctrinal traditions of the United Methodist Church. It’s a long section, so I’m not going to post it, just hit on some of the highlights.
First up, the UMC is grounded in two witnesses, apostolic and scriptural. The UMC is still very much a Protestant Church in that for it, Scripture is the primary source for doctrine and theology, but it recognizes that the apostolic witness to Scripture is what comes first. Further, they recognize that it is the apostolic witness specifically to Christ as “Savior and Lord” that validates all Christian teaching. For me, this is important, because it places Scripture where it should be, under Christ. Too often, we find people confusing Christ who is the Word of God with Scripture which contains words from God but is not Christ.
The statements go on to affirm the early Statements and Creeds, especially the Apostles’, the Nicene and Chalcedon, a favorite of Wesley. This also affords the canon of Scripture, although I suspect that if examined correctly, we might need a new canon. They also base their doctrine on the Articles of Religion of the Church of England and the Heidelberg Catechism. They do note, however, that some of the older statements are “dated benchmarks” which show how the Church has grown over time.
One of the issues I have is with the use of “created order.” We know that for many, this means that the husband comes first and the wife second. I’m not sure that this is what it means here, but we’ll see. It does take an Aquinian view of humanity in that we are wounded by the fall, but not depraved. The UMC affirms Christ, community, and the Church Catholic in which one is initiated through Baptism. One in particular strikes me:
We share with many Christian communions a recognition of the authority of Scripture in matters of faith, the confession that our justification as sinners is by grace through faith, and the sober realization that the church is in need of continual reformation and renewal.
I suspect that many of those statements will be clarified later on, but I am reminded that the UMC is not that far away from the Reformed Tradition, especially in the inclusion of the Evangelical United Brethren.
From here, they go into the fact that Methodism wasn’t really began as an opposition to doctrinal disputes, so the UMC is not so much a confessing Church, as it is one which propels people to “experience the justifying and sanctifying grace of God.” They seek scriptural holiness. Along with the solas of the Reformed Tradition, the UMC has the three Graces of Wesley as well as this idea of sanctification and perfection, but it all leads to a communal relationship. Sometimes else that strikes me,
We proclaim no personal gospel that fails to express itself in relevant social concerns; we proclaim no social gospel that does not include the personal transformation of sinners.
As far as church discipline, again, about community and reconciliation.
They end this section by affirming that the UMC is not about “devising formal definitions of doctrine” but about the Christian life.