1908 Methodist Social Creed
The Methodist Episcopal Church stands:
For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
For the principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.
For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.
For the abolition of child labor.
For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.
For the suppression of the "sweating system."
For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.
For a release for [from] employment one day in seven.
For a living wage in every industry.
For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.
For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.
Today’s Version of Our Social Creed
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
Historic Creeds of the Christian Church
The official United Methodist web site has an article on the historic creeds of the Christian faith, which begins with the declaration that, “Unlike some churches that require affirmation of a strict list of beliefs as a condition of membership, The United Methodist Church is not a creedal church.”
Historically, United Methodists have not been expected to believe literally in every word of the creeds. We do not often use the creeds in worship, because we do not want to create the false impression that we are required to believe them literally. But we believe that they can help us come to our own understanding of the Christian faith.
As we meditate on the ancient creeds, we affirm our unity with those followers who first wrote them and with the many generations of Christians who have recited them before us as well as with those who will recite them after we are gone.
This is the Traditional version of the Apostle’s Creed from our United Methodist Hymnal:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Although our hymnal calls it “Traditional,” it is not the original version. In the original version, after he was “crucified, dead and buried,” it says that “he descended into hell.” The Ecumenical version replaces the phrase “descended into hell,” with “descended to the dead.” Our “Traditional” version omits it altogether.
This is a paraphrase of the Apostle’s Creed that some of us have found meaningful:
I believe in God, the Ground of our Being and the Source of all that is.
And in Jesus Christ, the fullest and best revelation of God, who was born into a human family, suffered under the violence of the Empire, was executed for treason and died a human death. He went to God, even as he came from God, and then appeared again to his disciples. By his life and death all things are judged, and in his love the whole world is reconciled to God.
I believe in the Living Spirit of God in the world, and in the Church as Christ’s living presence among us. I believe God accepts us in spite of our brokenness and loves us beyond our imagining, now and forever. Amen.
Who Is Jesus?
We know that the historical Jesus was born in Israel around 4 B.C.E (Before the Common Era), and that he was crucified by the Romans near 29 C.E. We know that he was a devout Jew and we know that he worshiped regularly in the synagogue. We know that he was Rabbi, a prophet, and a wise teacher. And we know that he was executed for treason.
We know that his followers called him Lord, Savior, and Son of God, and we know that all of these titles had previously been applied to Caesar. Jesus announced that God’s Kingdom was a present reality in the world and that in contrast to the Roman Empire (or any empire), it was a place of non-violence, of justice and peace.
When his followers declared that “Jesus is Lord,” they were pronouncing the first affirmation of faith. And when they affirmed that Jesus was Lord, they were also declaring that Caesar was not their Lord.
Jesus promised that when we live into God’s Kingdom by loving God and our neighbors we will have fellowship with God now and forever. The Apostle Paul, who was the first Christian theologian. wrote that “God was in Christ, reconciling thee world to himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Through the faithfulness of Jesus, the whole world has been brought into fellowship with God. This is God’s gift of grace, made visible in the life and teachings of Jesus.
What We Believe about the Bible
The Bible is a library of sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and twenty-seven in the New Testament. These books were written over a one-thousand-year period in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke), and Greek.
The books are of different lengths and different literary styles. In the Bible we find legends, histories, liturgies for community worship, songs, proverbs, sermons, Gospels, letters, an apocalypse (Revelation), and a poetic drama (Job). Taken together, the books tell the story of the experience of the people of God.
The Bible is Sacred Scripture. Over many generations, as the books were read and studied by faithful people and their merits were weighed, the community of faith gave them special authority. They became sacred.
The Bible is inspired by God.
The books were written by human beings who were inspired to tell what they had experienced to the best of their knowledge. They were not writing history or science, but they were writing about the meaning of life. As the Holy Spirit inspired the writers, we believe that the Spirit also inspires us as we read the ancient texts and apply them to the realities of life in our time.
The Bible's authority is not magical. For example, we do not open the text at random to discover God's will. The authority of Scripture derives from the movement of God's Spirit in times past and in our reading of it today.
The Bible is a guide to faith and life. In congregational worship we read from the Bible. Through preaching, we interpret its message for our lives. It forms the background of most of our hymns. It's the foundation of our church school curriculum. Many of us use it in our individual devotional lives, praying through its implications day by day. Some parts of the Bible are decidedly time-bound. They are the result of an ancient world-view. Other parts are eternal. As we read the Bible we need to think and pray as we search for those truths which are eternal.
Adapted from United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 80-81.