(A crash course in Methodist/Wesleyan theology)
In short, United Methodists believe the same things that other Christian denominations believe:
Regarding God, we believe that He is exactly Who He says He is in the Bible. He is the Maker and Creator of everything, including you and me, and He wants desperately to be in relationship with all of His human creation, again, including you and me.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, Who was born to a virgin named Mary. Jesus lived a sinless life of ministry and service. Because He was sinless, He was the perfect sacrifice to pay for all of our sin through His death on the cross (Good Friday), at the hands of the Roman government, and some Jewish religious leaders.
We believe that Jesus came back to life (Easter), in body and spirit, three days after He was crucified. His death paid for all the sins that had ever, and will ever, be committed. His resurrection proved His power over physical death, and lets us know that His promise of life after our physical death is true.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is how God manifests Himself in the world through Christ followers, today. In short, the Holy Spirit is God’s very real presence in the lives of those who follow Christ. Through His presence in our life we find the power, the path, the passion, and the purpose to live Godly lives, and offer sacrificial service in order to help God’s will be brought from heaven to earth.
We believe in the holy Trinity; that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal as One in God.
We believe that heaven and hell are very real places. Heaven, wherever it may be, is eternal, conscious presence with God. Hell, wherever it may be, is eternal, conscious separation from God. We believe that all humanity is born sinful, and that our sin separates us from God. The only thing that can restore our relationship with God is to come to Him through relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ (getting saved, salvation, conversion). We enter this relationship by professing our belief that Jesus is who He said He is, confessing our sin to God and asking for His forgiveness, and by putting our faith in Jesus.
We believe that there are two ceremonies (Sacraments) that Jesus instituted during His ministry here on earth in which followers of Christ are called to participate,. These ceremonies are Baptism, and The Lord’s Supper (Communion). Baptism and Communion are both signs of God’s grace, and of His good will toward us, His creation.
We believe that the Holy Bible is the infallible word of God written by the fallible hand of humanity. Even so, we believe that Holy Scripture is inspired by God and contains no error or contradiction as it tells God’s history to His people, and shows us how to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
We also hold the following beliefs that are distinctly Methodist/Wesleyan:
We believe that we are drawn to God, restored by God, and made more like God through His undeserved, unmerited love that we call grace. God’s prevenient grace draws us to Him, His justifying grace cleanses us when we seek forgiveness for our sins, and His sanctifying grace helps us to grow to become more like Him after we are saved.
We believe the Bible when it says that God made us in His image, and therefore must conclude that He has given each of us free will. Quite simply, we do not feel that God created some of humanity to respond to him with a lemming-like, pre-programmed faith response, while others have no hope of knowing him at all. We believe that Christ’s death for the sins of humanity was not once-for-some, but once-for-all who choose (through exercise of their free will) to respond to his desire for relationship with us, His creation. Again, He makes His desire for a relationship with us, known to us through His prevenient grace.
We believe that even after we have experienced this free gift of God’s grace in salvation, because we possess free will, we may depart from that grace and fall, again, into a life characterized by sin. However, our God is patient and forgiving, and so through His grace, we may rise again and renew our relationship with God.
We believe that those who follow Christ should testify to their relationship with Christ through the testimony of their faith, and their service of good works. God’s grace leads those of the faith community to trust in Him, and to serve others in the Name of Christ by following the example that Christ set for us during His life and ministry on earth.