It’s Biblical Series:
by Michael Roberts, D. Min.
The word “united” is included in our denominational name for many reasons. It became a part of our name after the merger between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968. But beyond honoring this merger, the word “united” is a great word to describe who we are. We are a United Church in many ways.
First of all, we are united in Christ. The Bible talks about the relationship between Christ and the church in several ways. It says that Christ is the heart of the church and the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22,4:15; Colossians 1:18). It is Christ, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to be the church (Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9-10). Jesus himself described this relationship best when he said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:4). As United Methodist Christians we believe that we are and must be united in Christ. When we break this union, we fail to be the church and fail to bear the fruit of the kingdom of God.
Secondly, we see ourselves as being united with other Christians. We do not believe that we have a monopoly on the gospel. We do not believe that we are the only true church. Instead, “we believe in the Holy catholic church.” This statement comes from the ancient Apostles Creed and word catholic is not capitalized. The word simply means “universal.” We believe in the universal Church of Christ, the body of Christ. We see ourselves as part of this body and we consider other Christians our sisters and brothers in Christ. Yes, it is true that some of them don’t claim us, but we claim them. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy the surprise on some faces when we all get to heaven. The scriptures show that Christ=s Church is abundantly larger than any particular group (See Revelation 7:9f; Lukel3:29f; ICor. 3:If).
The Apostle Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to you call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:1-6).
While we do not want to dim the light of others, we do want our light to shine brightly. As United Methodist Christians, we believe that we have a way of living and sharing faith that is God-inspired and needed in the world. Our role in the larger body of Christ is a gift to the world from God, who is above all and through all and in all.
Thirdly, we are a United Church. All United Methodist congregations are connected together, linked together in mission, ministry, in service, and hi doctrine. We pool a portion of our resources together for ministry and mission. This “connection” creates an environment of accountability and support. It affords us the opportunity to be .part of something much greater than ourselves. We are a part of a world wide fellowship. (In addition to the passages above see: Acts 1:8; 2:44-47; Romans.l6:16; I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 1:1).
Finally, we are united hi love. John Wesley gave us this motto: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials, freedom; hi all things love.” The scriptures say that God is love (I John 4:7-8). We know that God=s love has no boundaries. It goes out to all. It unites us. It holds us together. Without this love the whole universe would break into a billion pieces. Thus, we are united by love (Mark 12:28-31; I Corinthians 13:2f). Life is our opportunity to grow hi God’s love and to share this love with one another. As John Wesley said, we are not united by styles of worship or specific opinions. On these things, “we think and let think and insist upon nothing but faith working by love.” He said, “A Methodist is one who has the love of God shed abroad is his [her] heart.” As United Methodist Christians, we believe that this love is the heart of religion. It is the tie that binds.