All persons exist as the image of God created for communion with God and with one another other. All persons therefore possess, as defined by the United Methodist Book of Discipline, sacred worth. Endowed with free will, we have the capacity to turn away from God and from one another—what the Bible calls sin—which in turn disorders our desires as individuals and as societies, creating communities of injustice, violence, fear, and death. God, however, refuses to leave creation to the brokenness to which humanity has subjected it, forming Israel to bear witness to God’s intentions for the world, a witness the church professes reached its climax in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and continues through the mission of the church. In Jesus Christ we see the true image of what humanity’s vocation should be: self-giving love for one another and for the world.
Salvation is union with God and is therefore a gift from God. None of us has the capacity to apprehend a saving knowledge of God on our own. It is through God’s own self-condescension, through the Torah and the Prophets and, most fully, in Jesus of Nazareth, that all of creation can know God and experience its ultimate restoration. As United Methodists, and in accordance with the Scriptures, we believe salvation is a lifelong process of conversion during which time—through worship, prayer, discipline, study, and community—we learn what it means to love God and one another. Salvation was, is now, and is yet to be.
Jesus Christ formed a new community of persons who would bear witness in their life together to the saving activity of God in the world. We call this new community the Church. The Church is the primary witness of God’s present and coming reign and, through its sacramental worship, preaching, service, and fellowship, exists as a preview or foretaste of the new earth still to come. The Church, at its most faithful, is therefore an alternative community called by God to be at once set apart from the world and yet engaged within it. The Church is the new nation and family of God whose members identify themselves neither through race nor class nor nationality but rather through their union with Jesus Christ as declared in baptism.
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