As United Methodists, we have an obligation to bear a faithful Christian witness to Jesus Christ, the living reality at the center of the Church’s life and witness. To fulfill this obligation, we reflect critically on our biblical and theological inheritance, striving to express faithfully the witness we make in our own time.Two considerations are central to this endeavor: the sources from which we derive our theological affirmations and the criteria by which we assess the adequacy of our understanding and witness.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.

The United Methodist Church was founded in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.  Since then, the United Methodist Church has nearly 12 million members; 8 million in the United States and Canada and 3.5 in Africa, Asian, and Europe.  In the United States, it is the largest mainline denomination, the second largest Protestant church, and third largest Christian denomination.

The United Methodist Church recognizes Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper) and baptism as sacraments, because they were instituted by Jesus as means of bestowing the grace of God upon the recipient.

Baptism in The United Methodist Church
In baptism, the candidate makes a public confession of her/his faith in Christ, is formally received into the fellowship of believers, and pledges to respond in faithful and loving service to the grace given them by God. United Methodists believe and confess that God pours out the Holy Spirit on the candidate during baptism, washing away their sins and empowering them to live according to the gospel. This outpouring of forgiveness and empowerment is alluded to in the symbolism of washing by water. The candidate is empowered through the grace of God to begin and to sustain a life of Christian discipleship.

When an infant is baptized, the parents speak for the child in the taking of the baptismal vows, promising, along with the congregation, to provide spiritual guidance as the child grows to prepare her/him to be able to honor the vows in the future. Then, when the child becomes old enough to openly profess those baptismal vows, s/he undergoes the process of confirmation, whereby the child is educated as to the meaning of being a professing member of the body of Christ; and the child subsequently makes a profession of faith before the congregation. Older children/adolescents, as well as adults who are of sound mind, do not require the same mediation of the vows that infants do; therefore, they take the vows themselves at baptism.

Baptism, as practiced in The United Methodist Church, has commemorative, celebratory, and anticipatory aspects; it commemorates what God’s grace has already accomplished in the believer’s life, it celebrates the forgiveness of sins and the initiation into the Church that are emphasized during the ritual, and it anticipates a future of growing in grace and in closeness to God as one honors the baptismal vows.

Holy Communion in The United Methodist Church
Those same commemorative, celebratory, and anticipatory aspects are part of the sacrament of the Holy Communion. The recipient acknowledges and commemorates the atoning death of Christ, celebrates the grace bestowed by God upon those who receive the bread and wine/juice in faith, and anticipates the coming day when those who believe in Christ will come into everlasting communion with him.

Clergy who preside during Holy Communion are called to emphasize three things to the household of faith: 1) that Christ extends the invitation to all; 2) that the grace of God is readily available to all who come to the table in faith; and 3) that, as in the sacrament of baptism, the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper, undeniable though it is, defies human understanding or explanation. Preserving this sense of mystery is essential, so that those who receive the sacrament regularly never lose the sense of awe and wonder that should always accompany the act of breaking bread with one another at the Lord’s Table.