Posted: February 24 2021 at 01:35 PM
Author: Bishop John L. Hopkins
Bishop John L. Hopkins
As I start a conversation about our Church, I think it is helpful to begin with basic foundational values. When I was a new bishop in the Minnesota Area, I was working on a list of core values that could direct our shared ministry and bind us to Christ and each other. During a clergy session, I asked, “What are the values United Methodists live by?” The Rev. Steven Manskar, a John Wesley scholar, responded by examining and taking experts from John Wesley’s, “The Character of a Methodist.” During Lent, as we move closer to God and one another in preparation for Easter, I encourage you to meditate on these United Methodist values reprinted with permission from Rev. Manskar.
- A Methodist is one who has the love of God “shed abroad” or a transformative experience of God’d love in his or her heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5)
- A Methodist is one who “loves the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Luke 10:27)
We believe in rejoicing over the goodness of God
- God is the joy of the heart and the desire of the soul that is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but you? There is none upon earth that I desire besides you! My God and my all! You are the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!” (Psalm 73: 25-26)
- We are therefore happy in God, indeed, always happy, as having in us a well of water springing up to everlasting life and overflowing our souls with peace and joy. Perfect love having cast out fear, we rejoice evermore. (1 John 4:18) Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in life or death, we give thanks from the ground of our hearts to God who orders it for good. Knowing that as every good gift comes from above, so none but good can come from the Father of Lights, into whose hand we have wholly committed our bodies and souls, as into the hands of a faithful Creator.
We believe in the power of prayer
- For indeed, we pray without ceasing. It is given us always to pray, and not to faint. Our hearts are lifted up to God at all times and in all places. In this we are never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing.
- Consequently, we always exercise our love for God by praying without ceasing, rejoicing always, and in everything giving thanks. This commandment is written in our hearts, “That those who love God, love their brother and sister also.” (1 John 4:20). We also, accordingly, love our neighbors as ourselves. We love every person as our own soul. For we love our enemies. Indeed, we love the evil, the unthankful, and the enemies of God. And if it is not in our power to do good to those that hate us, we pray for them, even though they continue to spurn our love and abuse and persecute us.
We believe in purity of heart… in holiness
- For Methodists, the love of God has purified our hearts from all vengeful passions, envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind attitude or evil affection. It has cleansed us from pride and arrogance of spirit that lead to contention. For all our desires are for God and in remembrance of God’s name.
- Our one desire is the one design of our life; namely, not to do our own will, but the will of God who sent us. Our one intention at all times and in all things is not to please ourselves but God whom our souls love.
We believe in keeping the commandments of God
- For as we love God, so we keep his commandments. Not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the greatest. To do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven is our daily crown of rejoicing.
- Accordingly, we strive with all our might to keep all the commandments of God. For our obedience is in proportion to our love, the source from which it flows. Therefore, loving God with all our heart, we serve God with all our strength.
We believe in glorifying God
- By consequence, whatever we do, it is all to the glory of God. In all our endeavors, we not only aim at this (which is implied in having a single eye), but actually attain it.
- The customs of the world do not hinder our “running the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 112:1) We know that vice does not lose its nature, no matter how fashionable it becomes. We remember that everyone is to give an account to God…But “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise.” (Phil. 4:8) We think, and speak, and act, glorifying the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things.
We believe in doing good… for the body and the soul
- Lastly, as we have time, we do good for all people: to neighbors and strangers, friends, and enemies. We seek to do good to them in every possible way, not only to their bodies, “by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or the prisoner” (Matthew 25:34), but much more we labor to do good to their souls, according to the ability that God gives us.
We believe in the unity of the church
- By these values, by these fruits of a living faith, we labor to distinguish ourselves from the unbelieving world, but we earnestly desire to not be distinguished at all from Christians, of whatever denomination, or from any who sincerely follow after what they know they have yet attained. No, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
- And I implore you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that we be in no way divided among ourselves. Is your heart right, as my heart is with yours? I ask no further question. If it is so, give me your hand. For opinions or words, let us not destroy the work of God. Do you love and serve God? It is enough. I give you the right hand of fellowship.
These are the principles and practices of our Church. These are the values of a true Methodist.