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2016 Book of Discipline
We believe in-
Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We live by two kinds of faithfulness:
We follow three simple rules:
- Do no harm.
- Do Good.
- Stay in love with God.
“‘What then is the mark? Who is a Methodist, according to your own account?’ I answer: A Methodist is one who has ‘the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;’ one who ‘loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.’ God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my potion for ever!'”
John Wesley-“The Character of a Methodist,” in Works, Vol. 8; pg. 341.
Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Understanding of the Christian Life
Founder of the Methodist movement in England, John Wesley was determined to foster the disciplined practices that would lead to faithfulness in the way of Jesus. These practices were outlined in the “General Rules,” and instructions in them and accountability to them was centered in the classes that formed the United Societies of the early Methodist movement (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church-2004 (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2004).
1) Do No Harm
“By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced.”
When we agree that we will not harm those with whom we disagree, conversation, dialogue, and discovery of new insight become possible. When our words and actions are guarded by this first simple rule, we have time and space to think about consequences before a word is spoken or an action taken.
“It may easily be believed, he [Jesus] who had this love in his heart would work no evil to his neighbor. It was impossible for him, knowingly and designedly, to do harm to any man. He was at the greatest distance from cruelty and wrong, from any unjust or unkind action. With the same care did he ‘set a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips,’ lest he should offend in tongue, either against justice, or against mercy or truth. He put away all lying, falsehood, and fraud; neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of no man nor did an unkind word ever come out of his lips.”
John Wesley-“Sermon 4, Scriptural Christianity,” in Works, Vol. 5; pg. 41.
2) Do Good
“By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity; doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all….”
The words of Jesus and of Wesley suggest that doing good is a universal command. That is, doing good is not limited to those like me or those who look like me. Doing good is directed at everyone, even when those who do not fit my category of “worthy” to receive any good that I or others can direct their way. This command is also universal and no one is exempt from it.
“There is scare any possible way of doing good, for which here is not daily occasion…. Here are poor families to be relieved: Here are children to be educated: Here are workhouses, wherein both young and old gladly receive the word of exhortation: Here are the prisons, and therein a complication of all human wants.”
John Wesley-“Journal from August 12, 1738-November 1, 1739,”
in Works, Vol. 1; pg. 181.
3) Stay in Love with God
“By attending upon all the ordinances of God….”
While the word “ordinance” is strange to our modern ears, John Wesley used it to describe the practices that kept the relationship with God and humans vital, alive, and growing. Wesley names public worship of God, the Lord’s Supper, private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study, and fasting as essential to faithful life.