First United Methodist Church - Wausau Wisconsin
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Live and Share God's Love
Unlike most Protestant denominations, Methodism did not begin with a doctrinal dispute. Our founder, John Wesley, held orthodox Christian beliefs but focused on how people live their faith rather than on doctrinal conformity. His goal was to inspire people to live with integrity, so that what they believed was reflected in their work and family and personal lives. Doctrinal details were less important. As he put it himself, “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.”
This is our goal at First United Methodist Church of Wausau as well. We do believe and teach those doctrines that form the heart of Christianity. We believe that God created the world in love, that humanity from the beginning has turned away from God’s love, but God loved us enough to overcome our rebellion. We believe that Jesus Christ was that answer, that he was God in the flesh on earth, and that through his death and resurrection, the division between God and humanity was healed, and death itself was defeated.
These beliefs define our faith. Other doctrines are important, but beyond these there is plenty of room for difference, and we have better things to do than argue details. Here, we define our faith in terms of how we live it, seeking to grow both as a group and as individuals in what we call the Four Core Purposes of the Church: Worship, Faith Formation, Care, and Outreach.
(FAQs – Frequently Argued Questions)
Scripture. We believe that the Holy Bible is inspired by God, and we make it the center of our worship and our faith formation ministries. This does not mean, however, that we take the Bible to be inerrant. We do not. As Christ was both God and man, the Bible shows the influence both of the God who inspired it and the human writers who wrote it down – and those human writers were influenced by their context. For instance, Paul says he does not let women speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34); we do. We think Paul’s statement was a reflection of his time and culture and must be re-interpreted in light of tradition, reason, and our own experience.
Women in the Church. We reserve no role, task, or authority exclusively for either men or women. United Methodists have been ordaining women as pastors for over fifty years, and this church has celebrated the God-called ministry of many of those. Enough said.
Evolution. The Bible is not a science book, and any attempt to force the beautiful theological reflection on creation that we find in Genesis 1 into that box only ends up destroying the passage’s beauty and obscuring its truth. We have no trouble believing in the Creator God and accepting the scientific theory of evolution.
The Rapture and Dispensational Pre-Millennial Eschatology. Seriously? If this is what matters to you, you should definitely find a different church.
Salvation. John Wesley taught that salvation was not just a one-time decision, but rather a life-long process under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is true that an intentional decision to follow Christ is important, but the Spirit guiding us to that point and continuing to shape us afterwards are just as important. Our programs and ministries are designed around this broader understanding of salvation, so that our focus is not on snagging more converts but rather on making whole disciples. We are not people who have been saved (and thus stand over and above the “Lost”), but rather are people who are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18) and can invite others along on a shared journey.
Baptism. Because we understand salvation as a process initiated by the Holy Spirit even before we are aware of God, we baptize people of all ages, including infants. The baptism of an infant does not signify that child’s decision to follow Christ – how could it? Nor does it represent a magical get-into-heaven rite. Instead it celebrates the grace of God working through that child, the child’s family, and the congregation as a whole to bring that child to full awareness and acceptance of God’s grace.
Other Religions. Yes, we believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and that his life, death, and resurrection were a unique and transformative event in human history. Salvation is possible only through Christ. But that is not exactly the same thing as saying that salvation is only possible through specific knowledge of Christ, and it does not mean that God may not also be at work elsewhere. We will continue to proclaim Christ, through whom the true nature of God was revealed to humanity, but in humility we stop short of saying that we have sole proprietorship of God. “The Spirit blows where it chooses” (John 3:8).
Homosexuality. The United Methodist Church as a whole is as divided over this issue as is the rest of America. The Church has both official statements affirming the “sacred worth” of homosexual persons and rules that forbid the ordination of gay or lesbian clergy and the performing of same-sex marriages. Our own congregation reflects the same range of opinions on those issues.
But on this we are agreed: we are all on a journey seeking God, and anyone who seeks God is welcome to travel with us. It does not matter whether you are male or female, gay or straight, believing or doubting, sinful or perfect.
Well, actually, that last one does matter. Sinful’s fine, but if you’re perfect, you’d probably be a bad fit here.
As of January, 2015, our worship style is basically traditional. On Sundays, we have an 8:00am service in the Memorial Chapel, a smaller sanctuary, and a 10:00am service in the Sanctuary. Chapel service is shorter and less formal, but in both services we sing hymns and follow a fairly traditional pattern. The Chancel Choir is an integral part of the 10:00 service. We celebrate Communion on the first Sunday of every month.
Beyond these much-argued categories, though, I would like to say a little more. We may follow a “traditional” pattern, but not slavishly. We love to experiment with different patterns and creative approaches. Our Worship Design Team takes seriously the charge of planning worship that will be meaningful to more than just one group, more than just one generation, more than just one taste.
Communion. Like other United Methodist Churches, we serve Open Communion. You do not have to be a member here, or a Methodist, or even 100% certain that you believe in God to partake of Communion with us. If you are looking for God, you are one of us.