Bishop Trimble on being United Methodist while refuting misinformation
Greetings to clergy and laity of the Indiana Conference,
I am full of joy and thanksgiving when I think of how faithful you have been in your efforts to be the best churches you can be in challenging times. The care for members and the communities you serve is always a challenge given the rapid changes in our society and the needs of the mission field.
I am privileged to serve as your bishop as you have demonstrated in a variety of ministries your “Love of God and Neighbor,” as seen in summer camping, Vacation Bible School, feeding our neighbors, and responding to disasters through your giving and volunteering. As children have returned to school, we celebrate the ways in which families can be supported by their churches, and our churches can be good partners with the schools and institutions in our local communities. I applaud the campus ministries and all the many ways clergy are serving people of all ages beyond the local Church.
With all the good that is happening through the Church, it is unfortunate that some of our members have been exposed to misinformation about The United Methodist Church. These fundamental United Methodist beliefs have not changed:
God: We believe in one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Trinity). Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God saves us and restores and heals all of creation.
The Bible: The Bible is our primary source for understanding God’s will for our lives and for the world. Our reason, experience, and the history of the Church’s interpretation help us to understand more fully what God is teaching us in the Bible.
The Church: We believe the Christian Church is the community of all true believers under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The United Methodist Church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches and extension ministries of the Church provide the most significant arenas through which disciple-making occurs. The United Methodist Church is part of the holy catholic (universal) church, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. All people may attend our worship, participate in our programs, receive the sacraments, and become a member in any local church in the Connection.
Grace: John Wesley, one of the primary founders of the Methodist movement in England, emphasized God’s grace. God loves and is present with all people by God’s prevenient grace. God graciously forgives, restores, and receives us through God’s justifying grace. God continues to grow us into better followers of Jesus through God’s sanctifying grace.
There have been assertions that The United Methodist Church plans to eliminate or alter foundational theological doctrines including the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These claims are blatantly untrue, and I would question the motives of any person who would assert such falsehoods.
Many clergy and laity across the Church in the United States have expressed doubts that there will be a place for traditionalists or those who call themselves orthodox in The United Methodist Church. One of the great strengths of Indiana United Methodists is our diversity of thought and our support for churches of every size across the counties in Indiana. Traditionalists and progressives and centrists and those who reject labels are welcome and will continue to find a home in the Indiana Conference. If you have been told you need to depart the denomination to join a different one, beware of false claims and promises.
Jesus is the center of our joy: Finally, there are assertions that bishops and cabinets are not upholding The Book of Discipline. I have instructed our cabinet to emphasize their role as missional strategists and ministry supporters of local churches and leaders equipping all the saints for ministry. We were not called to be prosecutors or persecutors but lean into the work of a “paraclete,” often referred to as Holy Spirit or one who is a helper and advocate. It is One who comes alongside as we journey in ministry under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We have addressed complaints in accordance with our Book of Discipline with the appropriate discretion, confidentiality, and commitment to just resolutions. Our primary business is calling people to a life of faithful discipleship.
If you want to learn more about The United Methodist Church, visit UMC.org/Beliefs. If your church wants help with discernment or discussion of what we believe, I encourage you to start with your pastor and the Conference Superintendent.
There is much to celebrate in The United Methodist Church, especially in Indiana, and we will continue to “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” I am blessed and encouraged to serve as the resident bishop of the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church
The information sources for this letter include The 2016 UMC Book of Discipline and The United Methodist Member Digest.