The witness ministries of the church shall give attention to developing and strengthening evangelistic efforts of sharing of personal and congregational stories of Christian experience, faith, and service; communications; Lay Servant Ministries; and other means that give expressions of witness for Jesus Christ. – ¶ 252 2.c) The Book of Discipline of the UMC
Our United Methodist UK Mission Area heritage is rooted in a deep and profound understanding of God’s grace. This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us. Did you have to memorize John 3:16 in Sunday school when you were a child? There was a good reason. This one verse summarizes the gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) The ability to call to mind God’s love and God’s gift of Jesus Christ is a rich resource for theology and faith.” – (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage)
For John Wesley, there was no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. In other words, faith always includes a social dimension. One cannot be a solitary Christian. As we grow in faith through our participation in the church community, we are also nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world. – (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage)
“From Wesley’s time to the present, Methodism has sought to be both a nurturing community and a servant community. Members of Methodist Societies and class meetings met for personal nurture through giving to the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working for justice and peace in the community. They sought not only to receive the fullness of God’s grace for themselves; but…they saw themselves as existing ‘to reform the nation…and to spread scriptural holiness over the land.’” – (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage – Excerpted from “Who Are We? Doctrine, Ministry, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church, Revised Leader’s Guide,” Kenneth L. Carder (Cokesbury, 2001), p. 46. Used by permission.)
As disciples of Jesus Christ, our witness is an integrated part of everything we do and say. It is the prayer of the St. Paul Witness Ministry Team that we can all make witness a part of our worship, our service, and our lives.
By Julie Dwyer
As part of The United Methodist Church’s Baptismal Covenant, new members promise to faithfully participate in a local congregation through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. But, how can they go beyond the words they profess to actually living into these vows?
Identifying the needs in a community and taking action is what witness is all about, said the Rev. Mark W. Stamm, author of “Our Membership Vows,” a Discipleship Ministries resource. United Methodist congregations are doing that every day, whether it’s providing sanctuary for immigrants, offering after-school care for at-risk kids, helping the homeless or standing up for the marginalized.
When new members join The United Methodist Church, they profess the vows of the Baptismal Covenant. They vow to renounce evil and to be loyal to Christ through the global United Methodist Church. They also promise to be active participants in a local congregation, pledging “to faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service and their witness.”
The word “witness” was added by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference to highlight the mission and evangelistic responsibilities of church membership. It also reminds United Methodists to live out their vows publicly. Churches need to discern locally how they are going to do that in a specific way and a specific place, said Stamm, who is professor of Christian worship at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“We commit at baptism to resist evil and repent of our sin. We commit to resist injustice and oppression and work against them. So, the question is: ‘Where is the injustice in the place that we live? What does it look like here? Do we have the courage to name it where we’re living. And if we name it, then, what would resisting it look like?’”
This feature was originally published October 30, 2017.
Julie Dwyer is a writer and editor for United Methodist Communications. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who join United Methodist churches henceforth will promise to be faithful in “their witness” as well as in their “prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service.”
The 2008 United Methodist General Conference voted April 30 to add the witness phrase to the liturgy the church uses when a person makes a profession of membership.
The new phrase highlights the mission and evangelistic responsibility of church membership.
The promise to support the church by prayer, presence, gifts and service was not part of the formal baptismal vows of admission to the church, but a pledge used historically in affiliating with a United Methodist congregation.
The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, said the phrase had remained the same since 1932.
There was no debate on the assembly floor on the addition of the “witness” phrase. It was reported to the full conference by a legislative committee on a consent calendar. This means there was strong support in committee and the addition was not discussed specifically by the full body of the conference.
Jay Brim, a lay delegate from Southwest Texas, called adoption of the petition to the conference’s attention.
Membership vows of The United Methodist Church do not include witness, an integral part of laity’s role from earliest Methodism, in members’ participation in the church’s life. Because congregations repeat these vows along with new members, a pledge to “witness” will remind members to be witnesses in the community.