Book of Discipline
As Free Methodists, what we believe and how we live cannot be separated. The Book of Discipline brings our faith and practice together into a living document that gives clarity to what it means to be Free Methodist. It’s broken into a number of different sections, each attempting to address how we live and serve in the Kingdom of God.
The Constitution of the Free Methodist Church
Religion, especially Christianity, is both personal and communal. As a community of diverse people with diverse needs and perspectives, it’s important that we establish ground rules for how we live and work together as the church. That’s what a constitution is for. It’s not a comprehensive rulebook that attempts to answer every question the church may have, but instead provides the guiding principles for the organization. It helps communicate what is important to us as a whole and is designed as a living document to be reviewed, revised, and reformed to better fit the needs of the church as time goes by.
The Free Methodist Church constitution includes statements of faith and practice that give context to how the Free Methodist Church has seen God’s call historically. It was first created in 1860 as a response to the Methodist Epsicopal Church and is updated every four years by the leadership of the church, including the bishops, delegates from churches across the United States, and a mix of lay leaders and elders.
The Christian Journey
It’s tempting, when reading scripture, to attempt to boil down Christ’s message into a set of rituals and activities that, when completed, result in a state called “salvation.” However, the practical reality of Jesus’ testimony is that salvation is something that happens constantly to us through the mysterious working of God’s Spirit as we walk humbly with God. It’s a journey that we are on and continually live out.
The Book of Discipline provides a narrative of what that journey looks like, from the first inklings of God’s presence around us, to the conviction of God’s love in our lives, through the transformation of our hopes and habits so we can live in God’s love for us, finally coming to our being with God in eternity. There are no rituals to perform or words that can save us—only an intimate relationship with a savior that loves us.
Administration and Church Structure
In addition to the core issues of faith and Christian living, the Book of Discipline provides guidance on how the church organizes itself, from local churches to regional conferences to national and international bodies. There are lines of responsibility connecting local, district, conference, and denominational ministries. At each level, the Book of Discipline emphasizes a core Free Methodist value: that clergy and laity (non-clergy) alike must provide leadership throughout.
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The Book of Discipline is an essential document for anyone interested in understanding what it means to be Free Methodist or interested in becoming a leader within the church.