Proposed new United Methodist Social Creed is singable, more liturgical

April 04, 2008

(Note: All three Social Creeds – 1908, 1972, 2008 – are included at end of this article.) 


A proposed new Social Creed will be presented to The United Methodist Church General Conference, the denomination's top law-making body, during its meeting April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas. The new creed has been developed by the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) at the direction of the 2004 General Conference in commemoration of the denomination's first Social Creed, adopted in 1908.


This new creed, if adopted, will be the third Social Creed in the denomination's history. The current creed was adopted in 1972 following the 1968 union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.


"The new Social Creed represents the global nature of the church," said Bishop Jane Middleton, who took over as chair of the Social Creed Revision Task Force after Bishop Susan Morrison retired. "We participated in consultations in the Central Conferences in Europe, Africa and the Philippines. It was an exciting experience to look at language and theology, and their implications in those contexts."


The Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary for Education and Leadership Formation, described the 1908 Social Creed as a "vocal and urgent expression" of public witness to remind Methodists that systemic, social transformation goes hand in glove with growth in personal piety. "The Social Creed reflected our Methodist missional commitments to faith in Jesus Christ as evidenced in social justice," he said.


Social vs. confessional creeds

The Social Creed is not parallel with the confessional creeds of the church, emphasized Bishop Middleton. "The confessional creeds represent the vertical line of the cross, our theological relationship with God," she explained. "The Social Creed is the horizontal line, our relationship to the world and God's people."


The task force consisted of six people, three of whom are GBCS board members and three others to provide Central Conference representation, theological and musical expertise.


The proposed new creed reflects more current use of language, and is more liturgical and poetic in its presentation than its predecessors, according to its drafters.


Bishop Morrison said the task force wanted the new creed to be user-friendly. "It wouldn't necessarily connect to my generation," she said, "but would connect to the younger generation. That's why we came up with a liturgical form that ought to be able to encourage musical forms. I have a dream of a rap form, jazz form." A musical rendition of the proposed creed was sung at the Pre-General Conference Briefing in Fort Worth earlier this year.


First truly global creed

Christie said the text of the "first truly global" Social Creed in the denomination's history "seeks to name and confess our participation in the brokenness of our world and affirms alternative futures reflective of God's vision for a beloved community."


The proposed creed can be spoken and sung as a proclamation. "It is truly evangelical in its intent to mirror the desires of the global church, a public witness that affirms in timely language our challenge to respond to God's prophetic ministry through Jesus Christ," Christie said. He described the imagery as poetic and invitational.


Bishop Middleton said the new Social Creed may be one of the tools to help say who United Methodists are. "But I view it more as a statement of our marching orders as United Methodists for social holiness," she said.


The current Social Creed is not "real accessible," according to Bishop Morrison. She pointed out that it is not in the Book of Worship, but rather in the Book of Discipline (page 125) included with the "United Methodist Social Principles."


"We wanted to draft a creed that could be the introduction to every week's worship," she said. The Discipline does suggest the Social Creed's use each week in worship.


Minimal exposure

Bishop Middleton agreed with her colleague's assessment. "The Social Principles and the Social Creed have only minimal exposure across the United States," she commented. "They cannot shape us if people are not exposed to them. We believe the liturgical form will make it more acceptable."


The Rev. Greg Stover of West Ohio Conference, who participated with the bishops in a discussion of the proposed Social Creed at the Fort Worth briefing, agreed. Stover said he doesn't believe the Social Creed is itself a vision, but it does call United Methodists to "a broader vision" of the world. "It provides a set of values to guide our actions as individuals and congregations in the revelation of Jesus Christ," he declared.


The proposed new creed is intended to enable all United Methodists to say: "Here we stand," according to Bishop Middleton. "It declares where we stand as people of the Word, in piety, and in the context of the way we do ministry," she said.


The three versions of the Social Creed follow:


Proposed United Methodist Social Creed


God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ,

calls us by grace


to be renewed in the image of our Creator,

that we may be one

in divine love for the world.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God cares for the integrity of creation,

wills the healing and wholeness of all life,

weeps at the plunder of earth's goodness.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God embraces all hues of humanity,

delights in diversity and difference,

favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God cries with the masses of starving people,

despises growing disparity between rich and poor,

demands justice for workers in the marketplace.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God deplores violence in our homes and streets,

rebukes the world's warring madness,

humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace,

celebrates where justice and mercy embrace,

exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.


And so shall we.


Today is the day


God brings good news to the poor,

proclaims release to the captives,

gives sight to the blind, and

sets the oppressed free.


And so shall we.


The Social Creed (1908)


The Methodist Episcopal Church stands --


For equal rights and complete justice for all (people) in all stations of life.


For the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.


For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.


For the abolition of child labor.


For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safe guard the physical and moral health of the community.


For the suppression of the "sweating system."


For the gradual and reasonable reduction of hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.


For a release from employment one day in seven.


For a living wage in every industry.


For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.


For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.



The Social Creed of The United Methodist Church (1972)

(Page 125, 2004 Book of Discipline)


We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God's gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.


We affirm the natural world as God's handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.


We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.


We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.


We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.


We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.


We believe in the present and final triumph of God's Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.