How do I become a member of a United Methodist church? Is there a special ceremony?
Sometimes we think of membership like being a member of the Auto Club or the Country Club where we pay for services and privileges. Church membership is different. The apostle Paul used the image of a living body: "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." (I Cor. 12:13) In this biblical sense, to be a member is to be part of a living organism--a vital community animated by the Spirit of God to love and to serve. Paul's statement also points to the inclusiveness of the church: anyone may make the journey into life in the church.
Baptism and membership
You can become a member of the body of Christ, the church, by being baptized into it or by reaffirming your baptism. Baptism is a ritual made up of questions and promises, prayer, and washing. In most United Methodist churches the washing is accomplished by sprinkling. Sometimes it is done by pouring or immersion, but you will choose which way you want to be washed. Youth and adults go through a time of preparation and instruction before they are baptized. In the case of infants and children, the parents receive instruction. In this way they are helped to know God, the meaning of being "members of the body," and what it is they are committing themselves to.
What happens at baptism?
Baptism initiates a covenant of relationship between God and the baptized person and between the church and the person. When you are baptized or affirm your baptism, the congregation enacts God's grace toward you and welcomes you into the community of faith. As a response to God's gracious initiative, you will be asked to pledge your loyalty to the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church and to promise to uphold the local church with your prayers, presence, gifts and service. As a baptized Christian, you will be part of the universal church and part of a particular community of Christians where you are known and watched over in love.
Since all that seek to be members come with different experiences and backgrounds, there are a number of pathways to follow in becoming a member of The United Methodist Church.
If you have never been baptized and you desire to be a Christian with United Methodist Christians, you will prepare for baptism.
If you were baptized as an infant or young child and have not made a profession of faith and been confirmed, then you will prepare to reaffirm your baptismal covenant.
If you are a member of another part of the church (such as Baptist, Presbyterian or Lutheran), then you will want to prepare to transfer your membership from that church to a local United Methodist Church.
If you are a member of another Christian church that does not transfer membership, you will want to prepare to make a profession of faith and be received as a member.