Introducing the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church

What All Social Principles Have in Common

Each Social Principle is actually a number of things:

A position.  The United Methodist Chruch takes a public stand on many timely issues.  While we may not all agree with these positions, a public stand is a plumb line or common starting point for dialogue.  The Social Principles are a barometer to determine how close we as a church and society measure up to God’s vision for right relationships with one another and our neighbors.

A set of interests.  To one degree or another, we all act out of our self-interests.  As human beings we have multiple self-interests that compete for our attention and even our undivided allegiance.  The Latin term for interest actually means “intern” and “esse” or “to be among.”

    Interests are determined by those we live among.  Our interests may be the result of our access to work and education, our ethnicities and racial identities, our nationalities, genders, ages, or political affiliations.  The positions set forth in the Social Principles are an effort to mediate potentially conflicting interests that arise from diverse and perhaps divergent groups in church and society.  These positions point to issues where we must practice respect and tolerance.

A set of core values.  Every culture communicates and passes down a set of traditions or values from one generation to the next.  We reflect to a greater or lesser degree the cultures we inhabit.  Our values may either complement or contradict the cultural expectations of other people of good faith.

    As Christian we are meant to move beyond our own cultural expectations.  Biblical values ought to shape who we are in the world.  We are no longer slaves to cultural practices that contradict the gospel of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, we bring with us the texture and the tenor of our cultures to enliven our understanding of who Jesus is for us today.

Response to human need.  When we cannot agree with the public positions our denomination takes, our self-interests are at odds, and our values seem to be incompatible, can we not still agree on some basic human needs that must be met for all to retain their humanity?

    What basic needs do we all have in common?  Needs such as food, shelter, work, safety, community, and faith are addressed in the Social Principles.  Specific prescriptions are offered in the Social Principles that point to what it will take to meet those needs

Justice in Everyday Life, pp. 13-14.