United Methodist Doctrine


Instructor: Rev. Dr. Cathie Kelsey (she, her, hers). email ckelsey@iliff.edu or text 303-968-9812 (I observe that I don't respond as quickly to messages sent within Canvas, sorry.)


You will find it helpful to have a hymnal in hand as you watch this session.


Required texts are here:


1. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House, 2017. This is the source for all items identified with ¶ symbol. It is organized by ¶ rather than by page and is always cited by ¶.  Some portions of the Discipline are available on-line, but not all of it. If you are a certified candidate, you need your own copy of 2016 because it is the Discipline that governs your ordination process, regardless of what changes are made later!

2. Wesley's sermons: either John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology, ed. Albert Outler and Richard Heitzenrater, Abingdon Press, 1991. This is the "blue anthology" that you may have purchased already for UM History. -OR-

The Sermons of John Wesley ed. by Collins/Vickers, Abingdon Press 2013 (retail $49, Amazon $38, Kindle $25). This thematically-arranged version has the complete 44 "standard" sermons and has a useful one page outline of each sermon. If you don't already own the sermons, I recommend this edition, even though we will be reading some sermons which are not included in it. -OR-

The Wesley sermons are also available free on-line at http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-thomas-jacksons-numbering/ You can locate them by title, but notice the date preached/published because Wesley used similar titles several times. All of the online sources for Wesley's sermons come from the Jackson edition (because it is out of copyright). There may be some errors either from Jackson or from the process of transcription.  So be thoughtful in your reading if you use this source.

3. By Water and the Spirit, which is available at no cost from the General Board of Discipleship worship section site.  This text was adopted by General Conference as the United Methodist understanding of baptism. Also found in the 2016 Book of Resolutions. Cokesbury carries a version of this document that includes a teaching commentary. Be careful if you use that version to be clear which column is the commentary and which column is the actual doctrinal text adopted by General Conference.

4. This Holy Mystery, which is available at no cost here. This text was adopted by General Conference as the United Methodist understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Also found in the 2016 Book of Resolutions.  Cokesbury carries a version of this document that includes a teaching commentary. Be careful if you use that version to be clear which column is the commentary and which column is the actual doctrinal text adopted by General Conference.

Many additional readings will be posted as pdf files on the Canvas course site. 

Everything in this course is awarded points. Every posting, every paper. 

140 points are awarded between the three papers (10 points for each question plus 10 points for revisions) The papers are each due on a Sunday evening by midnight. (Getting the final paper submitted before the deadline will help me get grades done without having to pull an all-nighter, but you have until Sunday midnight.)

145 points are awarded between the weekly postings.

There is ALWAYS a "primary reading" posting due on Thursday by midnight. Most weeks there is also an "interpretive reading" posting due at the same time. Think of these postings as a conversation about the topic. You will not all be reading the same interpretive readings and so part of your role is to help your colleagues understand the interpretation offered by the reading you did. In particular, how was the interpretation distinctive?

There is ALWAYS a SECOND "primary reading" posting due on Sunday by midnight. The goal of this second posting is to take shared thinking one step further in conversation.

This makes a total of THREE postings, in two different discussions, most weeks. 5 pts for each posting (so 10 possible in the primary reading discussions and 5 possible in the interpretive reading discussions).

Canvas is set up with the Thursday deadlines in your calendar. You will have to remember to return to post for the Sunday deadline. It would be quite complex to get Canvas to remind you (and would probably lead to more confusion!)  But notice how many points you lose when you miss that second posting: as many as 50 out of the total of 285! (that's 17%-dropping an A to a low B)

But Methodism is all about GRACE!  So here is the bonus option for you:

You can earn up to 10 extra points for meeting synchronously each week in a Band Meeting group, either with people from this course or with people in your circle of folks.  To earn the points, you need to sign up with a group, meet weekly, and then at the end of the term, post the dates on which your group met in the bonus assignment.  For folks who were in UM History in the fall, this is exactly the same expectation for meeting as in that term (though with less credit, I admit.)  If you don't know what I'm talking about, get into a group with someone who was in UM History last fall, and consider reading The Band Meeting by Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker (Seedbed, 2017).  Extra Credit: Weekly synchronous Band Meeting

Course Synopsis:

An exploration of the doctrinal heritage of United Methodism: its sources, distinctive marks, development in the United States, and relation to contemporary doctrinal standards and practices of the UMC. This course meets the disciplinary requirements for ordination to elder or permanent deacon or diaconal ministry in the UMC.

"Doctrine" is "what the church teaches about Christian faith." This is the course for building the knowledge and skills needed
1) to engage in United Methodist theological debates about what to teach, and
2) to help lay persons make sense of Methodist ways of talking about and living Christian faith.

Required Texts for this course


The content of this course is organized by doctrinal loci that are particularly important in United Methodism, and, in some cases, constitute the theological distinctives of Wesleyan/Arminian theology. Through the term, we will address 13 of these loci. Beginning in week 2 each module addresses one or two of these doctrinal loci. (As it happens, these same doctrines are the topics for the questions that persons being ordained in the UMC have to answer in writing when they are being considered for commissioning.) 

Final Paper (and First and Second Set of Answers papers that build the final paper)

The final paper for this course involves answering these 13 questions as if you were John Wesley (when you update this for submission as part of your ordination process, you will need to build upon Wesley's thought with your own). You will submit portions of this final paper TWICE during the term and get feedback, (see the overall course schedule on the Home page for the dates). The entire final paper is due at the end of the term (but read the next section - you can make this much easier on yourself). See the instructions for exactly what these papers involve: Final Paper Submission


Engagement each week builds toward the final paper.You can see the question number(s) we are addressing each week by looking at the module version of the course.  You could actually draft your answer to the questions week by week and avoid being overwhelmed when they have to be submitted.

Every week has an assignment called "primary reading" that will include a link to my comments about the topic for the week and the reading that everyone is required to do. When you have completed that reading, join the class discussion named for the topic. Note that you post at least twice to this discussion each week, adding a significant additional interpretive contribution to our collaborative thinking about the topic. This means that you are expected to read the posts that have occurred before yours and to further the conversation. Simply repeating what has been said before or positing rhetorical questions without beginning to explore their answers are insufficient postings. Your group's cumulative discussion will be a rich resource for you to use in writing the related question that appears in the final paper, so this discussion helps you, week by week with that assignment. Beginning the second week, when we are looking at specific doctrinal questions, the initial post should be around 300-450 words. 

There will be a second reading for you to do most weeks. Everyone will not be doing the same reading, so you will summarize for your Interpretive Debate group. You will find a link to it in the Interpretive Debate discussion each week. You are asked to post once to this discussion each week but additional postings to help get clarity about different points of view will help everyone!

To summarize, this means you have THREE postings due every week:

1. Due Thursday night: post your contribution in the Primary Reading Group to furthering interpretation of the doctrine(s) for the week using our primary texts.

2. Due Thursday night: in your Interpretive Debate Group, post your summary for your group members of the argument made in the reading that you are assigned. Each group member will read a different interpretation. These secondary readings are all available as pdf files in the discussion.

3. Due Sunday night (unless otherwise indicated for a given week): post in response to colleagues and in response to the second question in the Primary Reading Group.  This posting can also be shorter, whether you are posting an amendment to your initial work, or responding to the post of a colleague. Again, 100 words is sufficient, somewhat longer is fine too, if that allows you to engage the concept more fully.

Keep in mind that, in the online environment, your engagement online is critical, both for yourself and for your online colleagues. Two or more weeks of missed online participation may result in removal from the course! If you encounter unexpected personal circumstances which make it impossible to keep up, contact the instructor right away. 

Here are the graded assignments in this course:

Weekly primary reading and posting twice  10 pts/week

     10 weeks x 10 pts/week = 100 points

Weekly interpretative reading and posting twice  5 pts/week

       weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9  x 5pts/week = 40 points

Paper: first set of answers  = 40   (4 questions)

Paper: second set of answers = 30 (3 questions)

Final paper: third set of answers and revisions = 70 (6 questions + revisions)

Total points in the course:

   280 points

I cannot predict whether or not the break between A, A-, B+, B, and B- will fall in accordance with percentages. I look at the complete distribution of points at the end of the term in order to see clear differentiations. I do not grade on a curve with an equal number of people at the top and the bottom. Typically, students work hard, learn a lot, and do well in this course.

There is usually a grading rubric specified in the first week's posting that will be used for the entire term.

  1. Students will be able to articulate (in writing) the central theological emphases that shaped the United Methodist doctrinal sources identified in the Constitution.

  2. Students will reflect on the ways in which these theological emphases may shape a response to needs in our cultural contexts today.

  3. Students will be able to articulate (in writing) John Wesley’s responses to the theological questions required of persons applying to be commissioned toward either deacon’s or elders orders in The United Methodist Church.

  4. Students will be equipped to preside or assist at baptism and at the Lord’s Table in a way appropriate to United Methodist understanding of the sacraments.

  5. Students will articulate how they see the relationship between practices in United Methodist traditions and United Methodist doctrine.

  6. Students will articulate a nuanced critique of the secondary literature that interprets UM doctrine in current denominational discourses.

  7. Students will articulate - in the language of at least one contemporary sub-culture - an understanding of the process of human transformation historically articulated in the Methodist via salutis and specify the implications it has for the transformation of organizational structures in ecclesial and civic realms.


Degree Learning Goals

This course helps fulfill the following learning goals for the MDiv degree at Iliff:

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the development of Christian texts, doctrines, and institutions.

1.3  analyze the strengths and liabilities of these various expressions of Christianity as they continue to impact the tradition(s) in which the student has been formed and/or is currently engaged.

3. Think theologically in a contemporary context and articulate a constructive theological position.

4.2  critically engage historical theological expressions of Christianity in relation to contemporary events and/or situations

Jan 05, 2021TueIntroduce yourself please!due by 06:59AM
Jan 08, 2021FriWk 1 Primary Readings: the Way of Salvationdue by 06:59AM
Jan 08, 2021FriWk 1 Interpretive Readings: the way of salvationdue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2021ThuWk 2 Synchronous session Jan 14 - video recording heredue by 11:00PM
Jan 15, 2021FriWk 2: Primary Readings on the Quadrilateral and the Authority of Scripturedue by 06:59AM
Jan 15, 2021FriWk 2: Interpretive Debate: the kind of Authority Scripture Hasdue by 06:59AM
Jan 22, 2021FriWk 3 Primary Readings: Sin, Evil, and the Need for Gracedue by 06:59AM
Jan 22, 2021FriWk 3 Interpretive Debate: Sin, Evil, and the Need for Gracedue by 06:59AM
Jan 25, 2021MonFirst Set of Answers: Question 1, 2, 3, and 4due by 06:59AM
Jan 29, 2021FriWk 4 Primary Readings: The Role of Jesusdue by 06:59AM
Jan 29, 2021FriWk 4 Interpretive Debate: The Role of Jesusdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2021ThuWk 5 Synchronous Session Feb 4 - video posted heredue by 11:00PM
Feb 05, 2021FriWk 5 Going Deeper into the Jesus Question - all postings here for this week due by 06:59AM
Feb 12, 2021FriWk 6 Primary Readings: The Holy Spiritdue by 06:59AM
Feb 12, 2021FriWk 6 Interpretive Readings: The Holy Spiritdue by 06:59AM
Feb 19, 2021FriWk 7 Primary Readings: The Nature of Goddue by 06:59AM
Feb 19, 2021FriWk 7 Interpretive Readings: The Nature of Goddue by 06:59AM
Feb 22, 2021MonSecond Set of Answers: questions 5, 6 and 7due by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2021ThuWk 8 Synchronous session on performing sacraments - video recordingdue by 11:00PM
Feb 26, 2021FriWk 8 Interpretive Readings: the Sacraments and the Mission of the Churchdue by 06:59AM
Feb 26, 2021FriWk 8 Primary Readings: The Sacraments and the Mission of the Churchdue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2021FriWk 9 Primary Readings: Kingdom/Reign of God, eternal life, and Resurrectiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2021FriWk 9 Interpretive Readings: the kingdom/reign of God, eternal life, and Resurrectiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 12, 2021FriWk 10 servant leadership/diakonia, and an inclusive church - only one discussion this weekdue by 06:59AM
Mar 15, 2021MonFinal Paper: all 13 questions (with revisions)due by 05:59AM
Mar 15, 2021MonExtra Credit: Weekly synchronous Band Meetingdue by 05:59AM