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United Methodist Understandings Concerning Death

What is our understanding concerning death?

United Methodist teaching on death is grounded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and grows out of reflection on those sacred texts. At the heart of that teaching is God who is life and gives life. This life given in our creation (Genesis 1-2) was and is disrupted by the power of sin that separates us from life in God (Genesis 3; Romans 1-3). In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God delivers us from sin and death, and so we live in the blessed hope of everlasting life. This life is a gift offered to all and enacted in baptism as our covenant of union with Jesus Christ. It is renewed in faithful worship, particularly in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, in which we receive the signs of our life, the life of God given in Jesus Christ. See John 6, particularly the latter sections of that chapter. See also Romans 8:28-39; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10; and Revelation 21:1-7.

Beyond the Bible, United Methodists recognize a living tradition of interpretation of the experience and meaning of death, and we seek to bring thoughtful consideration of engagement with Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.

Sources for further reflection and insight into the understanding of death and related issues:

The United Methodist Book of Worship

  • PP. 139-141, "[Introduction to] A Service of Death and Resurrection"
  • PP. 141-158, the ritual for "A Service of Death and Resurrection." Review of the prayers and actions of the service invite reflection and discussion prior to and following the service. The printed lessons and the list of Scripture readings (pp. 141-148, 159-160) are extensive and might serve as basis for several weeks of Bible study and search for deepened understanding of death and resurrection, loss and consolation.
  • PP. 160-161 offers additional hymn suggestions to those listed in earlier pages. These could also be used to reflect on the poetic apprehension of death and resurrection in the Christian tradition.
  • PP. 158-171, the rubrics, prayers, and other suggestions for services for persons who are dying or those who have died in various and especially complicated circumstances (in childhood, stillbirths, untimely or tragic circumstances, etc. ) will evoke other considerations of death.

2004 Book of Discipline

  • P. 43, "On the mystery of salvation" in the 3rd full paragraph
  • P. 102, "Abortion"
  • P. 103, "Faithful Care for Dying Persons"
  • P. 104, "Suicide"
  • P. 114, "Organ Transplantation and Donation"
  • P. 123, "War and Peace"

Daniel Benedict is retired from the staff of the Discipleship Ministries.

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