Based on the understanding that the Bible is the ultimate standard for our faith, membership in The United Church of Canada is based on a profession of faith, not on adhering to a particular creed. New members are asked to profess their faith in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and to commit themselves to faithful conduct in the church and in the world. Additionally, United Church ministers are required to be in "essential agreement" with the four statements of faith found in the Doctrine section of The Basis of Union.
As members of one body of Christ, we acknowledge our Reformation heritage and the teaching of the creeds of the ancient church, particularly the Apostles' and Nicene creeds. Our membership in the World Council of Churches links us to a fellowship of churches that confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures.
Along with our statements of faith, the following offers an overview of the beliefs of the United Church.
The Bible is central to The United Church of Canada. As a source of wisdom, personal prayer, and devotion, we believe the Bible can bring us closer to God. It remains one of our best ways of experiencing God's continuing work of creation and liberation in the world, while offering us forgiveness, healing, and new life in Jesus.
We often refer to a passage as "the Word of God." By this we mean the writer was inspired by God. Yet we also know the various books that make up the Bible are the stories of two ancient communities trying to be faithful to God under difficult circumstances-ancient Israel and the early Christian movement-and some of what was experienced and written then doesn't fit with today's world. We don't condone slavery, for example, or stone those who commit adultery. Nevertheless, in its stories and teachings the Bible has a mysterious power to inform our lives.
A sacrament is a symbolic action, or ritual, by which people of faith encounter the presence and goodness of God. In a sacrament, ordinary things like water, bread, and wine are used to point us to God and God’s love, reminding us of the sacred in life. In the United Church, we celebrate two sacraments: baptism, the ritual that formally recognizes we belong to the Christian community, and communion, a symbolic meal initiated by Jesus. These are of central importance to our faith.
Baptism is a symbolic action that signifies the new life God gives us as we join the church community. Baptism uses water as a symbolic cleansing that signifies the acceptance of new life within the church family. The sacrament of baptism is the single rite of initiation into the Christian community, the church.
The United Church offers baptism to all ages. We believe the gift of God's love doesn't depend on our ability to understand it, so we baptize people as infants right up through adulthood. With children, instruction is given to parents or sponsors to equip them for the child's Christian nurture. During the ceremony, everyone in the congregation pledges support for the child and his or her parents.
Baptism is not a requirement for God's love. We believe people who die without baptism are in no way condemned, lost, or damned.
Baptism in the United Church is recognized by all denominations of the Christian church that practise infant baptism. Similarly, if people have already been baptized in another church, the United Church recognizes their baptism and welcomes them as Christians.
The Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, Holy Communion—these different terms refer to the same sacrament shared by most Christian denominations, a symbolic meal.
Communion is celebrated at a table that suggests the dining table in our homes. At the communion table, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the host and all are guests. The meal uses the symbols of small pieces of bread and a taste of wine or juice to remind us of Jesus’ last supper with his followers and of God’s enduring love.
The United Church invites all who seek to love Jesus to share in this family meal.
Jesus welcomed everyone, whether they were poor, rich, or just getting by; ill or healthy; self-made or educated; popular or a loner; secure or full of doubts. The United Church of Canada prides itself on welcoming everyone the way Jesus did, regardless of age, race, class, gender, orientation, or physical ability.
The church works hard to appreciate people of all ages, from grandparents to newborns. Children aren't viewed as adults-in-waiting, nor are they on display for the amusement of the adults. They're full and welcome participants at the heart of each congregation, bringing ideas and unique talents that can inspire the entire church.
We see people as unique, loved creations of God and welcome all people to the full life of Christian community, including marriage. We believe God intends loving relationships to be faithful, responsible, just, healing, and sustaining of the couple and those around them, and that such relationships require preparation and nurture. The United Church celebrates the marriage of
- same-sex couples
- previously divorced people
- couples of different religions
- all people who believe in Jesus Christ and want to live faithful to his way
General Council—the governing council of The United Church of Canada—makes some decisions about marriage, and local United Church congregations make other decisions. This reflects the wisdom that some decisions are best made as a denomination and others are best made locally. Our denomination has followed this wisdom since our founding in 1925.
Marriages (in fact, all worship services) are performed with the permission of and under the responsibility of the local congregation’s church council. This means that while General Council welcomes same-sex marriage, it does not make same-sex marriage the norm in congregations. Congregations develop their own marriage policy and practices. To find a congregation that is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including in its marriage policy, please visit our Locator and choose “Affirming Ministries.”
The United Church of Canada views the religious practice of all people of goodwill with respect and gratitude. We believe the Spirit of God is at work in many different faith communities.
For Christians, Jesus is the way we know God. Our understanding is nonetheless limited by human imagination. God is greater still and works in our world by a mysterious Spirit that knows no distinction at the doorway of a Christian chapel; Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh temple; Aboriginal sweat lodge, Muslim mosque, or Jewish synagogue.
We work together with other Christian churches whenever possible, and among people of other religions in Canada and throughout the world on matters of justice, peace, and human dignity. Today, difference is everywhere around us and, we believe, a great cause for celebration.
Caring for one another was central to Jesus' teachings: Feed the hungry, satisfy the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison.
We believe we strengthen one another to work, through God's grace, for a better world. To this end, we cooperate with other churches, faith traditions, and people of goodwill to eliminate poverty and protect those who are most vulnerable. Throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the United Church works with many churches and organizations we call partners by supporting work they see as vital to their well-being. This enables us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and shelter the homeless far beyond our normal reach.
The United Church has developed an immense body of policy related to social, political, and ecological issues. These policies speak of how to live out our faith in light of the challenges the world faces at any given time. Visit the United Church Commons for a complete list of social policy positions.