United Methodist Church
Overview
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a Methodist Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church
Evangelical United Brethren Church
The Evangelical United Brethren Church was an American Protestant church which was formed in 1946 by the merger of the Evangelical Church with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ...

, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival
Christian revival
Christian revival is a term that generally refers to a specific period of increased spiritual interest or renewal in the life of a church congregation or many churches, either regionally or globally...

 movement of John
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 and Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

 within the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. As such, the church's theological orientation is decidedly Wesleyan
Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous...

. It contains both liturgical and evangelical elements.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it ranks as the largest Mainline denomination, the second largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members...

, and the third largest Christian denomination.
Encyclopedia
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a Methodist Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church
Evangelical United Brethren Church
The Evangelical United Brethren Church was an American Protestant church which was formed in 1946 by the merger of the Evangelical Church with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ...

, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival
Christian revival
Christian revival is a term that generally refers to a specific period of increased spiritual interest or renewal in the life of a church congregation or many churches, either regionally or globally...

 movement of John
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 and Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

 within the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. As such, the church's theological orientation is decidedly Wesleyan
Wesleyanism
Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous...

. It contains both liturgical and evangelical elements.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it ranks as the largest Mainline denomination, the second largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members...

, and the third largest Christian denomination. As of 2007, worldwide membership was about 12 million: 8.0 million in the United States and Canada, 3.5 million in Africa, Asia and Europe. It is a member of the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

, the World Methodist Council
World Methodist Council
The World Methodist Council, founded in 1881, is an association of churches in the Methodist tradition which comprises most of the world's Wesleyan denominations.- Extension and organization:...

, and other religious associations.

Church origins

The movement, which would become The United Methodist Church, began in the mid-18th century as a movement within the Church of England. A small group of students, including John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield
George Whitefield
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

, formed on the Oxford University campus. The group focused on Bible study, methodical study of scripture and living a holy life. Other students mocked the group by calling it the "Holy Club
Holy Club
The Holy Club was an organisation at Christ Church, Oxford, set up by brothers John and Charles Wesley in 1729, who later contributed to the formation of the Methodist Church....

" and "the Methodists" for being overly methodical and exceptionally detailed with their Bible study, opinions and lifestyle. Eventually, the Methodists started individual societies or classes for members of the Church of England who wanted to live a more sacred life.

In 1735, the Wesley brothers went to America to preach the gospel to the American Indians
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 in Georgia. Within two years, the "Holy Club" had disbanded. Wesley returned to England and met with a core group of preachers whom he held in high regard. He wrote that "they appeared to be of one heart, as well as of one judgment, resolved to be Bible-Christians at all events; and, wherever they were, to preach with all their might plain, old, Bible Christianity". These ministers continued their affiliation with the Church of England. Meantime, they began to be convinced of what they believed were biblical truths that were not then popular among Anglicans. Some of their convictions were that "by grace we are saved through faith" and that justification by faith was the doctrine of the Church as well as of the Bible. They preached these conclusions, and salvation by faith became their standing topic. It implied to them three things which they saw as foundational to Christian faith:
  1. That people are all, by nature, "dead in sin," and, consequently, "children of wrath."
  2. That they are "justified by faith alone."
  3. That faith produces inward and outward holiness: And these points they insisted on day and night.


In a short time, they became popular preachers with large congregations. The former name was then revived and all these gentlemen, along with their followers, became known as Methodists.

Predecessors

The first official organization in the United States occurred in Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, in 1784 with the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church, sometimes referred to as the M.E. Church, was a development of the first expression of Methodism in the United States. It officially began at the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, with Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as the first bishops. Through a series of...

 at the Christmas Conference
Christmas Conference (Methodism)
The Christmas Conference was an historic founding conference of the newly independent Methodists within the United States held just after the American Revolution at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland in 1784....

 with Francis Asbury
Francis Asbury
Bishop Francis Asbury was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now The United Methodist Church in the United States...

 and Thomas Coke
Thomas Coke (bishop)
Thomas Coke was the first Methodist Bishop and is known as the Father of Methodist Missions.Born in Brecon, south Wales, his father was a well-to-do apothecary...

 as the leaders.

Though John Wesley originally wanted the Methodists to stay within the Church of England, the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 decisively separated the Methodists in the American colonies from the life and sacraments of its English counterpart. In 1784, after unsuccessful attempts to have the Church of England send a bishop to start a new church in the colonies, Wesley decisively appointed fellow priest Thomas Coke as superintendent (bishop) to organize a separate Methodist Society. Together with Coke, Wesley sent a revision of the Anglican Prayerbook
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 and the Articles of Religion
Thirty-Nine Articles
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are the historically defining statements of doctrines of the Anglican church with respect to the controversies of the English Reformation. First established in 1563, the articles served to define the doctrine of the nascent Church of England as it related to...

 which were received by the Baltimore Christmas Conference of 1784, officially establishing the Methodist Episcopal Church. The conference was held at the Lovely Lane Methodist Church
Lovely Lane Methodist Church
Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, formerly known as First Methodist Episcopal Church, is a historic United Methodist church located at Baltimore, Maryland, United States. It was designed by renowned architect Stanford White in 1884, built in the Romanesque Revival style. It is patterned after...

, considered the Mother Church of American Methodism. John Wesley did not approve of the actions of the American Society; he would continue to be in correspondence with various people about his objections.

The new church grew rapidly in the young country as it employed circuit riders
Circuit rider (Religious)
Circuit rider is a popular term referring to clergy in the earliest years of the United States who were assigned to travel around specific geographic territories to minister to settlers and organize congregations...

, many of whom were laymen
Layman
A layperson or layman is a person who is not an expert in a given field of knowledge. The term originally meant a member of the laity, i.e. a non-clergymen, but over the centuries shifted in definition....

, to travel the mostly rural nation by horseback to preach the Gospel and to establish churches until there was scarcely any village in the United States without a Methodist presence. With 4000 circuit riders by 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church rapidly became the largest Protestant denomination in the country.

In the more than 220 years since 1784, Methodism in the United States, like many other Protestant denominations, has seen a number of divisions and mergers. In 1830, the Methodist Protestant Church
Methodist Protestant Church
The Methodist Protestant Church is a regional Church body which was officially formed in 1828 by former members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, remaining Wesleyan in doctrine and worship, but adopting congregational governance....

 split from the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of laity having a voice and vote in the administration of the church, insisting that clergy should not be the only ones to have any determination in how the church was to be operated. In 1844, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two conferences because of tensions over slavery and the power of bishops in the denomination.

The two general conferences, Methodist Episcopal Church (the northern section) and Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Methodist Episcopal Church, South
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, or Methodist Episcopal Church South, was the so-called "Southern Methodist Church" resulting from the split over the issue of slavery in the Methodist Episcopal Church which had been brewing over several years until it came out into the open at a conference...

 remained separate until 1939. That year, the northern and southern Methodist Episcopal Churches and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to create The Methodist Church. The uniting conference took place at First Methodist Church (now First United Methodist Church) of Marion, Indiana
Marion, Indiana
Marion is a city in Grant County, Indiana, United States. The population was 29,948 as of the 2010 census. The city is the county seat of Grant County...

.

1968 merger

On April 23, 1968, the United Methodist Church was created when the Evangelical United Brethren Church
Evangelical United Brethren Church
The Evangelical United Brethren Church was an American Protestant church which was formed in 1946 by the merger of the Evangelical Church with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ...

 (represented by Bishop Reuben H. Mueller) and The Methodist Church (represented by Bishop Lloyd Christ Wicke
Lloyd Christ Wicke
Lloyd Christ Wicke was an American Bishop of The Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church, elected in 1948. When he died in 1996 he was the oldest of the 117 active and retired United Methodist Bishops at that time, as well as the last one elected during the decade of the 1940s.-Birth and...

) joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. With the words, "Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church" the new denomination was given birth by the two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world.

Combining the personal holiness emphasis of the evangelical influence in the church with the outreach emphasis from the social gospel
Social Gospel
The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the early 20th century United States and Canada...

 proponents has created a combination of practices within the United Methodist Church.

Beliefs

The United Methodist Church seeks to create disciples for Christ through outreach, evangelism, and through seeking holiness through the process of sanctification
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

. With a focus on triune worship, United Methodists seek to bring honor to God by following the model of Jesus Christ, which is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. The flame in the church logo
Cross and flame
- History :Adopted shortly after the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. It relates The United Methodist church to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit...

 represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, which is seen in believers through spiritual gifts. The two parts of the flame represent the predecessor denominations, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, and are united at the base symbolizing the 1968 merger.

The United Methodist Church understands itself to be part of the holy catholic (or universal) church
Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church is a term describing four specific adjectives—one, holy, catholic and apostolic—indicating four major distinctive marks or distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church...

 as it recognizes the historic ecumenical creeds, the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

; they are used frequently in services of worship
Service of worship
In the Protestant denominations of Christianity, a service of worship is a meeting whose primary purpose is the worship of God. The phrase is normally shortened to service. It is also commonly called a worship service...

. The Book of Discipline also recognizes the importance of the Chalcedonian Creed
Chalcedonian Creed
The Confession of Chalcedon , also known as the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union or the Two-Nature Doctrine, was adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 in Asia Minor. That Council of Chalcedon is one of the first seven Ecumenical Councils accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and many...

 of the Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

. Nevertheless, it also upholds the concept of the "visible and invisible Church," meaning that all who are truly believers in every age belong to the holy Church invisible, while the United Methodist Church is a form of the Church visible
Church visible
Church visible is a term of Christian theology and ecclesiology referring to the visible community of Christian believers on Earth, as opposed to the Church invisible or Church triumphant, constituted by the fellowship of saints and the company of the elect.In ecclesiology, the Church visible has...

, to which all believers should belong as it is the institution where worship in the name of Jesus is conducted and the sacraments are administered; nonetheless, there may be many unworthy members in the visible church. The Methodist Church
World Methodist Council
The World Methodist Council, founded in 1881, is an association of churches in the Methodist tradition which comprises most of the world's Wesleyan denominations.- Extension and organization:...

 can lay a claim on apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

, as understood in the traditional sense, since the Rt. Rev. John Wesley ordained and sent forth every Methodist preacher in his day, who preached and baptized and ordained, and since every Methodist preacher who has ever been ordained as a Methodist was ordained in this direct "succession" from Wesley, who was consecrated a bishop by Erasmus of Arcadia
Erasmus of Arcadia
Erasmus of Arcadia , also known as Gerasimos Avlonites , was a Greek Orthodox bishop of the Diocese of Arcadia in Crete, operating under the Patriarch of Smyrna. Erasmus' monastery, located south of Rethymon in central Crete, was a centre of resistance to foreign domination by the Turkish régime. ...

. Despite this fact, most Methodists view apostolic succession outside its high church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 sense, presenting the Rt. Rev. Wesley's citing of an ancient opinion from the Church of Alexandria
Church of Alexandria
The Church of Alexandria in Egypt is the particular church headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria. It is one of the original four Apostolic Sees of Christianity, with Rome, Antioch and Jerusalem ....

, which held that that bishops and presbyters constituted one order
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 and therefore, bishops are to be elected from and by the presbyterate; as such, the United Methodist Church follows this ancient precedent today.

While many United Methodist congregations operate in the evangelical tradition, others are similar to many mainline Protestant denominations. Although United Methodist beliefs have evolved over time, these beliefs can be traced to the writings of the church's founders, John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 and Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

 (Anglicans), Philip William Otterbein
Philip William Otterbein
Philip William Otterbein was a U.S. clergyman. He was the founder of the United Brethren in Christ, a group that is a forerunner of today's United Methodist Church.-Biography:...

 and Martin Boehm
Martin Boehm
Martin Boehm was an American clergyman and pastor. He was the son of Jacob Boehm and Barbara Kendig who settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania...

 (United Brethren), and Jacob Albright
Jacob Albright
Jacob Albright was an American Christian leader, founder of Albright's People which was officially named the Evangelical Association in 1816...

 (Evangelical). With the formation of The United Methodist Church in 1968, theologian Albert C. Outler
Albert Outler
Albert Cook Outler was a 20th century American Methodist theologian and philosopher. Outler is generally considered to be one of the most important Wesley scholars in the history of the Church as well as the first real United Methodist theologian...

 led the team which systematized denominational doctrine. Outler's work proved pivotal in the work of union, and he is largely considered the first United Methodist theologian.

Doctrine

The officially established Doctrinal Standards of United Methodism are:
  • The Articles of Religion
    Articles of Religion (Methodist)
    The Articles of Religion are an official doctrinal statement of American Methodism. John Wesley abridged for the American Methodists the Thirty-Nine Articles of Anglicanism, removing the Calvinistic parts among others. The Articles were adopted at a conference in 1784 and are found in paragraph 103...

     of the Methodist Church;
  • The Confessions of Faith
    Confession of Faith (United Methodist)
    The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church is one of three established Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Church, along with the Articles of Religion and the Standard Sermons of John Wesley...

     of the Evangelical United Brethren Church;
  • The General Rules of the Methodist Societies;
  • The Standard Sermons of John Wesley;
  • And John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.


These Doctrinal Standards are constitutionally protected and nearly impossible to change or remove. The founder of the Methodist Church, the Rt. Rev. John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 recognized none as Methodists who did not recognize the named Standards of Doctrine. Other doctrines of the United Methodist Church are found in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church
Book of Discipline (United Methodist)
The Book of Discipline constitutes the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church. It follows similar works for its predecessor denominations....

.

Summary of basic beliefs

The basic beliefs of The United Methodist Church include:
  • Triune
    Trinity
    The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

     God
    God
    God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

    . God is one God in three persons: Father, Son
    Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

     and Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

     (Holy Ghost).
  • Scripture. The writings in the Old Testament
    Old Testament
    The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

     and New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

     are the inspired word of God.
  • Sin
    Sin
    In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

    . While human beings were intended to bear the image of God, all humans are sinners for whom that image is distorted. Sin estranges us from God and corrupts human nature such that we cannot heal or save ourselves.
  • Salvation
    Salvation
    Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

     through Jesus Christ. God's redeeming love is active to save sinners through Jesus' incarnate life and teachings, through his atoning death, his resurrection
    Resurrection
    Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

    , his sovereign presence through history, and his promised return.
  • Sacrament
    Sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

    s. The UMC recognizes only two sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Other rites such as Confirmation, Ordination
    Ordination
    In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

    , Holy Matrimony
    Christian views of marriage
    Christian views on marriage typically regard it as instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife, and is to be "held in honour among all...."...

    , Funerals
    Christian burial
    A Christian burial is the burial of a deceased person with specifically Christian ecclesiastical rites; typically, in consecrated ground. Until recent times Christians generally objected to cremation, and practised inhumation almost exclusively, but this opposition has weakened, and now vanished...

    , and Anointing of the Sick
    Anointing of the Sick
    Anointing of the Sick, known also by other names, is distinguished from other forms of religious anointing or "unction" in that it is intended, as its name indicates, for the benefit of a sick person...

     are performed but are not considered sacraments. In Holy Baptism, the Church believes that "Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration
    Regeneration (theology)
    Regeneration, while sometimes perceived to be a step in the Ordo salutis , is generally understood in Christian theology to be the objective work of God in a believer's life. Spiritually, it means that God brings Christians to new life from a previous state of subjection to the decay of death...

     or the new birth. It believes that Baptism is a sacrament in which God initiates a covenant with individuals, people become a part of the Church, is not to be repeated, and is a means of grace
    Means of Grace
    The Means of Grace in Christian theology are those things through which God gives grace. Just what this grace entails is interpreted in various ways: generally speaking, some see it as God blessing humankind so as to sustain and empower the Christian life; others see it as forgiveness, life, and...

    . The United Methodist Church generally practices Baptism by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion and recognizes Trinitarian formula
    Trinitarian formula
    The trinitarian formula is the phrase "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" , or words to that form and effect referring to the three persons of the Christian Trinity.- Biblical origin :...

     baptisms from other Christian denominations in good standing. The United Methodist Church affirms the real presence
    Real Presence
    Real Presence is a term used in various Christian traditions to express belief that in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ is really present in what was previously just bread and wine, and not merely present in symbol, a figure of speech , or by his power .Not all Christian traditions accept this dogma...

     of Christ
    Christ
    Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

     in Holy Communion, (the bread
    Bread
    Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed , fried , or baked on an unoiled frying pan . It may be leavened or unleavened...

     is an effectual sign of His body crucified
    Death and Resurrection of Jesus
    The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

     on the cross
    Christian cross
    The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

     and the cup
    Grape juice
    Grape juice is obtained from crushing and blending grapes into a liquid. The juice is often sold in stores or fermented and made into wine, brandy, or vinegar. In the wine industry, grape juice that contains 7-23 percent of pulp, skins, stems and seeds is often referred to as "must"...

     is an effectual sign of His blood shed for humanity), believes that the celebration is an anamnesis
    Anamnesis (Christianity)
    Anamnesis , in Christianity is a liturgical statement in which the Church refers to the memorial character of the Eucharist and/or to the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ...

     of Jesus’ death, believes the sacrament to be a means of grace
    Means of Grace
    The Means of Grace in Christian theology are those things through which God gives grace. Just what this grace entails is interpreted in various ways: generally speaking, some see it as God blessing humankind so as to sustain and empower the Christian life; others see it as forgiveness, life, and...

    , and practices open communion
    Open communion
    Open communion is the practice of Christian churches that allow individuals other than members of that church to receive Holy Communion...

    .
  • Free will
    Free will
    "To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

    . The UMC believes that people, while corrupted by sin
    Sin
    In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

    , are free to make their own choices because of God's divine grace
    Divine grace
    In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

    .
  • Grace
    Divine grace
    In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

    . The UMC believes that God gives unmerited favor freely to all people, though it may be resisted.

Distinctive Wesleyan emphases

The key emphasis of Wesley's theology relates to how Divine grace
Divine grace
In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

 operates within the individual. Wesley defined the Way of Salvation as the operation of grace in at least three parts: Prevenient Grace
Prevenient grace
Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace...

, Justifying Grace
Justification (theology)
Rising out of the Protestant Reformation, Justification is the chief article of faith describing God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice....

, and Sanctifying Grace
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

.

Prevenient grace
Prevenient grace
Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. It is embraced primarily by Arminian Christians who are influenced by the theology of Jacob Arminius or John Wesley. Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace...

, or the grace that "goes before" us, is given to all people. It is that power which enables us to love and motivates us to seek a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This grace is the present work of God to turn us from our sin-corrupted human will to the loving will of the Father. In this work, God desires that we might sense both our sinfulness before God and God’s offer of salvation. Prevenient grace allows those tainted by sin to nevertheless make a truly free choice to accept or reject God's salvation in Christ.

Justifying Grace
Justification (theology)
Rising out of the Protestant Reformation, Justification is the chief article of faith describing God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice....

 or Accepting Grace is that grace, offered by God to all people, that we receive by faith and trust in Christ, through which God pardons the believer of sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

. It is in justifying grace we are received by God, in spite of our sin. In this reception, we are forgiven through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The justifying grace cancels our guilt and empowers us to resist the power of sin and to fully love God and neighbor. Today, justifying grace is also known as conversion
Conversion to Christianity
Conversion to Christianity is the religious conversion of a previously non-Christian person to some form of Christianity. It has been called the foundational experience of Christian life...

, "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior," or being "born again". John Wesley originally called this experience the New Birth. This experience can occur in different ways; it can be one transforming moment, such as an altar call
Altar call
An altar call is a practice in some evangelical churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an...

 experience, or it may involve a series of decisions across a period of time.

Sanctifying Grace
Sanctification
Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

 is that grace of God which sustains the believers in the journey toward Christian Perfection
Christian perfection
Christian perfection, also known as perfect love; heart purity; the baptism of the Holy Spirit; the fullness of the blessing; Christian holiness; the second blessing; and entire sanctification, is a Christian doctrine which holds that the heart of the regenerant Christian may attain a state of...

: a genuine love of God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and a genuine love of our neighbors as ourselves. Sanctifying grace enables us to respond to God by leading a Spirit-filled and Christ-like life aimed toward love. In Methodism, a man who has experienced entire sanctification can be absolutely sure he will reach heaven. Such a man can lose all inclination to evil and can gain perfection in this life. Wesley never claimed this state of perfection for himself but instead insisted the attainment of perfection was possible for all Christians.

Wesleyan theology
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 maintains that salvation is the act of God's grace entirely, from invitation, to pardon, to growth in holiness
Sacred
Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy or sacred...

. Furthermore, God's prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace interact dynamically in the lives of Christians from birth to death.

For Wesley, good works were the fruit of one's salvation, not the way in which that salvation was earned. Faith and good works go hand in hand in Methodist theology: a living tree naturally and inevitably bears fruit. Wesleyan theology rejects the doctrine of eternal security
Perseverance of the saints
Perseverance of the saints, as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as "Once Saved, Always Saved", is a Calvinist teaching that once persons are truly saved they can never lose their salvation....

, believing that salvation can be rejected
Conditional preservation of the saints
The Conditional preservation of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian belief that believers are kept safe by God in their saving relationship with Him upon the condition of a persevering faith in Christ...

. Wesley emphasized that believers must continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, through the process of Sanctification.

A key outgrowth of this theology is the United Methodist dedication not only to the Evangelical Gospel
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 of repentance and a personal relationship with God, but also to the Social Gospel
Social Gospel
The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the early 20th century United States and Canada...

 and a commitment to social justice issues that have included abolition, women's suffrage, labor rights, civil rights, and ministry to the poor. Thus, Wesleyan theology is sometimes characterized as "progressive evangelical."

Characterization of Wesleyan theology

Wesleyan theology stands at a unique cross-roads between evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 and sacramental, between liturgical and charismatic, and between Anglo-Catholic and Reformed
Reformed churches
The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations characterized by Calvinist doctrines. They are descended from the Swiss Reformation inaugurated by Huldrych Zwingli but developed more coherently by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and especially John Calvin...

 theology and practice. It has been characterized by Arminian theology with an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring holiness into the life of the participating believer. The United Methodist Church believes in prima scriptura
Prima scriptura
Prima scriptura is a doctrine that says canonized scripture is "first" or "above all" sources of divine revelation.Implicitly, this view acknowledges that, besides canonical scripture, there are other guides for what a believer should believe, and how he should live, such as the created order,...

, seeing the Holy Bible as the primary authority in the Church and using sacred tradition, reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, and experience to interpret it, with the aid of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 (see Wesleyan Quadrilateral
Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist Albert C...

). Therefore, according to The Book of Discipline, United Methodist theology is at once "catholic, evangelical, and reformed." Today, the UMC is generally considered one of the more moderate
Moderate
In politics and religion, a moderate is an individual who is not extreme, partisan or radical. In recent years, political moderates has gained traction as a buzzword....

 and tolerant
Toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

 denominations with respect to race, gender
Gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

, and ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, though the denomination itself actually includes a very wide spectrum of attitudes. Comparatively, the UMC stands to the right of liberal
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

 and progressive
Progressive Christianity
Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed and environmental stewardship of the Earth...

 Protestant groups such as the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC...

 and the Episcopal Church
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

 on certain lifestyle issues (especially regarding sexuality), but to the left of historically conservative evangelical traditions such as the Southern Baptists and Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

, in regard to theological matters such as social justice
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

 and Biblical interpretation.

Diversity within beliefs

In making an appeal to a toleration of diversity of theological opinion, John Wesley said, "Though we may not think alike, may we not all love alike?" The phrase "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity" has also become a maxim among Methodists, who have always maintained a great diversity of opinion on many matters within the Church.

The United Methodist Church allows for a wide range of theological and political beliefs. For example, Republican former President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 is United Methodist and Republican former Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

 attends a United Methodist Church, although he is not a member. In addition, Democratic Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Hillary Clinton and former Senator Max Cleland
Max Cleland
Joseph Maxwell Cleland is an American politician from Georgia. Cleland, a Democrat, is a disabled US Army veteran of the Vietnam War, a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous action in combat, and a former U.S. Senator...

 are also United Methodists. Many practicing United Methodists believe this flexibility is one of the UMC's strongest qualities.

Abortion

The United Methodist Church upholds the sanctity of unborn human life and is reluctant to affirm abortion as an acceptable practice. Further, the Church strongly condemns the use of late-term or partial birth abortion, "except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life." The Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality
Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality
The Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality is a pro-life organization within the United Methodist Church, founded in 1987. The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter titled Lifewatch and is a part of the National Pro-Life Religious Council...

 (TUMAS) was formed in 1987 to further the pro-life
Pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

 ministry in the United Methodist Church. In addition, the denomination as a whole is committed to "assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy center
Crisis pregnancy center
A crisis pregnancy center , sometimes called a pregnancy resource center , is a non-profit organization established to counsel pregnant women against having an abortion....

s and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion;" however, the Church emphasizes the need to be in supportive ministry with all women, regardless of their choice. As such, The United Methodist Church encourages society to support and facilitate the option of adoption and also provide nurturing ministries to those who have terminated a pregnancy.

Alcohol

Historically, the Methodist Church has supported the temperance movement
Temperance movement
A temperance movement is a social movement urging reduced use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance movements may criticize excessive alcohol use, promote complete abstinence , or pressure the government to enact anti-alcohol legislation or complete prohibition of alcohol.-Temperance movement by...

. John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 warned against the dangers of drinking in his famous sermon, "The Use of Money," and in his letter to an alcoholic
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

. At one time, Methodist ministers
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

 had to take a pledge not to drink and encouraged their congregations to do the same. Today the United Methodist Church states that it "affirms our long-standing support of abstinence from alcohol as a faithful witness to God's liberating and redeeming love for persons." In fact, the United Methodist Church uses unfermented grape juice
Grape juice
Grape juice is obtained from crushing and blending grapes into a liquid. The juice is often sold in stores or fermented and made into wine, brandy, or vinegar. In the wine industry, grape juice that contains 7-23 percent of pulp, skins, stems and seeds is often referred to as "must"...

 in the sacrament of Holy Communion, thus "expressing pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, enabling the participation of children and youth, and supporting the church's witness of abstinence." Today, the United Methodist Church still officially lobbies for national prohibition, condemns beer and cigarette advertising on radio and television, and tries to ban beer from army and navy establishments.

Capital punishment

The United Methodist Church, along with other Methodist churches, condemns capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

, saying that it cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life. The Church also holds that the death penalty falls unfairly and unequally upon marginalized persons including the poor, the uneducated, ethnic and religious minorities, and persons with mental and emotional illnesses. The United Methodist Church also believes that Jesus explicitly repudiated the lex talionis in Matthew 5:38-39 and abolished the death penalty in John 8:7. The General Conference
General conference (United Methodist Church)
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection...

 of the United Methodist Church calls for its bishops to uphold opposition to capital punishment and for governments to enact an immediate moratorium on carrying out the death penalty sentence.

Gambling

The United Methodist Church opposes gambling
Gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

, believing that it is a sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 which feeds on human greed and which invites people to place their trust in possessions, rather than in God, whom Christians should "love ... with all your heart." It quotes the Apostle Paul who states: The United Methodist Church therefore holds that:
  • Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice.
  • Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual's energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends.
  • The Church should promote standards and personal lifestyles that would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling—including public lotteries—as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government.

Homosexuality

The United Methodist Church "affirm[s] that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God" and encourages United Methodists to be in ministry with and for all people.

In accordance with its view of Scripture, the Church officially considers, "the practice of homosexuality (to be) incompatible with Christian teaching." It states that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" cannot be ordained as ministers, and supports "…laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

In addition, the United Methodist Church prohibits the celebration of same-sex unions
Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches
The blessing of same-sex unions is currently an issue about which some Christian churches are at present in disagreement with other Christian churches...

. Rev. Jimmy Creech was defrocked after a highly publicized church trial in 1999 in response to his participation in same-sex union ceremonies. It forbids any United Methodist board, agency, committee, commission, or council to give United Methodist funds to any gay organization or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.

Nevertheless, The United Methodist Church "implore[s] families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends" and commits itself to be in ministry
Christian ministry
In Christianity, ministry is an activity carried out by Christians to express or spread their faith. 2003's Encyclopedia of Christianity defines it as "carrying forth Christ's mission in the world", indicating that it is "conferred on each Christian in baptism." It is performed by all Christians...

 with all persons, affirming that God's grace
Grace (Christianity)
In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

, love, and forgiveness is available to all.

In 1987, a United Methodist church court in New Hampshire defrocked Methodist minister Rose Mary Denman for being openly gay. In 2005, clergy credentials were removed from Irene Elizabeth Stroud after she was convicted in a church trial of violating church law by engaging in a lesbian relationship; this conviction was later upheld by the Judicial Council, the highest court in the denomination. The Judicial Council also affirmed that a Virginia pastor had the right to deny local church membership to an openly gay man. This affirmation, however, was based upon a senior pastor's right to judge the readiness of a congregant to join as a full member of the church.

Military service

According to The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church,
The United Methodist Church opposes conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 as incompatible with the teaching of Scripture. Therefore, the Church supports and extends its ministry to those persons
Christian pacifism
Christian pacifism is the theological and ethical position that any form of violence is incompatible with the Christian faith. Christian pacifists state that Jesus himself was a pacifist who taught and practiced pacifism, and that his followers must do likewise.There have been various notable...

 who conscientiously oppose all war, or any particular war, and who therefore refuse to serve in the armed forces or to cooperate with systems of military conscription. However, the United Methodist Church also supports and extends its ministry to those persons who conscientiously choose to serve in the armed forces or to accept alternative service. The church also states that "as Christians they are aware that neither the way of military action, nor the way of inaction is always righteous before God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

."

Pornography

The United Methodist Church teaches that pornography
Pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

 is "about violence, degradation, exploitation, and coercion" and "deplore[s] all forms of commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex." The Sexual Ethics Task Force of The United Methodist Church states that "Research shows it [pornography] is not an 'innocent activity.' It is harmful and is generally addictive. Persons who are addicted to pornography are physiologically altered, as is their perspective, relationships with parishioners and family, and their perceptions of girls and women."

Stem cell research

The UMC supports federal funding for research on embryos created for IVF that remain after the procreative efforts have ceased, if the embryos were provided for research instead of being destroyed, were not obtained by sale, and those donating had given prior informed consent for the research purposes. The UMC stands in "opposition to the creation of embryos for the sake of research" as "a human embryo
Embryo
An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination...

, even at its earliest stages, commands our reverence." It supports research on stem cells retrieved from umbilical cords and adult stem cells, stating that there are "few moral questions" raised by this issue
Stem cell controversy
The stem cell controversy is the ethical debate primarily concerning the creation, treatment, and destruction of human embryos incident to research involving embryonic stem cells. Not all stem cell research involves the creation, use, or destruction of human embryos...

.

War

The United Methodist Church maintains that war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 is incompatible with Christ's message and teachings. Therefore, the Church rejects war as an instrument of national foreign policy, to be employed only as a last resort in the prevention of such evils as genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

, brutal suppression of human rights, and unprovoked international aggression. It insists that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them; that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale, and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned. Consequently, the United Methodist Church endorses general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Worship and liturgy

The United Methodist Church includes a variety of approaches to public worship. While each congregation may follow a familiar pattern, how each congregation does so varies.

The common pattern comes from John Wesley who wrote that When the Methodists in America were separated from the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, John Wesley himself provided a revised version of The Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 called the Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America. Wesley's Sunday Service has shaped the official liturgies of the Methodists ever since.

Most worship experiences will include:
  • Singing. Since the days of Charles Wesley
    Charles Wesley
    Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

    , the hymn-writer and early Methodist leader, lively singing has been, and remains, an important aspect of United Methodist worship.
  • A Biblical Message. Listening to the reading of Scripture and a sermon based upon the Biblical text is virtually always included in United Methodist worship. Many United Methodist churches follow the Revised Common Lectionary
    Revised Common Lectionary
    The Revised Common Lectionary is a lectionary of readings or pericopes from the Bible for use in Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year with its pattern of observances of festivals and seasons. Its first version was known as the Common Lectionary, assembled in 1983. It was...

     for their Sunday Bible readings.
  • Prayer. Many churches include a time of response or a prayer time in which people may share concerns or pray with ministers. This time of response may include celebrations of baptism
    Baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

    , confirmation, or profession of faith.
  • Holy Communion. Some congregations celebrate communion on the first Sunday of the month or even quarterly. Many congregations also celebrate the sacrament
    Sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

     of Holy Communion
    Eucharist
    The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

     on a weekly basis, as John Wesley
    John Wesley
    John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

     himself encouraged his followers to practice. In adopting the statement on Holy Communion entitled This Holy Mystery in 2004, the General Conference of the Church urged congregations to move toward weekly celebration of communion and to use the official liturgies of the church when doing so.
  • Giving. Almost every service has an opportunity for those gathered to give of their "tithes and offerings" to support the ministry of that particular congregation. Through apportionments, a portion of those gifts go to Christian ministries that have a national and/or global impact.


In larger churches, both traditional and contemporary worship models are presented in multiple services. The United Methodist Church allows flexibility in the use of the official services. Many churches use only portions in their regular worship activities. Many United Methodist congregations have incorporated more contemporary styles of music and audio-visual technology into their worship services, though most of these churches also offer traditional services.

The United Methodist Church has official liturgies
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 for services of Holy Communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, wedding
Wedding
A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes...

s, funerals
Christian burial
A Christian burial is the burial of a deceased person with specifically Christian ecclesiastical rites; typically, in consecrated ground. Until recent times Christians generally objected to cremation, and practised inhumation almost exclusively, but this opposition has weakened, and now vanished...

, ordination
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

, anointing of the sick
Anointing of the Sick
Anointing of the Sick, known also by other names, is distinguished from other forms of religious anointing or "unction" in that it is intended, as its name indicates, for the benefit of a sick person...

, and daily office
Canonical hours
Canonical hours are divisions of time which serve as increments between the prescribed prayers of the daily round. A Book of Hours contains such a set of prayers....

 prayer services, as well as special services for holy days
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

 such as All Saints Day
All Saints
All Saints' Day , often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown...

, Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter...

, Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great & Holy Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, is the Christian feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels...

, Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, and Easter Vigil
Easter Vigil
The Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in many Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into...

. These services are contained in The United Methodist Hymnal
United Methodist Hymnal
The United Methodist Hymnal is the hymnal used by The United Methodist Church. It was first published in 1989 as the first hymnal for The United Methodist Church after the 1968 merger of The Methodist Church with The Evangelical United Brethren Church...

and The United Methodist Book of Worship. Some of these liturgies are derived from the Anglican
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 tradition's Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

. In some cases, congregations also use other elements associated with liturgical worship; examples include candles, vestment
Vestment
Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among Latin Rite and other Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans...

s, paraments, banners, and liturgical art.

Other practices, such as healing services
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

 and exorcisms are also performed, the latter requiring the pastor's consultation with his district superintendent. These services involve the laying on of hands
Laying on of hands
The laying on of hands is a religious ritual that accompanies certain religious practices, which are found throughout the world in varying forms....

 and anointing
Anointing of the Sick
Anointing of the Sick, known also by other names, is distinguished from other forms of religious anointing or "unction" in that it is intended, as its name indicates, for the benefit of a sick person...

 with oil.

The chancel
Chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 of United Methodist churches usually features a lectern
Lectern
A lectern is a reading desk with a slanted top, usually placed on a stand or affixed to some other form of support, on which documents or books are placed as support for reading aloud, as in a scripture reading, lecture, or sermon...

 and baptismal font
Baptismal font
A baptismal font is an article of church furniture or a fixture used for the baptism of children and adults.-Aspersion and affusion fonts:...

 on one side of the altar table and a pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

 on the other side. The chancel also features the Christian Flag
Christian Flag
The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom, and has been most popular among Christian churches in North America, Africa and Latin America. The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red...

 and sometimes, a processional cross
Processional Cross
A processional cross is a crucifix or cross which is carried in Christian processions. Such crosses have a long history: the Gregorian mission of Saint Augustine of Canterbury to England carried one before them "like a standard", according to Bede. Other sources suggest that all churches were...

.

Saints in the United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church's understanding of "saint" is not unique among Protestants. They consider all faithful Christians to be saints, as the word is used throughout the New Testament epistles. Examples may be found in ("saints in Jerusalem")) ("saints who lived at Lyyda"), ("I lock(ed) up many of the saints in prisons"), ("Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…") Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ—no implication of "saintliness" is implied or intended.

Methodists also honor heroes and heroines of the Christian faith whose lives are an example for the living (see ). This might include martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s, confessors of the Faith
Confessor of the Faith
The title Confessor, the short form of Confessor of the Faith, is a title given by the Christian Church to a type of saint.-Western Christianity:...

, evangelists
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

, or important biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 figures such as Saint Matthew, the Lutheran theologian and martyr to the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr to assassinate Adolf Hitler...

, Salvation Army
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

 Founder William Booth
William Booth
William Booth was a British Methodist preacher who founded The Salvation Army and became its first General...

, African missionary David Livingstone
David Livingstone
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr...

 and Methodism's revered founder John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 are among many cited as Protestant saints.

Methodists do not have a process for canonizing Saints and do not practice the veneration
Veneration
Veneration , or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: an angel, or a dead person who has been identified by a church committee as singular in the traditions of the religion. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic, and Eastern Catholic Churches...

 or patronage
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of Saints, though Methodist institutions may be named after a biblical figure (e.g., "St. James UMC"). Article XIV of The United Methodist Articles of Religion yields further insight on the denominational stance of Saints:

Governance

The church is decentralized with the General Conference
General conference (United Methodist Church)
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection...

 being the official governing body. However, administratively the church has a governing structure
Ecclesiastical polity
Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of the church and the authority relationships between churches...

 that is similar to that of the United States government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

:
  • General Conference
    General conference (United Methodist Church)
    The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection...

    —The legislative branch that makes all decisions as to doctrine and polity.
  • Council of Bishops
    United Methodist Council of Bishops
    The United Methodist Council of Bishops is the organization of which all active and retired Bishops in the United Methodist Connection are members...

    —When taken into consideration along with the various general agencies of the church, takes on a role similar to an executive branch. The Council of Bishops consists of all active and retired bishops and meets twice a year. According to the Book of Discipline 2000, "The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world, and to give leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships." The council is presided over by a President who serves a two-year term. The President has no official authority beyond presiding. Administrative work is handled by the secretary of the council.
  • Judicial Council—The judicial branch consisting of nine persons elected by the General Conference to rule on questions of constitutionality in church law and practice.

General Conference

The United Methodist Church is organized into conferences. The highest level is called the General Conference
General conference (United Methodist Church)
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection...

and is the only organization which may speak officially for the church. The General Conference meets every four years (quadrennium). Legislative changes are recorded in The Book of Discipline
Book of Discipline (United Methodist)
The Book of Discipline constitutes the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church. It follows similar works for its predecessor denominations....

which is revised after each General Conference. Non-legislative resolutions are recorded in the Book of Resolutions, which is published after each General Conference, and expire after eight years unless passed again by a subsequent session of General Conference. The last General Conference was held in Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is the 16th-largest city in the United States of America and the fifth-largest city in the state of Texas. Located in North Central Texas, just southeast of the Texas Panhandle, the city is a cultural gateway into the American West and covers nearly in Tarrant, Parker, Denton, and...

, in 2008. The next General Conference will be April 25-May 4, 2012 in Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

. The event is currently rotated between the U.S. jurisdictions of the church. If the system is not changed beforehand, the 2016 General Conference would be in the West, which has not hosted since Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

 in 1996. Bishops, Councils, Committees, Boards, Elders, etc., are not permitted to speak on behalf of The United Methodist Church as this authority is reserved solely for the General Conference in accordance with the Book of Discipline.

The plenary session
Plenary session
Plenary session is a term often used in conferences to define the part of the conference when all members of all parties are to attend.These sessions may contain a broad range of content from keynotes to panel discussions and are not necessarily related to a specific style of delivery.The term has...

 is presided over by an active bishop who has been selected by committee of delegates to the Conference. It is not uncommon for different bishops to preside on different days. The presiding officer usually is accompanied by parliamentarians
Parliamentarian (consultant)
A parliamentarian is an expert on parliamentary procedure who advises organizations and deliberative assemblies. This sense of the term "parliamentarian" is distinct from the usage of the same term to mean a member of Parliament....

.

Jurisdictional and Central Conferences

Subordinate to the General Conference are Jurisdictional and Central Conferences
Conferences of the United Methodist Church
The following is a list of the Conferences of The United Methodist Church.-Conference Listings:There are several kinds of Conferences of The United Methodist Church.*General Conference is the highest deliberative body for the United Methodist Church....

 which also meet every four years. The United States is divided into five jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. Outside the United States the church is divided into seven central conferences: Africa, Congo, West Africa, Central & Southern Europe, Germany, Northern Europe and the Philippines. The main purpose of the jurisdictions and central conferences is to elect and appoint bishops, the chief administrators of the church. Bishops thus elected serve Episcopal Area
Episcopal Area
An Episcopal Area in the United Methodist Church is a basic unit of this denomination. It is a region presided over by a resident bishop that is similar to a diocese in other Christian denominations. Each annual conference in the UMC is within a single episcopal area; some episcopal areas...

s
, which consist of one or more Annual Conferences.

Decisions in between the four-year meetings are made by the Mission Council (usually consisting of church bishops). One of the most high profile decisions in recent years by one of the Councils was a decision by the Mission Council of the South Central Jurisdiction which in March 2007 approved a 99-year lease of 36 acres (145,687 m²) at Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private university in Dallas, Texas, United States. Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU operates campuses in Dallas, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church...

 for the George W. Bush Presidential Library
George W. Bush Presidential Library
The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a future complex that will include former President George W. Bush's presidential library and museum, the George W. Bush Policy Institute, and the offices of the George W. Bush Foundation. The facility will occupy roughly on the campus of Southern...

. The decision generated controversy in light of the Bush's support of the Iraq War which the church bishops have criticized. A debate over whether the decision should or could be submitted for approval by the Southern Jurisdictional Conference at its July 2008 meeting in Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

 remains unresolved.

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council is the highest court in the denomination. It consists of nine members, both laity and clergy, elected by the General Conference for an eight year term. The ratio of laity to clergy alternates every eight years. The Judicial Council interprets the Book of Discipline between sessions of General Conference, and during General Conference, the Judicial Council rules on the constitutionality of laws passed by General Conference. The Council also determines whether actions of local churches, annual conferences, church agencies, and bishops are in accordance with church law. The Council reviews all decisions of law made by bishops The Judicial Council cannot create any legislation; it can only interpret existing legislation. The Council meets twice a year at various locations throughout the world. The Judicial Council also hears appeals from those who have been accused of chargeable offenses that can result in defrocking or revocation of membership.

Annual Conference

The Annual Conference
Annual Conference
An Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a regional body that governs much of the life of the "Connectional Church." Annual conferences are composed primarily of the clergy members and a lay member or members from each charge . Each conference is a geographical division...

, roughly the equivalent of a diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 in the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

 and the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 or a synod in some Lutheran denominations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them...

, is the basic unit of organization within the UMC. The term Annual Conference is often used to refer to the geographical area it covers as well as the frequency of meeting. Clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 are members of their Annual Conference rather than of any local congregation, and are appointed to a local church or other charge annually by the conference's Resident Bishop
Resident Bishop (United Methodist)
A Resident Bishop in the United Methodist Church is a Bishop appointed to a specific Episcopal Area . A Resident Bishop also is the Presiding Bishop of any and all Annual Conferences of the Church within the Area...

 at the meeting of the Annual Conference. In many ways, the United Methodist Church operates in a connectional organization of the Annual Conferences, and actions taken by one conference are not binding upon another.

Districts

Annual conferences are further divided into Districts, each served by a District Superintendent
District Superintendent (United Methodist Church)
A District Superintendent, often abbreviated D.S., in the United Methodist Church is a clergyperson who serves in a supervisory position over a geographic District of churches providing spiritual and administrative leadership to those churches and their pastors...

. The district superintendents are also appointed annually from the ordained elders
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

 of the Annual Conference by the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

. District superintendents, upon completion of their service as superintendent, routinely return to serving local congregations. The Annual Conference cabinet is composed of the resident bishop
Resident Bishop (United Methodist)
A Resident Bishop in the United Methodist Church is a Bishop appointed to a specific Episcopal Area . A Resident Bishop also is the Presiding Bishop of any and all Annual Conferences of the Church within the Area...

 and the district superintendents.

Local Churches

The Book of Discipline is the guidebook for local churches and pastors, it describes in considerable detail the organizational structure of local United Methodist Churches. All UM churches must have a Board of Trustees with nine members and at least three must be women. All churches must also have a nominations committee, a finance committee and a church council or administrative council. Other committees are suggested but not required such as a missions committee, or evangelism or worship committee. Term limits are set for some committees but not for all. The Church Conference is an annual meeting of all the officers of the church and any interested members. This committee has the exclusive power to set the pastor's salaries (call them compensation packages for tax purposes) and to elect officers to the committees.

Administrative offices

There is no official headquarters of church although many of its biggest administrative offices are in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

 and are physically located near Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University is a private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1873, the university is named for shipping and rail magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who provided Vanderbilt its initial $1 million endowment despite having never been to the...

 (which has historic Methodist ties but is no longer associated with the church).

While the General Conference
General conference (United Methodist Church)
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection...

 is the only organization that can officially speak for The United Methodist Church as a whole, there are 13 agencies, boards and commissions of the general church. These organizations address specific topic areas of denomination-wide concern with administrative offices throughout the United States.
  • General Council on Finance and Administration (Nashville) (GCFA)
  • General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (Glenview, Illinois
    Glenview, Cook County, Illinois
    Glenview is a suburban village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 41,847...

    ) (GBOPHB)
  • General Board of Church and Society
    General Board of Church and Society
    The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is a general agency of the United Methodist Church. It is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church as set out the UMC Book of Discipline. The General Board has headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C....

     (Washington, DC) (GBCS)
  • General Board of Discipleship
    General Board of Discipleship
    The General Board of Discipleship is one of 13 international agencies, boards and commissions of The United Methodist Church. It was established by the 1972 United Methodist General Conference...

     (Nashville) (GBOD)
  • General Board of Global Ministries (New York City
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

    ) (GBGM)
    • United Methodist Committee on Relief (New York City) (UMCOR)
  • General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (Nashville) (GBHEM)
  • General Commission on Archives and History (Madison, New Jersey
    Madison, New Jersey
    Madison is a borough in Morris County, New Jersey, in the United States. As of the 2000 United States Census, the population was 16,530. It also is known as "The Rose City".-Geography:Madison is located at ....

    ) (GCAH)
  • General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (New York City) (GCCUIC)
  • General Commission on Religion and Race (Washington, DC) (GCORR)
  • General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (Chicago
    Chicago
    Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

    ) (GCSRW)
  • General Commission on United Methodist Men (Nashville) (GCUMM)
  • United Methodist Communications (Nashville) (UMCom)
  • United Methodist Publishing House (Nashville) (UMPH)


Moreover, the United Methodist Church is affiliated with around one hundred colleges and universities in the United States, including Syracuse
Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university located in Syracuse, New York, United States. Its roots can be traced back to Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1832, which also later founded Genesee College...

, Boston
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

, Emory
Emory University
Emory University is a private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, located in the Druid Hills section of unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. The university was founded as Emory College in 1836 in Oxford, Georgia by a small group of Methodists and was named in honor of...

, Duke
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

, Drew
Drew University
Drew University is a private university located in Madison, New Jersey.Originally established as the Drew Theological Seminary in 1867, the university later expanded to include an undergraduate liberal arts college in 1928 and commenced a program of graduate studies in 1955...

, Denver, and Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private university in Dallas, Texas, United States. Founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, SMU operates campuses in Dallas, Plano, and Taos, New Mexico. SMU is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church...

. It also operates three hundred sixty schools and institutions overseas. In America, the United Methodist Church runs seventy-two hospitals.

Clergy

All active UM pastors are "in connection" to, or members of, an annual conference and they are appointed to whatever church or ministry they serve by the Bishop of that annual conference. There are several types of Methodist clergy that may serve a local church. There are ordained Elders
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

, Deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

, and licenced local pastors (more info below). Certified Lay Ministers (lay people who have undergone extensive training through the Board of Discipleship) may also be appointed to serve a church but under the supervision and direction of an Elders
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

. Certified Lay Ministers do not admnisister sacraments but may be authorized to preach.

History

The first Methodist clergy were ordained by John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

, a minister in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, because of the crisis caused by the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 which isolated the Methodists in the States from the Church of England and its sacraments. Today, the clergy includes men and women who are ordained by Bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s as Elders
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

 and Deacons and are appointed to various ministries. Elders in the United Methodist Church (UMC) are part of what is called the itinerating ministry and are subject to the authority and appointment of their bishops. They generally serve as pastors at local congregations. Deacons make up a serving ministry and may serve as musicians, liturgists, educators, business administrators, and a number of other ministries. Elders and deacons are required to obtain master's degrees (generally an M.Div.), or other equivalent degrees, before commissioning and then ultimately ordination
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

. Elders in full connection are each a member of their Annual Conference Order of Elders. Likewise each Deacon in full connection is a member of their Annual Conference Order of Deacons.

Elders and Deacons

The main difference between elders and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s is that elders, in a priestly function, connect the people to God, while deacons, in a servant leadership function, connect the people of God to service in the world. In the priestly function, the elder has the authority to preside over the two sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, while deacons are to assist in the leadership of these sacraments. Elders are itinerant; they are appointed to a place of leadership at the decision of their bishop. Deacons are also appointed to a place of service by the bishop, but they are not itinerant. Deacons choose a place of service and request appointment from the bishop. Deacons whose primary appointment is beyond the local church also have a secondary appointment to a worshiping congregation. (The United Methodist Book of Discipline spells out these distinctions.)

Ordination of women

The Methodist Church has allowed ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

 with full rights of clergy since 1956, based on biblical principle. "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." The United Methodist Church, along with some other Protestant churches, holds that when the historical contexts involved are understood, a coherent Biblical argument can be made in favor of women's ordination.

Provisional clergy

At the 1996 General Conference the ordination order of transitional deacon was abolished. This created new orders known as the "provisional elder" or "provisional deacon" for those who seek to be ordained in the respective orders. The provisional elder/deacon is a recent seminary graduate who serves two years in a full-time appointment after being commissioned. During this two-year period, the provisional elder is granted sacramental ministry in their local appointment. This was a change in its theology of ministry for the United Methodist Church in the ordering of its ministry. For the first time in its history non-ordained pastors became a normal expectation, rather than an extraordinary provision for ministry.

Local Pastor

When elders are not available to be appointed to a local church, either through shortage of personnel; financial hardship of a pastoral charge; or possess particular skills or gifts the Bishop may appoint a “Local Pastor” to serve the pastoral appointment. Full-time and part-time licensed local pastors under appointment are clergy members of the annual conference in which they are appointed. Those who are licensed for pastoral ministry
License to Preach (Methodist)
A License to Preach in Methodist and related churches was the official authorization of a person to preach the Gospel and to do other tasks of ministry so authorized...

 and appointed to the local church shall preach, conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor. The licensed local pastor has the authority of a pastor only within the setting and during the time of the appointment and shall not extend beyond it. Local pastors are not required to have advanced degrees but are required to pass an approved five year Course of Study at an approved United Methodist seminary or Course of Study School; successfully complete written and oral examinations and appear before the District Committee on Ministry and the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. They may become an ordained Elder if they complete their bachelors degree; requirements of their particular Conference Board of Ordained Ministry; as well as prescribed seminary courses at an approved United Methodist Seminary. Upon retirement, Local Pastors return to their Charge Conference as Lay Members.

Resident bishop

All clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 appointments are made and fixed annually by the Resident Bishop
Resident Bishop (United Methodist)
A Resident Bishop in the United Methodist Church is a Bishop appointed to a specific Episcopal Area . A Resident Bishop also is the Presiding Bishop of any and all Annual Conferences of the Church within the Area...

 on the advice of the Annual Conference Cabinet, which is composed of the Area Provost/Dean (if one is appointed) and the several District Superintendents
District Superintendent (United Methodist Church)
A District Superintendent, often abbreviated D.S., in the United Methodist Church is a clergyperson who serves in a supervisory position over a geographic District of churches providing spiritual and administrative leadership to those churches and their pastors...

 of the Districts of the Annual Conference. Until the Bishop has read the appointments at the session of the Annual Conference, no appointments are officially fixed. Many Annual Conferences try to avoid making appointment changes between sessions of Annual Conference. While an appointment is made one year at a time, it is most common for an appointment to be continued for multiple years. One recent survey concluded that small church appointments currently average three to four years, while large church appointments average seven to nine years. Appointment tenures in extension ministries, such as Military Chaplaincy, Campus Ministry
College religious organizations
Religious groups are among the most common types of student organization, and evangelical Christian groups predominate. Whenever universities employ chaplains the chaplains are frequently responsible for authorizing and overseeing these groups.-Christian groups:...

, Missions
Mission (Christian)
Christian missionary activities often involve sending individuals and groups , to foreign countries and to places in their own homeland. This has frequently involved not only evangelization , but also humanitarian work, especially among the poor and disadvantaged...

, Higher Education and other ministries beyond the local church are often even longer. Across the denomination, longer tenures are becoming more common.

Lay speaker

Another position in the United Methodist Church is that of the lay speaker
Lay speaker
A lay speaker is a position in the United Methodist Church for the laity. Technically, a lay speaker is a “member of a local church … who is ready … to serve the Church.” Generally, lay speakers are leaders in the United Methodist Church on local, district, and conference levels...

. Although not considered clergy, lay speakers often preach during services of worship
Service of worship
In the Protestant denominations of Christianity, a service of worship is a meeting whose primary purpose is the worship of God. The phrase is normally shortened to service. It is also commonly called a worship service...

 when an ordained elder
Elder (Methodism)
An Elder in the Methodist Church — sometimes called a Presbyter or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service...

 or deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

 is unavailable. There are two categories of lay speakers: local church lay speakers, who serve in and through their local church
Local church
A local church is a Christian congregation of members and clergy.Local church may also refer to:* Local churches , a Christian group based on the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house.* Parish church, a local church united with...

es, and certified lay speakers, who serve in their own churches, in other churches, and through district or conference projects and programs. To be recognized as local church lay speakers,
they must be recommended by their pastor and Church Council or Charge Conference, and complete the basic course for lay speaking. Each year they must reapply, reporting how they have served and continued to learn during that year. To be recognized as certified lay speakers, they must be recommended by their pastor and Church Council or Charge Conference, complete the basic course and one advanced lay speaking course, and be interviewed by the District or Conference Committee on Lay Speaking. They must report and reapply annually; and they must complete at least one advanced course every three years.

Certified Lay Minister

The 2004 General Conference created another class of ministry, the Certified Lay Minister (CLM). CLMs are not considered clergy but instead remain lay members of the United Methodist Church. They must complete coursework beyond that of Certified Lay Speaker and then can be assigned to provide pastoral leadership to a church by the District Superintendent. They do not have sacramental authority; Certified Lay Ministers serve under the supervision of an ordained clergy person who is expected to provide the sacraments to those churches.

Laity

There are two classes of lay membership in the UMC: Baptized Members and Professing Members.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) practices infant and adult baptism. Baptized Members are those who have been baptized
Infant baptism
Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child." The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or...

 as an infant or child, but who have not subsequently professed their own faith. These Baptized Members become Professing Members through confirmation and sometimes the profession of faith
Profession (religious)
The term religious profession is defined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to members of religious institutes as follows:By religious profession members make a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels...

. Individuals who were not previously baptized are baptized
Believer's baptism
Believer's baptism is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition...

 as part of their profession of faith and thus become Professing Members in this manner. Individuals may also become a Professing Member through transfer from another Christian denomination.

Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 is a sacrament in the UMC, while confirmation and profession of faith
Profession (religious)
The term religious profession is defined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to members of religious institutes as follows:By religious profession members make a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels...

 are not. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church directs the local church
Local church
A local church is a Christian congregation of members and clergy.Local church may also refer to:* Local churches , a Christian group based on the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house.* Parish church, a local church united with...

 to offer membership preparation or confirmation classes to all people, including adults. The term confirmation is generally reserved for youth, while some variation on membership class is generally used for adults wishing to join the church. The Book of Discipline normally allows any youth at least completing sixth grade to participate, although the pastor has discretionary authority to allow a younger person to participate. In confirmation and membership preparation classes, students learn about Church and the Methodist-Christian theological tradition in order to profess their ultimate faith in Christ.

The lay members of the church are extremely important in the UMC. The Professing Members are part of all major decisions in the church. General, Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conferences are all required to have an equal number of laity and clergy.

In a local church
Local church
A local church is a Christian congregation of members and clergy.Local church may also refer to:* Local churches , a Christian group based on the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house.* Parish church, a local church united with...

, many decisions are made by an administrative board or council. This council is made up of laity representing various other organizations within the local church. The elder or local pastor sits on the council as a voting member.

Ecumenical relations

The United Methodist Church is one tradition within the Christian Church. The United Methodist Church is active in ecumenical relations with other Christian groups and denominations. It is a member of the National Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

, the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

, Churches Uniting in Christ
Churches Uniting in Christ
Churches Uniting in Christ brings together ten mainline American denominations , and was inaugurated on January 20, 2002....

, and Christian Churches Together
Christian Churches Together
Christian Churches Together in the USA is a Christian ecumenical group formed in 2006 to "broaden and expand fellowship, unity and witness among the diverse expressions of Christian faith today"....

. In addition, it voted to seek observer status in the National Association of Evangelicals
National Association of Evangelicals
The National Association of Evangelicals is a fellowship of member denominations, churches, organizations, and individuals. Its goal is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelicals in the United States. Today it works in four main areas: Church & Faith Partners, Government Relations,...

 and in the World Evangelical Fellowship.

In April 2005, the United Methodist Council of Bishops approved "A Proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing." This document was the first step toward full communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them...

 (ELCA). The ELCA approved this same document in August 2005. At the 2008 General Conference, the United Methodist Church approved full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA approved this document on August 20, 2009 at its annual churchwide assembly.

The Church is also in dialogue with the Episcopal Church for full communion by 2012. The two denominations
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 are working on a document called "Confessing Our Faith Together."

The United Methodist Church has since 1985 been exploring a possible merger
Church union
Church union is the name given to a merger of two or more Christian denominations. Such unions may occur in one of two ways.- United churches :Some churches have formed as a result of a merger of churches of different denominations...

 with three historically African-American Methodist denominations: the African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It was founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the...

, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or AME Zion Church, is a historically African-American Christian denomination. It was officially formed in 1821, but operated for a number of years before then....

, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church is a historically black denomination within the broader context of Methodism. The group was organized in 1870 when several black ministers, with the full support of their white counterparts in the former Methodist Episcopal Church, South, met to form an...

. A Commission on Pan Methodist Cooperation and Union formed in 2000 to carry out work on such a merger.

There are also a number of churches such as the Methodist Church in India
Methodist Church in India
Methodist Church in India is a Methodist Christian denomination of India. Its seat is in Mumbai. The Church of South India and the Church of North India are the results of mergers involving Methodist Churches. It has hundreds of thousands of members...

 (MCI), that are "autonomous affiliated" churches in relation to the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is also a member of the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium
Wesleyan Holiness Consortium
The Wesleyan Holiness Consortium is a holiness movement organization which seeks to reconceive and promote Biblical holiness in today's churches, particularly those who are historically rooted in the evangelical movement initiated by the Rt. Rev. John Wesley, namely Methodists and Pentecostals...

, which seeks to reconceive and promote Biblical holiness in today's Church. It is also active in the World Methodist Council
World Methodist Council
The World Methodist Council, founded in 1881, is an association of churches in the Methodist tradition which comprises most of the world's Wesleyan denominations.- Extension and organization:...

, an interdenominational group composed of various churches in the tradition of John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 to promote
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 the Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 throughout the world. On July 18, 2006, delegates to the World Methodist Council voted unanimously to adopt the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a document created by and agreed to by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue...

", which was approved in 1999 by the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 and the Lutheran World Federation
Lutheran World Federation
The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of national and regional Lutheran churches headquartered in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. The federation was founded in the Swedish city of Lund in the aftermath of the Second World War in 1947 to coordinate the activities of the...

.

Membership trends

Like many other mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, the United Methodist Church has experienced significant membership losses in recent decades. At the time of its formation, the UMC had about 11 million members in nearly 42,000 congregations. In 1975, membership dropped below 10 million for the first time. In 2005, there were about 8 million members in over 34,000 congregations. Membership is concentrated primarily in the Midwest and in the South. Texas has the largest number of members, with about 1 million. The states with the highest membership rates are Oklahoma, Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

By the opening of the 2008 General Conference, total UMC membership was estimated at 11.4 million, with about 7.9 million in the U.S. and 3.5 million overseas. Significantly, about 20% of the conference delegates were from Africa, with Filipinos and Europeans making up another 10%. During the conference, the delegates voted to finalize the induction of the Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

 and its 700,000 members into the denomination. Given current trends in the UMC—with overseas churches growing, especially in Africa, and U.S. churches collectively losing about 1,000 members a week—it has been estimated that Africans will make up at least 30% of the delegates at the 2012 General Conference, and it is also possible that 40% of the delegates will be from outside the U.S. One Congolese
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 bishop has estimated that typical Sunday attendance of the UMC is higher in his country than in the entire U.S.

See also

  • Conferences of the United Methodist Church
    Conferences of the United Methodist Church
    The following is a list of the Conferences of The United Methodist Church.-Conference Listings:There are several kinds of Conferences of The United Methodist Church.*General Conference is the highest deliberative body for the United Methodist Church....

  • Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church
    Confessing Movement
    The Confessing Movement is an Evangelical movement within several mainline Protestant denominations to return those churches to what the members of the movement see as theological orthodoxy....

  • Connectionalism
    Connectionalism
    The term Connexionalism is today most commonly used to describe the theological understanding and foundation of Methodist polity, as practised in the British Methodist Church and the American United Methodist Church...


:Category:Methodism
:Category:Methodist churches‎
:Category:Methodist organizations‎
:Category:Universities and colleges affiliated with the United Methodist Church

Further reading

  • Cameron, Richard M. (ed.) (1961) Methodism and Society in Historical Perspective, 4 vol., New York: Abingdon Press
  • Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity (1989) credits the Methodists and Baptists for making Americans more equalitarian
  • Lyerly, Cynthia Lynn Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810, (1998)
  • Mathews, Donald G. Slavery and Methodism: A Chapter in American Morality, 1780-1845 (1965)
  • Mathews-Gardner, A. Lanethea. "From Ladies Aid to NGO: Transformations in Methodist Women's Organizing in Postwar America," in Laughlin, Kathleen A., and Jacqueline L. Castledine, eds., Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945-1985 (2011) pp. 99-112
  • Meyer, Donald The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941, (1988) ISBN 0-81955-203-8
  • Richey, Russell E. Early American Methodism (1991)
  • Richey, Russell E. and Kenneth E. Rowe, eds. Rethinking Methodist History: A Bicentennial Historical Consultation (1985), historiographical essays by scholars
  • Schmidt, Jean Miller Grace Sufficient: A History of Women in American Methodism, 1760-1939, (1999)
  • Schneider, A. Gregory. The Way of the Cross Leads Home: The Domestication of American Methodism (1993)
  • Sweet, William Warren Methodism in American History, (1954) 472pp.
  • Tucker, Karen B. Westerfield. American Methodist Worship (2001)
  • Wigger, John H. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America, (1998) 269pp; focus on 1770-1910
  • Wigger, John H.. and Nathan O. Hatch, eds. Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture (2001)
  • "The History of the United Methodist Church" (2002) Printed by the Channing Bete Company, Inc., Item Number: 17657E-02-02
  • "About Being United Methodist" (1988) Printed by the Channing Bete Company, Inc., Item Number: 17186K-5-87

Primary sources

  • Richey, Russell E., Rowe, Kenneth E. and Schmidt, Jean Miller (eds.) The Methodist Experience in America: a sourcebook, (2000) ISBN 0-687-24673-3 – 756 p. of original documents
  • Sweet, William Warren (ed.) Religion on the American Frontier: Vol. 4, The Methodists,1783-1840: A Collection of Source Materials, (1946) 800 p. of documents regarding the American frontier
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