Book of Discipline: Episcopal Greetings
To all people and pastors of United Methodism:
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
—1 Corinthians 1:3
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church is the product of over two hundred years of the General Conferences of the denominations that now form The United Methodist Church.
The Discipline as the instrument for setting forth the laws, plan, polity, and process by which United Methodists govern themselves remains constant. Each General Conference amends, perfects, clarifies, and adds its own contribution to the Discipline. We do not see the Discipline as sacrosanct or infallible, but we do consider it a document suitable to our heritage and an expression of a future with hope. It is the most current statement of how United Methodists agree to live their lives together and “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It reflects our understanding of the church and articulates the mission of The United Methodist Church: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The Discipline defines what is expected of its laity and clergy as they seek to be effective witnesses in the world as a part of the whole body of Christ.
This book of covenant sets forth the theological grounding of The United Methodist Church in biblical faith and affirms that we go forward as “loyal heirs to all that [is] best in the Christian past.” It makes clear that The United Methodist Church is an inclusive society without regard to ethnic origin, economic condition, gender, age, or the disabilities of its constituents. It asserts that all who are baptized and confirmed are ministers of Jesus Christ. It affirms the conciliar principle and connectionalism as distinctive marks of United Methodist ecclesiology, makes clear the global character of the Church’s mission, and declares interdependence with other Christian bodies both in spirit and cooperation. It affirms with John Wesley that solitary religion is invalid and that Christ lays claim upon the whole life of those who accept him as Lord and Savior.
We therefore commend this Discipline to all in our constituency and to friends beyond our bounds who would seek to understand what it means to be a United Methodist. Communication is essential for understanding what the Church is and does. We expect the Discipline to be found in libraries of local churches, colleges, universities, and seminaries, as well as in the homes of ordained, diaconal, and licensed ministers and lay members of The United Methodist Church. We pray that it will enable all persons to celebrate God’s grace, exalt the meaning of faithful discipleship, align with the mission, and inspire on the part of many a deeper desire to be more effective witnesses for the head of the church, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Council of Bishops
Bruce R. Ough, President
Kenneth H. Carter, President-Designate
Cynthia Fierro Harvey, Secretary
— The Book of Discipline, 2016 © The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.