United Methodist leaders often speak of the denomination as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning.
The United Methodist structure and organization began as a means of accomplishing the mission of spreading scriptural holiness. Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, recognized the need for an organized system of communication and accountability and developed what he called the “connexion,” an interlocking system of classes, societies, and annual conferences.
Simply put, no one congregation is the total body of Christ. United Methodist churches and organizations join in mission with one another other and with other denominations.
The diagram above shows the various structures and the interconnected web of relationships. Another way of looking at our structure would be to move from the local and specific bodies to the larger bodies, though the relationships among these are not merely linear and hierarchical:
When it comes to the United Methodist organizational structure, all roads lead back to the local church. As the visible presence or body of Christ, the local church is the place where members grow in faith and discipleship, putting their faith into action through ministry in the world. Learn more.
Each congregation in the United States is part of a district, which is an administrative grouping of approximately 40 to 80 churches in a geographic area. Learn more.
Local churches (and their corresponding districts) are organized into annual conferences or regional bodies that meet yearly for legislative purposes. Learn more.
Bishops are assigned by jurisdictional or central conferences to lead a geographical area, which is comprised of one or more annual conferences. The bishop lives within the bounds of the area and presides over its work. Learn more.
There are five geographic jurisdictional conferences, or regions, in the United States, which are comprised of eight to 15 annual conferences each. Learn more.
United Methodists in Africa, Europe and the Philippines call their comparable geographic regions "central conferences." Learn more.