The Methodist Episcopal Church, the first established American Methodist church, focused on mission within and outside the United States. Through its Missionary Society, and the mission outreach of other United Methodist predecessors, Methodist presence began in Asia (India and China), Europe, Africa and Latin America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the early and mid-20th century, for a variety of reasons, some annual conferences outside the U.S. became autonomous, particularly in most regions of Asia and Latin America. Many of these churches have retained an affiliated relationship with The United Methodist Church.
In 1972, the then Puerto Rico Annual Conference successfully petitioned the General Conference to become an affiliated autonomous church, now the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.
Methodists in Canada and Australia were related to British Methodists. In 1925, the Methodist Church of Canada and several other denominations united to form the United Church of Canada. The Uniting Church of Australia was formed in 1977 by a union of Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches.
Autonomy is still an option for churches outside the U.S. Most recently, the 2012 General Conference approved the request from Swedish United Methodists to leave the denomination and form the Uniting Church in Sweden. The United Methodist Church now has a full communion agreement with the Swedish church.
The United Methodist Church has special relationships with the Methodist churches of Great Britain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Americas. This includes mutual recognition of ordained ministries, voting rights at each other’s General Conference, interaction with United Methodist agencies and the Council of Bishops, and partnership in mission programs.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.