United Methodists tend to think more heads are better than one. That means United Methodists make decisions together while in conference, or conversation, and prayer with other church members. We have never had one central headquarters or single executive leader with authority over the mission and ministries of the whole church.
Conferences provide the primary groupings of people and churches for discernment and decision-making. John Wesley described Christian conferencing as a spiritual discipline through which God’s grace may be revealed.
“The conference is the signature form of United Methodist polity and politics. To confer — to gather for song, prayer, preaching, teaching, discussing, debating and acting — is to join in a Christian conversation that has spanned over two hundred years of Methodist history. … Methodist people have always resisted powerful continuing executive bodies. They prefer to govern themselves in conference, from the broadest connectional legislative body of General Conference to the regional judicatory of annual conference to the local charge conference overseeing ministry and mission in each place.” (Polity, Practice, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church by Thomas Edward Frank)
The General Conference is the primary legislative body of The United Methodist Church and the only body that speaks officially for the church.
The Council of Bishops provides general oversight and spiritual leadership to the entire church and to regional areas.
The Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest judicial body, interprets church law and determines constitutionality of proceedings at all levels of church life.
The Connectional Table provides oversight and coordination of the church’s mission, ministries, and resources.
General agencies provide resources and services that equip local congregations and provide a connection for ministry throughout the world.
Regional areas, from annual conferences to local churches, join together to support and carry out mission and ministry locally.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.