Outside the U.S., annual conferences are organized in seven central conferences. The central conferences are composed of equal numbers of lay and clergy members. They connect annual conferences for common ministry, adapt regulations as the conditions in the respective regions may require, and elect bishops (Book of Discipline, ¶ 31) and fix their tenure.
Central conferences were first established in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Asia (India in 1885, and China in 1897), then in Europe (1908), and in Africa and Latin America in the 1920s.
In the 1930s and 1960s, for a variety of reasons, annual conferences outside the U.S. became autonomous, particularly in most regions of Asia and in all of Latin America. A large majority of these autonomous churches are affiliated autonomous or affiliated united churches with The United Methodist Church and send non-voting delegates to General Conference.
Since the early 1970s, membership in the central conferences has increased tremendously, and the number of members now far exceed those of the 1920s and 1960s.
Africa Central Conferences
Today, Africa includes three central conferences:
- Africa: Contains five episcopal areas, 10 annual conferences and ministry in 11 countries;
- Congo: Contains four episcopal areas, 14 annual conferences, and ministry in nine countries;
- West Africa:Contains four episcopal areas, six annual conferences, and ministry in six countries.
Europe Central Conferences
Currently, Europe has three central conferences:
- Central and Southern Europe: Contains one episcopal area, seven annual conferences, and ministry in 15 countries;
- Germany: Contains one episcopal area, three annual conferences, and ministry in one country;
- Northern Europe and Eurasia: Contains two episcopal areas, 10 annual conferences, and ministry in 14 countries.
Philippines Central Conference
The Philippines constitutes one central conference, which has three episcopal areas, 24 annual conferences, and ministry in one country.