United Methodists At-A-Glance

United Methodists Around the World

  US
(2018)
Africa, Asia & Europe
(2017)
Lay Members 6,448,992 6,452,265
Clergy Members 38,308 12,866
Baptized Members 525,913* N/A
Local/Organized Churches 30,543 12,869
Annual Conferences 54 80
Bishops/Episcopal Areas 46 20
Jurisdictions 5 N/A
Central Conferences N/A 7

*Above statistics are the most recent available from General Council on Finance and Administration. For baptized members, this reflects 2018 data. 

The United Methodist Church is in mission in more than 130 countries.

677 Mission personnel supported through the General Board of Global Ministries
125,000 Volunteers in Mission worldwide (approximate annually)
177 Active Deaconesses and Home Missioners commissioned for service in the United States
550 Relief and refugee workers
97 United Methodist-related community centers and other national mission institutions in 35 of the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Source: 2016 General Board of Global Ministries & United Methodist Women

Health and Welfare

The health and welfare ministries related to The United Methodist Church serve more than 32 million people in 1,555 locations across the United States and provide more than $2 billion in charity care annually.

63 Children, youth and family services
105 Community service ministries
52 Hospitals and health care systems
16 Ministries for persons with disabilities
152 Older adult ministries

Education

95 colleges and universities
13 theological schools
9 pre-collegiate schools

Giving

In 2018, United Methodists gave over $6.3 billion for all purposes.

Source: Statistical Summary of The United Methodist Church 2018

Polity

No person or organization except the General Conference, which convenes every four years, has authority to speak officially for the denomination. General Conference, the denomination's top policy-making body, has a maximum of 1,000 delegates half clergy, half lay, from around the world. The conference revises church law and the “Social Principles” (related to a wide range of social and economic concerns) and adopts resolutions on various current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs for the next four years.

Bishops

The United Methodist Church has 46 active bishops in the United States and 20 active bishops in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. Bishops in the U.S. are elected every four years and serve until retirement. Each bishop supervises a specific geographical area of the church and annually appoints all ordained ministers in that area. The Council of Bishops supervises and promotes the temporal and spiritual interests of the entire church.

Current U.S. bishops include: 10 Black male bishops (6 male, 4 female), 3 Hispanic/Latino female bishops (1 male, 2 female), 5 Asian-American male bishops, 28 Caucasian male bishops (18 male, 10 female). By gender there are 16 female bishops and 30 male bishops in the U.S. Outside the U.S., there are 2 female bishops and 18 male bishops.

History

The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 with the union of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church.

The Evangelical United Brethren Church, established in 1946, resulted from the union of two U.S.-born denominations: the Evangelical Church and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. These two churches originated among German-speaking people during the great spiritual awakening in the late 18th century.

The Methodist movement began in England in the early 1700s, under Anglican minister John Wesley and his followers. Wesley and his brother Charles brought the movement to the colony of Georgia, arriving in March 1736 as Church of England missionaries. The U.S. Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1784. The denomination grew rapidly and was known for its "circuit rider" ministers on the advancing frontiers. A split in 1828 formed the Methodist Protestant Church, and in 1844, over the issue of slavery, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The North and South factions reunited in 1939 (as The Methodist Church), but retained racial segregation. That separation ended in 1968 with the merger of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches.

Structure

The United Methodist Church does not have a central headquarters or a single executive leader. Duties are divided among bodies that include the General Conference, the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council. General agencies are primarily accountable to the General Conference rather than to the Council of Bishops. Boards of directors, who are lay and clergy elected jointly by General Conference and regional organizations, govern their staffs.

Each church in the United States is part of a district, an administrative and program grouping of 40-80 churches with a full-time superintendent. Districts are grouped into annual conferences, regional bodies that meet yearly for legislative purposes. Annual conferences approve programming and budget, elect delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences, and examine and recommend candidates for ministry. Five geographic jurisdictions (divisions) in the United States include 8-13 annual conferences each. Jurisdictional conferences meet simultaneously every four years to elect and assign bishops and some members of general church agencies, and, in some cases, to develop jurisdictional programs. Each local church is governed by a charge conference with a church council as the year-round supervisor. The church council plans and implements the programs and ministry of the local church as well as oversees the administration of the church.

Ecumenical Relationships

The United Methodist Church is a member of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America and of the World Council of Churches. It also participates in Churches Uniting in Christ (formerly the Consultation on Church Union).

The United Methodist Church also has full communion agreements with the following denominations, and continues in an Interim Eucharistic Sharing Agreement with The Episcopal Church, pending approval of a full communion agreement by both denominations (projected for The UMC General Conference 2020  and TEC General Convention 2021):

  • African Methodist Episcopal Church 
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
  • African Union Methodist Protestant Church
  • Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
  • Moravian Church
  • Union American Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Uniting Church of Sweden

Full communion agreements mean we recognize in each other's churches that the gospel is rightly preached, the sacraments are duly administered, and the ministry of the clergy is ordered in such a way as to allow for the orderly exchange of some ordained clergy among us, as defined by the agreement reached between The United Methodist Church and each of the denominations with whom we are in full communion.

This content was published May 26, 2019, by United Methodist Communications.
Last update: February 9, 2022.