Tell us about: United Methodist Polity

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

¶324.9.j:  Discuss your understanding of the primary characteristics of United Methodist polity.

The primary characteristic of United Methodist polity is connectionalism. We are connected globally, through our history, and the way in which we share authority. We are a globally connected denomination, “We are a worldwide denomination united by doctrine, discipline, and mission through our connectional covenant.”[1] The General Conference, which has “full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional” is re-created every four years.[2] Laity and pastors from around the world come together at the General Conference, officiated by Bishops, to determine the content of the Book of Discipline, the governing document of the United Methodist Church. The General Conference shapes the Book of Discipline which regulates the organization of local churches, annual conferences, and general agencies. It also determines the policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures.[3] This is the only official voice of The United Methodist Church.

We are connectional through our shared history. The Book of Discipline was determined by the General Conference, which was determined by the one before them, and the one before them, to the beginning of Methodism, always reflecting the traditions of the church and the changing diversity of the body. The Book of Discipline has come out of this long line of governing documents created by United Methodists, Evangelical United Brethren, Methodists, even John Wesley himself. We are connected to those that came before us; we do not stand without John Wesley, Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, the congregations that chose segregation, nor those that chose integration. We remain rooted in our history, we stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, acknowledging the imperfect choices they have made, and the powerful legacy they have left us.

We are connectional in that authority does not lie with one person, at one point in time, or even within one consistent body. The connectional structure of the United Methodist Church means that no single entity holds a disproportionate amount of power over the church. Although we have Bishops, they are not ordained bishops but elected by jurisdictional conferences, they oversee the General Conference but do not vote, and they appoint clergy but do not select who is ordained and who is not. Ordained clergy are appointed by Bishops in our iterant system, they are members of Annual Conferences rather than a local church, and are guided by the local Staff Parish Relations Committee made up of laity. Laity votes at the General Conference, Annual Conference, and Church Conference, sit on committees and boards, and support the church in its mission. There is not one person, or committee with uneven power in the United Methodist Church. The General Conference which creates the Book of Discipline is made up of laity and clergy from all around the world.  We are truly a connectional denomination.

[1] BOD, ¶101

[2] BOD, ¶16

[3] UMC.ORG – http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.8038525/k.D58F/How_General_Conference_Works.htm

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