The structure of the United Methodist Church can be confusing at times. After all, we are a denomination made up of conferences that enable churches to remain connected with each other for our mission of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Our unique polity (structure) gives our denomination particular strengths and weaknesses. Take a look below for more information on how The United Methodist Church is organized from the local church to the global church.
Organization of the United Methodist Church
Since our founding in the 1700’s, conferences make up the organizational chart of the church. At every conference level above the local church, the laypeople and clergy have equal votes (50/50).
- The Local Church – is known as a Charge Conference when it meets each year to organize. Methodists believe that the local church is the primary place where disciples are made!
- District Conference – is the smallest regional conference in Methodism, made up of local churches in a close geographic area. Pittman Park is in the Northeast District and supervised by our District Superintendent, the Rev. Stephen Grantham.
- Annual Conference – is the name of the geographic region of local churches. Pittman Park is in the South Georgia Conference, and the Annual Conference is supervised by Bishop David Graves. Along with our pastor, our church is represented by Tim and Alli Wall, lay delegates.
- Jurisdictional Conference or Central Conference – are groups of annual conferences in regional divisions of the UMC around the world. Jurisdictions are the five large regional areas in the US, while international regions are divided into Central Conferences. Pittman Park is in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, which meets at Lake Junaluska, NC.
- General Conference – is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. It meets every four years, in different cities, with approximately 860 delegates from around the world. General Conference gathers to add, edit, and amend The Book of Discipline.
- The Book of Discipline constitutes the law and doctrine of the United Methodist Church. It was originally published in 1784, in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has been published every four years thereafter following the meeting of the General Conference, which passes legislation that is included in the Book of Discipline. The most recent edition is that of 2016. Click here to read The Book of Discipline online.
Like the United States of America, the UMC is governed by three separate bodies:
- Council of Bishops (the executive branch)
- Delegates to Conferences (the legislative branch)
- Judicial Council (the judicial branch)
- A method for local churches to protect against outside groups taking control of a congregation, dating back to John Wesley in the mid-1700’s. The South Georgia Conference is named as the Trustee of our property.
- The United Methodist trust clause is a statement included in Property Deeds declaring that the property and assets of a local church or United Methodist body are held “in trust” for the benefit of the entire denomination (see paragraph 2503 of The Book of Discipline). The trust clause ensures that United Methodist property will continue to be used for the purposes of The United Methodist Church.
Interested in continuing the conversation? If you, or a group you are a part of, would like to schedule a time to talk more about our church, our denomination, or the future, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-678-5631.