It is the organization of The United Methodist Church that creates a structure for connectionalism. The United Methodist Church is intentionally decentralized and democratic. Clergy and laity alike help determine the ministry and workings of The United Methodist Church through their actions in their local churches, annual conferences, general agencies and through petitions and resolutions they send to General Conference, and through the voting delegates who go to General Conference, the only body that can set official policy for the church. It is individuals, the people called United Methodists, who make possible the connection of hearts, minds, hands and lives as the body of Christ around the world.
It is primarily at the level of the charge consisting of one or more local churches that the church encounters the world. The local church is a strategic base from which Christians move out to the structures of society…Therefore, the local church is to minister to persons in the community where the church is located…to cooperate in ministry with other local churches…and to participate in the worldwide mission of the church... (2008 Book of Discipline)
Most individuals have their initial contact with the denomination in a local church, such as Asbury. Some local church members don't realize that they are part of a bigger whole-the connection: an annual conference, a jurisdiction, the General Church, and churches and annual conferences around the world.
Groups of churches in a geographic area are organized to form a district, somewhat similar to the way cities and towns are organized into counties. Often, churches in a district will work together to provide training and mission opportunities.
Each district is led by a district superintendent (“DS”), an elder appointed by the bishop, usually for a six-year term. The DS oversees the ministry of the district’s clergy and churches, provides spiritual and pastoral leadership, works with the bishop and others in the appointment of ordained ministers to serve the district’s churches, presides at meetings of the charge conference, and oversees programs within the district.
Our district is the Northeast District of the Eastern PA Conference.
Groups of districts are organized into the annual (sometimes referred to as 'regional') conference is described by the church's Book of Discipline as the "basic unit" of the church.
An annual conference may cover an entire state, only part of the state, or even parts of two or more states. There are also three missionary conferences in the United States, which rely upon the denomination as a whole for funding.
The annual conference has a central office and professional staff that coordinate and conduct ministry and the business of the conference. It likely has a director of connectional ministries, treasurer, directors of program areas (such as camping), communications director, and other staff as deemed appropriate for the annual conference and as required by the Book of Discipline. Clergy and laypersons may also serve on conference boards, commissions and committees.
We are part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
In the United States of America, The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas known as jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. These provide some program and leadership training events to support the annual conferences. Every four years the jurisdictional conferences meet to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies.
We are part of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
Portions of this text were adapted from Methodism 101.