Each year in late May of early June, this congregation’s lay delegate and pastor join with delegates and pastors from every church in our conference for the Detroit Annual Conference. Actually, we are in transition from the Detroit Annual Conference to the Michigan Area Annual Conference, encompassing the entire state of Michigan. We use these four days once a year to celebrate the life of the church, learn about collective ministries, and vote on various proposals that affect all the churches.
As we approach Annual Conference time this year, I thought it might be useful to review briefly the organization of the United Methodist Church. There are over eight million United Methodists worldwide, after all, worshipping in more than 40,000 congregations. That takes a bit of organization. It works like this:
Each congregation (or group of small congregations) is called a Charge. Charges are led by appointed Pastors and elected lay leaders. Each year, each Charge holds a Charge Conference to elect its leadership. Part of that election is a delegate to Annual Conference.
Charges are part of Districts, a geographical grouping of individual Charges.
Districts are led by a United Methodist pastor appointed to serve as District Superintendent. Our church is part of the Crossroads District, and our District Superintendent is Rev. John Hice.
Districts are grouped together into Conferences. We are part of the Detroit Annual Conference, which is comprised of the Upper Peninsula and eastern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. By 2019, we will be part of the Michigan Area Annual Conference, covering the entire state. Conferences are led by Bishops, and ours is currently Bishop David Bard. Part of the work done at Annual Conference is election of delegates to General Conference.
General Conference meets once every four years to consider proposals for changes to our Book of Discipline, the governing rules for United Methodists worldwide. General Conference is the only official voice of the United Methodist Church, and oversees our United Methodist ministries all around the world.
All of this organization is called the Connection by United Methodists, because it connects all eight million of us in ministry. Because we are connected, we can share resources to impact the world with ministries no single congregation could accomplish on its own. All around the world, The United Methodist Church is
building and operating hospitals and schools,
sending missionaries to every continent (except Antarctica),
helping to eliminate malaria,
responding to natural and human-made disasters,
and serving in Christ’s name in countless other ways.
All of this is possible because we are organized… because we are a Connection. Praise be to God!