What does it mean to be "Methodist"?

Who Are We?

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a Christian denomination that is both mainline Protestant and Evangelical. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley within the Church of England. As such, the church's theological orientation is decidedly Wesleyan. It embraces both liturgical and evangelical elements.

In the United States, it ranks as the largest mainline denomination, the second largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention, and the third largest Christian denomination. As of 2016, worldwide membership was about 12.4 million: 6.8 million in the United States and Canada, and 5.6 million in Africa, Asia and Europe. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the World Methodist Council, and other religious associations.

Church Origins

The movement which would become The United Methodist Church began in the mid-18th century within the Church of England. A small group of students, including John Wesley (pictured), his brother Charles Wesley and George Whitefield met on the Oxford University campus. They focused on Bible study, methodical study of scripture and living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the "Holy Club" and calling them "Methodists" because of their methodical and exceptionally detailed study of the Bible and disciplined lifestyle. Eventually, they started individual societies or classes for members of the Church of England who wanted to live a more religious life.

Three teachings they saw as the foundation of Christian faith were:

1.  People are all, by nature, "dead in sin," and, consequently, "children of wrath."

2.  They are "justified by faith alone."

3.  Faith produces inward and outward holiness.

Very quickly, these clergymen became popular, attracting large congregations. The nickname students had used against the Wesleys was revived. They and their followers became known as "Methodists."

The United Methodist Church is a denomination within the Protestant stream of Christianity. On April 23, 1968, The United Methodist Church was created when The Evangelical United Brethren Church (750,000 members), and The Methodist Church (10.3 million members) joined hands at the constituting General Conference in Dallas, Texas. With the words, "Lord of the Church, we are united in Thee, in Thy Church and now in The United Methodist Church," the new denomination emerged.

Church Governance

United Methodists are sometimes asked where their church is headquartered, or what officer is "in charge." Deliberately, The United Methodist Church has no single central office, no archbishop, no pope. Who makes decisions for The United Methodist Church if there is no one person in charge? Good question. The only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination is the General Conference.

The General Conference is an international body of nearly 1,000 delegates that meets every four years. Today, the governing of the United Methodist churches is accomplished through a “Council of Bishops.” Bishops are elected elders who are directed to provide oversight of the entire church but have specific leadership responsibilities in a geographical area, called an Annual Conferences.

The United States is split into five “Jurisdictions”. At Trinity UMC, we belong to the North Central Jurisdiction, within which are eleven “Annual Conferences”. We belong to the West Ohio Conference, within which there are six “Districts”.  Trinity UMC belongs to the Maumee River District. 

Each Annual Conference within the United Methodist structure is led by a presiding Bishop. The current Bishop for the West Ohio Conference is Gregory V. Palmer. The Bishop is responsible for appointing pastors to serve in each local churches, under the advisement of the Cabinet (consisting of the Bishop and District Superintendents).

Each District is overseen by a District Superintendent who is responsible to the Bishop. The D.S. provides support to each church within the District. The current D.S. for the Maumee River District is Rev. Amy Haines.