UMC Glossary

A United Methodist Glossary of Terms
– excerpted from United Methodist Glossary of Terms
A more comprehensive glossary is online at

Annual Conference
A geographical area and organizational term. Defines a region that includes all UM churches and ministries in that area. Most clergy serving churches in that area are members of that conference. Each church also has a number of laypersons (equal to the number of their clergy) who vote on governance and policy for that conference. Members of the annual conference meet annually to approve business, set the budget, and promote ministry programs and other items of interest to the members.

The share each annual conference or local church pays to support international, national and regional (annual conference) mission.

Baptism (Holy Baptism)
Sacramental act whereby a person is cleansed by the Holy Spirit and becomes part of the body of Christ, the church universal. The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.

Monetary gifts to causes that carry out United Methodist mission, ministry and program.

Bishops oversee and supervise one or more annual conferences and meet with other bishops to lead The United Methodist Church. Bishops commission and ordain deacons and elders and appoint licensed local pastors, deacons and elders from the annual conference in which they lead.

Book of Discipline
The book of law for The United Methodist Church that determines how the church governs itself. It includes historical information, doctrinal standards, laws, and policies that can only be changed by the General Conference. After each General Conference session it is updated and reprinted based on decisions made by delegates of the General Conference session.

Book of Resolutions
The volume containing the text of all resolutions or pronouncements on issues approved by the General Conference and currently valid. The Book of Resolutions contains not only the resolutions and policy statements passed by the most recent General Conference, but also all such statements still considered to represent the position of The United Methodist Church. The text of any resolution is considered the official position of the denomination on that subject.

Book of Worship
Book containing the rituals, sacraments and orders of worship related to The United Methodist Church.

Central Conference
Central Conferences are the annual conferences for areas outside the United States. The church has seven central conferences and they are located in Africa, Europe and the Philippines .

Charge Conference
Basic policy-making body of the local church. It reviews the congregation’s ministries, endorses candidates for ministry and sets clergy compensation.

Charge, Pastoral
One or more local churches organized under and subject to the Discipline, governed by a single charge conference.

Commissioned and ordained deacons and elders; associate members and licensed local pastors serving under the full or part‐time appointment of a bishop.

Communion (Holy Communion)
Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, is one of two sacraments celebrated in The United Methodist Church. Instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, it repeats the action in which Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine, representing his body and blood (Mark 14:22-24). This sacrament follows the ministry of the word read and proclaimed. Gathered worshippers, led by an elder or an appointed licensed local pastor, join with others who love Jesus to offer God gifts of bread and wine “in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us.” They share these gifts with one another, confident and rejoicing that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon them that they “may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”

The act by which persons who were baptized as infants or young children (or, because of other special circumstances, could not make the baptismal vows themselves) make their first public statement of their declaration or profession of faith.

Connection, Connectional, Connectionalism
Principle, basic to The United Methodist Church, that all leaders and congregations are connected in a network of loyalties and commitments.

Deacons are persons called by God, authorized by the church, and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of Word and Service to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects the two.

Regional group of churches or charges, supervised by a district superintendent.

District Superintendent
Ordained elder appointed by the bishop to administer the work of the church within a particular geographic area.

Elders are persons called by God, authorized by the church, and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order and Service.

Evangelical Fellowship
The purpose of the Evangelical Fellowship is to unite United Methodists, clergy & laity, across the Conference to advance Biblical Christianity, our Wesleyan heritage, sharing Christ with those who do not know Him, developing mature disciples, and pursuing personal & social holiness!

General Conference
The international gathering and business meeting of the United Methodist denomination. It convenes once every four years, in a different location. There are 998 delegates (half are ordained, half are laypersons) representing each annual and central conference. This body decides on petitions to change the Book of Discipline. It is the only body authorized to make decisions and speak on behalf of The United Methodist Church.

General Funds
Funds approved by the General Conference to support various aspects of denominational work. The General Council on Finance and Administration serves as the treasurer of the general funds.

Holy Conversation
United Methodists meet in Conferences, not conventions. “Conference” implies conferring or conversing. Holy Conversation is conversation consciously in the presence of God, seeking discernment, characterized by gracefilled listening, infused with an attitude of respect and love toward one another.

System of The United Methodist Church by which bishops appoint pastors to charges. The pastors are under obligation to serve where appointed. The current form of the itinerancy grew from the practice of Methodist pastors traveling widely throughout the church on circuits.

A group of annual conferences within a geographical region in the United States. There are five jurisdictions in the U.S. (North Central, Northeast, South Central, Southeast, and Western).

From laos, meaning “people of God,” and used to describe members of a congregation or parish.

A member of a local church. Laypersons are responsible for leadership in all levels of the denomination – from the local church, to the district, to the annual conference, Jurisdictional Conference and General Conference.

Local Pastor
A licensed pastor, annually approved by the district committee on ordained ministry, who is authorized to perform all duties of an ordained minister, including the sacraments, while assigned to a particular charge under the supervision of a district superintendent. A clergy mentor oversees the local pastor’s work in the course of study for ordained ministry and advises on matters of pastoral responsibility.

MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action)
MFSA has chapters in many conferences. Members are both clergy and lay. “Originally known as the Methodist Federation for Social Service, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) was founded in 1907 by several Methodist Episcopal clergy (including Frank Mason North, author of Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life) to direct church attention to the enormous human suffering among the working class.”

Missionary Conference
Conference that has particular missionary opportunities, limited membership and resources, unique leadership requirements, strategic regional or language considerations and ministerial needs. In the United States, the two missionary conferences include Oklahoma Indian and Red Bird.

Refers to the rules and traditions of the UMC. It includes the Book of Discipline, history, practices, and beliefs of the denomination.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN)
Congregations, classes, groups, individuals, and conferences can join RMN as part of their intentional welcome and hospitality for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Something consecrated or holy. Traditionally, a Christian ordinance manifesting an inward, spiritual grace by an outward, visible sign or symbol. United Methodists recognize two sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

Social Principles
The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit; however, they are not church law. The Social Principles are a call to all members of The United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice. You can find the complete UM Social Principles at

Devout investment or use of money, time and ability. In biblical times, a steward supervised a household or an estate. Today, as God’s children, we deem God the source of all we have, seek to hold it in trust for God and desire to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10a, NRSV).

Biblical standard, usually one-tenth of one’s annual income, given as a contribution to support the ministry and mission of the church.

Wesley, Charles (1707-88)
British Methodist leader, hymn writer and brother of John Wesley. One of the first Methodists, he is said to have composed more than 5,000 hymns.

Wesley, John (1703-91)
British founder of Methodism and brother of Charles Wesley. An Anglican clergyman, he said his heart was “strangely warmed” in 1738 while listening to the reading of a comment by Martin Luther on Romans. He became a preacher. Although he never left the Church of England, he inspired the organization of Methodist churches in various locations. “I look on all the world as my parish” reflected his philosophy.

Wesleyan Quadralateral
“The phrase which has relatively recently come into use to describe the principal factors that John Wesley believed illuminate the core of the Christian faith for the believer. Wesley did not formulate the succinct statement now commonly referred to as the Wesley Quadrilateral. Building on the Anglican theological tradition, Wesley added a fourth emphasis, experience. The resulting four components or “sides” of the quadrilateral are (1) Scripture, (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) experience. For United Methodists, Scripture is considered the primary source and standard for Christian doctrine. Tradition is experience and the witness of development and growth of the faith through the past centuries and in many nations and cultures. Experience is the individual’s understanding and appropriating of the faith in the light of his or her own life. Through reason the individual Christian brings to bear on the Christian faith discerning and cogent thought. These four elements taken together bring the individual Christian to a mature and fulfilling understanding of the Christian faith and the required response of worship and service.”