Structure & Organization
The United Methodist Church is a "connectional church," which means our churches are connected by a system to guide our work and govern our policies. This also allows us to pool our resources so that we may more efficiently work together and be in ministry throughout the world.
How we are connected...
- All members of The United Methodist Church are at least acquainted with a local church. United Methodists believe the local church is the "most significant area" through which we are able to make disciples (devoted followers) of Jesus Christ. Each local church can have its own personality and style, but our local congregations have this common purpose. Local congregations do this through worship, educational experiences for people of all ages, fellowship activities and opportunities to serve and "put faith into action."
- There are 588 congregations.
- A district is made up of a group of churches in a geographical location. An ordained clergy District Superintendent (DS) supervises each district. Churches in a district often meet together for training events and may combine resources for special projects.
- There are 6 Districts in the South Georgia Conference: Coastal, North Central, Northeast, Northwest, South Central, Southwest
- The Annual Conference is the basic organizational body in The United Methodist Church. An Annual Conference includes all United Methodist churches (and thus districts) in a geographically defined area. A Bishop presides over an Annual Conference. (Bishops actually oversee an Episcopal Area, which may be made up of a part, a whole or multiple Annual Conference areas.)
- Pastors are itinerate within an Annual Conference area, which means they move from church to church during their ministry career. The Bishop and the District Superintendents (known as the Cabinet) determine which church or ministry a pastor will serve making sure each church has a pastor. The Bishop officially appoints a pastor to a church and appointments are renewed or changed each year.
- The Annual Conference connects local churches together. Churches contribute financial resources (a portion of their local church budget known as apportionments or conference askings ) which enables the Annual Conference to support ministry projects within its boundaries and throughout the world; provide training sessions to help its churches be more effective; start new churches and ministries; provide special events for children, youth and adults; and administrate the business of this connection of churches.
- Once a year representatives from each church meet for an Annual Conference meeting. During this four-day event (other Annual Conferences have different time schedules) the representatives determine the programs and direction of ministry for the Annual Conference for the next year. They also make necessary decisions to support the ministry of the Annual Conference and its churches. This Conference concludes with the announcement of pastoral appointments for the year.
- The South Georgia Conference includes the geographical area of South Georgia with Columbus, Macon, and Waynesboro as the Northern boundary. The South Georgia Annual Conference Session is traditionally held in June every year.
- Jurisdictions are large regional divisions of The United Methodist Church within the United States and are composed of the Annual Conferences within their boundaries. The five jurisdictions are North Central, Northeastern, South Central, Southeastern, and Western.
- Representatives from each Annual Conference meet together for a Jurisdictional Conference once every four years. During this session the delegates vote on business matters regarding the ministry within that Jurisdictional area. They also have the role to elect Bishops for the church.
- A Bishop is an ordained clergy person who is elected by the Jurisdictional Conference to that position. A Bishop is elected for life, but there is a mandatory retirement age of 72. (A Bishop is no longer appointed to preside over an Episcopal [geographical] Area after he or she turns 72, but continues to serve the Church on the world level as a part of the Council of Bishops). A Bishop serves within the Jurisdiction from which he or she was elected. Bishops are appointed to oversee an Episcopal Area in four-year blocks. It takes special permission from the Jurisdictional Conference for a Bishop to serve an area for more than eight years.
- The South Georgia Conference is in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Bishop R. Lawson Bryan is the episcopal leader of South Georgia and was assigned to the South Georgia Area in 2016. Prior to his election in 2016, Bishop Bryan served churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference prior to his election. This is his first term as the spiritual leader for South Georgia United Methodists.
- The General Conference is the highest legislative body in the denomination. Representatives from every Annual and Central Conference (Regional Conferences outside the United States ) meet in April or May once every four years. Bishops preside at the sessions of the General Conference but do not have the privilege of voice or vote in its deliberations.
- The clergy (pastors) and lay (local church members) delegates debate and vote as one body. The primary responsibility of the General Conference is to enact legislation for the denomination.
- The organization, beliefs and official policies of The United Methodist Church are contained in The Book of Discipline. At its quadrennial meeting, the General Conference reviews The Book of Discipline and has the authority to rewrite any portion of it, following the proper procedures, of course.
- The next General Conference will meet in the year 2020 in Minneapolis, Minn.
- Checks and balances are built into all aspects of church life. The organization of the denomination resembles that of the US government. The General Conference is the top legislative body; a nine-member Judicial Council is the "supreme court" and reviews situations in the church to make sure they are in adherence with The Book of Discipline; and the Council of Bishops is similar to the executive branch.
- At every level of the church, from the local church to the General Church, there are teams, committees and councils focusing on particular areas of the ministry. These teams guide the efforts of a particular ministry effort and determine the specifics of how the ministries are carried out.
Connectivity allows us to serve the world
- United Methodists join John Wesley in affirming the divine call to do good works that show God's love wherever we can. We are mutually connected -- organized -- so that our individual efforts blend with the work of others to be more powerful than any one person alone. Our budgets support our "good works" and express our covenant to connectional service and multiply God's love in tangible ways.