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United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church is the largest Methodist denomination in the United States. As a Methodist denomination, it is part of Protestant Christianity.

Used with permission*.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical United Brethren[?] and the Methodist Church which were themselves the results of mergers. The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 as the result of a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church.

The UMC is organized into conferences. The highest level is called the General Conference and is the only organization which may speak officially for the UMC. The General Conference meets every four years (quadrennium). Legislative changes are recorded in The Book of Discipline which is revised after each General Conference. Beneath the General Conference are Jurisdictional Conferences which also meet every four years. Their chief purpose is to elect and appoint bishops to serve the UMC.

The Annual Conference is roughly the equivalent of a diocese in the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The term Annual Conference refers to the geographical area it covers as well as the frequency of meeting.

The chief administrators of the UMC are the bishops. The clergy includes men and women who are ordained by bishops as elders and deacons and are appointed to various ministries. Elders in the UMC are part of what is called the itinerating ministry and are subject to the authority and appointment of their bishops. They generally serve as pastors at local congregations. Deacons make up a serving ministry and may serve as musicians, educators, business administrators, and a number of other ministries.

It is considered one of the more liberal and tolerant denominations with respect to race, gender, and ideology. Its official positions on homosexuality remain conservative, despite a fairly large non-heterosexual membership and a number of leaders who disagree with its official position. Attempts to change its position in the last twenty years or so have generated considerable controversy between liberal and conservative members, with many conservatives threatening to leave the denomination if the policy were changed.

* "The Cross and Flame [insignia] is used with permission. The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the GCFA, Legal Department, 1200 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois 60201." (See the original e-mail.)

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