Who are United Methodists?

United Methodists in America are more than 8,500,000 members strong, making it the second largest Protestant denomination in the country and one of the largest and fastest growing Protestant bodies in the world.   In the U.S. the denomination is made up of 36,500 local churches, operates 106 universities and colleges, 65 hospitals, 225 retirement homes, and the largest Protestant publishing house (Cokesbury).   The woman's organization, the United Methodist Women, is also the largest woman's organization in the world.

United Methodism is organized into "conferences", starting at the top with the General Conference, a democratic body whose members gather every four years to superintend the general operation of the church, make its laws, and set the operating budget for the denominations's national and international ministeries.   Next smaller in size are the Jurisdictional Conferences whose members meet every two years to superintend regional operations and elect persons to the office of Bishop.   Next are the smaller 68 Annual Conferences whose members meet each year.   Then come the District Conferences which meet whenever called by the District Superintendent.   And lastly, come the Quarterly Conferences whose members are drawn from the local congregation.   The Quarterly Conference is popularly known as the local church and it derives its name from the fact that originally it met four times a year, but now typically meets but once to set the pastor's salary and tend to the ministries of the local congregation.

United Methodism was founded by John and Charles Wesley, two brothers ordained to the priesthood of the Church of England in the early years of the 18th century.   John was the organizing genius of the Methodist movement and Charles provided its songs and therefore much of its evangelical theology.   Charles composed more than 5,000 hymns, "Hark the Herald Angles Sing" being among his most popular.

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