Glossary of Selected United Methodist Terms

Apportionment: 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.

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

Book of Discipline, The: A fundamental book outlining the law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures of The United Methodist Church. Each General Conference amends The Book of Discipline, and the actions of the General Conference are reflected in the quadrennial revision. Often referred to as The Discipline.

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

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.

Communion (Holy Communion): This sacrament is often called the Lord’s Supper. Eucharist, from the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” is another traditional name for the sacrament. It recalls the Last Supper of Jesus with the disciples. It celebrates and remembers God’s grace and mercy in Jesus, the Resurrection of Christ and Christ’s continuing presence with us. The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments—Holy Communion and Baptism.

Confirmation: 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.

Deacon: Person in full connection ordained to lifetime ministry of Word and Service to community and congregation. In this capacity, he or she leads the church in relating the gathered life of Christians to their ministries in the world, thus connecting the church’s worship with its service in the world.

District: 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.

Doctrinal Standards: Key statements of historical and doctrinal importance for The United Methodist Church. The doctrinal standards include the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith. These are accompanied by the General Rules of Our United Societies. All three of these are printed in The Book of Discipline and are protected by the Restrictive Rules.

Ecumenical Movement: The movement in the church toward the unity of all Christians involving discussions and mutual activities between and among various denominations. The United Methodist Church has a longstanding commitment to and participation in a variety of unifying endeavors and organizations.

Elder: Person ordained to a lifetime ministry of Service, Word, Sacrament and Order. He or she is authorized to preach and teach God’s word, to administer the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, and to order the life of the church for mission and ministry.

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.

Itinerancy/Itineracy: 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.

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

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 int he course of study for ordained ministry and advises on matters of pastoral responsibility.

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 three missionary conferences include Alaska, Oklahoma Indian and Red Bird.

Sacrament: 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: A document setting forth the basic position of The United Methodist Church on important social issues. Each General Conference reviews the Social Principles document, and it is printed in full in The Discipline.

Stewardship: 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).

Tithe: 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 the Methodist movement 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.

Note: A more comprehensive glossary can be found at

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