THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH POLITY
Polity means “the form of government of a nation, a state, a church or an organization.” “An organized society, such as nation, having a specific form of government.”
Government is the “management or administration of an organization, a business or an institution.”
Let me enumerate some of the characteristics of The United Methodist Church life and practice that becomes the flesh and blood of the polity of the church.
- It is a covenant community of people.
The people called Methodist is bound together by a covenant they promise
when they join the Methodist community. They promise ‘to be loyal to The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries… to faithfully support and uphold the Methodist community with their prayers, their presence, their gift and service.” They make this promise of their own free will and fulfill it with the help of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Their covenant to the community is undergirded by two things:
- With God’s help they live the great commandments, “To love God with all their heart, strength and soul and to love their neighbors as they love themselves.”
- They impose upon their group what they call as “General Rules” of the covenant community, which is Do No Harm, Do God, and Stay in love with God.”
- They imposed upon themselves guidelines, rules and discipline to govern their action to facilitate their mission, thus they have a “Book of Discipline.”
- As a covenant community they also speak as one regarding their life and practice, thus they have a “Book of Resolution.”
- It is a covenant community of people with a mission. (BD, Par. 120-142)
This covenant community of people are taught, nurtured and trained to
fulfill what they call as their great commission, “Go to all the world, To preach, teach, baptize people and make them disciples of Jesus Christ” In short the mission of the local Methodist community is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs. They fulfill their mission by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying the Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor, thus seeking the fulfillment of God’s reign and realm in the world.
The process of carrying out our mission:
- Proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ;
- Led persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
- Nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
- Send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel;
- Continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
- It is a connectional covenant community.
They geographical area of their mission is the whole world and their
target are all people and races. Their connection with each other, help and facilitate the fulfillment of their mission in the world. Where one community group because of race and color cannot enter a place to fulfill their mission, another community can. When a community wish to fulfill their mission in one area but lack resources other communities share their resources to the covenant community in mission. Indeed, in unity there is strength.
This connectional relationship is also express in the church structure that facilitates the fulfillment of their mission into the world. Thus the structure is global; from the:
Charge Conference (Local Church)
General Conference (Worldwide)
Administrative or executive branch
Local church Pastor/Pastors (Local Churches)
Bishop with the District Superintendent (Annual Conference Level)
College of Bishop (Central conference/Jurisdictional)
Council of Bishop (General Conference)
Trial Court (Annual Conference)
Judicial Court (Central conference)
Judicial Council (Worldwide))
- It is Episcopal led and supervised for the fulfillment of its mission.
The conferences enumerated above are legislative in nature. It is the
Office of the Bishop that supervises the work and mission of the covenant communities. The Bishops are elected and assign to supervise the work and mission of the covenant communities in designated annual conferences.
The clergy, deaconess, and deacons are appointed by the Bishop to serve a covenant community and or program agency, through a process of consultation with the worker, district superintendent (Bishop’s cabinet) and the church
workers- parish Relation of the local church.
- Their polity is representative.
The covenant community is represented by someone from their group,
either elected or appointed by the group to represent them in conferences and or agencies of the church. As a representative of the community, he/she speaks for the group and is accountable to the covenant group he/she is representing.
- Their decision making is democratic.
Decision making is through the decision of the whole group, either through
consensus or majority decisions. When a decision is made by the covenant community, members are bound to obey the decision
- They seek and administer justice and peace in the fairest possible
within the community of faith, in what they call as “being tried and judge by their own peers” as described in the Book of Discipline “Judicial Administration.” Decisions in the lower church court is appealable to the Judicial Council, which is the counterpart of the Supreme Court in the secular world.
- The Local covenant community are autonomous in their life, mission and resources.
They plan their local church mission, programs, projects and raise their
resources to carry them out.
Charge Conference (Legislative Body)
BOT/ CFA/ PPR/ CLL ( Standing Boards/Commission)
Local Church Council (Administrator of the church program)
( consisting of the different chairpersons of Boards, Commissions and Committees)
With the Local Pastor as the Chief Executive Officer with the support of the Associate Pastor, Deaconess, Home Missioner, Lay Servant & Lay Leaders
Program Committees ( Nurture, Outreach, Witness)
Program Agencies (SS, Kindergarten, etc.)
Autonomous they maybe in the decision making and carrying out their
mission, guidance, resources and help from the connection maybe available and offered to the local covenant group.
- The covenant communities are in found in nearly all countries
of the world, thus it is global in their presence and in their mission.
To help the presence and mission of the covenant community in the
around the globe, general agencies are organize to help local covenant communities start and carry out their mission.
10 This Covenant community is governed by the Book of Discipline which contains the Constitution of the church, Doctrinal standards, Administrative order and Judicial Administration.
- This covenant community are open to changes for good,
Such changes may emanates from any of the covenant communities but undergoes a process of prayer, consultations going down to the grassroots and majority decisions, appealable to the Judicial Council which is the Supreme Court of the Covenant Communities.