Apportionment: The allocated share each annual conference or central conference pays to support international, national and regional (annual and district conference) mission. 

Associate member: Clergy who have reached age 40, completed at least four years of full-time service as a local pastor, the five-year course of study or received a master of divinity degree, completed a minimum of 60 semester hours toward the bachelor of arts or equivalent degree, and have been approved by the conference board of ordained ministry and clergy session. Associate members are not ordained, but they are available for full-time service and are assured an appointment within the annual conference. They have voice and vote in every matter except constitutional amendments, ordination and conference relations of clergy (Book of Discipline, 2016, Paragraphs 321–323). 

Baptism: Entrance into the church through God’s unmerited grace, open to persons of all ages. In the sacrament of baptism, water is administered in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is invoked with the laying on of hands. In baptism, the church claims God’s presence and the seal of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) (Book of Discipline, 2016, Paragraph 129). 

Benevolences: The term used to describe money gifts to carry out United Methodist mission, ministry and program. 

Bishop: Those elected from among the elders for the task of superintending to equip the church in its disciple-making ministry. Bishops carry primary responsibility for ordering the life of the church. It is their task to enable the gathered church to worship and to evangelize faithfully (Book of Discipline, 2016, Paragraph 401). Learn more about bishops at 

Book of Discipline, The: The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (often called The Discipline) outlines denominational law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures. 

Book of Resolutions, The: A collection of pronouncements on issues approved by the General Conference and currently valid. It contains not only the resolutions and policy statements passed by the most recent General Conference, but 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 the subject. 

Book of Worship, The: A collection of the rituals, sacraments and orders of worship related to The United Methodist Church. 

Charge: One or more churches to which an ordained or licensed minister is appointed by the bishop. It is organized under and subject to The Discipline and governed by a single charge conference. 

Charge Conference: The basic unit of the pastoral charge (one or more churches to whom a pastor is appointed) is the charge conference. It is organized from the church or churches and meets annually, or at other times for specific purposes. Powers include reviewing ministries, endorsing candidates for ministry and setting clergy compensation. 

Communion (Holy Communion): Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, is, along with baptism, one of two sacraments recognized and celebrated by The United Methodist Church. Instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, it repeats the action in which Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine, representing his body and blood (Mark 14:22-24). The sacrament follows the ministry of the reading of Scripture and proclaiming of the word (sermon). Gathered worshippers, led by an elder or an appointed licensed local pastor, join with others who love Jesus to offer God gifts of bread and wine “in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us.” They share these gifts with one another, confident and rejoicing that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon them that they “may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.” The table is open to all who seek to respond to Christ’s love and to lead a new life of peace and love. (Quotations are from “A Service of Word and Table I,” copyright © 1972 The United Methodist Publishing House; copyright ©1980, 1989, 1992 UMPH. Used by permission.) 

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. Because confirmation is so closely related to baptism, the order for the service is contained within the Baptismal Covenant I in The United Methodist Hymnal

Connection, connectional, connectionalism: The principle basic to The United Methodist Church that all leaders and congregations are connected in a network of loyalties and commitments. 

Deacon: An ordained clergyperson in full connection with the annual conference who leads the church in relating to the gathered community, particularly in service to the poor, the sick and the oppressed, and equipping laity in ministries of compassion, justice and service. He or she has authority to teach and proclaim God’s Word, to lead in worship, to assist elders in administration of the sacraments, to perform marriage ceremonies, where laws of the state permit, and to bury the dead. 

District: Regional groupings of churches led by a district superintendent. Often churches in a district will work together to provide training and mission opportunities. The superintendent presides at meetings of the charge conferences, or grants permission for other elders to preside, and oversees programs within the district. 

District superintendent: An elder appointed by the bishop, usually for a six-year term, who oversees the ministry of the district’s clergy and churches, provides spiritual and pastoral leadership, and works with the bishop and other superintendents, often known as the bishop’s cabinet, in the appointment of clergy. 

Elder: A clergyperson 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. Some are apportioned, while others, such as gifts for churchwide Special Sundays and The Advance, are not. The General Council on Finance and Administration serves as treasurer of general funds. 

Itinerancy/itineracy: The system or practice by which bishops appoint pastors to charges. Elders in full connection and associate members are under obligation to serve where appointed. The current form of itinerancy grew from the practice of Methodist pastors traveling widely to churches organized into what became known as circuits. The Methodist circuit riders were well known for spreading the gospel in frontier America. 

Laity: A term derived from the Greek word laos, meaning “people of God,” often used to describe members of a congregation or parish. The ministry of the laity flows from a commitment to Christ’s outreaching love. Lay members are, by history and calling, active advocates of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Book of Discipline, 2016, Paragraph 127). Laypersons have equal representation with clergy at General Conference and jurisdictional and annual conferences. 

Local pastor: A licensed pastor, annually approved by the district committee on ordained ministry, and subsequently by the clergy session of the annual conference, who is authorized to perform duties of an ordained minister, including the sacraments, while appointed to a charge under the supervision of a district superintendent. A clergy mentor oversees the local pastor’s work in the course of study for ordained ministry and advises on matters of pastoral responsibility. 

Missionary conference: A conference that has particular missionary opportunities, limited membership and resources, unique leadership requirements, strategic regional or language considerations and ministerial needs. The General Board of Global Ministries provides administrative guidance and financial assistance (Book of Discipline, 2016, Paragraph 585). The two missionary conferences in the United States are Oklahoma Indian and Red Bird. 

Provisional conference: A conference that, because of its limited membership, does not qualify for annual conference status but has membership and contributions to give evidence of continued progress in both areas. 

Sacrament: Something consecrated or holy, a Christian ordinance manifesting an inward, spiritual grace by an outward, visible sign or symbol. The New Testament shows Jesus participating in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, the two sacraments recognized by The United Methodist Church. 

Social Principles: A document approved by General Conference and included in The Discipline that sets forth the basic position of The United Methodist Church on important social issues. These principles, while not church law, are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit (Book of Discipline, 2016, Part V, Preface to the Social Principles). 

Stewardship: Devout investment or use of money, time and ability. In biblical times, a steward supervised a household or estate. Today, as God’s children, we deem God the source of all we have and 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). 

Wesley, Charles (1707–88): British Methodist leader, hymn writer and brother of John Wesley. He is said to have composed more than 5,000 hymns, many of which are found in the present United Methodist Hymnal

Wesley, John (1703–91): British founder of the Methodist movement and brother of Charles Wesley. He was an Oxford-educated clergyman who struggled with assurance of his own salvation, even as he gathered like-minded colleagues in efforts to lead a disciplined Christian life. He began what became known as the Methodist movement as a revival in the Church of England and remained an Anglican priest throughout his life. An important turning point came in 1738 when he described his heart as “strangely warmed” and finally felt the assurance for which he had longed. 

As the revival grew, Wesley left the security of the sanctuary and began to preach outdoors, to reach out to the poor and those who did not feel at home in the established church. His genius for organization led to the establishment of societies, classes and preaching stations and the use of lay pastors, which he assigned to circuits throughout England. He invited people to experience God’s grace and grow in their knowledge and love of God, placing primary emphasis on Christian living. The movement first became a church in the United States and later in England following Wesley’s death. 

* The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 

Note: A more comprehensive glossary is available online at 

From the United Methodist Church Handbook, 2016