When you join a United Methodist congregation, you become a part of an active, worldwide group of interconnected communities – a connection of people who believe we should spend our days making the love of Christ real in our actions. This connection encourages us to live gracefully, as one unified global community that does no harm, does good and stays in love with God.
No local church is the total body of Christ. Therefore, local United Methodist churches are bound together by a common mission and common governance that accomplish reaching out into the world. United Methodist churches and organizations join in mission with each other and with other denominations. Connectionalism shows through the clergy appointment system, through the developing of mission and ministry that United Methodists do together, and through giving.
An example of connectionalism: Mission work around the world, whether it be a new university in Africa or bicycles for Cuban pastors, is the work of “the connection,” as opposed to the work of a single congregation.
United Methodists often joke about the many organizational layers of church life, but, as members of other denominations have been heard to say: “If you want something done, get the Methodists to do it.” Followers of the Wesleys are indeed “methodical” about the ways they approach mission and ministry.
One reason United Methodists are able to accomplish great things is the church’s emphasis on “connectionalism.” It is common to hear United Methodist leaders speak of the denomination as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning.
The United Methodist Church is intentionally decentralized and democratic. Clergy and laity alike help determine the ministry and workings of The United Methodist Church through their actions in their local churches, annual conferences, general agencies and through petitions and resolutions they send to General Conference, and through the voting delegates who go to General Conference, the only body that can set official policy for the church. It is individuals, the people called United Methodists, who make possible the connection of hearts, minds, hands and lives as the body of Christ around the world.