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Glossary of United Methodist Terms
Compiled by Phil Lentz, Student Assistant

Annual Conference: Meets once a year to represent United Methodists in a particular geographical area. All clergy are members. Each local church or charge elects at least one lay member of Annual Conference so that lay members equal clergy members. The Annual Conference is responsible for accepting goals and approving the budget for the work of the United Methodist Church in its area. It is also responsible for approving persons for ordinations as clergy and consecration as diaconal ministers.
Appointment: The pastoral charge or other position in the church to which an ordained ministerial member is assigned by a bishop, or between sessions of the Annual Conference, by a district superintendent.
Apportionment: The fair share assigned to a local church or other United Methodist body by proper church authority, to be raised by that body as its portion of the church fund.
Bishop: Responsible for the work and oversight of the church in a particular Annual Conference or conferences. The bishop, in consultation with district superintendents, parishes and local churches, appoints pastors to local churches.
Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: Contains the rules and laws governing the United Methodist Church. It also contains information about the church's history, some theological statements, the Social Principles, and the Social Creed.
Cabinet: The resident bishop and the district superintendents of an Annual Conference acting together as a body.
Charge Conference: Annual meeting of a church where officers are elected for the coming year. It also receives reports, reviews and evaluates the total mission and ministry of the congregation, and adopts objectives and goals recommended by the administrative council, or the Administrative Board. It also recommends candidates for the ordained and diaconal ministry to the District Committee on Ordained Ministry or to the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry. Members of the Administrative Council, or Board, are members of the Charge Conference. The district superintendent calls the meeting and presides over it. Anyone may attend the meeting.
Circuit: Two or more local churches that are joined together for pastoral supervision.
College of Bishops: All the bishops that are assigned to a Jurisdictional or Central Conference.
Deacon: (Before 1996) An ordained minister who has progressed far enough in preparation for ordained ministry to be received by an Annual Conference, as either an associate member or probationary member, and who has been ordained deacon.
District Superintendent: Oversees the work of churches within a geographic region called a district. District superintendents within an episcopal area comprise the bishop's cabinet. The bishop makes the appointments of pastors to churches.
Elder: A clergyperson who has completed preparation for the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Order; has been elected into full connection by an Annual Conference, and has been ordained as an elder.
Episcopacy: The system of church polity whereby bishops serve as general superintendents and exercise certain authority within the denomination.
Episcopal Area: The Annual Conference, or Conferences, assigned to a bishop for supervision.
General Conference: Meets every four years for the purpose of speaking and acting on behalf of the national/international body of the United Methodist Church. Delegates are elected by Annual Conferences. Half the delegates are clergy and half are laypersons.
Itineracy: The system of The United Methodist Church by which clergy are appointed to their charges by the bishop and are under discipline to accept such appointments.
Jurisdictional Conference: Composed of a number of Annual Conferences whose delegates are elected by each Annual Conference. Each Annual Conference has a designated number of delegates based on the total number of members of the United Methodist Church in that conference. Half of the delegates are laypersons and half are clergy. It meets every four years and its main purpose is the election of bishops and setting of conference boundaries. General Conference delegates are also members of the Jurisdictional Conference.
Lay Leader: Charged with fostering the role of the laity in the mission of the church, both through ministries of the congregation and in their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Is involved in training opportunities to develop a growing understanding of the church and alerting the church to opportunities for more effective ministries throughout the laity. Meets regularly with the pastor to discuss the state of the church and its needs for ministry. Member of the Administrative Council, or the Administrative Board. Council on Ministries, Committee on Nominations and Personnel, and Finance Committee.
Local Pastor: A lay person approved by the clergy membership in full connection of an Annual Conference and authorized to perform all the duties of pastor, including the sacraments, while assigned to a particular charge under the specific supervision of a counseling elder, subject to annual renewal.
Pastoral Charge: One or more churches that are organized under, and subject to, the Discipline, with a single Charge Conference, and to which a clergyperson is, or may be, duly appointed or appointable as pastor in charge.
Probationary Member: A clergy member of the Annual Conference who is on trial while preparing for full membership. A probationary member is on trial as to character, preaching ability, and pastoral effectiveness.
Social Principles of The United Methodist Church, The: A statement by The United Methodist Church that states the church's position on a number of issues or areas that affect the way we live our lives.