Polity – A Matter of Accountability, Responsibility, and Trust

Did you know that the polity structure of the United Methodist Church is set up in the same format as the government of the US?  I certain was.

It was very enlightening for me to see how the structure is set up with the same checks and balances.  It seems that the founding folks of the United Methodist Church has the same understanding and distrust of putting to much authority in place as did those individuals who set up our government in America.  Just like the American system of an executive branch, a judicial branch, and a legislative branch the Methodist Church also has three distinct branches with a distinct separation of powers.

Unlike the executive branch of the US, however, the Methodist Church does not have an elected president but instead has elected bishops (the Council of Bishops).  The bishops oversee temporal and spiritual issues of the church.   The legislative branch of the church is the General Conference that makes church law in accord with the authority given them by the constitution.  The workings of the General Conference are published in the Book of Discipline.  The judicial branch of the church is the Judicial Council that rules on the constitutional nature of the rules and policies passed by the General Assembly and also governed by a Constitution and Book of Discipline.  Like the Supreme Court in America, the rule of the Judicial Council is the final say.  Knowing how the system works can help us understand the uniqueness of our United Methodist polity and how it provides a structure of accountability for everyone while providing for everyone to have a voice.

People want to know why things are done as they are.  They have questions and concerns that can only be answered through an understanding of how and why we do what we do.  It is important for them to understand that, as a community of faith, the United Methodist Church has a tradition which has sustained us because of its built in accountability and strict separation in its delegation of authority.   The structure of the Methodist Church is not easily changed by a few nor is it overburdened by bureaucracy that cannot change and adapt to the times.  We have a structure which we can trust and participate in covenant that is worth our supporting.  Confidence builds commitment and commitment with the gifts and graces builds the church.

I will be writing more upon the polity of the Church in days to come.