by Scott Selman
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
Matthew 28:19 (NRSV)
The United Methodist connection is an important part of our denomination’s heritage. It is a global network of interactive relationships shared by individuals, local churches, and many other groups in ministry together. Our connection has multiple levels that provide opportunities for service locally and around the world, and characterizes our identity as United Methodists.
As noted in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, our connectional system (1) embraces God’s mission for the church as making disciples for Jesus Christ, (2) enables local churches, the primary arena for mission, to faithfully and fruitfully make disciples for Jesus Christ, and (3) ensures that all components of the connection carry out their appropriate responsibilities in ways that enable the whole United Methodist Church to be faithful in its mission.
United Methodists experience the connection in many ways. We have a common tradition of faith. Our structure includes local churches, districts, annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences, central conferences (outside the United States), and a General Conference. We share a constitutional polity and observe the connection in our episcopacy, itineracy, and property ownership. We also have a common spirit that is pervasive throughout our fellowship.
Our connection provides pulpit leadership for local churches and helps the North Alabama Conference meet the fiscal challenges of itinerant ministry. Consider the following:
- Pastors are appointed to every local church in the Conference in consultation with local staff-parish relations committees.
- Connectional funding helps the Conference start new churches and ensures that all full-time pastors receive a salary at no less than the minimum amount approved by the Conference.
- The Ministerial Education Fund provides resources for the recruitment and education of persons answering the call to ordained ministry.
- The Conference provides an excellent health insurance benefit for clergy, makes required contributions to the clergy pension and comprehensive protection plans, reimburses retiring pastors for moving expenses, and offers a unique housing program for eligible retired ministers.
The United Methodist connection also facilitates our ability to make disciples of all nations:
- Imagine the difficulties a small membership church would have supporting its own missionary, or building a Christian university in Africa! Conference budget askings (apportionments) help local churches reach beyond their own communities.
- Conference Advance Specials and General Advance Specials are successful voluntary programs of financial giving that provide funding for thousands of ministries in over 100 countries.
A list of Conference Advances is published in the Conference Journal and information concerning General Advances is available online or in the Conference Treasurer’s office.
- The United Methodist Church celebrates six special Sundays with offerings on an annual basis. These Sundays illustrate the calling of the church and include: Human Relations Day, One Great Hour of Sharing, World Communion Sunday, United Methodist Student Day, Peace with Justice Sunday, and Native American Ministries Sunday. The recommended dates for observing these Sundays are announced each year in a Council on Finance report included in the Conference Journal. Additional information about the special Sundays is available online or in the Conference Treasurer’s office.
- United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), SEJ is an agency of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church that provides opportunities for individuals to be in service to others by volunteering for short-term mission opportunities. Additional information is available online.
Thus, our connectional system helps define our ministry, communicates who we are as United Methodists, encourages good stewardship, and enables us accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom of Jesus Christ.