First Church is a United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church was created on April 23, 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church united to form a new denomination. Methodism in the U.S. dates back to 1736 when John and Charles Wesley came to the New World to spread the movement they began as students in England.
United Methodists share a historic connection to other Methodist and Wesleyan bodies. United Methodist leaders often speak of the denomination as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning.
The United Methodist structure and organization began as a means of accomplishing the mission of spreading scriptural holiness. Methodism’s founder John Wesley recognized the need for an organized system of communication and accountability and developed what he called the “connexion,” a network of classes, societies, and annual conferences.
Today our denomination continues to be organized in a “connectional” system which “enables us to carry out our mission in unity and strength.” (Book of Discipline, ¶ 701) Every local church is linked to an interconnected network of organizations that join together in mission and ministry, allowing us to accomplish far more than any one local church or person could alone.
Within the connectional structure of The United Methodist Church, conferences provide the primary groupings of people and churches for discernment and decision-making. Wesley described Christian conferencing as a spiritual discipline through which God’s grace may be revealed. At every level of the connection, church leaders and members come together in conversation, or conferencing, to discuss important issues and discover God’s will for the church. The word, conference, thus refers to both the assembly and organization of people as well as the process of discerning God’s call together.
As the primary legislative body, General Conference is the only entity with the authority to speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference meets every four years to consider the business and mission of the church. An equal number of lay and clergy delegates is elected from United Methodist conferences around the world to decide matters of policy and procedure for the denomination. The General Conference must approve any changes in the Book of Discipline which contains instructions and guidelines for how churches function.
There are five geographic jurisdictions or regions in the United States. Each jurisdiction or region is comprised of 8 to 15 annual conferences each.
In Africa, Europe and the Philippines, there are seven geographical regions, called central conferences, each of which is comprised of annual conferences and divided into several episcopal areas.
The annual conference is a geographical entity, an organizational body (made up of elected lay and clergy members), and a yearly meeting. It is the fundamental body of the church.
Each local church is part of a district which is an administrative grouping of churches in a geographic area.
Charge Conferences and Local Churches
As the visible presence of the body of Christ, the local church is the place where members grow in faith and discipleship, putting their faith into action through ministry in the community and the world.
For more information go to www.umc.org
First Church belongs to the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church stretches more than 700 miles from just west of Tallahassee to the Florida Keys. There are about 700 churches with approximately 300,000 members from African-American, Anglo, Filipino, Haitian, Hispanic, Korean, Native American, Russian, Indian, Jamaican and Vietnamese backgrounds. The Florida Conference is in partnership with the Eastern Angola Conference and the Methodist Churches of Cuba and Haiti in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The Rev. Kenneth Carter serves as the bishop of The Florida Conference. For additional information on the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, you can visit www.flumc.org.
First Church belongs to the Southwest District of the Florida Conference. Rev. Rini Hernandez serves at the district superintendent of the Southwest District, about 80 churches stretching along the southwest coast of Florida from Bradenton to Naples and extending eastward to include Frostproof, Sebring, Lake Placid, and Clewiston. www.flumc.org/southwest