How We Are Governed & Structured

How We Are Governed

United Methodists are distinct in their emphasis on Christian living. We are noted for putting love into action. We embrace grace as the love and mercy given freely to people by God. While the church is governed by a Book of Discipline and guided by Social Principles, many United Methodists do not agree on some of the most pressing social issues of the day. This diversity of thought is often one of the church’s greatest strengths.  (to view our Book of Discipline or Social Principles, visit to view these text at no cost.) To help explore these differences in theology and ways of thinking about God, United Methodists look first to the Bible, then to illumination by tradition, enlivening by experience, and confirmation by reason. We also follow three general rules: do no harm by avoiding evil; do good of every possible sort; obey God by seeking wisdom and justice, and correcting oppression. For United Methodists, church is not a building, nor an event on Sunday morning. Church is a way of life.

Book of Discipline

A fundamental book outlining the law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures of The United Methodist Church. Each General Conference amends The Book of Discipline, and the actions of the General Conference are reflected in the quadrennial revision. Often referred to as The Discipline. In short, many churches haave by-laws which govern them, the Book of Discipline are the by-laws of all United Methodist Churches including SMNL. To read our Book of Discipline, please visit:

Social Principles (A Concise Overview)

  • All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. (For more information visit )
  • The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. (For more information visit )
  • The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. (For more information visit )
  • We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies that provide for the economic life of individuals and corporate entities and that ensure full employment and adequate incomes with a minimum of inflation. (For more information visit )
  • While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. (For more information visit )
  • God’s world is one world. The unity now being thrust upon us by technological revolution has far outrun our moral and spiritual capacity to achieve a stable world. The enforced unity of humanity, increasingly evident on all levels of life, presents the Church as well as all people with problems that will not wait for answer: injustice, war, exploitation, privilege, population, international ecological crisis, proliferation of arsenals of nuclear weapons, development of transnational business organizations that operate beyond the effective control of any governmental structure, and the increase of tyranny in all its forms. This generation must find viable answers to these and related questions if humanity is to continue on this earth. We commit ourselves as a Church to the achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another. We pledge ourselves to seek the meaning of the gospel in all issues that divide people and threaten the growth of world community. (For more information visit )

How We Are Structured 

The United Methodist ChurchBaltimore Washington Annual ConferenceBaltimore Metropolitan DistrictSt. Matthew’s New Life UMC (SMNL)

  • 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.
  • The General Conference (The United Methodist Church) the primary legislative body of The United Methodist Church, is the only body that speaks officially for the church. Meeting once every four years to determine legislation affecting connectional matters, it is composed of no fewer than 600 and no more than 1,000 delegates. An equal number of lay and clergy delegates are elected from United Methodist conferences around the world to decide matters of policy and procedure for the denomination. General agencies are created by the General Conference and administer or carry out the programs and directives adopted by General Conference.
  • The Council of Bishops gives general oversight of the ministry and mission of the church and spiritual leadership to the entire church connection. Composed of all active and retired bishops, the council meets as a group at least once a year. Bishops are elected by Jurisdictional Conferences and assigned to a particular area, made up of one or more annual conferences. Each bishop provides oversight of the ministry and mission of annual conferences in his or her area and appoints all clergy to their places of service.
  • Jurisdictional Conferences (Northeastern Jurisdiction)—There are five geographic jurisdictions, or regions, in the United States, which are comprised of eight to 15 annual conferences each.
  • The Annual Conference (Baltimore Washington) 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 (Book of Discipline, ¶ 11).
  • Districts—(Baltimore Metropolitan)—Each  local church is part of a district, which is an administrative grouping of churches in a geographic area.
  • Charge Conferences and Local Churches—(SMNL)—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 world.