The Union Methodist Church (UMC) is the mainline Protestant Church today with approximately 80 million followers across the world.
The General Conference is the main governing body officially though there is a hierarchical structure that is similar to the US Government.
Elders, Local Pastors, Associate members and Deacons make up the local clergy who are member s of the annual conference and not the local church.
Deacons are of two kinds: one is a full member of the conference and is fully ordained and the other is an ordained local pastor but is an associate member. The local pastors are accountable to the Elder and the clergy are accountable to each other with the help of a covenant. There are certified lay ministers too who are appointed to serve a church but strictly under the direction and supervision of an Elder.
The Bishop is appointed for a specific Episcopal area and is the presiding Bishop of all the annual conferences of the Church .They are the administrative and pastoral superintendents of the church and are elected from amongst ordained elders. In the United Methodist Church, the Bishop in empowered to consecrate and ordain the clergy which is one of their most critical duties.
All the clergy appointments are made on a fixed term annual basis by the resident Bishop as advised by the Annual Conference Cabinet.
Council of Bishops
They hold a very important position in the United Methodist Church. This Episcopal leadership is known as the Council of Bishops. They give a focus to the Christian unity and interreligious relationships.
The Elders are appointed to the local Church or other valid extension ministries and are authorised to preach Christianity, conduct the sacraments of the Church and are ordained by a Bishop and affirmed by the Church. Prior to the final ordination the Elders are required to serve as a provisional Elder.
They are ordained by the Church to become leaders of the Church. They preach, conduct marriages, and bury the dead. They also assist the Elders during the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism and are also appointed the Pastor of a local church. The Deacons too need to prove themselves by serving as a provisional Deacon for two to three years before ordination.
Apart from preaching and administering sacraments, they also provide care and counselling but are not ordained.
This class is broadly divided into two groups: Baptized Members and Professing Members. The Baptized members were baptized as infants bit still profess their own faith and they become Professing Members with confirmation and profession of faith.
These Lay members are extremely important for the UMC. The Professing members take part in all the major decision making of the Church and serve the Church in such peculiar roles like a Lay servant and a Lay minister too.