Methodist Church

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Methodist Church
Methodist Church
Belief Methodism
organization Connexionalism
distribution worldwide
membership World Council of Methodist Churches , World Council of Churches
Establishment date April 23, 1968
Place of foundation Dallas
Origin and development
successor of

Methodist Episcopal Church (1849), Evangelical Community (1850)

Members 12,469,674 (2016)
Clergy 47,403 (2016)
Communities 41,826 (2004), 44,512 (2016)
Tax position Free Church
Also called: UMC (abbreviation)

The United Methodist Church (abbreviation in Germany and Austria: UMC, Switzerland: EMF; English UMC for United Methodist Church ) is a church in the Wesleyan tradition. It is based on the Reformation and its theology was influenced by Anglican , Lutheran , Herrnhut and moderate Calvinist influences.

She is one of eighty members of the World Council of Methodist Churches , a fellowship of independent churches in the Wesleyan tradition. Members of the United Methodist Church, like members of other Methodist churches, are referred to as Methodists .


The Evangelical Methodist Church has the largest number of members of the Methodist churches. It is most strongly represented in the United States , where it is the second largest Protestant church behind the Southern Baptist Convention . The development of the number of members is very different around the world.

Region / Central Conference Church members 1998 Church members 2008 change Change in percent
Africa 128 016 374 090 +246 074 + 192%
Germany 39 800 33 364 −6 436 −16%
Congo 630 697 1,090,863 +460 166 + 73%
Northern Europe and Eurasia 19 110 15 560 −3 550 −19%
Philippines 66 901 201 344 +134 443 +201%
United States 8 363 584 7 774 420 −589 164 −7%
West Africa 316 825 1 636 815 +1 319 990 + 417%
Central and Southern Europe 22 218 16 162 −6 056 −27%
Total 9 587 151 11 142 618 +1 555 467 + 16%

Source of statistics: 2010 State of the Church: Membership

The United Methodist Church distinguishes between church members and church members. Church members are baptized adults or religion Empowered , the occasion of her baptism have expressed known and their affiliation will or a recording service in a prescribed liturgical form of their faith before the congregation. Church members are all those who have been baptized in the congregation but have not (yet) gone through an admission ritual (mainly children of church members). Worldwide there are around 2.5 million church members in addition to church members.

New logo (since Nov. 22, 2008) of the UMC in Germany
Logo of the UMC in Austria and Switzerland (also used in Germany until 2008), internally jokingly called "Split tablet"

In Germany there are around 50,000 members and relatives (together) of the UMC, in Switzerland around 5,000 and in Austria just under 1,300. The Methodist Church in Germany is mainly represented in the Stuttgart area and in parts of south-west Saxony ( West , Central Ore Mountains and Saxon Vogtland ).

In Switzerland, the UMC is predominantly represented in the cantons with a reformed tradition, with a focus on the Basel , Aargau , Zurich , Bern , Bernese Oberland , Biel and Lausanne area . The number of members decreased sharply over the decades: from twenty thousand members in 1970 to five thousand in 2019. The share of UMC members in the total Swiss population was 0.17% in 1970, 0.09% in 1980, 0.15% in 1990 , 2000 0.12% and 2019 0.06%.


The United Methodist Church is strongly networked locally and worldwide in a network ( Konnexionalismus, English connection ), in contrast to other free churches , which emphasize the leadership by elders ( Presbyterianism ) or the independence of the congregations ( congregationalism ) .

The legislature of the international church exercise the so-called conferences, which decide on questions of faith and administration up to the church constitution and church order of the whole church. The word “conference” is used both in its narrow sense (gathering to discuss matters, similar to a synod ) as well as in the meaning of a permanent institution and a spatial meaning.

  • The highest body is the General Conference (GC), which meets every four years. She is responsible for all matters specifically relating to the Church as a whole.
  • The Central Conferences (CC), which usually cover the area of ​​several (annual) conferences, were introduced outside the United States in the 20th century . Central conferences have the right to adapt the church order to local conditions to a certain extent. (The constitution of the Churches applies equally everywhere.) The United States is divided into jurisdictions that are on the same level as the Central Conferences. The geographical division of the countries at central conferences has grown over time.
  • The territorial areas of the Annual Conferences (JK) include districts , each with a larger number of districts. Few delegates have the right to vote in a JK. The JK are the basic bodies in the Church. The districts are headed by superintendents .
  • The lowest level consists of the district conferences (BK), which, depending on the size of the municipality, comprise one or more municipalities. They are responsible for all church work and all church institutions in their district. The composition of the district conferences (BK) is regulated differently in the central conferences of Germany and Central and Southern Europe; Not all members of the district have the right to vote in the BK, but some elected members.

The Annual Conferences, the Central Conferences and the General Conference are equal , that is , composed equally of lay delegates and full-time clergy, with the lay delegates being elected from the next lower level. The bishops always have only one vote in the respective conferences, lead them more as a moderator and, in their function as representatives of the church, can only represent the positions democratically developed by the conferences.

The pastors / ministers (in Switzerland pastors / pastor ) are not employed by the municipality, but by the parent conference. They receive an annual assignment from the respective bishop to a parish district, which they change accordingly at irregular, mostly multi-year intervals. In German-speaking countries, their training usually takes place at the Reutlingen Theological University .

As a free church, the Methodist Church does not collect church taxes ; it is financed solely through voluntary contributions from its members.

The Jurisdictional and Central Conferences

A UMC building in Zurich

The Church is organized into five jurisdictional conferences in the United States: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western.

Outside the United States, the Church is organized into Central Conferences (CC), which are organized on the same level as the Jurisdictional Conferences.

Annual conferences in the German-speaking area

  • Central Conference Germany , the acting bishop is Harald Rückert
    • North German conference with the districts of Berlin, Essen and Hamburg in the federal states of Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and partly Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (96 municipalities)
    • East German conference with the districts of Dresden and Zwickau in the federal states of Saxony and partially Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (116 municipalities)
    • South German conference with the districts of Nuremberg, Reutlingen, Stuttgart, Heidelberg in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and partially Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia (242 municipalities)
  • Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe, the acting bishop is Patrick Streiff
    • Annual conference Hungary (45 parishes)
    • Annual conference Austria (9 municipalities)
    • Annual conference Czech Republic (27 municipalities) and Slovakia (15 municipalities)
    • Annual conference Poland (37 parishes)
    • Annual conference Switzerland / France with France (20 parishes), Switzerland (133 parishes) and North Africa
    • Annual conference Bulgaria (37 parishes)
    • Annual conference Serbia and Montenegro (18 parishes) and Macedonia (13 parishes)
Structurally directly subordinate to the bishop:
  • Croatia (2 municipalities)
  • Albania (1 municipality)



The United Methodist Church originated in the United States of America and was constituted in 1784 at the so-called Christmas Conference in Baltimore. It emerged from a revival movement around the Anglican clergyman John Wesley , which originated in England.

The present church emerged in 1968 from the union of the Methodist Church (1939 emerged from the union of the Episcopal Methodist Church with the Protestant Methodist Church and the Episcopal Methodist Church, South ) with the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1945 emerged from the Evangelical Community and the Church of the United Brothers in Christ , but still represented in the German-speaking area under the name Evangelical Community ).

Methodism in Central Europe

Methodist Church of Peace in Oldenburg

Methodism took hold on the European continent in the second half of the 19th century. On the one hand, this happened through returning emigrants who had found Methodism in America, in particular from the Church of the United Brothers in Christ and the Evangelical Community, and , on the other hand, through the work of English-speaking Methodist missionaries from the British Methodist Church and various American Methodist churches. Thus continental Methodism developed out of four Methodist branches that gradually merged. The last of these associations Methodist related churches was that of the Methodist Episcopal Church ( Methodist Church ) and the Evangelical Association (actually Evangelical United Brethren Church ) to the United Methodist Church in 1968. The German beginnings of Methodism lay in Wuerttemberg and caused by contacts with the English Methodist Church from around 1830. In 1859 the British Methodists also sent the first ordained pastor to Württemberg. At the same time, a missionary work of the Episcopal Methodist Church began in Bremen from 1849 , and it expanded to Saxony. The work of the Evangelical Community also began in Württemberg from 1850 . Resistance to Methodism hardly arose for doctrinal reasons, but this democratic church with roots abroad was a thorn in the side of the nationally and hierarchically organized churches in Germany. From 1919 on, the Methodists were able to benefit from the freedom of religion guaranteed for the first time in Germany in the Weimar Constitution .

The first Methodist congregation in Switzerland was founded in Lausanne in 1840 as a result of proselytizing by the English Wesleyan Church . The Swiss branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church began to operate in 1856. As a result, the first German sermon was given in Lausanne on February 24, 1856. In the same year up to 400 people gathered in the hall of the Zunft zur Waag in Zurich. The mission in Basel began in 1860. In 1956, the Methodist Episcopal Church from the United States began its work in Zurich, and in 1866 the Evangelical Brothers founded their first congregation in Bern. Today's United Methodist Church in Switzerland, like the United Methodist Church as a whole, has its roots in three Methodist movements.

In Austria Methodism arose from 1870 mainly through missionaries from southern Germany. For the first 50 years, Austrian Methodists only had preachers from abroad. The Methodist Church was not legally recognized in Austria until 1951 with the support of the Allies. Previously, in 1892 and 1920, the application for legal recognition was rejected.

From 1912 there was a European district of the Methodist Church, headed as bishop by the German-American John Louis Nuelsen . In 1925 the three central conferences Northern Europe, Central Europe and Southern Europe were founded. Bishop Nuelsen directed Central Europe, which included Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

In 1924, the General Conference of the Methodist Church initiated a global structural change. It led, now also for political reasons, after the National Socialists came to power , in 1936 in Germany to the central conference of the Episcopal Methodist Church in Germany under Bishop FH Otto Melle . The Methodist Church was largely loyal to the state, which left more leeway than usual. Now it has also been recognized as a public corporation at the level of the Reich.

The now so-called Genfer Sprengel, to which Bulgaria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia belonged in addition to Switzerland and Austria, was still under the direction of Bishop Nuelsen. This district was given the status of a central conference in 1940, but due to the Second World War, the congregations had no connection between the individual countries. After the Second World War, contacts with Belgium and the French Methodist who had recently joined the Geneva district were possible. Only the connections with the Methodists in the countries of the Eastern bloc remained difficult. In 1954 the Swiss Ferdinand Sigg was elected bishop of the Geneva district, the first bishop to be elected by this central conference itself.

The division between East and West was particularly noticeable in Germany. The only intact common structure in the Methodist Church in Germany was the Bishopric with its seat in Frankfurt until 1968. In 1970 there were two German Methodist bishops, Armin Härtel was elected bishop of the UMC in the GDR. Attempts were made to maintain contacts at the official and community level. In 1992 a joint German Central Conference was convened again.

Imminent splitting of the United Methodist Church into two Methodist churches

The blessing of same-sex couples and the ordination of homosexuals has been deliberated and discussed in the Church since the 2000s, and has resulted in the formation of traditional and progressive wings. A special general conference was held in early 2019, at which the church leadership presented a plan for reconciliation. Under the One Church Plan , individual congregations and regional conferences should decide the question of the inclusion of LGBTQ members in the future. The general conference rejected the One Church Plan and opted for the Traditional Plan, which uses biblical teachings to reject any form of homosexuality among laypeople and clergy of the Church and threatens church punishment. The member churches in the USA with around 60% of the world membership appeared to be roughly evenly divided, while the churches outside the USA and especially the fast-growing churches in Africa and Southeast Asia voted almost unanimously against the plan of the church leadership.

After all attempts to maintain unity had failed, representatives of the various schools in the Methodist Church came to an agreement on December 19, 2019 in a “ Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” for splitting by establishing a "traditional Methodist Church" ( traditionalist Methodist church ). The future “traditional Methodist Church” is to receive US $ 25 million as start-up capital. The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops approved the deal on January 2, 2020.


Special features of the United Methodist Church

In the forerunners of the United Methodist Church, women were ordained as early as the 19th century . In 1956, the general conference decided that men and women should have equal rights access to the ministry.

Diaconia and social affairs

The Diakonia belongs to the essence-and expression of life of the United Methodist Church. She is traditionally involved in various social welfare organizations. The church has adopted a social commitment in which it commits itself to social engagement and which is now part of its teaching principles.

Social commitment of the United Methodist Church

We believe in God, the Creator of the world, and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all created things, and in the Holy Spirit through whom we know God's gifts.
We confess that we have abused these gifts many times and repent of our guilt.
We testify that the natural world is God's work of creation. We want to protect them and use them responsibly.
We gratefully accept the possibilities of human community. We stand up for the right of every individual to meaningful development in society.
We stand for the right and duty of all people to contribute to the well-being of the individual and the community.
We stand up for overcoming injustice and need.
We are committed to working for global peace and advocate justice and justice among nations.
We are ready to share our life opportunities with the disadvantaged. We see it as an answer to God's love.
We recognize God's Word as the standard in all human matters now and in the future.
We believe in God's present and ultimate victory. We accept his commission to live the gospel in our world.

Diaconal institutions in Germany

Under the umbrella of the Evangelical Methodist Church, there are a number of diaconal institutions in Germany, which are organized in the Association of Evangelical Methodist Diakoniewerke (EmD).

These diaconal works include:

  • 13 hospitals
  • Retirement homes
  • 11 senior centers with nursing homes
  • 3 nursing schools
  • 2 day care centers
  • 2 holiday homes
  • 3 Diakonie welfare stations

There are also other focal points, such as help for addicts and the work of several social services. A wide variety of facilities are also located in the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany in this way: old people's homes and senior centers, facilities for rehabilitation and addict support, health establishments as well as recreation and leisure facilities.

Diaconal works in Switzerland

The Diakoniewerke, which arose in Switzerland from the work of the Evangelical Methodist Church, are today usually legally independent, but receive strong financial and personal support from the congregations. These include two hospitals, eight retirement and nursing homes, two shared apartments, a day-care center, three hotels, a backpacker hostel and the young group of the United Methodist Church .


Methodist Evangelical Reconciliation Church Eningen under Achalm

The United Methodist Church is heavily involved in the ecumenical movement both globally and locally .

The United Methodist Church is a member of the World Council of Methodist Churches and takes part in all of its ecumenical dialogues. She is also a member of the World Council of Churches . Furthermore, in 2006 the Methodist World Council signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation . The UMC is assigned to the Mainline Churches .

At the European level, the UMC co-signed the European Charter Oecumenica and has been a member of the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe (formerly the Leuenberg Agreement ) since 1995 , with whose member churches it practices pulpit and communion fellowship .

The German UMC is a member of the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany and the Association of Evangelical Free Churches , and some clergy and lay people of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany work together with the Evangelical Alliance at the local level . After detailed doctrinal discussions with the Evangelical Churches in Germany (the EKD), the Central Conference Germany has been linked in a pulpit and communion community since 1987.

In Switzerland, the UMC is part of the Evangelical Reformed Church Switzerland and the Association of Evangelical Free Churches and Congregations in Switzerland with the Reformed regional churches . In addition, the local congregations are usually also members of the local Evangelical Alliance.

In 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Methodist Church in the USA came to an agreement regarding communion together , at that time without interchangeability of clergy, which was seen as a step towards a full communion fellowship. The two churches are currently working on a document, “Confessing our Faith Together”. Since 2009 there has been a pulpit and sacrament fellowship between the ELCA and the United Methodist Church. There is an interim communion with the American Episcopal Church .

At European level, the UMC Council (European Methodist European Methodist Council ) and in the Methodist Council for working with children and adolescents ( EMYC , European Methodist Youth & Children's Council).


  • Richard R. Heitzenrater: John Wesley and early Methodism (= publications of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany ). Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-7675-7076-4 , urn : nbn: de: 101: 1-201607041344 .
  • Walter Klaiber , Manfred Marquardt: Lived grace. Outline of a theology of the Evangelical Methodist Church (= publications of the Evangelical Methodist Church. ). 2nd Edition. Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-7675-9497-8 .
  • Karl Steckel, Ernst summer (ed.): History of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Path, nature and mission of Methodism with special consideration of the German-speaking countries of Europe (= publications of the Evangelical Methodist Church ). 3. Edition. Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-7675-7496-0 , urn : nbn: de: 101: 1-20160411859 .
  • Patrick Streiff : Methodism in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Media work of the Evangelical Methodist Church, o. O. 2003, ISBN 3-89725-029-2 .
  • Karl Heinz Voigt : The Methodist Church in the Third Reich (= contributions to the history of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Volume 8). Christian publishing house, Stuttgart 1980, DNB 800460456 .
  • Martin Schmidt : John Wesley. 2 volumes. Gotthelf, Zurich a. a. 1953-1966.
  • Paul Ernst Hammer: Baroness Amelie von Langenau [1830–1902]. Methodist Church in Austria, Vienna 2001 [it was important for the Methodists in Vienna and Germany in the 1890s].
  • Rupert E. Davies: Methodism. 2nd edition. 4. Pressure. Epworth Press, London 1999, ISBN 0-7162-0280-8 (English).


  • In the 1980s, the bread-for-the-world game was created in the GDR . The parlor game for two to four people was conceived and produced in the United Methodist Church. It promoted the goals and support of the German church aid organization “ Bread for the World ”. One copy of the game belongs to the holdings of the Leipzig Contemporary History Forum .

Web links


  1. 150 Years of the Evangelical Methodist Church. 2000, pp. 37-39.
  2. a b c Data Services. QUICK UMC FACTS. In: The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of the UMC, accessed April 16, 2019 .
  3. Quick Facts. Statistics for the year ending 2004. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 7, 2007 ; Retrieved August 1, 2007 .
  4. Handbook of Religious Communities and World Views. 2006, p. 108.
  5. 2010 State of the Church: Membership ( English ) The United Methodist Church. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  6. Figures of the Evangelical Methodist Church (Germany). As of December 31, 2017 (accessed: March 5, 2019).
  7. Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe , as of March 2019.
  8. Jörg Stolz, Olivier Favre u. a .: The phenomenon of free churches. Analysis of a highly competitive environment. Zurich 2014, p. 40.
  9. ^ Stefan Schweyer: Contextual Church Theory. Theological Publishing House Zurich, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-290-17439-2 , p. 35.
  10. Steckel / Sommer 1982, pp. 280, 285.
  11. ^ Structure of the Church. Numbers. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on August 9, 2009 ; accessed on April 16, 2019 (information on the conferences).
  12. Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe .
  13. Movement towards Union, 1940-1967. (No longer available online.) In: 2005, archived from the original on December 28, 2006 ; Retrieved April 16, 2019 : "From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House."
  14. ^ Alfred Schütz: The Methodist Church in Switzerland. In: Karl Steckel, C. Ernst Sommer (ed.): History of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Christian publishing house, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-7675-7496-9 , p. 123 f.
  15. Cf. Karl Heinz Voigt: V The Methodist Church in Germany. In: Steckel / Sommer, 1982, p. 99.
  16. Cf. Karl Heinz Voigt: The Methodist Church in the Third Reich. P. 12 f.
  17. The Methodist Church in the German Democratic Republic. Edited by the UMC in the GDR, editor: Gerhard Rögner, 1970.
  18. Emma Green: Conservative Christians Just Retook the United Methodist Church. In: The Atlantic . February 26, 2019, accessed April 16, 2019.
  19. ^ Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation , accessed January 7, 2020.
  20. ^ Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation , here Art. IV: Financial Agreement Terms of this Protocol .
  21. Press release of the Council of Bishops Office: United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation , January 3, 2020, accessed on January 7, 2020.
  22. Why does The United Methodist Church ordain women? on the UMC website, accessed on August 4, 2017.
  23. 20 years of church fellowship between Protestant regional churches and the Evangelical Methodist Church. Press release. In:, September 27, 2007, accessed on April 16, 2019.
  24. See EmK, VELKD, AKf: From dialogue to pulpit and communion. Lutherisches Verlagshaus Hannover, Christian Verlagshaus Stuttgart, 1987.
  25. ^ Interim Eucharistic Sharing between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The United Methodist Church ( Memento July 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). In:, accessed on April 9, 2018 (PDF; 83 kB).
  26. Forms of Ecumenism ( Memento of 31 March 2010 at the Internet Archive ).
  27. United Methodist Church Adopts Full Communion Proposal with ELCA ( Memento of October 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). In: April 30, 2008, accessed April 9, 2018.
  28. ELCA approves full communion with United Methodist Church ( Memento from January 26, 2013 in the web archive ). In: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, August 21, 2009, accessed April 9, 2018 (top of article).
  29. ^ Editor according to the game instructions: Material center of the children's work of the Evangelical Methodist Church, GDR-9230 Brand-Erbisdorf.
  30. Bread-for-the-World Game. In:, accessed on February 20, 2018.