Local Churches

Local Churches are communities of true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment. Usually, each local church (or perhaps a group of a few small churches) is in the care of an ordained member of the clergy and is known as a pastoral charge. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, outreach to the community, and to engage in the mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ.

At least once a year each pastoral charge organizes a charge conference under the leadership of the district superintendent. This body is the ultimate decision-making organization within the local church and performs such functions as: approving the annual budget as recommended by the Church Council (see below); recommending and approving candidates for ordained ministry; approving lay servants (e.g., those qualified to preach); and identifying and approving officers and members for major church committees such as the trustees, finance, and the parish council.


Districts are definite geographical and administrative subdivisions of an Annual Conference (see below) and usually consist of several tens of local charges under the guidance of a district superintendent. The number of districts is determined by the Annual Conference. The boundaries of the districts are determined by the bishop after consultation with the district superintendents. Fairhaven belongs to the Central Maryland District.

Annual Conference

The Annual Conference is the basic organizational body in The United Methodist Church. An Annual Conference includes all United Methodist churches in a geographically defined area. For example, the Baltimore-Washington conference consists of eight districts containing a total of several hundred churches, led by a bishop. The membership of the Annual Conference consists of an equal number of lay and clergy members, and at least one lay person from each pastoral charge is to be a member. Members of the Annual Conference have the right to vote on all constitutional amendments and to elect delegates to delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences (see below). Members also establish the budget for the Annual Conference and vote on all matters related to the organizational life of its agencies and institutions. There are 58 annual conferences in the USA and seven overseas, known as Central Conferences.

The General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church and convenes once every four years. Its attendees consist of lay and clergy members from each Annual and Central conference. It can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs.

You can learn more here about the connectional organization of the Methodist Church.