United Methodist Church
*Distribution (membership): Africa: 1,631,631 Asia: 179,452 Europe: 72,677 USA: 8,219,563
The United Methodist Church, now one of the largest Protestant denominations in the USA and with member churches in Africa, Asia and Europe, has its roots in English, Dutch and German groups working among the early settlers. The Methodist Episcopal Church, following the principles of John Wesley, was officially organized in 1784. During the 19th century, Methodism spread to Africa, Asia and Latin America through missionary efforts. The early 20th century brought about various unions. In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church united into the Methodist Church, which created a "central jurisdiction", i.e., a non-geographical (segregated) jurisdiction based upon race. In 1946 the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Church became the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which united with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church in 1968. The central jurisdiction was abolished. During the last half century mission churches, especially in Asia and Latin America, have become autonomous, although the parent denomination maintains close ties with them as it does with its own "mother church", the Methodist Church in Great Britain.
The UMC reflects the diversified society of the nation. Even though the official social creed of the church could be considered as liberal, individual members hold widely differing views on political and social issues. Throughout Methodism's history new congregations in particular communities have been made up of various ethnic groups - black, Asian, European, Native American, Hispanic, speaking several languages - sometimes integrated, sometimes not. Presently the UMC is growing most rapidly in Korea, parts of Africa and among newly arrived Asians and Hispanics in the USA. The church considers itself to be "an inclusive society without regard to ethnic origin, economic condition, sex or age of its constituents". It is striving to implement the gospel in the lives of persons and in the structures of society, joining in ecumenical efforts to these ends. The ethnic minority constituency of the UMC is larger than that of most other predominantly white religious bodies. One of the priorities is the development and strengthening of ethnic minority local churches. Among other priorities are the special emphases on education for awareness and responsibility for world hunger, peace with justice, television ministry, church and campus, Africa, and strengthening local churches through an emphasis on family life and evangelism.
The church's four programme agencies - Church and Society, Discipleship, Global Ministries, and Higher Education and Ministry - indicate its understanding of the principal concerns. There are also five active general commissions: Christian unity and inter-religious concerns, communications, religion and race, the status and role of women, and archives and history. The church has relationships with united churches with Methodist components and with affiliated autonomous churches in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Uruguay.