United Methodist Church

United Methodist Church, religious body formed by the union in 1968 of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church (see Methodism), with churches in the United States, Africa, and other regions. Emphasizing ecumenism, the church, which is the largest Methodist church in the world and and the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, has broadened its social involvement, concentrating its efforts not only on spiritual, but on also material, aspects of the individual's well-being. In 1988, the General Conference broadened the basis of doctrine to include the resources of tradition, experience, and reason. In 1996 it eliminated preparatory membership and granted full membership to those who had been baptized. Members confirming their faith at a later age are now professing members. In the early 21st cent., the church has been divided over the issues of gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriage, and those divisions led by 2020 to plans to split the denomination. The church has an inclusive membership of about 7 million in the United States and 12.6 million worldwide.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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