For anyone reading who is not aware, this is how the United Methodist Church is organized and also why United Methodists often refer to “the connection“.
That is all well and good for church structure, but here is what the connection means to me, and I believe should mean to everyone else who claims membership in the United Methodist Church.
First, the connection means that it is about something bigger than me. Not just my faith, but my church attendance, my gifts, using my talents the best that I can. It is about something bigger. It is about supporting the call of Christ through the work of the UMC as a connection. It is about more than my local church, but the world wide church. It is about helping in my community, but also about helping the world at large. The connection means we are a small part of a large tool for God.
Second, the connection means (in it’s best moments) that I can be assured that the beliefs and structures of the church have been pondered, discussed, and agreed upon by a majority. Understanding that none of us knows it all or gets it all correct, with many voices, the Holy Spirit has many opportunities to be heard and to act through people. Does this mean it is always right at that time? Nope, but it does mean that there is a better chance to get it right eventually. It also means that (in it’s best moments) that there is a recourse that I can pursue should the beliefs of the church not be upheld as they should be.
This is the big one it means to me though, and the one I truly believe that we all need to be buying into. The connection means that if you say something mean spirited to my brother, you say it to me. If you insult and intentionally attempt to harm another United Methodist, and truly another Christian, you are doing so to me. When you make a fellow Christian outcast because they think and believe differently than you, you have done it to me. When Paul says we are one body, this is what he is talking about. When Christ says when you did it to the least you did it to me, this is a part of the meaning. The connection does not mean we always agree. It may not even mean that we like each other. What it does mean is that we are in this together.