The Connectional Church

‘Connectionalism’ is not about who knows who. It is not about making connections with influential people to climb the social ladder or for financial gain.

Did you know that the Methodist Church is called “the Connection”? (It is sometimes spelled “connexion”, an accepted if archaic spelling that is unique to Methodists.)

The United Methodist Church often uses this term to refer to the denominational association of Methodist churches. John Wesley believed in having a good system within an organisation; thus, the Methodist Church has a system of communication and accountability towards the one mission of the entire Methodist movement in the world. This means that local Methodist churches are connected through a neat structure that celebrates the uniqueness of each church and our unity in mission as one whole Methodist Church.

The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) is structured into Local Conferences, Annual Conferences, and the General Conference. We are connected to the worldwide Methodist movement as a member of the World Methodist Council. We belong to a great family of Methodists!

In September 2017, Tamil Methodist Church (TMC) at Short Street celebrated its 130th Anniversary. (Editor’s note: Stay tuned for TMC’s article on this joyous occasion in the December 2017 issue of Methodist Message.) As we reflected on TMC’s rich history and heritage, we gave thanks to God for the connectional system of the MCS.

TMC was the second Methodist church to be established in Singapore, and the first church in the Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC). TMC has been greatly blessed, and in turn been a blessing, all through the connectional system – it has been instrumental in planting the other seven churches in ETAC.

From the beginning, ETAC has had the challenge of being a small community, meeting the needs of its growing Local Conferences and itself as an Annual Conference. These needs included pastoral staff, leadership, finances, and even having a place of worship, in certain instances. We thank God for providing a Methodist connection that we can fall back on.

The Methodist connectional system has provided us opportunities to be generous with our resources and use these to their full potential, in the following ways.

The itinerant system: Ordained pastors of the Conference in full connection with the Methodist Church are committed to serve the Annual Conference wherever they are appointed by the President. This means that pastors do not have permanent appointments in any one church. Their tenure is usually for a year. Churches share their pastors for the sake of the ministry, and bless one another with their resources. In our context, the pastors even serve in more than one Local Conference simultaneously, and do so willingly.

Leadership: We praise God for the men and women who are willing to go the extra mile to serve the Lord, not only through their respective churches but also sharing their gifts and talents through serving in the Annual Conference and General Conference. Their service on the various Boards and Councils has resulted in establishing healthy relationships with other Conferences, and the building of friendships.

Financial: The central pooling system of our finances is one of our strengths in living out the expression of ‘one body’ as an Annual Conference. This system allows the received funds to be used in an equitable manner for ministerial support and Board programmes, thereby enabling even the smallest of our churches to continue ministering as a Local Conference.

We praise God that we are a Connection!

But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

From the Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference President’s Office

Picture by tai11/