An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East and Lutheran churches or denominations, other churches founded independently from these lineages. Churches with an episcopal polity are governed by bishops, practicing their authorities in the dioceses and conferences or synods, their leadership is both constitutional. Bishops are considered to derive their authority from an unbroken, personal apostolic succession from the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Bishops with such authority are said to represent the historical historic episcopate. Churches with this type of government believe that the Church requires episcopal government as described in the New Testament. In some systems, bishops may be subject to bishops holding a higher office, they meet in councils or synods.
These gatherings, subject to presidency by higher ranking bishops make important decisions, though the synod or council may be purely advisory. For much of the written history of institutional Christianity, episcopal government was the only known form of church organization; this changed at the Reformation. Many Protestant churches are now organized by either congregational or presbyterian church polities, both descended from the writings of John Calvin, a Protestant reformer working and writing independently following the break with the Roman Catholic Church precipitated by The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther; the definition of the word episcopal has variation among Christian traditions. There are subtle differences in governmental principles among episcopal churches at the present time. To some extent the separation of episcopal churches can be traced to these differences in ecclesiology, that is, their theological understanding of church and church governance. For some, "episcopal churches" are churches that use a hierarchy of bishops that regard themselves as being in an unbroken, personal apostolic succession.
"Episcopal" is commonly used to distinguish between the various organizational structures of denominations. For instance, "Presbyterian" is used to describe a church governed by a hierarchy of assemblies of elected elders, referred to as Presbyterian polity. "episcopal" is used to describe a church governed by bishops. Self-governed local congregations, governed neither by elders nor bishops, are described as "congregational". More the capitalized appellation "Episcopal" is applied to several churches based within Anglicanism, including those still in communion with the Church of England. Using these definitions, examples of specific episcopal churches include: The Catholic Church The Eastern Orthodox Church The Oriental Orthodox churches The Assyrian Church of the East The Churches of the Anglican Communion The Old Catholic churches Numerous smaller "catholic" churches Certain national churches of the Lutheran confession The African Methodist Episcopal Church The United Methodist ChurchSome Lutheran churches practice congregational polity or a form of presbyterian polity.
Others, including the Church of Sweden, practice episcopal polity. Many Methodist churches retain the form and function of episcopal polity, although in a modified form, called connexionalism. Since all trace their ordinations to an Anglican priest, John Wesley, it is considered that their bishops do not share in apostolic succession, though United Methodists still affirm that their bishops share in the historic episcopate. All orthodox Christians were in churches with an episcopal government, that is, one Church under local bishops and regional Patriarchs. Writing between ca. 85 and 110, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Patriarch of Antioch, was the earliest of the Church fathers to define the importance of episcopal government. Assuming Ignatius' view was the Apostolic teaching and practice, the line of succession was unbroken and passed through the four ancient Patriarchal sees, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Rome was the leading Patriarchate of the ancient four by virtue of its founding by Saints Peter and Paul and their martyrdom there, not to mention being the political center of the Roman empire at the time.
Some organizations, though aloof from the political wranglings of imperial Christianity also practiced episcopal polity. Shortly after the Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity in 321, he constructed an elaborate second capital of the Roman Empire located at Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople, in 324; the single Roman Empire was divided between these two autonomous administrative centers and Constantinopolitan, West and East, Latin speaking and Greek speaking. This
The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. In the organization of the Roman Empire, the subdivided provinces were administratively associated in a larger unit, the diocese. After Christianity was given legal status in 313, the Churches began to organize themselves into dioceses based on provinces, not on the larger regional imperial districts; the dioceses were smaller than the provinces since there were more bishops than governors. Christianity was declared the Empire's official religion by Theodosius I in 380. Constantine I in 318 gave litigants the right to have court cases transferred from the civil courts to the bishops; this situation must have hardly survived Julian, 361-363. Episcopal courts are not heard of again in the East until 398 and in the West in 408; the quality of these courts were low, not above suspicion as the bishop of Alexandria Troas found out that clergy were making a corrupt profit.
Nonetheless, these courts were popular. Bishops had no part in the civil administration until the town councils, in decline, lost much authority to a group of'notables' made up of the richest councilors and rich persons exempted from serving on the councils, retired military, bishops post-450 A. D; as the Western Empire collapsed in the 5th century, bishops in Western Europe assumed a larger part of the role of the former Roman governors. A similar, though less pronounced, development occurred in the East, where the Roman administrative apparatus was retained by the Byzantine Empire. In modern times, many dioceses, though subdivided, have preserved the boundaries of a long-vanished Roman administrative division. For Gaul, Bruce Eagles has observed that "it has long been an academic commonplace in France that the medieval dioceses, their constituent pagi, were the direct territorial successors of the Roman civitates."Modern usage of'diocese' tends to refer to the sphere of a bishop's jurisdiction.
This became commonplace during the self-conscious "classicizing" structural evolution of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, but this usage had itself been evolving from the much earlier parochia, dating from the formalized Christian authority structure in the 4th century. Most archdioceses are metropolitan sees. A few are suffragans of a metropolitan are directly subject to the Holy See. While the terms "diocese" and "episcopal see" are applicable to the area under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of any bishop, a bishop in charge of an archdiocese thereby holds the rank of archbishop. If the title of archbishop is granted on personal grounds to a diocesan bishop, his diocese does not thereby become an archdiocese; as of January 2019, in the Catholic Church there are 2,886 regular dioceses: 1 papal see, 645 archdioceses and 2,240 dioceses in the world. In the Eastern rites in communion with the Pope, the equivalent unit is called an eparchy; the Eastern Orthodox Church calls dioceses episkopē in the Greek tradition and eparchies in the Slavic tradition.
After the English Reformation, the Church of England retained the existing diocesan structure which remains throughout the Anglican Communion. The one change is that the areas administered under the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York are properly referred to as dioceses, not archdioceses: they are the metropolitan bishops of their respective provinces and bishops of their own diocese and have the position of archbishop. Certain Lutheran denominations such as the Church of Sweden do have individual dioceses similar to Roman Catholics; these dioceses and archdioceses are under the government of a bishop. Other Lutheran bodies and synods that have dioceses and bishops include the Church of Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Church of Norway. From about the 13th century until the German mediatization of 1803, the majority of the bishops of the Holy Roman Empire were prince-bishops, as such exercised political authority over a principality, their so-called Hochstift, distinct, considerably smaller than their diocese, over which they only exercised the usual authority of a bishop.
Some American Lutheran church bodies such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have a bishop acting as the head of the synod, but the synod does not have dioceses and archdioceses as the churches listed above. Rather, it is divided into a middle judicatory; the Lutheran Church - International, based in Springfield, presently uses a traditional diocesan structure, with four dioceses in North America. Its current president is Archbishop Robert W. Hotes; the Church of God in Christ has dioceses throughout the United States. In the COGIC, most states are divided into at least three or more dioceses that are each led by a bishop; these dioceses are called "jurisdictions" within COGIC. In the Latter Day Saint movement, the term "bishopric" is used to describe the bishop himself, together with his two counselors, not the ward or congregation of which a bishop has charge. In the United Methodist Church, a bishop is given oversight over a geographical area called an episcopal area; each episcopal area contains one or more an
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy, entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Old Catholic and Independent Catholic churches and in the Assyrian Church of the East, bishops claim apostolic succession, a direct historical lineage dating back to the original Twelve Apostles. Within these churches, bishops are seen as those who possess the full priesthood and can ordain clergy – including another bishop; some Protestant churches including the Lutheran and Methodist churches have bishops serving similar functions as well, though not always understood to be within apostolic succession in the same way. One, ordained deacon and bishop is understood to hold the fullness of the priesthood, given responsibility by Christ to govern and sanctify the Body of Christ, members of the Faithful. Priests and lay ministers cooperate and assist their bishops in shepherding a flock.
The term epískopos, meaning "overseer" in Greek, the early language of the Christian Church, was not from the earliest times distinguished from the term presbýteros, but the term was clearly used in the sense of the order or office of bishop, distinct from that of presbyter in the writings attributed to Ignatius of Antioch.. The earliest organization of the Church in Jerusalem was, according to most scholars, similar to that of Jewish synagogues, but it had a council or college of ordained presbyters. In Acts 11:30 and Acts 15:22, we see a collegiate system of government in Jerusalem chaired by James the Just, according to tradition the first bishop of the city. In Acts 14:23, the Apostle Paul ordains presbyters in churches in Anatolia; the word presbyter was not yet distinguished from overseer, as in Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5–7 and 1 Peter 5:1. The earliest writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Didache and the First Epistle of Clement, for example, show the church used two terms for local church offices—presbyters and deacon.
In Timothy and Titus in the New Testament a more defined episcopate can be seen. We are told that Paul had left Timothy in Titus in Crete to oversee the local church. Paul commands Titus to exercise general oversight. Early sources are unclear but various groups of Christian communities may have had the bishop surrounded by a group or college functioning as leaders of the local churches; the head or "monarchic" bishop came to rule more and all local churches would follow the example of the other churches and structure themselves after the model of the others with the one bishop in clearer charge, though the role of the body of presbyters remained important. As Christendom grew, bishops no longer directly served individual congregations. Instead, the Metropolitan bishop appointed priests to minister each congregation, acting as the bishop's delegate. Around the end of the 1st century, the church's organization became clearer in historical documents. In the works of the Apostolic Fathers, Ignatius of Antioch in particular, the role of the episkopos, or bishop, became more important or, rather was important and being defined.
While Ignatius of Antioch offers the earliest clear description of monarchial bishops he is an advocate of monepiscopal structure rather than describing an accepted reality. To the bishops and house churches to which he writes, he offers strategies on how to pressure house churches who don't recognize the bishop into compliance. Other contemporary Christian writers do not describe monarchial bishops, either continuing to equate them with the presbyters or speaking of episkopoi in a city. "Blessed be God, who has granted unto you, who are yourselves so excellent, to obtain such an excellent bishop." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 1:1 "and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, ye may in all respects be sanctified." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 2:1 "For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as to the bishop as the strings are to the harp." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:1 "Do ye, beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, the presbyters and the deacons."
— Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 5:1 "Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 6:1. "your godly bishop" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 2:1. "the bishop presiding after the likeness of God and the presbyters after the likeness of the council of the Apostles, with the deacons who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the diaconate of Jesus Christ" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 6:1. "Therefore as the Lord did nothing without the Father, either by Himself or by the Apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and the presbyters." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 7:1. "Be obedient to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was to the Father, as the Apostles were to Christ and to the Father, that there may be union both of flesh and of spirit." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 13:2. "In like manner let all men respe
The Mariavite Church was an independent Christian church that emerged from the Catholic Church of Poland at the turn of the 20th century. It was an internal movement leading to a reform of the Polish clergy. After a conflict with Polish bishops, it became a independent religious denomination; the denomination was led by Jan Maria Michał Kowalski from the 1920s until 1935 when Kowalski was deposed and a schism resulted in two groups. The Mariavite Old Catholic Church called Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites and Old Catholic Mariavite Church of Poland was led after 1935 by Maria Filip Feldman in Płock; the Old Catholic Mariavite Church was, still is, the larger of the two groups. After 1935, the leadership of the smaller group, the Catholic Mariavite Church remained in the hands of Kowalski, in the hands of his widow, Maria Izabela Wiłucka-Kowalska; the Old Catholic Mariavite Church is a member of the Polish Ecumenical Council, of the World Council of Churches. It is not a member of the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht.
The Catholic Mariavite Church stands away from the ecumenical movement. Since 2015, Maria Karol Babi is the prime bishop of the Old Catholic Mariavite Church; the term Mariavite comes from Latin phrase qui Mariae vitam imitantur "who imitate the life of Mary". The name of the church is Old Catholic Mariavite Church. In the 19th century, the territory of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was divided among the control of three nations. According to the laws of the Russian Empire, which upheld the Russian Orthodox Church as the established church, Polish Catholic religious organizations were illegal; the situation of the Catholic Church was the worst in the Russian Partition. After the January Uprising in 1863, tsarist authorities forbade the establishment of Polish-national organisations, including religious ones. Many cloisters were dissolved; the Catholic clergy in the Russian Partition were not well educated, in contrast to the priests in the Austrian Partition and Prussian Partition. The only authorized Roman Catholic theological academy in the Russian Empire was the Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy.
The priests were criticized for their inappropriate behaviour and exploitation of the peasants. The Mariavite movement emerged in this difficult situation. In 1887 Feliksa Kozłowska established a religious order for women following the Rule of St. Clare in Płock. To be called the Order of the Mariavite Sisters, at the time it was one among many Roman Catholic religious communities. Despite attempts by the Russians to suppress Polish Catholic organizations, they continued. Kozłowska had been in another Roman Catholic order since 1883, one established by Capuchin friar Honorat Koźmiński. In 1893 Kozłowska had her first vision, she was said to found the new religious movement of "Mariavitism" on 2 Aug 1893. Kozłowska received several visions between 1893 and 1918 that were gathered in 1922 in the volume entitled Dzieło Wielkiego Miłosierdzia, the most important religious work for the Mariavites beside the Bible. In her revelation, Kozłowska received an order to fight with the moral decline of the world with the sins of the clergy.
In her first vision, she was told to organize an order of the priests-Mariavites. This order was to promote the renewal of the spiritual life of the clergy; the most important purpose was to spread the perpetual Eucharistic adoration and the cult of the Perpetual Help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In their everyday life, the clergy were to return to the Franciscan tradition of an ascetic life: fasting and simplicity in clothes and life, they recommended frequent communion for the people. Notably, early adherents of the Mariavite renewal represented the elite of Polish clergy of that time, they were young priests who had completed theology studies at the Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy. For Kozłowska and the Mariavite priests, the newly established movement was generate internal reform of the church in Poland; until 1903 the movement was not recognised by the Roman Catholic hierarchy in divided and occupied Poland. That year the provincials of the Mariavite order presented the texts of Kozłowska's revelations and a history of the movement to the local ordinary, Bishop Jerzy Józef Szembek of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Płock, to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Warsaw and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lublin.
While the bishops of Warsaw and Lublin refused to accept the case, Szembek accepted the case and started a canonical investigation. The leaders of the movement were interviewed and the documents were sent to the Holy See. One month a delegation of Mariavites traveled to Rome to ask the pope to recognise the order, they had to wait for the end of the conclave. During this time, they chose Kowalski as the Minister Generalis of the order. At that time, he was considered the most important person of the movement, they presented their case to the newly elected Pope Pius X. In June 1904 another delegation traveled to Rome to express to the Roman Curia the importance of their order's mission; the final decision was made by the Congregation of the Inquisition in September 1904, one month after the second Mariavite audience. In December 1904, The Holy See ruled against the Mariavites, it said that the revelations of Kozłowska were "hallucinations". The Holy See ordered that the movement be dissolved and forb
Presbyterian polity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament. Presbyterian polity was developed as a rejection of governance by hierarchies of single bishops, but differs from the congregationalist polity in which each congregation is independent. In contrast to the other two forms, authority in the presbyterian polity flows both from the top down and from the bottom up; this theory of governance developed in Geneva under John Calvin and was introduced to Scotland by John Knox after his period of exile in Geneva. It is associated with French, Dutch and Scottish Reformation movements, the Reformed and Presbyterian churches.
Among the early church fathers, it was noted that the offices of elder and bishop were identical, were not differentiated until and that plurality of elders was the norm for church government. St. Jerome "In Epistle Titus", vol. iv, said, "Elder is identical with bishop. After it was... decreed throughout the world that one chosen from among the presbyters should be placed over the others." This observation was made by Chrysostom in "Homilia i, in Phil. I, 1" and Theodoret in "Interpret ad. Phil. Iii", 445. Presbyterianism was first described in detail by Martin Bucer of Strasbourg, who believed that the early Christian church implemented presbyterian polity; the first modern implementation was by the Geneva church under the leadership of John Calvin in 1541. Presbyterian polity is constructed on specific assumptions about the form of the government intended by the Bible: "Bishop" and "elder" are synonymous terms. Episcopos means overseer and describes the function of the elder, rather than the maturity of the officer.
A bishop holds the highest office of the church. Preaching and the administration of the sacraments is ordinarily entrusted to specially trained elders in each local congregation, approved for these tasks by a governing presbytery, or classis, called by the local congregation. In addition to these ministers, there are "others … with gifts for government … call "elders" or "ruling elders". Pastoral care, church discipline and legislation are committed to the care of ruling assemblies of presbyters among whom the ministers and "ruling elders" are equal participants. All Christian people together are the priesthood, on behalf of whom the elders are called to serve by the consent of the congregation. Presbyterianism uses a conciliar method of church government. Thus, the presbyters and "elders" govern together as a group, at all times the office is for the service of the congregation, to pray for them and to encourage them in the faith; the elders together exercise oversight over the local congregation, with superior groups of elders gathered on a regional basis exercising wider oversight.
Presbyterians have viewed this method of government as approximating that of the New Testament and earliest churches. However, sometimes it is admitted that episcopacy was a form of government, used early in the church for practical reasons. Presbyterianism is distinct from congregationalism, in that individual congregations are not independent, but are answerable to the wider church, through its governing bodies. Moreover, the ordained ministry possesses a distinct responsibility for preaching and sacraments. Congregational churches are sometimes called "Presbyterian" if they are governed by a council of elders. Thus, these are ruled by elders only at the level of the congregations, which are united with one another by covenants of trust. There are two types of elder. An excerpt from Miller expands this. In every Church organized, that is, furnished with all the officers which Christ has instituted and which are necessary for carrying into full effect the laws of his kingdom, there ought to be three classes of officers, viz: at least one Teaching Elder, Bishop, or Pastor — a bench of Ruling Elders — and Deacons.
The first to "minister in the Word a
The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, the Church of the East are termed patriarchs. The word is derived from Greek πατριάρχης, meaning "chief or father of a family", a compound of πατριά, meaning "family", ἄρχειν, meaning "to rule". A patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family; the system of such rule of families by senior males is termed patriarchy. A patriarch has been the logical choice to act as ethnarch of the community identified with his religious confession within a state or empire of a different creed; the term developed an ecclesiastical meaning, within the Christian Church. The office and the ecclesiastical circumscription of a Christian patriarch is termed a patriarchate. Abraham and Jacob are referred to as the three patriarchs of the people of Israel, the period during which they lived is termed the Patriarchal Age; the word patriarch acquired its religious meaning in the Septuagint version of the Bible.
In the Catholic Church, the bishop, head of a particular autonomous Church, known in canon law as a Church sui iuris, is ordinarily a patriarch, though this responsibility can be entrusted to a Major Archbishop, Metropolitan, or other prelate for a number of serious reasons. Since the Council of Nicaea, the bishop of Rome has been recognized as the first among patriarchs; that Council designated three bishops with this'supra-Metropolitan' title: Rome and Antioch. In the Pentarchy formulated by Justinian I, the emperor assigned as a patriarchate to the Bishop of Rome the whole of Christianized Europe, except for the region of Thrace, the areas near Constantinople, along the coast of the Black Sea, he included in this patriarchate the western part of North Africa. The jurisdictions of the other patriarchates extended over Roman Asia, the rest of Africa. Justinian's system was given formal ecclesiastical recognition by the Quinisext Council of 692, which the see of Rome has, not recognized. There were at the time bishops of other apostolic sees that operated with patriarchal authority beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, such as the Catholicos of Selucia-Ctesephon.
Today, the patriarchal heads of Catholic autonomous churches are: The Bishop of Rome, as head of the Latin Catholic Church The Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia and head of the Armenian Catholic Church, formed 1740, recognised 1742 The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, formed 1552, recognised 1553 The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria and head of the Coptic Catholic Church, established 1824 The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and head of the Maronite Catholic Church, established 685 The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. However, differences exist in the mode of accession. Whereas the election of a major archbishop has to be confirmed by the pope before he may take office, no papal confirmation is needed for a newly elected patriarch before he takes office. Rather, a newly-installed patriarch is required to petition the pope as soon as possible for the concession of what is called ecclesiastical communion.
Furthermore, patriarchs who are created cardinals form part of the order of cardinal bishops, whereas major archbishops are only created cardinal priests. Titular patriarchs do not have jurisdiction over other Metropolitan bishops; the title is granted purely as an honor for various historical reasons. They take precedence after the heads of autonomous churches in full communion, whether pope, patriarch, or major archbishop; the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, established 1099. The Patriarch of the East Indies a titular patriarchal see, united to Goa and Daman, established 1886; the Patriarch of Lisbon, established 1716. The Patriarch of Venice, established 1451; the Patriarch of Aquileia – with rival line of succession moved to Grado - dissolved in 1752. The Patriarch of Grado – in 1451 merged with the Bishopric of Castello and Venice to form the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Venice; the Patriarch of the West Indies – a titular patriarchal see, vacant since 1963. The Latin Patriarch of Antioch – title abolished in 1964.
The titular Latin Patriarch of Alexandria – title abolished in 1964. The Latin Patriarch of Constantinople – title abolished in 1964; the Latin Patriarchate of Ethiopia – 1555 to 1663, never effective, only held by Iberian Jesuits The pope can confer the rank of Patriarch withou
A Bishop is a senior role in many Methodist denominations that have an episcopal polity John Wesley consecrated Thomas Coke a "General Superintendent," and directed that Francis Asbury be consecrated for the United States of America in 1784, where the Methodist Episcopal Church first became a separate denomination apart from the Church of England. Coke soon returned to England. At first he did not call himself bishop, but submitted to the usage by the denomination. Notable Bishops in Methodist history include Coke, Richard Whatcoat, Philip William Otterbein, Martin Boehm, Jacob Albright, John Seybert, Matthew Simpson, John S. Stamm, William Ragsdale Cannon, Marjorie Matthews, Leontine T. Kelly, William B. Oden, Ngoie Nkimba Wakadilo, Katembo Kainda, Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda, William Willimon, Thomas Bickerton. In the African Methodist Episcopal Church, "Bishops are the Chief Officers of the Connectional Organization, they are elected for life by a majority vote of the General Conference which meets every four years."
The Book of Discipline of the Free Methodist Church states that "Bishops are the overseers of the church. They lead the church to fulfill its mission which requires them to be holy examples with skill and experience to provide oversight, they must understand the purpose of our church. They must be able to communicate the gospel, the church's mission and the vision of the Free Methodist Church. In the United Methodist Church, a resident bishop is appointed to a specific episcopal area. A resident Bishop is the Presiding Bishop of any and all Annual Conferences of the Church within the Area; such Bishops are said to have residential as well as presidential duties within his/her Area. In the UMC, bishops serve as pastoral superintendents of the church, they are elected for life from among the ordained elders by vote of the delegates in regional conferences, are consecrated by the other bishops present at the conference through the laying on of hands. In The United Methodist Church bishops are not ordained in the traditional sense but remain members of the "Order of Elders" while being consecrated to the "Office of the Episcopacy."
Within The United Methodist Church only bishops are empowered to consecrate bishops and ordain clergy. Among their most critical duties is the ordination and appointment of clergy to serve local churches as pastor, presiding at sessions of the Annual and General Conferences, providing pastoral ministry for the clergy under their charge, safeguarding the doctrine and discipline of the Church. Furthermore, individual bishops, or the Council of Bishops as a whole serve a prophetic role, making statements on important social issues and setting forth a vision for the denomination, though they have no legislative authority of their own. In all of these areas, bishops of United Methodist Church function much in the historic meaning of the term. According to the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, a bishop's responsibilities are In each Annual Conference, United Methodist bishops serve for four year terms, may serve up to three terms before either retirement or appointment to a new Annual Conference.
The collegial expression of episcopal leadership in the United Methodist Church is known is the Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops speaks to the Church and through the Church into the world and gives leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships; the Conference of Methodist Bishops includes the United Methodist Council of Bishops plus bishops from affiliated autonomous Methodist or United Churches