U. M. Polity for Leadership

IST 2026 - United Methodist Polity for Leadership

4 credits

Dr. Elyse Ambrose

eambrose@iliff.edu (I will respond within 48 hours)

Course Dates: March 23, 2020-May 29, 2020

Intensive Dates: Friday, April 24, 1-5p & Saturday, April 25, 8a-12pm

Polity is a living process because the church is a living, continuous, yet ever-changing community. One generation’s verities are the next generation’s straightjacket. In each era the church has to work out the political engagements that will structure the people of God for effective witness to the gospel. – Thomas Frank

While polity includes the rules, procedures, and practices of the Church, it is so much more. Polity is grounded in our history and doctrine, and has evolved in response to the changing environments in which the UMC has lived. – Anne L. Burkholder and Thomas W. Elliott, Jr.

Course Description​

The course will provide the background necessary for understanding and appreciating the evolution of United Methodist polity and examines the current operation of that polity. This course offers practical ministry-oriented information with a focus on effective conversations that will enhance successful local church ministry. We will explore the present polity of the United Methodist Church and discover the various ways to organize the local church for mission. We will also seek clarity regarding the best way to serve within our unique appointment process.

Online presentations, forum discussions, on-campus gatherings, and case studies will be used for understanding the polity structure and framework of the United Methodist Church. This course is designed to partially meet the Book of Discipline requirements for candidates seeking ordination as Deacons or Elders within the United Methodist Church.

Course Objective​

In successfully completing this course, the student will understand how specific practical systems and structures evolved within the United Methodist Church over a period of time. The student will also acquire a working and practical knowledge of the polity of the United Methodist Church. We will draw a focus on practical and effective ministry systems that interact with each other to form an interactive and vital structure for ministry.

Course Schedule​

This course is a hybrid edition of the UM Polity for Leadership experience. Much of our work together will be done online through this Canvas classroom site. However, during Gathering Days, we will meet together in a classroom on the Iliff School of Theology campus in Denver. ​Iliff students are scheduled to meet together on April 24 th and 25 th . Austin and CTS students will not be expected to join us in Denver, ​since you don't need the residential credit. ​ I will have a separate set of work for you for week 5 of the term.

Please take note of the schedule and make arrangements to join your classmates for Gathering Days and a face-to-face experience on the Iliff campus. I will be looking forward to 'meeting' you all online, but it will be especially good to spend some time together in a physical classroom setting.

Required Books

Course Information and Instructions:

Our time together will focus directly on the ​2016 Book of Discipline (BOD) of the United Methodist Church. ​ As you will notice, the BOD is structured around specific sections. We will take on the material in the BOD one section / one week at a time with corresponding content from Quick and Easy Guide to United Methodist Polity and/or additional supplementary readings for which provide links or upload the file. Frank’s insights into the history and the general content of the BOD is always valuable.

There will be a tight reading schedule for each week that will be related to the various sections of the BOD.  Some sections are longer than others.  Some will also call for a closer reading than others!  For example, since the local church will be a primary place of ministry for most of you...we will read that section very closely to understand the various dynamics of local church structure and function. I will provide you insights into the sections that call for a broad scope understanding and those that will invite us to dig a bit deeper and with more detail.

Please note that each of the weekly reading assignments is listed with a Friday due date (11:59pm MST) . However, it is always very helpful if you post early in the week so you have time for interaction. Please do not wait until Friday of each week to complete your reading. Otherwise, it will be really hard to post a response that relates to the topic at hand.

For the purpose of this course, our focus will be on the current edition of the United Methodist Book of Discipline which reflects the current polity of the church and the decisions of the 2016 session of the General Conference. Be sure that the Book of Discipline edition you are using for the course is the 2016 edition.


You will notice that each weekly assignment/interaction is connected to 5-grade points for each week. Effective, engaged, and thoughtful interaction is the standard weekly expectation. To receive the full 5 points available, you must post and interact with your classmates in a timely, informed, and detailed way. Your posting must be received before the close of the week on Friday to receive full credit. Late posting will receive a maximum of half credit for the week.

You will also be asked to report the completion of your reading on an honor system as we conclude the quarter. Full completion of your reading assignments will receive 10-grade points. For example : 100% completion = 10 points, 80% completion = 8 points, 55% completion = 5.5 points

Your final paper will be a centerpiece of our work together. Your final assignment will pull together your reading, classroom interaction, practical experience, and our overall discussion into a concise and personal well-researched document. The final paper for the course carries 40 points toward your total grade.

Thus, the following Grade process will apply to your work this quarter:

Weekly Interaction, 50 points total available (5 for each of 10 weeks)

Completion of Reading, 10 points total

Final writing assignment, 40 points total

Grading scale

100 – 96: A

95-91: A-

90-86: B+

85-81: B

80-76: B-

75-71: C+

70-66: C

65-61: D

60 or below: F

Late Papers: The grade will be reduced for papers turned in late.  Late papers will not get A or A. In the event of extenuating circumstances please contact the instructor prior to their due date.

Incompletes: Adjunct Faculty are asked to refuse all requests for an Incomplete Grade from students.

Attendance Policy

Class attendance and class participation is an integral part of the degree programs. Absence from classes equivalent to 20% of course work (two weeks for a ten-week course) is grounds for suspension from a course with WF (Withdrawal Failing) recorded on the transcript. Students must be present by the Friday of the second week for online/hybrid classes. If not, the student will be dropped from class and the financial policy for dropping courses will be applied. A student, who wants to stay in the class, must petition for the instructor’s permission and the highest eligible grade to be received for the class is a B+.

Hybrid courses require on-campus class attendance in addition to online attendance.
On-campus hours and schedules are posted on the syllabus and within the course description. Students are responsible for making travel arrangements to ensure their presence for all of the hours required on-campus for hybrid courses. Since there are multiple hybrid courses offered at the same time, students are responsible for ensuring they do not schedule course conflicts. Students unable to attend hybrid sessions will need to submit a petition to the Dean and the instructor of the course. Petitions are rarely granted, except for rare emergencies, and in most cases, the student will need to drop the course, or receive a failing grade, when they miss the required on-campus class meetings .

Mar 28, 2020SatWeek 1 | March 23-27, 2020: BoD Foundationsdue by 05:59AM
Apr 04, 2020SatWeek 2 | March 30- April 3: The Social Principlesdue by 05:59AM
Apr 11, 2020SatWeek 3 | April 6-April 10: The Local Churchdue by 05:59AM
Apr 18, 2020SatWeek 4 | April 13-April 17: Ministry of the Ordaineddue by 05:59AM
Apr 25, 2020SatWeek 5 | April 20-24: The Superintendency due by 05:59AM
May 02, 2020SatWeek 6 | April 27-May 1: The Conferencesdue by 05:59AM
May 09, 2020SatWeek 7 | May 4-May 8: Administrative Orderdue by 05:59AM
May 16, 2020SatWeek 8 | May 11-15: Church Property due by 05:59AM
May 23, 2020SatWeek 9 | May 18-May 22: Judicial Administrationdue by 05:59AM
Jun 06, 2020SatWeek 10| Reading Report due by 05:59AM