nearly 600 churches in Arkansas united in making disciples of Jesus Christ
The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is the organization responsible for coordinating nearly 600 United Methodist churches and ministries and 590 clergy throughout Arkansas “to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.”
The Conference is led by Bishop Laura Merrill, who was appointed to serve in Arkansas in 2022, and is made up of five districts (Central, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest) with a Chief Mission Strategist appointed to each district. Our Bishop ensures that the Conference focuses on developing principled Christian leaders; creating new places for new people by starting congregations and renewing existing ones; engaging in ministry with the poor; and stamping out killer diseases by improving health globally. Our Chief Mission Strategists (also known as District Superintendents) focus on their mission fields and how they can be developed and resourced from church members and attendees to the clergy serving them.
Over the past 200+ years of United Methodist ministry in Arkansas, six different Annual Conferences have existed to serve the state: the Arkansas, Little Rock, North Arkansas, Southwest, Ouachita, and White River Conferences. The first “Arkansas Conference” of the Methodist Episcopal Church (a predecessor to the United Methodist Church) was organized in 1836 in Batesville. The Conference also included the upper two-thirds of Louisiana and the Indian Territory. Starting in 1854, Arkansas United Methodists were divided into two conferences; with the Ouachita or “Wichita” (later known as the Little Rock) Conference in the southern portion of Arkansas. The conference for the northern half of the state remained the Arkansas Conference. A third conference, the White River Conference, was organized in 1870 in the northeast part of the state. This third conference continued until 1914 when it merged with the Arkansas Conference to form the North Arkansas Conference.
In 1879, many African-American congregations chose to join the conference of the Methodist Episcopal (North) Church within Arkansas, which became the Southwest Conference in 1929. In 1972, the Southwest Conference merged with both the North Arkansas and Little Rock Conferences.
Most recently, the Little Rock and North Arkansas Conferences merged in 2003 to form the Arkansas Conference.
Who We Are
The United Methodist Church is a worldwide connection — we are the person next door, the church on the other side of the country and the worshiping community across the globe. We are more than 12 million members in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Together, we share a legacy of living as disciples of Jesus Christ, sharing God’s love both in what we say and how we serve our neighbors.
We are present in more than 100 countries, speaking many languages and representing diverse cultures, but our 43,000 local congregations all share:
- A 238-year history that has been hope, healing, and salvation for millions,
- A commitment to show up when there is a disaster and pray for one another in our daily challenges,
- And a passion for following Jesus through worship, prayer, service and the study of scripture.
More Information about The United Methodist Church
- #BeUMC honors the core values that connect the people of The United Methodist Church (The UMC). This grassroots campaign, built upon powerful stories of congregations and people living their faith, celebrates what draws us to The UMC and what we aspire to be.
- Ask the UMC Learn more about our Christian beliefs, Wesleyan heritage, and the mission of the United Methodist Church.
- Video: A Statement on Unity and Differences with Revs. Blake Lasater and Michael Bolin.