nearly 600 churches in Arkansas united in making disciples of Jesus Christ

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Our History

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 and What We Believe


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.


God — God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons.

Jesus — We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. God became human in Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection demonstrate God’s redeeming love.

The Holy Spirit — The Holy Spirit is God’s present activity in our midst when we sense God’s leading, God’s challenge, or God’s support or comfort, it’s the Holy Spirit at work.

The Bible — We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.

God’s Reign — The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope and is experienced by living the stories and teachings of Jesus.

The Church — The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.

Grace — We understand grace as a gift from God – the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence. God’s grace is at work throughout our spiritual journeys – it prepares us, redeems us, and continually shapes us into the people we are created to be.

Sacraments — We recognize two sacraments, baptism and communion. Baptism marks the beginning of our lifelong journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. Communion nourishes and sustains us on the journey.

Inclusiveness — All are welcome to participate in the life and work of the church. No distinction is made because of racial or ethnic background, national origin, language, gender, age, handicapping, condition, or social status.

How we make a difference:

  • 43,000 congregations throughout the world.
  • 5,541,338 church school students.
  • 309 hospitals/clinics.
  • More than 350 missionaries in the United States and other countries.
  • United Methodists and UMCOR respond to hundreds of disasters every year in communities like yours.

Does the UMC teach and affirm the full divinity of Jesus?

Yes, from ¶104, Confession of Faith Article II) “We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the one begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Does the UMC teach and affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

Yes, from ¶104, Confession of Faith Article II) “As ministering Servant, he lived, suffered, and died on the cross. He was buried, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by Him all men will be judged.”

Does the denomination teach and affirm the historic Christian creeds?

Yes, from ¶102 “Faced with diverse interpretations of the apostolic message, leaders of the early church sought to specify the core of Christian belief in order to ensure the soundness of Christian teaching. The determination of the canon of Christian Scripture and the adoption of ecumenical creeds such as the formulations of Nicaea and Chalcedon were of central importance to this consensual process. Such creeds helped preserve the integrity of the church’s witness, set boundaries for acceptable Christian doctrine, and proclaimed the basic elements of the enduring Christian message. These statements of faith, along with the Apostles’ Creed, contain the most prominent features of our ecumenical heritage.”

Together, we are The United Methodist Church, making a difference in your community, and around the world.