United Methodist polity, or governance, is supposedly a sort of constitutional democracy, with a global as well as regional legislative conferences establishing policies via representative democracy, bishops who are bound by these policies, and an independent judiciary focused on hearing appeals to prevent violations of church law.
This no longer describes how United Methodist polity really works today. That was how the United Methodist Church previously operated, and what its official rulebook, the Book of Discipline says “on paper.”
But the de facto reality is now very different. The liberal American leadership of the Council of Bishops (COB) have effectively changed United Methodist polity by largely nullifying the authority of General Conference and getting the Judicial Council to consistently give this group everything it requests in major policy changes. At times, this has even meant Judicial Council members disregarding their own rules and precedents.