The Wesleyan Church in North America is made up of 24 districts from across Canada and the United States. However, this is but one small fingerprint on a global map of 97 countries where a Wesleyan church can be found.

In North America, 268,000 Wesleyans, on average, gather in person or online each week in 1,540 churches to worship. Globally, more than 382,000 gather each week in approximately 4,302 churches.

Yet many in North America, even those familiar with the quadrennial General Conference, may be unaware that the International Conference of The Wesleyan Church, created in 2004, put all General Conferences on an equal footing with one another. Any changes to the “Essentials of The Wesleyan Church” — “historic statement of faith and practice”[1] — must be approved by a two-thirds aggregate vote of all General Conferences who are members of the International Conference.[2]

The vote for the internationalization of TWC was important in that it “provided a path toward indigenous leadership and self-governance of qualified mission fields around the world,” said former General Superintendent Harry Wood. “The rise to General Conference status added more than prestige; it provided motivation and cultural independence, which propelled international independence of ministry and decision-making. The result was entrusting self-governance and ministry to area entities for enhanced impact,” he said.

Just as General Conference was postponed in 2020 due to the global pandemic, so too was the fifth International Conference until 2024 in a location yet to be determined.

To help explain TWC’s international structure, retired Assistant General Secretary Ron McClung explains it with this timeline:

  • The 1972 General Conference approved the creation of Wesleyan World Fellowship, which gave mission fields the opportunity to become a general conference upon the achievement of a level of membership, leadership and financial strength.
  • This led to the formation of the Caribbean Provisional General Conference in 1974 and the formation of the Philippines Provisional General Conference in 1975.
  • The 1988 General Conference recognized The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines as the first full-fledged General Conference outside North America. The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines became independent but remained bound to other Wesleyans worldwide by mutual commitments to the denomination’s Essentials and by the Wesleyan World Fellowship.
  • The 2004 General Conference approved the elevation of The Wesleyan Holiness Church of the Caribbean to full General Conference standing. This coincided with the restructuring of The Wesleyan World Fellowship as the International Conference of The Wesleyan Church.
  • The first International Conference of The Wesleyan Church was held in 2008 in Orlando, Florida.
  • The second International Conference of The Wesleyan Church was held in Panama City, Panama, in January 2012. It approved the formation of The South Pacific Established Regional Conference of The Wesleyan Church, comprised of Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville. An established national or regional conference is an intermediary step between being a mission field and a full-fledged General Conference.
  • The third International Conference, held in Orlando in January 2015, approved the formation of The Wesleyan Church of Canada as an established national conference, which was ratified by its parent North American General Conference in 2016.
  • That 2016 conference also approved the formation of the Ibero-America Established Regional Conference, consisting of 19 nations in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea (Africa), Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela. This action was approved by the 2019 International Conference.
  • The fourth International Conference was held in Barbados in May 2019.

Why did TWC feel the need to create an International Conference?

Former General Secretary Jerry Pence explains, “The 2004 vote to adopt a new charter creating the International Conference of The Wesleyan Church initiated the intentional relinquishing of North American General Conference paternalism over national, regional and provisional conferences and the recognition of their full partnership in The Wesleyan Church’s global mission.”

According to Dr. Pence, the greatest significance of expanding the authority of the International Conference was to empower the global church to be “the repository of Wesleyan doctrine, rather than a single General Conference, with the right to change the Essentials of The Wesleyan Church (our Articles of Religion) now vested in the International Conference.”

Jennifer Jones is the district administrator for the South Carolina District of The Wesleyan Church.


[1] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2016” (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2016), 12.

[2] Ibid, 424.